Case Study – Southwold Pier – with Richard Knights, Head Chef

Richard Knights is Head Chef at Southwold Pier; a rather unique operation.  Built originally in 1900, it has been privately owned and family-run since 2005.  Eateries on site include the Beach Café, the Boardwalk Restaurant and the Clockhouse. 

With no competition in the immediate vicinity and a varied customer base consisting of locals and tourists – there can be up to 5,000 people on the Pier – Richard and his team certainly have their work cut out; they cater for over 600 people a day in the Boardwalk restaurant during peak season and all their food is freshly prepared on site, using locally sourced ingredients.   Of course, being by the sea, fish and chips features as a popular choice but this doesn’t restrict Richard’s imagination when it comes to producing a menu that is full of variety and packed with flavour.  Richard experimented with a selection of Schwartz seasonings following his participation in the Schwartz Flavour Pairing Challenge at Hotelympia and found that they not only delivered great flavours, but also consistency and additional profits.

Richard Knights, Head Chef, Southwold Pier: “At the Pier we’re used to working under pressure but by using a trusted brand such as Schwartz I can ensure we deliver consistently high quality.  For example, we have spiced crispy potato wedges on our menu and used to make our own seasoning for them.  Now that we’re using the Schwartz Piri Piri seasoning we’ve noticed that more customers have passed positive comments about them and the chefs love making them now because it’s effortless.  They also feel that they deliver more visually, and look ‘awesome’.  In fact the guys who work here want to know when they will be getting them for their meals!

“I always try out new things on our staff; if they are fed well, they will perform well, so they get to eat food of the same standard that we serve to our customers and it’s an ideal opportunity for me to obtain feedback before ‘going live’.  I’ve tried the whole range of Schwartz BBQ seasonings and they are very popular!  The Spicy BBQ seasoning mixed into mayonnaise and served with chargrilled chicken is a particular favourite and I have enhanced my smoked vegetarian ratatouille by using the Smoky Mesquite seasoning.  One dish that has gained more positive feedback than others is our home smoked chicken salad.  I make up a brine pot prior to smoking the chicken as normal but add Smoky Mesquite seasoning to it, which enriches the smoky flavour.  I’ve had customers ask where they can buy the smoked chicken and they are quite disappointed when I tell them it’s home smoked!

“At the end of the day, I’m not embarrassed to say that I use these products from Schwartz.  They enable me to cut waste, add value to my menu and deliver consistency.  On some occasions, there’s no point in making yourself when you can buy better.  These products deliver great, punchy flavours, but don’t be fooled into thinking that they may cost more, you don’t have to use as much!  In fact, compared to others I’ve used, you easily get more than twice as much flavour.  I will definitely continue to try new things with the Schwartz range; I’ve seen sales on some items on the menu increase by up to 20% since I’ve been using them and even though we are a tourist destination, we also rely on repeat custom from locals to keep us going through the winter so having quality and variety on our menu is imperative.

“To other chefs out there, I’d suggest they experiment with these seasonings; try using them differently, they’re great in a wet soak as well as a dry rub, and do some side by side comparisons – you won’t be disappointed!”