‘The Flying Kiwi’ shares how he serves up a grand English cafeteria experience to 1000 customers a day at one of the country’s finest Palladian houses.
THE BRIEF - SKETCHING THE SCENE
Houghton Hall in Norfolk was built in the 1720s for Sir Robert Walpole and was designed to reflect the wealth, taste and power of Great Britain’s first Prime Minister. Today, it’s a popular visitor attraction with stunning grounds, regular art exhibitions and cultural events.
The Hall’s imposing stable block houses Chris Coughborough’s aka the ‘Flying Kiwi’s’, impressive quintessentially English cafeteria that serves anywhere from 500 to 1000 meals a day. The café is self-serve and doesn’t take bookings, so turn-around has to be fast.
As a critically-acclaimed restaurateur with popular pubs and luxury hotels across North Norfolk, Chris is no stranger to creating a memorable dining experience. Having carefully crafted the dining environment with steadily increasing visitor numbers over the last few years and sourcing the freshest ingredients from the estate, he needed the right refrigeration equipment to make his vision a reality.
THE PROJECT - PAINTING THE PICTURE
Chris explains “We knew that we had to show customers the food. If you’re selling a ploughman’s and the customer can see it, they’ll buy it all day long. But if it’s in the fridge somewhere out the back and no-one can see it, it can be very difficult to sell.”
The chill-serve refrigeration system from Williams is “brilliant” according to Chris. The popular Gem Multidecks allow him to display plated dishes, so that customers can choose from the full range of dishes available. He continues; “It’s as fresh as it’s going to get having come from the estate gardens, to us and then into the refrigeration system.”
The design of the system makes the most of every millimetre of retail space and rear-loading doors make re-stocking straightforward and subtle. The attractive design complements the front of house presentation and the LED lighting enhances the display and appeal of the dishes. Clever layout and design means customers can move through the system very quickly, which was another important consideration for Houghton Hall.
Alongside the two Gem Multidecks which display full meals such as ploughman’s and salads is a Gem Sandwich Chiller. The innovative ‘air curtain’ uniquely recycles cold air to maintain temperature and reduce energy consumption.
In previous years, Chris admits that they’ve struggled with cold drink sales at Houghton Hall, purely because they were using under the counter fridges. The Aztra counter fridge, which is a popular choice for cafés and sandwich shops, again means customers can physically see the drinks and has helped maximise sales of the estate apple juice. With the capacity to hold 300 drinks, it can comfortably fulfil a lunch service at the hall.
THE RESULTS - THE REVIEW
Williams Refrigeration has increased spend per head as customers now tend to choose a meal that they can see and like, rather than opting for something simple like a scone. Thanks to the innovative design and clever use of space, the flow of the customer has improved, meaning they spend less time in the cafeteria and more time enjoying the art, gardens and hall.
“It ticked all the boxes we needed here for a grand estate, serving grand food, from what needed to be a sharp, contemporary-looking refrigeration system,” concludes Chris.
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