Rational Helps Bombay Express Set the New Standards for Indian Restaurant Cooking
“You need to embrace new technology to survive” says Rehan Uddin
The last couple of years have been tough for the foodservice industry. The pandemic has deepened many of the issues that it faced beforehand, including staff and skill shortages and the need to reduce running costs while continuing to deliver top quality food to customers. Rehan Uddin, owner of Torquay’s popular Bombay Express restaurant and managing director of the Asian Restaurant Owners Network (ARON), is certain that modern equipment, like Rational’s cooking systems, allows businesses to meet these challenges.
“Our Rational systems let just two people have the same output as a much larger kitchen, in a fraction of the time,” says Rehan. “When should you introduce new technology and embrace new ways of doing things? Right now.”
One of the big issues faced by Indian restaurants is an unwillingness to adapt to modern practices, Rehan believes.
“Many Indian restaurants in the UK haven’t really changed in sixty years,” he says. “They have a lot of staff, so the overheads are huge. Traditional equipment like Tandoor ovens require specialised skills to use, which takes a lot of training, and the old school menus often over-rely on onion, which can leave customers feeling bloated.”
From its beginnings as a “fairly traditional” Indian restaurant, Rehan has spent the past eleven years refining his menu and looking for new technology that helps him work smarter and faster. In 2017 he began investigating what modern multifunctional cooking systems were available.
“We’ve built what we call a smart food experience at the Bombay Express. We’re always looking for innovative new dishes to serve that you can’t get anywhere else, as well as providing options for a range of different dietary requirements. We need powerful and adaptable equipment.”
It quickly became apparent that Rational was offering the most complete and flexible solution. The kitchen at the Bombay Express is now built around an iCombi Pro and iVario Pro, the latest versions of Rational’s market leading cooking systems.
They have had a huge effect on working life at Bombay Express. “As well as only needing two people in the kitchen, the Rationals reduce the amount of time we need to do everything,” says Rehan. “For example, preparing a day’s worth of onion gravy used to take two and a half hours. The iVario Pro can do it in an hour and a quarter, it’s phenomenal!”
Rational is also able to replace specialised cooking equipment like the Tandoor oven. “Cooking chicken in a Tandoor is quite tricky, ensuring it’s cooked the same throughout and making sure none of it burns,” says Rehan. “With the iCombi Pro we can set it going with precisely controlled cooking times and know that we’ll get perfect moist and tender chicken every time. It helps take the guesswork out of it, and diners love the results.”
Maintaining authenticity is a big concern for Rehan and other members of ARON. “Some people think modern equipment can’t replicate the smokey flavours of Tandoori cooking,” he says. “The iCombi Pro’s VarioSmoker accessory is a great answer to those concerns. It lets us get that rich charcoal flavour, but also lets us experiment with many other flavours. It’s another thing that helps us stand out from other local restaurants.”
This ability to experiment lead to the creation of a new section on the menu, the Gunpowder Grill. “This is something that no other Indian restaurants offer, and it’s all thanks to our Rational cooking systems,” he says. These dishes combine different techniques using both the iVario Pro and iCombi Pro. “For our Hyderbaadi Lamb Steak, the meat is marinated in spices, then we use the iVario to sear it and cook it Sous Vide. We can then blast chill it down until it’s needed and grill it in the iCombi.”
The ease of trying out new recipes with Rational’s systems is a key point in Rehan’s advocacy for a modern approach to members of ARON. “The industry needs to be pro-active about adopting new technology,” he says. “I’m always highlighting the cost savings to our members, and the knock-on benefits they produce. “Rational cooking systems have brought significant savings on our energy bills, thanks to the reduction of prep time, and their intelligent assistants allow us to adapt quickly if we need something urgently,” says Rehan.
Cleaning equipment can be a time-consuming task. Both the iCombi Pro and iVario Pro are designed to be easy to clean, with an integral hand shower in the iVario and the iCareSystem in the iCombi Pro which automatically detects the level of soiling and set the optimum cleaning cycle. It uses newly developed phosphate-free cleaning chemicals, which cut consumption by up to 50%.
“It’s great to see Rational removing phosphates from their chemical cleaning products,” says Rehan. “Reducing our environmental impact is important to me. Rational’s commitment to improving and optimising its systems also helps us to optimise our business.”
This ability to optimise working practices has had a range of effects at Bombay Express. “It only takes a day to train staff to use both the iCombi Pro and iVario Pro,” says Rehan. “This is particularly helpful right now, with the industry facing a skills shortage. Even with new staff we know we’ll be maintaining our high standards. “The new generation of chefs coming through now expect modern equipment,” he continues. “They’re looking for jobs at places that have it, as they know they won’t be doing lots of boring repetitive tasks, just focusing on creating great food time after time.”
This guarantee of quality also helps front of house staff. “They are confident that they’re bringing diners great food. Having that pride that you’re serving something exceptional helps to give customers that wow factor,” he says. “Everyone at Bombay Express, from the kitchen to front of house, is proud of the food that we create with Rational equipment.”
The iCombi Pro and iVario Pro both include ConnectedCooking, Rational’s digital networking service. This allows operators to easily monitor and update the cooking systems remotely, via PC, phone or tablet. “ConnectedCooking helps me to create a unified smart kitchen,” says Rehan. “For example, if we’re cooking a dish overnight, I can make sure everything’s going smoothly from my phone, or I can check that everything’s being cleaned properly if I’m taking a day off. It also makes adding and changing recipes simple, as well as recording HACCP data.
“Thanks to the iCombi Pro and iVario Pro I have a digitally optimised kitchen, which allows me to share recipes and setting with members of ARON,” says Rehan. “Embracing the possibilities offered by modern cooking systems will be vital for the continued growth of our entire industry.”
For information and brochures, or to find out about free Rational Live online demonstrations, call +44 (0)1582 480388, freephone 0800 389 2944 or visit www.rational-online.com