Ron Lisberger
April 18, 2018
Small Design Elements = Big Impact
Small Design Elements = Big Impact

We like it when our designs function properly and efficiently in the real world.  Time lost is money spent, both of which we all want to keep at a minimum.  In short, functionality equates to smooth operations when it comes to foodservice. Soaring spaces, iconic angles, elements transcending space and time…these designs are heralded as works of art.  But what about the functional integrity of the design?  Especially in the foodservice areas?  Sure, there is a focus on the major areas of functionality.  But perhaps there is less emphasis on smaller design elements, seemingly insignificant in the grand scheme of things, yet they pack a big punch to the smooth operation of a facility.

Let’s take a few innocuous but critical design elements from the work flow process and see how they impact the functionality of the operation.

Homeless Waste Receptacles

Kitchens host a lot of activity and space is always at a premium. Waste is a necessary evil and waste receptacles need to be an element that is programmed into the design.  It can’t be considered as an afterthought in the design process.  How will the staff worker dispose of the waste during food prep?  Will they have to carry it clear across the kitchen to the one waste receptacle available?  Will they pull the receptacle into the middle of the aisle or travel path nearby so they can conveniently throw out the waste while simultaneously, impeding the work flow process?  Neither of these options is acceptable.  In a designer’s zest to provide valuable storage and holding space, work tables with full undershelves might be specified, leaving inadequate space for the waste receptacle.  Perhaps a better solution is to design under-table cross bracing at strategic places in the production/prep areas to locate mobile waste receptacles, so as not to impact the storage capacity of undershelves to a great degree.  Showing these receptacles under sink drainboards also becomes valuable for an efficient process flow.

Out of Sight!

Allocating space for waste receptacles is not only a must for the kitchen but also for the front of house serving spaces. The look and, equally important, the smooth flow of the facility can be severely compromised by an ugly trash receptacle placed haphazardly in the way.  The key factor is to determine the proper location of these receptacles from an operational standpoint, and then identify if the location is in public view. The preferred option is no sight line for the customer.  A stainless steel lined recess designed to tuck in a receptacle under a front serving counter eliminates the possibility of a view by the customer.  However, if this option is not feasible, it can be easily accomplished by having a hinged door that has about a 4” opening at the top so staff can access the waste receptacle without any difficulty allowing their serving process to go uninterrupted.

Keeping Your Cool

Refrigeration is only as good as maintaining the proper temperature range for safe food. The Walk-In option of keeping the inside temperature where it needs to be during the daily work process seems like a minor element but in fact, is a huge safety concern, not to mention an energy efficiency issue. Many designers have a “go to” option of providing strip curtains for Walk-In entry/exit doors. However, many times the work staff will hang the strip curtain over the door, keeping it open, as it is an obstruction to their travel in and out of the Walk-In. This leads to Walk-In temperatures rising above the required coldness and the refrigeration system working too hard to maintain the proper temperature range or not being able to do so, triggering the alarms.  One cost-effective and energy efficient solution to eliminate this problem is to specify clear, flexible swinging air curtain doors behind the entry doors. These doors (CCI Industries is one manufacturer), open at the slightest touch so that a staff employee with a food pan or mobile cart/rack can move back and forth without any obstruction. The auto-close feature on these doors easily prevents precious refrigerated air from escaping or leading to the problems cumbersome strip curtains incur when the door is propped open.

Some Walk-In manufacturers offer an integral door air shield which directs the refrigerated atmosphere back into the Walk-In. Mounted vertically adjacent to the Walk-In entry door on the fabricated panel interior wall surface (hinged door side), this accessory provides an air delivery system that channels a barrier of refrigerated air (redirected from inside the refrigerated compartment) across the inside of the door opening. The air shield is activated when the door is open, then shuts down when the door returns to its closed position. This greatly reduces the volume of warm air that enters the Walk-In, and keeps the temperature as it should be. Air shields, like swinging air curtain doors, are applicable for refrigerated and freezer sections.  Air shields require 120/60/1 electric connection but draw only about 1.4 amps.

These options, of course, are just two ways to address this operational problem. Other options exist to solve the issue.

Focus on the Small Stuff

All design elements, regardless of significance, are critical to the overall work flow process. Taking the time to plan for the small details early in the design process will ultimately lead to a functional, efficient and smooth operation AND a happy operator/owner.

By:  Ron Lisberger

Senior Associate | Washington, DC

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