Tonkotsu is to collaborate with UCL on a 12-month project which will see the university’s new intake of Masters of Mechanical Engineering students work on improving efficiencies at the restaurant business, MCA has learnt.

Stephen Evans, MD at Tonkotsu told MCA the project, which is due to kick off in a few weeks, will involving working with the students to “look at quality, consistency and how we leverage volume and efficiency out of our estate”.

He said the process of making its own noodles, broths and bases, was “quite a bit intrusive process”, so Tonkotsu is keen to work with the students to look at what it does and how it can improve.

“We are taking some lessons from the brewery industry,” explained Evans. “We did a brewery tour last year and were quite amazed at how much volume they can produce with not many people and investment in kit.”

Evans said they don’t believe the kind of kit they require currently exists, so Tonkotsu is hopefully going to be working with the students to design, and potentially build, it. “We firmly believe that even in Japan a lot of this stuff doesn’t exist yet, so how do we get on the front foot to be the first to achieve it and also our goal in achieving scale, which will hopefully follow from that,” he said.

The project is being led by Evans and Tonkotsu co-founder Ken Yamada, alongside Doctor Will Newton from the university, who leads their industry projects. “In a typical year they will be doing projects with F1 and a lot of the big tech and engineering companies,” said Evans, adding that Newton was a fan of the company and was keen to give the students the chance to work on something that had a more direct line to influencing change.

“Universities are going more and more down the path of ‘what can we teach our students that is relevant in the real world versus academic stuff’,” said Evans. “They get a lot from the usual big corporations but wanted something that was a bit more real.

Said he was expecting that by Q2 next year they would be at the stage where they would be testing out some of the students’ ideas.