The Chestnut Group aims to ‘bring a bit of Soho House to Bury’
“The defining pillars of The Chestnut Group are fantastic service, stylish interiors, and great food – and all of that should be synonymous with a great experience. To deliver that, the kitchen and backbar equipment are very, very important.” So says Philip Turner, founder of The Chestnut Group, a fast-expanding chain of hostelries based in East Anglia. The Group uses Precision for its kitchen and backbar refrigeration in its six sites, including the recently opened The Northgate in Bury St Edmunds.
With The Northgate, Philip says they were trying to “bring a bit of Soho House to Bury.” It’s a place to eat, drink, socialise and, with ten bedrooms, have a good sleep at the end of it all. The popular restaurant and busy cocktail lounge are crowd-pullers, while the furniture and décor, including a chic copper-clad bar, are stylish and welcoming.
“At The Chestnut Group we are very aware of how our kitchens and our backbars look,” Philip says. “We spend a lot of time and attention thinking about the right materials, the right colour palates, the right chairs and tables, the mood we are trying to set. I don’t see any reason why that should stop when you get to the threshold of the kitchen door. Especially here at The Northgate, where we have a chef’s table. Equally, I think it’s incredibly important that when someone is standing at a bar, the view they have of equipment and backbar fittings sets the right tone.
“I want customers to be able to look over the bar or into the kitchen and see equipment that reflects our ethos. We’re trying to achieve a slick operation and the equipment, including the way it looks, is an incredibly important part of that exercise.”
It’s not just looks that are important, of course. “60% of our revenue is from food,” says Philip. “Quality is vital and so is maintenance of food at the right temperature. We tend to have busy sites which means the fridges are being opened and closed on a regular basis. The Northgate is a Victorian building and one of our concerns with refrigeration was the flow of air – we needed to ensure that the fridges could work efficiently with the ventilation that we could give them. So we did a series of tests to ensure that the equipment could actually maintain temperature. Precision were incredibly helpful in helping us facilitate those tests.”
The Northgate has Precision counters in the kitchen as well as bottle coolers and glass frosters in the cocktail bar. “At our first site, The Packhorse Inn, we decided to differentiate ourselves in areas where others didn’t necessarily place importance. So we went for Precision in the bar. Then we realised the difference in appearance that those fridges give you. They set the tone. In subsequent sites, including The Northgate, we’ve done exactly the same thing.
“I’m a fan of the ‘premierisation’ of products that’s a big trend in the market. One of our focuses at The Northgate is cocktails. We wanted our cocktail menu to stand out. Equipment like the Precision glass frosters has a real impact in terms of drinks presentation. If your customers think your product is great, they promote it via social media. They end up doing your marketing for you.”
The Northgate was a huge project – effectively the building was gutted and the kitchen was a major development in its own right. Reg Dawson of Dawson Design Projects was project manager. “We’ve done five kitchens with Reg,” says Philip. “He understands what we’re trying to do as a business. I think kitchen design and the execution of a new build of a commercial kitchen is probably an art rather than a science.”
Philip has been working with Precision since 2012, when he founded The Chestnut Group. “When we first started out, Precision were happy to work with us. There’s nothing worse than having £10,000-worth of fridges arriving on the building site when you’re not ready for them. They were incredibly helpful in ensuring that the delivery of their equipment ran to our timeline – which was often a moving timeline! They were also helpful in how we set the fridges up, during the course of one order I think we even changed the door handles from one side to the other side, and they accommodated that without any extra cost.
“That attention to customer detail is something I’m very grateful for. They’ve always taken the time to look after us.”