Call Systems Technology (CST)

November 02, 2011 07:00 ET

Hi-Tech Mex

Wahaca's Investment in QSR ConnectSmart Kitchen Automation is Paying Big Dividends for the Ambitious London-Based Mexican Restaurant Group

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM--(Marketwire - Nov. 2, 2011) -

Editors Note: There is a photo associated with this press release.

"It makes us better." That's how Wahaca group development chef Gavin Healy describes the impact of kitchen automation on the Mexican restaurant chain's business. It's a bold claim, the more so since the Wahaca concept was founded on food quality, excellence and Master Chef winner Thomasina Miers' passion for flavour. All five Wahaca sites now have the ConnectSmart Kitchen (CSK) system from QSR Automations®, supplied and serviced by Edgware-based Call Systems Technology (CST), and while it's meant a significant investment the company has no doubt about its value.

"We serve a really wide selection of authentic Mexican street foods – alongside the familiar taco and burrito are queso fundido, huarache and esquites, for example," explains Mark Selby, managing director of Wahaca. "That variety means a pretty complicated kitchen structure – one table's order could be placed over seven different tickets. The CSK means every chef knows exactly what to prepare, in what order. Before we got it, the chefs spent half their time checking tickets to see what to do. Now they just glance at their screen and can get on with what they're great at – creating wonderful quick dishes with amazing Mexican flavours."

Each chef station in the kitchen has its own screen, showing the individual chef what they need to be cooking next. "CSK has totally simplified our kitchen workflow," says Mark Selby. "It coordinates everything, organising every kitchen shift much more productively. It also saves time and allows us to produce food more quickly and, in our situation, that's vital."

The new Wahaca at Stratford Westfield shopping Mall, London exemplifies the issue they face. During the week it can be quiet, especially at lunch times, which makes it all the more important that when the site is busy (and it can get very, very busy) they maximise their business. "CSK has speeded up foodservice significantly. So much so that we can guarantee to have people in, fed and back out in 20 minutes, if that's what they want. It also means we can serve a lot more customers when we're busy."

Speed isn't the only benefit: food quality is more consistent, too. "Because chefs are only cooking, and don't have to worry about organising things, their jobs are simpler. They can focus on their passion and put it into each dish. CSK gives us much better control of the food that goes to the table."

Another bonus is the CSK expediter screen – sited just outside the kitchen pass, it gives a constantly updated snap shot of what is happening in the kitchen, including the status of each order. It highlights any problem areas, such as delays, so that workloads can be reorganised to remedy the situation. "The expediter is a great tool," says Mark Selby.

There's also the issue of food waste. "The nature of Mexican street food is a bit chaotic – plates go to the table as soon as they are ready, to be super-fresh. With a ticket system, that can be an issue especially if you're busy and things pile up, when orders might go to the wrong table, or be duplicated, or come out too late. That sometimes led to waste and, worse, unhappy customers. The CSK sorts it all out, automatically."

Chefs tend to be technophobes, so how did they get on with the QSR ConnectSmart system? Gavin Healy admits he was very sceptical, but he's a total convert now. "There's no way our chefs would go back to a ticketed system. This way is much smoother and less stressed. It's all good."

Chefs can use the CSK screens to call up spec sheets of each dish on the menu as they need them. "Obviously they are great for training," says Healy, "and they're much more kitchen-friendly than printed sheets. But they also let kitchen staff check easily for diet allergies and the like, which can be very useful."

Mark Selby has been impressed by the support Wahaca gets from CST. "If there's a problem they deal with it straight away. That's very important for us and, frankly, the service has been fantastic."

Ashley Sheppard, commercial director of CST, says that the solution is an ideal fit for the Mexican group. "Wahaca is a great brand with food excellence and speed of service at its core – QSR ConnectSmart helps them deliver both."

Wahaca is expanding – ultimately the chain would like up to 15 sites in London and more around the UK. The brand offers a mix of Mexican street food that's fresh, fast, tasty and good value – but there's plenty of competition in the Mexican restaurant sector, especially in London. This, says Mark Selby, is where kitchen automation comes in: "CSK helps us do it quicker, and better."

Call Systems Technology is the strategic partner for QSR Automations in the UK and Europe. For details, freephone 0800 389 5642, call 020 8381 1338, email the company at or visit the CST website

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Call Systems Technology (CST) is based in Edgware, London and supplies an award-winning range of specialist communications and software products.

QSR Automations® is a market leader in restaurant automation in the USA. Its ConnectSmart® solution helps all a restaurant's staff work together more efficiently by organising workloads, improving productivity, and delivering better, more effective service. Its popularity in the States is based on all these benefits plus the fact that, ultimately, it increases profits.

As the European strategic distributor for QSR Automations, CST's QSR UK division provides a comprehensive portfolio of sales and services for QSR's ConnectSmart suite of restaurant automation products.

QSR's ConnectSmart Kitchen (CSK) software helps chefs determine which food items to focus on and how to prepare those items. Using vivid, easy-to-understand graphics, CSK automatically assigns items to individual chef's workstations, based on the prep times of each item on a particular order – so that all items for the order complete at the same time. CSK delivers faster kitchen preparation and delivery, enhanced food quality and reduced working stress.

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