Dubai World Trade Centre executive chef Raimund Hammerle explains how a AED8 million kitchen upgrade has allowed the team to increase volume, variety and efficiency.
The hospitality division of Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) is one of the UAE’s most established caterers, with a portfolio of world-class exhibitions under its in-house remit, including this month’s Gulfood. Last year, an additional 15,000m2 of floor space came online across three new halls, while an upgraded in-venue retail offering and growth of the business’ offsite catering operations, including Dubai Airshow, Formula 1 Eithad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, royal weddings and state functions, paved the way for a AED8 million upgrade to the venue’s 3,650m2 kitchen facility.
Ensuring DWTC can continue to produce consistent, high-quality food and beverage quickly and efficiently as business continues to ramp up in the run up to 2020, the investment was focused on installing state-of-the-art equipment across the catering operation, while keeping the space the same size. This included smart technologies to integrate and automate processes, helping increase capacity output to 20,000 daily covers – up from 15,000.
The new equipment includes deck and rotation ovens, flexi chef pans, and flexi/combi ovens which allow for recipes to be pre-programmed into the machines, cutting cooking time down by more than half the average expected time. While much of the equipment utilised by the pastry team comes from Bongard from France, the equipment in the main kitchen is from German manufacturer, MKN.
“The productivity and the output have been increased because with the same number of staff you can now to do more. The quality has increased; the taste and texture is better”
“We have a close relationship with the supplier,” Raimund Hammerle, executive chef, Dubai World Trade Centre tells Catering News during a tour of the new facility. “Compared to 10 years ago, ovens are a completely new world; there is so much high-tech involved, pre-programmed recipes, etcetera. The supplier does staff training, he comes on-site and monitors how we implement the equipment, and helps us to get used to it, including maintenance and cleaning.
“What would have taken three to four hours, now takes 45 minutes,” Hammerle continues. “The productivity and the output have been increased because with the same number of staff you can now to do more. The quality has increased; the taste and texture is better.”
The automated systems also allow chefs to devote more time to preparation, with cooking now done closer to the time of the event, ensuring fresher and higher-quality food. “Before we only had a certain number of units available but now it has been increased, we can do a bigger variety of dishes with more main courses and the food is fresher,” adds Hammerle.
The new equipment has also led to a 30% like-for-like reduction in energy usage, which Hammerle explains “makes the return on investment after a couple of years worthwhile”. On the equipment’s touch-screen panels, chefs can see after each process how much electricity and water has been used.
Enhanced hygiene and safety standards are another benefit of the new equipment and facilities, which are both HACCP compliant and ISO22000K certified. Hammerle comments: “The hygiene officer can use a USB to extract all of the processes for the entire day – this is monitored in each unit. Before we got this new technology, every process had to be manually documented, but this can now be done digitally.”
However, for Hammerle, the key benefit of the upgraded equipment is consistency, which is crucial when catering to large volumes, he explains.
“I think the biggest thing is having standardised recipes so you have a consistent taste and quality. The technology helps it to stay consistent and you have the same baking process, the moisture control, the temperature control, so with the end product there are fewer variations,” he says, adding that the new technology also reduces shrinkage.
The refurbishment has also been key to the enhancement of DWTC’s offsite event portfolio as the facility looks to meet anticipated demand over the coming years. The introduction of mobile units means more produce can be cooked fresh on-site. “The mobile units can just be dropped off – all you need is a water connection,” says Hammerle.
“You can’t cook everything here and then take it there as it won’t be fresh so this is why we set up mobile kitchens to continue cooking on site. The main focus was on increasing quality and freshness, which is why we changed the logistics”
“We did it at Meydan and we do it for events in other emirates. You can’t cook everything here and then take it there as it won’t be fresh, so this is why we set up mobile kitchens to continue cooking on-site. The main focus was on increasing quality and freshness, which is why we changed the logistics.”
And while having mobile kitchens means that some produce can be delivered directly to the event site, in some cases the team prefers to prepare everything in advance to maintain control over quality and consistency.
“We sometimes deliver on site – or things like fresh juice can be delivered directly – but for example with events such as Formula 1 we wouldn’t do this as we want to have control. There are a lot of companies on the market that could take up some of the prep work through partnerships, but we believe that we need more control – we don’t take any risks.
With 148 chefs from 19 countries and more than 300 full-time service staff, Hospitality by Dubai World Trade Centre continues to secure big ticket catering contracts across the UAE, however it is also now looking to build on its retail business.
Last year it launched Seven Sands, a contemporary Emirati fusion restaurant located on JBR – The Beach in Dubai and in September 2016, the team introduced Trader’s House, a new high-quality grab and go concept. Previously Loop operated in the restaurant space in DWTC’s Concourse 2, but Hammerle admits there was no clear concept and the product was of a lower quality.
“Before we just had a standard sandwich while for example now we’re using Irish sourdough bread and we’re not making any compromises on quality. The pricing has of course been adjusted to reflect this but people are willing to spend money for quality,” he comments, adding Trader’s House is “totally different” in terms of look and feel.
In addition to the restaurant, there are two event-based concepts are in Zabeel halls four and six. Hammerle reveals the team is looking to expand it further, with a dedicated team of around 10 staff looking after and growing the concept. “Now we have three in operation, and another four in-hall versions will open in DWTC. We’ll see if we’re going to expand it outside; that could be a plan.”
“It is like the day-to-day business of a five-star hotel; you have to focus on quality and innovation. The market continues to get tighter so you always have to put in that extra effort to win business”
As more and more hotels move into the catering sector in order to diversify business, Hammerle is aware that competition is ramping up and staying ahead of the curve will be vital. Part of this will involve enhanced training to keep human resources as well-oiled as the kitchen equipment. “Sometimes it’s going back to the basics – staff training is very important on a junior level,” says Hammerle. “Training is now conducted with the service team and kitchen team together with all the food products. We have so many initiatives to make sure the staff understand the dishes on the menu before going out.
“It is like the day-to-day business of a five-star hotel; you have to focus on quality and innovation. The market continues to get tighter so you always have to put in that extra effort to win business. It’s not about dropping prices, but raising the quality to compete. This was a good, substantial refurbishment which gave us a few years head start,” he concludes.