Danske Bank canteen kitchen runs on passion and Chefstein®
Catering for 1,000 finance sector employees during a normal lunch service, daily kitchen and chef life at Danske Bank on-site canteen is busy. It’s a matter of pride to the team to be always serving food as fresh as possible. Chefstein® is involved in this as a digital kitchen management system to ensure that food safety, hygiene and general kitchen workflow is always on form.
Photos: Viola Nygren
Stepping into the Nordic Light canteen in the Danske Bank main office building in Helsinki, Finland, you immediately get an idea of how busy it must be in the kitchen. Pandemic times aside, the restaurant normally serves some 1,000 daily customers, consisting of Danske Bank employees and their business guests.
The lunch offering includes several choices: two warm, meat or fish-based options or a warm vegetarian meal, soup of the day as well as a fresh salad bar. These are all served as a buffet concept. In addition, there is a special ‘from the grill’ daily option, prepared as individual servings. In the morning, Danske Bank employees can enjoy breakfast at the canteen and purchase fresh snacks throughout the day.
We were intrigued by how all of this is run and managed. We met with the Nordic Light canteen Head Chef, Jyri Saarinen, to find out more.
We learned about how the Fredman digital kitchen management system, Chefstein®, plays several roles in making sure that the kitchen operates efficiently. It also helps ensure that guests enjoy freshly prepared, safe and tasty food, every time.
Demanding, busy office canteen setup
The Danske Bank canteen is operated by ISS, the global workplace experience and facility management company. Jyri has been responsible for its food product as the Head Chef since 2014. Prior to this he has worked particularly in the hotel business.
“In my view, operating an office canteen like this one is about 10 times harder than running a hotel restaurant kitchen. You need to be able to make really high-quality food while working with smaller budgets. It’s surprisingly challenging as it is a constant balancing act”, Jyri says.
The quality of ingredients, minimal food waste and fail-proof food safety are critical elements in the equation. As most of the lunch options are served as a buffet, planning, timing and monitoring are key. Supply and demand must meet.
Customers at the canteen are fairly food-conscious. Demand for healthy, vegetarian and vegan food is increasing, particularly among younger people.
Various special diets are catered to as standard practice. Trust and loyalty are built via meeting a whole plethora of expectations, every day.
Passionate and dedicated kitchen staff
The kitchen team is 15 members strong – that’s when the Danske Bank employees aren’t working remotely. At the time of our interview, in May, there were 5 people working in the kitchen as the majority of customers were still working from home.
The strong and dedicated team of passionate food professionals shares a laid-back but strongly professional attitude toward their work. According to Jyri, a good sense of humor has kept them going through the tough times.
Chefstein® has been used as a tool to digitalize various parts of daily kitchen management and operations since it was first launched in June 2020. Today it is used as a daily tool by everyone in the team. Many prefer to use it on their personal mobile devices instead of on the official kitchen device.
“We rotate between different responsibilities in the kitchen. All tasks within different responsibility areas are detailed in Chefstein®. When you rotate to a new role, all you need to do is open Chefstein® and get on with it,” Jyri explains.
Jyri continues to explain that it only took about two weeks for Chefstein® to become a firm part of the kitchen’s daily routines. Chefstein® has had an interesting impact on the team.
“It’s motivating! It’s made us manage food waste efficiently as we have a better idea of when there is extra in certain ingredients. Moreover, food security has improved as various measurements and monitoring are ‘always on’ and the real-time results don’t lie”, Jyri summarizes.
Comprehensive digital kitchen management with Chefstein®
The way Chefstein® is leveraged in the Danske Bank kitchen is truly comprehensive. Digital kitchen management has brought new efficiencies in all key areas of kitchen operations.
In addition to making the daily kitchen workflow more organized and efficient and food waste management part of the routine, the main benefits of Chefstein® lie within food safety and hygiene.
Food safety and customer safety
Bluetooth temperature sensors are installed into all cooling devices and dishwashers. Jyri keeps a keen eye on any anomalies in the way these devices function so that disruptions can be prevented and food safety kept at a constant high.
In fact, he had noticed that the temperature of one of the freezers had started to fall. Corrective action was taken fast, preventing food waste on a large scale. If something happens over the weekend, an alert is directed to the maintenance company who will enter the site to rectify any issues.
Jyri also handles all receiving inspections with the help of Bluetooth thermometers, while preparation and serving temperatures are taken with a Bluetooth probe by Sous Chef Andreo Anderson. Thermometer readings are automatically stored in Chefstein® and they become a key part of digital kitchen management.
“Chefstein® kind of forces you to do things right. If something isn’t hot enough, you have to heat it to reach the right temperature. It has increased customer safety immensely”, Jyri and Andreo state together.
Surface hygiene is monitored with a handheld ATP luminometer. It is an innovative way to measure the cleanliness of kitchen work surfaces, providing the results in about 10 seconds. The readings are also automatically uploaded to Chefstein®.
“This is a significant development. Previously we attached pieces of tape to surfaces and compared the colored results to a color scale and wrote down the results. With the new technology the results are not open to interpretation”, Jyri says.
Legally required self-monitoring made easy
Talking with Jyri it becomes clear that self-monitoring is an area where Chefstein® introduces more than welcome efficiencies.
He explains that previously it was a demanding task to get everything organized for self-monitoring purposes, involving a lot of paperwork that was not part of the core skillset of a chef.
Through Chefstein® Jyri has instant access to 100% accurate, real-time information. He seems to be openly excited about this and we suspect that this is due to the fact that he can free up time to focus on his professional passion, food.
“You win back a lot of time. There is no need to print or write anything by hand. You don’t need to worry about what is missing, or what hasn’t been done. You don’t need to go through all kitchen appliances looking for pinned notes which might be torn or wrinkled, including hand-written information you can’t even read. All you need to do, really, is stick a thermometer to some of the objects you need to measure”, he goes on when asked about the benefits of self-monitoring with Chefstein®.
The logical next step would be that the health inspector is provided with a login to Chefstein® to check how self-monitoring and HACCP is handled systematically at Nordic Light.
Restaurant management based on real-time data
Being the one responsible for kitchen operations, Jyri uses Chefstein® most broadly in the team. He keeps an eye on all the appliances or tasks that are still waiting to be completed.
There is an educational element to this role as he might need to give a friendly reminder to the team to complete certain tasks or find out whether there are gaps in any instructions. Following appliance temperature graphs has become a regular habit.
On Fridays Jyri logs in on a PC to the Chefstein® dashboard to check that everything has been done. Is this when he looks at reports from the past week?
“No! I don’t really even have to look at any reports myself as I live and work side-by-side Chefstein® during the day. I see real-time data whenever I need and I feel that I know exactly what is happening, all the time. It makes my life easier and reduces my stress levels”, he says.
Surely Jyri compiles management reports at least on a monthly basis?
“I don’t need to compile or send any reports. We have real-time data available whenever needed for running any comparative reports”, he concludes.
Chefstein® is part of the team
It must be liberating for Jyri to be given more time to focus on planning weekly menus and to get more involved with the fun and passionate team to prepare nourishing and tasty food experiences to Danske Bank employees.
“Real-time data is the coolest thing about this. You can check it anytime or, if you wish, even all the time. There is no need to run around and look for information to do laborsome comparisons”, Jyri summarizes. He continues on to say that he would much rather manage the kitchen operations digitally than spend a lot of unnecessary time on administrative duties.
Both Jyri and Andreo agree that Chefstein® is a bit like a workmate. It is constantly used and ‘present’ in many tasks throughout the day. Just like a trusted colleague that doesn’t miss anything. One that happily takes on the more mundane monitoring tasks while the others can focus on their professional passion and be creative.