White Castle is trying to change its image with what it calls the "kitchen of the future": an open kitchen area with a custom-made stainless steel and glass griddle, where customers can watch their burgers being cooked, the Huffington Post reported.
The first revamped kitchen opened at a newly remodeled store in Elizabethtown, Ky. last weekend. The plan is to work out the bugs there before rolling out the design nationally.
Open kitchens aren't new among fast-casual restaurants; sushi chefs have been slicing fish and pizza makers have been tossing dough where customers can see them for years. But White Castle is the first burger chain to do it—at least in the current round. A White Castle spokesman said in its early days the chain let customers into its kitchens to see their food being cooked because hamburgers had the reputation of being unhealthy and made from slaughterhouse leftovers. As a result, kitchens had to be kept spotless.
The logistics of opening up the kitchen in a grease-heavy modern burger restaurant also required some reengineering. "We had to set up a new type of smoke trap designed with cyclonic action, which more efficiently takes away the smoke and grease," said Joseph Carrizales, a general manager at the White Castle unit that builds the chain's appliances. "We also designed a system to keep moisture from leaving the grill too quickly."
The spotless open kitchen might provide White Castle with an unexpected edge at a time when fast-food chains are regularly hit with incidents of food contamination problems. White Castle is best known right now for its "sliders"—cheap, small burgers that can be bought by the bag. If the chain can shift its image to being a really clean—and thus presumably high quality—source of cheap, small burgers, the revamp might pay for itself.
- See this Huffington Post story
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