WILDGOOSE CAFE CHURCH KITCHEN
Nelson Catering Equipment is known for its work in providing charities and churches with professionally designed catering facilities. However, when we were recently asked to become involved in a major renovation, turning a derelict pub into a fully functioning café capable of serving several hundred homeless people a day – and on a minimal budget, we knew our design skills would be put to the test.
Crisis Centre Ministries in Bristol is a Christian based charity dedicated to helping and feeding local homeless people, but had extremely limited resources. Then, in 2010, the charity’s plight was highlighted when it came to the attention of entrepreneur Dawn Gibbins when she took part in an episode of Channel 4’s, The Secret Millionaire. Posing as a volunteer, Dawn was deeply moved by how The Wild Goose Café helped alcoholics, drug addicts and other people requiring help by offering a hot meal and a friendly chat. The venue, though, was far too small to cope with demand and, although the trustees had found their ideal property, The Queen Vic pub, they were struggling to find the funds to buy it. Dawn made one of the biggest single donations, £125,000, that the programme has seen, which meant that the new location for The Wild Goose Café was sealed.
Architect Vivienne Summerill, was asked to draw up plans to create a kitchen and café capable of feeding as many people as possible, and also to create administration, counselling and training rooms, a staff rest area and a shower room. “There was a vast amount of work to do with the budget I was given,” explains Vivienne. “I needed Nelson Catering Equipment to come up with a commercial kitchen design that would work at every level, but for the least amount of money possible.”
Because Vivienne had consulted us before she embarked on structural alterations, we were able to work with her in deciding on a spacious café design that would provide ample storage and workspace while also maximising the length of the servery/pass.
The key to our design was organisation. A lot of different people volunteer in the café kitchen, usually around 6 or 7 at any given time, so having clearly defined zones was important. It was also crucial to make sure the pass and self service area functioned as smoothly as possible to allow the maximum number of people to collect their food quickly and to prevent congestion from building up. The old bar was used for this – one end dedicated to hot foods held in bains marie, with the other end primarily designated for hot and cold drinks and cold foods. A preparation area is sited adjacent to a large store cupboard while a commercial dishwasher system is directly opposite the drop off point. All cooking is carried out using just a 6 burner range and a convection oven.
There is little advanced menu planning at The Wild Goose Café. Much of its food is donated by local stores and suppliers, so every day presents manager Alan Goddard with a new menu challenge. “We provide free breakfast, lunch and dinner for everyone,” he says. “We also have a full English breakfast available for a token £1.50 and a full roast dinner for £1.00.”
With its new commercial catering kitchen providing a far greater cooking capacity, nobody that comes for food ever needs to be turned away. The café is currently serving around 400 meals a day, though plans are in hand to extend opening hours to all day and evening, seven days a week.