H&C News meets with suppliers regularly to keep up to date with the latest product and service innovations, aiming to get the inside track on what companies offer to the market and how it is delivered.
This week, we met with Nick Metcalf, Managing Director at The Steak on the Stone Company, who’s brand SteakStones leads the way in supplying unique Hot Stone Cooking products to Pubs, Restaurants and Hotels all over the World. SteakStones provide businesses with bespoke packages, supplying everything a venue will need to serve this exciting and highly memorable meal with the company’s products in use in hundreds of venues in over 40 countries around the World, and growing.
We recently ran an article on the huge and growing market for Steak in the UK. How do you fit in to this?
The products we offer create a unique way for a venues customers’ to cook their food live at the table, with every bite cooked exactly as they like. Whether you have a steak offering already or are looking at introducing one, SteakStones will create an instant impact and have your guests bringing back friends and relatives to show off about this incredible meal experience.
Your article mentioned how operators can up-sell customers from Rump to Rib-Eye or Sirloin to Fillet, and SteakStones are perfect for assisting with this, as the deeper cuts are perfect for cooking on the stone and plenty of our venues will only offer Fillet Steak on the Stone, so when customers see, smell and hear the delicious serving of Steak on the Stone, they put down the menu and say simply “I would like that please”!
Are your products just for cooking Steak?
From our name you can ascertain they are stones for cooking steaks, but we have designed our products to be incredibly versatile. Obviously Steak is associated with meat, but any large cut of meat or fish off the bone is considered a steak, so Fillet, Rib-Eye, Sirloin and Rump, yes, but also Salmon, Swordfish and Tuna and other foods that can be eaten once seared on the outside, such as Scallops or Lamb, are delicious cooked on the stone.
We mentioned the versatility of our products, and we recently introduced The SteakStones Bowl, which is modelled on the traditional Korean meal of Bibimbap. The bowl is coated with sesame oil, heated until the oil crackles and then has cooked rice and an assortment of fresh vegetables and strips of meat or fish added, with the final addition of chilli sauce (which can be exchanged for anything else) and a cracked egg. This is the traditional way, but we have customers serving make it yourself Paellas and using the bowls for casseroles or hot pots. What all of our products bring is a way to ensure that the last bite is as hot and delicious as the first.
What’s so unique about the stone cooking method?
Except for the bowl which works at around 250c, our stones operate best between 300-350c. At this temperature, they instantly sear and seal the outside of the steak, meaning that if you like a rare steak, even 20 minutes in you can cut into the steak and only the outside couple of mm will be browned, so you can then enjoy a still rare, but piping hot mouthful of steak. If you like your steak more well done, you can simply cut it into smaller pieces once served and literally finish off each piece to your absolute satisfaction before enjoying with your favourite sides and sauces. Everyone’s perception of rare, medium, and well done are different – cooking on the stone means your customers enjoy an interactive experience whilst ensuring every bite is just right for them. It’s also fantastically healthy way to eat, with no oils or fats used in the cooking process, just the natural flavours and moisture of the chosen meat or fish.
How do customers of your clients take to the experience?
I’ll leave this one to the likes of TripAdvisor to answer. It you type in SteakStones you’ll see the feedback from our customers customers and it’s always that it was one of the nicest, most fun dining experiences they have had. We have a venue in Dublin, where the owner offers a guarantee that his guests will love the experience. Having encountered a few traditional diners who wanted their steak cooked for them, the owner offers to take back the Steak on the Stone meal and do just this after 10 minutes if they want to exchange for the traditional. He’s never been taken up on the offer as once you get going with Steak on the Stone you quickly realise there really is no better way to enjoy a steak.
What about resting the Steak?
The reason for resting a steak is that when cooking a steak in a pan or on the grill, the moisture retreats to the middle of the steak. After cooking, the resting ensures it dissipates back through the steak to the outside, thus preventing the loss of juices and flavours of an un-rested steak. With our unique dry, searing cooking method, there is no need for the resting, as each individual mouthful is seared, trapping the moisture inside each bite, with no chance of it escaping onto the plate.
So the stones cook perfectly, the steak tastes great and customers love it. Any disadvantages?
I mentioned the heat of the stones should be between 300-350c. Any lower and the steak can effectively boil, rather than sear and any higher than 350c and you will overcook the steak. Unfortunately, as with any innovation we have copycats, and one in particular has peddled a myth that the stone needs to be super-heated to 440c. This almost instantly burns the produce and creates excess steam and smoke, and has put some vendors of the concept. Stick between the temperatures we recommend, and even if you spent over the odds on a redundant super-heated oven, you’ll re-create the perfect experience!
How do your customers get the stones to 300-350c?
We supply a range of ovens custom built to heat the stones in the most efficient manner. From a cold start an oven loaded with 24 stones will take just 1.5 hours to get all the stones fully up to heat, so power consumption is kept to a minimum. There is no obligation to buy our ovens though. We realise it’s tough out there and if customers have a way of heating to the required temperature, they can utilise that, though obviously our ovens are built for purpose to withstand the weight and handling of the stones. Whichever way you choose to heat our products ensure your customers meal can be served in just a few minutes from order.
That sounds like a great benefit?
Absolutely. We have the greatest respect for the work chefs do in the kitchen, but whereas when we started out back in 2005 some chef’s saw us as competition, they now see us as an ally in that we can help alleviate a bit of pressure in a busy kitchen. We advocate spending a little extra time on the side dishes that accompany the meal and perhaps hand-making the perfect sauces that accompany the cuts of meat and fish you are serving, but if everything is ready and you have a great steak supplier, you can serve a meal in minutes creating memories that will literally last a lifetime. Due to the sensory experience – it sounds great, smells great, looks great and of course most importantly tastes fantastic, it really does mean nearly every customer will recount the meal to friends driving footfall in your venue and ultimately helping your bottom line.
What sort of profits and benefits can the concept bring?
Most of our customers report an increase of anywhere between 2-5 times more steaks sold in the year following the introduction of SteakStones to their restaurant. Coupled with the up-selling we mentioned earlier from cheaper to more expensive cuts and the system pays for itself very quickly in terms of time saving in the kitchen and wow factor in the restaurant. It’s also much more than just a novelty. Many of our venues have opened new premises and SteakStones is nearly always the first thing on the menu as with a decent steak it pretty much guarantees a great experience.
So lots to gain, but obviously some start-up costs for a venue?
We put together bespoke packages for all our customers, from 2-200 sets. We have venues offering it as a special (though they soon realise it’s worthy of more than just a weekly steak night) to almost everything they have on the menu and with our combination of sets and accessories, we can supply everything a venue needs for very reasonable costs. As an example, a 24 Stone System, including our Main Sets, Double Oven, Shovel, Instructions Cards, Meal Flags and Laser Thermometer to check the heat of the stones, comes in at £2,500. We’re able to offer lease purchase packages to help spread the costs as our customer’s desire.
H & C News comment
We would like to thank Nick for his time and insight, no matter whether you’re currently serving Steak in your venue or not, the addition of SteakStones looks like a sure fire way to add some great profits and uniqueness to your food offering. And who wouldn’t want to ensure they never got a steak back to the kitchen for not being cooked to the patron’s liking.
To get your mouth watering a little more we have published another delicious looking images below, can’t wait to try them. Nudge, nudge Nick
For more information on SteakStones please call +44 1293 775555 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.