University of St Andrews reduces overheads and increases output with Rational

Rational equipment allows Scotland’s first university meet the diverse needs of their students

Originally founded in 1413, St Andrews is Scotland’s first university. Mark Nixon, senior chef manager, has responsibility for keeping over 2000 students and staff fed every day. “We have a four-week menu cycle, which includes lunches with a choice of three hot items and dinners with four, plus soup and dessert. Obviously we also offer a vegetarian and vegan choice with every service, and we have big challenges around allergens and dietary restrictions,” he says.

“We also have a commercial catering team who handle internal delivered catering, conference catering, the Principal’s dinners, graduation garden parties and lunches and more. It’s very varied, and busy, so we need our equipment to be reliable and versatile.”

Student catering is prepared separately among the nine halls of residence, with one hall designated for students with nut allergies, allowing food to be prepared in a controlled environment. Space is at a premium, so to maximise output Nixon knew he needed modern multifunctional appliances.

“In nearly thirty years of working in catering, Rational is a brand I’ve used regularly,” says Nixon. “I was visiting trade shows to get an idea of what was available, and I was blown away by how powerful the latest models are so I knew they would be ideal.”

Powerful control

University of St Andrews currently has two VarioCookingCenter (VCC) 112L and 211 appliances, as well as eight SelfCookingCenter (SCC) 201 appliances in kitchens across its campus. The VCC 112L has two 25 litre capacity pans that can be used independently of each other, while the 211 is a 100 litre single pan unit. The VCC can replace boiling kettles, large pots, bratt pans, fryers and griddles, and is up to four times faster than conventional cooking appliances.

The SCC 201 is a combi oven with capacity for 20 1/1GN pans. It can grill, roast, bake, steam, stew, poach and blanch. Like the VCC it has powerful control systems that allow for different meals to be prepared at the same time, with changes in internal conditions adjusted for automatically.

The new equipment has already had a significant effect on the catering at University St Andrews. “Getting consistent results is vital, especially with our allergy control kitchen,” says Nixon. “We have an entire kitchen set aside to cater for students with nut allergies, so we need to be able to control every aspect of production. The SCC iLevelControl and VCC systems give such precise results that we can be sure about that aspect of the production process, and the data collected allows us to keep full records should we need to audit or investigate issues.”

The flexibility of Rational appliances helps Nixon’s staff produce the variety of food the menu cycle requires. “Every Friday we have fish and chips, we can use the VCC as a deep fat fryer. It can prepare over 400 servings at once, which is pretty astonishing,” he says.

“It also uses less oil, and it’s far easier to filter it for reuse than with conventional appliances. We’ve calculated that just on the savings we’ll make on oil alone, the VCC will pay for itself in three and a half years.”

Integrated cleaning

This isn’t the only way Rational equipment reduces overheads. “We have harder water here in St Andrews, which meant that we needed a water softener for our equipment, but the SCC’s integrated cleaning systems only require their care control tablets, says Nixon.

“The integrated water tap on the VCC also helps speed up the turnaround, as it means the kitchen porters don’t have to bring water to it to clean it between batches.”

Versatility and speed are built into every aspect of both Rational appliances. “I love the multizone feature of the VCC,” says Nixon. “Being able to set different multizone timers in the pans opens up even more possibilities.”

Using both the VarioCookingCenter and the SelfCookingCenter together for recipes also streamlines production. “We can sear off meat in the VCC and then finish it up in the SCC, it’s a great way to make pie fillings and things like that,” says Nixon.

“The staff love them too, we rotate the chefs between sites and one of our chefs was recently moved from one of our kitchens that has the VCC and SCC equipment to one that doesn’t,” says Nixon. “She really missed them, she’s been calling them her baby and keeps asking to come back to one of the Rational powered kitchens.”

Further details:

RATIONAL is the leading provider in hot food preparation equipment and, with the VarioCookingCenter and SelfCookingCenter, the company delivers all a commercial kitchen’s thermal cooking requirements. Together, the two appliances offer the best cooking solutions.

For information and brochures, or to come to a free VarioCookingCenter Live or SelfCookingCenter Live demonstration, call +44 (0)1582 480388, freephone 0800 389 2944 or visit

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