We are a global society, jet setting around the world for business and pleasure. Today’s incredible advances in technology provide the opportunity for most companies to do business in many different parts of the world. This is true for the foodservice consulting industry as well. International project opportunities, while exciting, present a unique set of criteria for a U.S. based foodservice consultant to address and solve.
Code vs. Tradition
The key to any project is to develop a design that will provide success for the client. And the first step is to make sure that the foodservice operator and the client understand the need to design a facility that is safe and efficient even when cooking traditions and styles might dictate otherwise.
Good quality, reliable, heavy duty and serviceable equipment that will perform to the client’s needs is an important design goal. The consultant must specify equipment that not only is available, but also has the proper utility loads of the project location. International menus do impact the design and equipment and, at times, the foodservice operator is looking for very customized equipment that may not be easily available. Cooking techniques and styles sometimes require equipment that has never been manufactured. Typically, it is open flame and wood fire cooking styles. Traditional cooking methods like open pits or custom-built whole animal cooking grills on a specific site likely can’t be built in a permitted facility since these customized cooking areas do not have exhaust hoods or fire suppression systems. Operators struggle with, on the one hand, wanting to build and operate a facility using traditional cooking methods, yet on the other hand, understanding that code prohibits unsafe food handling and cooking equipment practices typically found with these methods.
Educate Early in the Process
It is also important to communicate with the design team early in the project about what types of finishes, lighting, and ventilation are needed in the foodservice areas. The requirement is to have cleanable surfaces that do not absorb moisture and will not hide soiled conditions. Durable walls are needed and if the facility is being designed to last 20 years or more, they should be constructed of white tile. The ceiling needs to be cleanable as well, and have the proper lighting levels that are installed in shatter-proof fixtures. The floor needs to be of a non-slip, non-porous variety that can be cleaned and sanitized without absorbing liquids. Tile is the most common material, but there are troweled-on products and sealed floors.
Foodservice Codes are a Must!
It is recommended to design the facilities to U.S. foodservice codes to protect the project and provide the most efficient and operationally sound facility. The quality of the project is always appreciated by the operator. U.S. foodservice codes are the most complete in the world, and the intent is to provide foodservice areas that will meet the needs of the client as well as operate in a manner that provides good hygiene and safe food handling. The intent is to have hand washing available in all areas and to provide facilities for storing cleaning equipment and supplies in a safe manner. The facilities also need to have proper areas for prepping different types of products and without the risk of cross contamination. The storage of perishable items must be designed to be held in refrigerated storage areas that are both suitable in keeping items separate and also easily accessible to the finishing cooking.
What About International Equipment?
The selection of international equipment requires researching where it can be used and shipped. Some countries restrict what can be imported to ensure the equipment produced domestically is used for projects in the country. In addition, utility connections require specific examination. Utility loads are different in each country and the consultant must have knowledge about these loads and, equally important, must verify that the equipment is available in those loads.
Where Similarities Exist
European projects typically are most similar to U.S. projects. Of course, all measurements are metric and need to be converted accurately. There are numerous European foodservice manufacturers that offer very good kitchen equipment. The codes are not as detailed as the U.S. codes and are typically defined by the operator, based on how they want to operate the facility.
Solutions Create Rewards
International operators appreciate a design that offers efficient flow and includes good, reliable equipment. They also like display type kitchens that simulate the old-world style. Projects that meet the operators needs and are successful are always well received by the client. The key is to take time to work through the unique set of international criteria to ensure the design and equipment work well together, creating success for all involved.
By: Steve Waltz, FCSI, LEED AP
Senior Associate | Ft. Lauderdale