Microwaves: An easier way to add food to bars

Wet-led pubs could benefit from addition of a commercial microwave

THERE’S no denying how significant food has become to the licensed trade in the past decade, with a high proportion of outlets across Scotland now offering it to one extent or another.

Surveys in recent years have consistently revealed that outlets serving food tend to be performing better than those which don’t. Yet there are plenty of pubs throughout the country that don’t yet to ‘do’ food.

Not every outlet in the on-trade has the space or staff to operate a fully functioning commercial kitchen, but catering equipment firms have insisted that, with relative ease, operators can offer a surprisingly robust menu using only a commercial microwave oven.

“Even a limited food offering is likely to expand the potential customer base and encourage customers to stay for more than just one drink, increasing overall spend per head,” said Ray Hall, managing director of RH Hall.

“There is also the potential to offer themed menus such as a regular curry night, or enhance events such as quiz nights with a food offering – drawing increased demand.”

Even a limited food offering is likely to expand the potential customer base.

Supporting that view, Glenn Roberts, chair of Catering Equipment Suppliers Association (CESA), said the straightforward nature of microwave cooking allows wet-led bars to make food a part of their business without great hassle.

He said: “Adding food to the pub’s ‘menu’ will not only please existing customers, it will also attract new ones, while adding to the revenue stream – and with a microwave oven, it’s easy to put hot food on the menu.

“The speed at which food can now be prepared in premises using a microwave oven, and the quality cooking results that they deliver, means that it’s both time and cost effective for wet-led pubs to offer dining options for customers.”

For operators considering purchasing a microwave but who are short on space, suppliers advised that many microwaves can easily be fitted onto back-bar counters with small preparation areas set alongside them.

Roberts of CESA said: “Microwaves take up very little space and typically need only a 600x600mm area on a counter top or wall shelf.

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Top tips for microwave maintenance


• Food debris build-up will cause cavity burn ups and lead to reheat issues, which may not be covered by a warranty.


• It’s important to clean using non-abrasive cloths as interiors can become scratched, allowing bacteria to gain a foothold.

– Supplied by CESA.


• Regular cleaning and servicing are key to ensure users get the maximum possible lifespan from their microwave.


• Any warranty provided with a domestic machine will be invalid if it is used in a commercial environment.

– Supplied by RH Hall.


“Some models can also be stacked, giving additional output without sacrificing additional space.”

The comparatively low emissions from microwaves also makes them well-suited to using front of house, according to Hall of RH Hall.

“As well as being energy efficient in themselves, microwave ovens create very little in the way of steam or waste heat, so they are ideal for front of house use and won’t put pressure on the extraction system,” he said.

Microwaves have come a long way since the appliance’s invention in 1946, with commercial microwaves now able to quickly cook a remarkable number of different meals.

Classics such as burgers can be quickly and easily prepared in a microwave.

Hall said: “Pub menu classics such as burgers, jacket potatoes, lasagne, chilli con carne and curry can all be quickly and easily prepared in a microwave.

“There are many options for operators to purchase pre-prepared meals that can then be reheated in as little as two to three minutes in a 1900W machine.”

Advances in technology have even led to microwaves becoming more popular for ‘prime cooking’ (ie cooking from scratch, as opposed to merely reheating meals), according to Roberts of CESA.

He said this further reinforced the microwave’s status as a modern pub “essential”.

“Combination microwave ovens are adding greater flexibility into the mix,” said Roberts.

“The addition of a grill and/or convection heater allows microwaves to perform almost all the functions of a standard oven, quickly and efficiently.

A commercial microwave will have been tested to endure the rigours of a commercial kitchen.

“Manufacturers have developed a variety of innovations in combination microwaves – the latest models deliver, in compact, counter-top formats and they deliver quality cooking results too.”

While some may be tempted to save money by purchasing a domestic microwave for their venue, Iain Phillips, sales and marketing manager at Panasonic, said only commercial microwaves can handle the frequency of use required in a busy hospitality environment.

He said: “A domestic microwave is designed to be used up to three times a day, where a professional kitchen can easily rack up over 200 use cycles on each microwave, per day so the demands on it are very different.

“A well-built, commercial microwave oven will have been tested to fully endure the rigours of a commercial kitchen so a well-maintained, professional microwave can last for many years.”

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What to look for in an oven


• Light duty/heavy duty: the major consideration when buying a microwave is largely down to how many covers you expect to serve when you’re at your busiest. A light duty microwave could struggle to keep up with the pace in a busy establishment, while a heavy duty machine could be too big for some settings.


• Power: more power means faster cooking. Faster cooking means more covers and happier customers.


• Manual or programmable: manual dial controls are easy to use and the microwave can cook very quickly. Programmable microwaves are especially valuable in businesses with multiple sites, as food is cooked consistently at each location with little training required.


– Supplied by Nisbets.