Waitrose Burgess Hill opened on 2/7/1991. The following article appeared in The Gazette at the time.
“Another piece of the Waitrose Sussex jigsaw slotted into place on Tuesday when the Burgess Hill branch opened for business. The new branch joins Horsham, opened in November 1990 and the more established branches of Crowborough, Brighton and Chichester.
‘The Waitrose name and reputation is already well established in the county and the opening of Burgess Hill should strengthen our position even further,’ says Ron, Branch Manager. ‘Having other branches so nearby – Brighton is only 9 miles away – was also a great help in the run up to the opening. The branches at Brighton and Horsham particularly were used a lot to train new Partners.’
The branch dominates the new extension to the established Martlets Shopping Centre in Burgess Hill. The Market Place centre will also be home for some 35 other shop units, a covered market, a restaurant and car parking for 340 cars. There is also a proposal for a crèche facility.
Sited at one corner of the development, the branch has a distinctive pitched roof, crowned by an attractive clock tower. Dormer windows help to break up the bulk of the building and there is also interesting use of contrasting brickwork making a pattern of arches on some of the walls. Leading from the carpark to the shop is a tiled walkway to protect customers from the worst of the Sussex elements.
The whole branch is extremely light and airy – even the first-floor warehouse has plenty of natural light streaming in from large dormer windows. There is the full complement of service areas, and the branch will also be stocking batteries and films. The dining room area is particularly attractive as it overlooks an enclosed roof terrace which will provide plenty of sitting -out space for Partners.
The Branch Cook, Nicola is delighted with the facilities. ‘Obviously, everything is very new and at the moment we are just working hard to get settled in as quickly as possible. When we get established, I intend to experiment with different types of food and to find out if the Partners would like to try more exotic menus.’ Nicola, who used to run her own small catering business before joining the Partnership, did much of her training in confectionery and she is already planning lots of treats for sweet-toothed Partners.
Part of her recent training was at Tenterden, coming to terms with a Partnership kitchen. ‘The menus for the first few weeks have been very carefully planned to make everything run as smoothly and efficiently as possible. I am very impressed with the way things are organised.’
Much of the organisation has been done by Sue, Assistant Catering Supervisor, Waitrose. ‘Most people involved in a branch opening find that the pressure builds up as opening day approaches, but it is very different in catering. Our job starts in earnest from the very first day the branch id handed over from the contractors to the Partnership.’
‘Our kitchen equipment and dry goods should be on one of the first vans to arrange at the branch on handover day and one of the kitchen Partners will pick up any fresh food on their way into work. By lunchtime, all the equipment will have been cleaned and put away and we will have produced a satisfying meal for the Partners.’
‘All the menus are meticulously planned so the whole operation runs as smoothly as possible. But one thing we can’t plan for is equipment going wrong. Everything in the kitchen is new and unfortunately, we sometimes arrive to discover that something like the grill or the oven isn’t working because they are faulty or are not connected properly,’ says Sue who has been working at Burgess Hill throughout the handover period.
A glazed walkway links the dining room and the offices to the warehouse and from a large window at one end of the walkway, there is a fine view, on a clear day of the South Downs.
Burgess Hill is the first Waitrose to have a scissor lift in the loading bay that rises from the floor level to the correct loading height for the vehicle. ‘Six cages can be unloaded at a time instead of three – which obviously means we can do the job in half the time,’ says Neil, Warehouse Manager. ‘We also have a chiller next to the loading bay and any chilled foods can be off the van and in the chiller within two minutes.’
‘All Partners are very conscious of the ‘cold chain’ of keeping the temperature of certain foods at the right level. Having this chiller virtually on the loading bay will help enormously,’ said Branch Manager Ron. ‘The stock will be checked off in the chiller and will go straight from there to the shop floor.’
Neil has moved from Caterham where he was also Warehouse Manager. ‘ I wanted to be in at the opening of a new branch and so far I have not been disappointed . It is very hectic but also very rewarding.’
Burgess Hill is the second Waitrose to have the ICL ‘intelligent registers’ which will take switch and visa debit cards. The only other branch to have these registers is Kingston. After their basic training the cashiers have all spent a day at Kingston to get real frontline experience,‘ says Neil.
The Checkout Manager, Kay, spent three weeks at Kingston getting to grips with the new system. ‘It was very interesting learning about the computer system and how to set it up,‘ says Kay who has moved from Tenterden where she was also Checkout Manager. ‘We have trained more cashiers than we normally do to make sure we have sufficient cover in case of a disaster like a ‘flu epidemic. If something like that happened, we could normally borrow Partners from other branches, but because this is such a new system the situation is rather different. We have to make sure we have enough back-up staff.’
There are 13 checkouts on-line at the moment plus one in the wine department with a provision for an extra three, including one in wines which will probably be brought into use for Christmas. Wines, other alcohol and cigarettes can be paid for in the department or through the main checkout.
‘The wine department is in one corner of the shop, but it feels very much part of the branch,’ says Ron, ‘The wine a spirits display leads naturally into soft drinks which are in the main body of the shop. There is a new cigarette display which helps to make the checkout much neater and more streamlined.’
Waitrose ‘Wines of the Month’ for July Monica di Sardegna DOC 1988 Nuragus di Cagliari DOC 1989 – both £2.99 are on prominent display. Paul, Assistant Section Manager Wines has moved from the same job at Brighton, expects them to sell well.’ I have found that many customers like to try something a little different and I am sure they will like the idea of having two particular ones highlighted for them every month.’
Paul is very interested in wine and is studying the subject in his spare time. ‘I hope eventually to become a Master of Wine, although I still have a long way to go. I really enjoy helping customers to find a wine they will enjoy. The more I can learn about wine, the more I can help our customers. This is an attractive department, and we have a fine selection of wines, plus a very interesting range of beers. I expect to be very busy.’ “
The Gazette 06/07/91