Chris Coughborough’s new display units fit grand setting and stimulate sales
Built in the 1720s for Sir Robert Walpole, Houghton Hall in North Norfolk remains one of England’s finest Palladian houses, designed to reflect the wealth, taste, and power of Great Britain’s first Prime Minister. The Hall has been owned by the same family for over two centuries, and now rests with the 7th Marquess of Cholmondeley and his young family.
Houghton is open to the public from May through October and visitor dining can be found in the Hall’s imposing Stable Block – where the Stable Café is a ‘masterpiece’ by Chris Coughbrough, aka the Flying Kiwi.
Originally from New Zealand, Chris is a widely celebrated restaurateur with popular pubs and luxury hotels all across North Norfolk. He was recently awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Eastern Daily Press. He is also the chair of the North Norfolk Food Festival, which helps provide some of the best local food providers with the chance to reach a wider, national audience.
This passion for local food and ingredients is reflected in the Stables café, which specialises in traditional, seasonal food to go with its quintessentially English setting. Catering for between 500 and 1000 covers a day, the café is self-serve and doesn’t take bookings, so turn-around has to be fast. To help enhance presentation of the food within a ‘grab-and-go’ system, as well as keeping it fresh and in top condition, Chris and his team chose the quality performance and reliability of Williams Refrigeration.
“The chilled serve display refrigeration we have now with Williams is brilliant because the food and drink is right in front of the customer. The merchandisers are well lit and keep the food as fresh as it can be, coming straight from the garden.”
Alongside the Williams sandwich chiller, the café has two Gem Multidecks, one displaying full meals, such as salads and traditional Ploughmans’, the other with chilled drinks, including cordials presse and juices made from the estate.
“The Williams units have immediately increased customer spend. The customer likes to see the product before they buy it. The bright LED illumination makes the food look great and helps stimulate sales, making them more likely to go for a main meal rather than just a snack.
“Meanwhile the contemporary style and design from Williams fits perfectly in the café and helps visitors move through the self-service area very quickly and get back to what they came for – the halls and the art.”
Sustainability is also a key criteria for Houghton Hall. Williams’ energy-saving technologies, developed under its Greenlogic initiative, are a key feature of its display equipment. For example, the open-fronted, self-service Sandwich Chiller features an innovative ‘air curtain’ system that recycles the cold air normally wasted in conventional designs.
The wall of cold air cascades down the front of the unit, protecting the food and drink by maintaining temperature while offering customers easy access and an attractive display. With conventional designs, much of the cold air curtain is lost into the environment. On the Williams version, careful angling of the ‘curtain’ ensures that nearly all the cold air is recycled, either into the cabinet, helping maintain temperature, or by being drawn through vents and grills to cool the refrigeration system itself and thus reduce energy consumption.
While the functionality of the refrigeration was important for the fast, quick-serve operation of the café, it also needed to look appealing to suite the hall’s grand setting. The more so since Houghton hosts major events– including, in 2015, the spectacular ‘Lightscape’, an ambitious exhibition of American artist James Turrell’s light pieces, which was heralded nationally as one of the sensations of the year’s art calendar.
“Along with Lord and Lady Cholmondeley, our team has gone to great efforts to make the café fit in with the stunning estate. We needed aesthetically pleasing refrigeration, not something cold and industrial looking.
“Williams ticks all the boxes we need here for a grand stately home serving grand food from what needed to be a sharp-looking, contemporary refrigeration system.”
The Williams equipment at Houghton Hall was installed by Multi Catering Technologies of Norwich.