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Leave It to the Foodservice Consultant

Commercial foodservice spaces can be found everywhere.  Think office buildings, hospitals, hotels, sport facilities, museums, colleges…the list goes on.  Kitchens, serveries, food halls, coffee houses, restaurants, grab & go stations, and more cook, produce, and offer food no matter where we find ourselves.

Unless you are part of the architectural and construction community, you probably don’t think too much about the how’s and why’s of foodservice facilities or the project teams who conceptualize, design, and build the facility that offers the food you desire.  Instead, you focus on the result — appealing food you want to eat.  But there are many players involved in a foodservice project from the time the idea is formed to the facility opening, and each one has their place and respective responsibility.  Let’s focus on the foodservice consultant.

Starting at the Beginning

Once the developer has secured the necessary project financing and an architect to design the building itself has been selected, the question of how the building’s occupants will be served meals or snacks will arise.  Most likely, the building owner will have an idea, but the foodservice consultant’s expertise comes into play with the development of a program allowing the architect to incorporate front and back-of-house spaces sized to the needs of the occupants without wasting critical space that can be used for other functions or on the opposite spectrum, allocating too little space for a smoothly running foodservice operation.  An established foodservice consultant knows how to find the best square footage for a facility and where in the building that facility should be situated.

Foodservice Design – A Specialized Niche

Foodservice design is not a one size fits all discipline.  It’s a highly specialized trade within the building industry, much like landscape or lighting design for example.  When the time comes to actively design the foodservice spaces and select the most appropriate equipment, a foodservice consultant is the best choice.  As the industry expert, the consultant maintains a watchful eye on constantly evolving equipment trends and technology, providing the architect and entire project team, with up to the minute information critical to the design, and allowing them to focus instead on their respective disciplines.

Foodservice consultants ask themselves questions like:

What is the latest equipment available on the market?  Will it make the operation easier and more efficient or is the latest and, often more costly, model not really needed?  Who will operate the unit?  What on-going maintenance is required?  Where will the equipment be manufactured and how long will it take to arrive once an order is placed? 

This last question is critical due to continuing supply chain disruptions and lack of raw materials such as stainless steel and technological components, often creating a backlog of orders and availability issues.

In addition, today’s kitchens must be flexible for ever-changing health and safety requirements as well as menu trends.  Leave it to the consultant to keep up with new developments in the world of foodservice.

A Consortium of Ideas

A consultant doesn’t work in a vacuum, but rather, exchanges ideas with industry colleagues, manufacturers, and fellow FCSI (Foodservice Consultants Society International) members who have access to a worldwide community of support and knowledge when solutions to unique or difficult problems arise.

It takes time and effort to coordinate the equipment infrastructure and MEP requirements, which can be specialized and easily overlooked. For example, correctly balancing the exhaust and supply air of hood systems with the HVAC system, so the kitchen air pressure remains stable…or are there a few pieces of equipment that will require compressed air?  Let the consultant handle it.

The Consultant – KEC Relationship

The foodservice consultant’s main focus throughout the life of the project is the design and how foodservice facilities in the same building will function and interact with each other.  For example, can a central kitchen produce food for several outlets instead of duplicating expensive equipment in several kitchens?  Or, is it more environmentally responsible to have one central ice production room in favor of numerous individual ice makers throughout a large building?

Consultants should not have any ties to specific foodservice equipment manufacturers or buying groups, so equipment choices are made with the kitchen function in mind only, meaning which piece of equipment works best for its function and cost.

In contrast, while many Kitchen Equipment Contractors (KECs) offer design as well as equipment procurement and installation, their equipment specification is dependent on the products and brands they represent. The client will benefit from hiring an independent consultant for the design and MEP coordination.

Foodservice consultants work together with the selected KEC to ensure that the equipment specified by the consultant is provided with all necessary accessories and installed according to the consultant’s design.   The end user benefits by involving a consultant and a KEC, both of whom provide a separate and distinct “pair of eyes” when reviewing the project construction documents.  The KEC will conduct another thorough review of all design documents created by the consultant as part of their shop drawings/installation drawings assembly and eventual discrepancies can be corrected before installation begins.  The consultant will review the shop drawings created by the KEC, and possible equipment model updates or final MEP coordination can be achieved.

Sharing a Toolbox

Because the foodservice consultant is only one member of the project design and construction team, it is best if the consultant can comply with all design tools the architect or general contractor is using.  This includes the drafting method (BIM Revit, AutoCAD, or Bluebeam, etc.) and document sharing sites, typically set up by the project lead team members.  Being able to use the same tools makes it easier for all team members to share and obtain the latest information quickly without information loss, which in turn minimizes mistakes caused by misinformation or lack of information altogether.

Leave it to the Experts

Consultants have the know-how and time to concentrate on the foodservice facilities design from the programming phase of the spaces to the placement and selection of the foodservice pieces, and finally the start of the actual operation for this highly specialized trade.  Project owners realize that a smooth-running foodservice operation requires a qualified design that not only meets all health and local codes, but also provides a successful and profitable business with happy foodservice staff members.  Foodservice consultants are an important and necessary member of the design and construction project team.

By:   Katja Beck, Senior Associate | Fort Lauderdale

photo credit – Sam Kittner Photography

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