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Kathleen Held
January 24, 2023
Does Your Facility Get an A When it Comes to Environmental Stewardship?
Does Your Facility Get an A When it Comes to Environmental Stewardship?

Now that we are 23 years into this century this is what we know…  It’s no secret that our planet is on life support.  The younger generations are committed to saving our planet.  We can either embrace positive environmental change or be left behind.

While you might give yourself high marks for being environmentally aware, it can be difficult to put ideology into concrete action…

How exactly do you create a facility that supports sustainability, caters to the younger generations’ environmental mindset, complies with continually evolving regulations, and anticipates future trends all while allowing you to be fiscally sound?

Purpose Driven

Gen Z, the earliest born to this generation now in their mid-twenties, and Gen Alpha, the first generation born entirely in the 21st century, are committed to prioritizing climate change through action…and as children/grandchildren of Millenials, GenX, and even Baby Boomers, they have the ability to sway the mindset of these generations too.  They support sustainable and purpose-driven development, practices, products, and companies.  Environmental impact alone can determine whether they will purchase certain items, work for certain companies, eat in certain restaurants.  Their activism towards positive change for the environment is exhilarating and becomes an opportunity for all of us to make it a priority.

So, what do we need to do?

Design It

An intelligent design integrating sustainable elements of form with function is the first step.  Smaller, smarter, energy efficient, and vertical kitchens can reduce or, even better, eliminate wear and tear on our planet.  Utility usage can be reduced with ventless equipment, waterless wells, and electric equipment.  And more efficient technology-driven dishwashing areas do their part to reduce water consumption.  Specific operating practices can be identified early in the game to support the facility’s environmental vision.

ReThink It

Food waste while occurring for a variety of reasons before it even hits your facility also finds its way into the commercial kitchen.  Net Zero food waste is an environmental aspiration that a facility can achieve over time by creating a food program that includes re-purposing leftovers into fresh food offerings, composting, recycling cooking oil, offering plant-based food options, and using local, seasonal, and fresh food sources.

Let Us be Part of the Solution

 Cini-Little has long been an advocate for sustainable design.   We make it our responsibility to envision facilities that foster environmental stewardship.  Why?  Because we all want our children and grandchildren to know a beautiful and healthy planet earth.

by:  Kathleen Held, CEO

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Katja Beck
December 13, 2022
Leave It to the Foodservice Consultant
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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Kip Serfozo
October 13, 2022
Tight Labor Market’s Impact on Foodservice Design
Tight Labor Market’s Impact on Foodservice Design

The hospitality industry has been forced to develop creative solutions to offset the tight labor market.  As foodservice design and operations consultants, it is vital that we account for the existing and future labor trends in our designs.  How exactly do we do this?  It starts in the very beginning of the design process.

A Critical Element

One important and critical program element is understanding your client’s labor situation. Hospitality is very labor intensive. And labor is the key to successful customer service. Labor continues to be the single largest cost center for foodservice operators.  Add to this the fact that today, many operators can’t find enough labor to run their operation.  When the labor market is tight or it’s too expensive, the operation will not be sustainable.  And this causes operators to alter service models, search for technology alternatives, and find strategies to solve their labor issues.

Key Questions to Ask

A foodservice consultant will tackle the labor issue by asking key questions to understand the client’s operation and their expectations for a successful facility.  These questions might include:

  • How many employees will be required to run the operation?
  • How will technology impact the facility design?
  • Are there opportunities to introduce high tech equipment?
  • Is the client and customer base open to robotics?
  • What do the customer queuing systems look like?
  • Does the labor utilization strategy match the customer experience expectations?
  • How are customers serviced? Identify the service points in the operation.

Labor Saving Technologies

“Smart” technology integrated into foodservice equipment has streamlined the kitchen as well as the operation, leading to increased efficiencies and labor savings.  Some examples are:

  • Super automatic espresso machines that don’t require barista skill set
  • Computerized pizza ovens that cook artisan pizza without much chef involvement
  • Automatic food prep slicers and equipment
  • Smart ovens that sense food temperatures and quality
  • Automatic dish machines that wash service ware with minimal staff

Every service model has its own set of challenges.  The key is to find the one best suited to the client’s needs and their unique challenges.  For example, utilizing a self-service model decreases the labor needed in the front of house.  Outsourcing some food prep allows the operator to reduce their in-house kitchen staff.

The Caveat

It’s important to take the time to understand how labor impacts the customer experience. Some operations require more labor than others. For example, fine dining relies on front of house staff to create a memorable experience for the customer.  Hospital foodservice requires dedicated staff who understand the patient’s health requirements and needs.  And maybe even assist with feeding patients. Both market segments require a higher level of attention, high-touch if you will, which may mean labor saving measures need to be taken in other areas of the operation instead. So, it’s important to understand where your labor is required.

Putting It All Together

 Our job as consultants is to develop an ergonomic design with equipment solutions and labor-saving measures that can be easily operated by the client.  The first step is to listen, ask questions, and offer solutions.  At the end of the day, this should result in satisfied customers and a financially sound foodservice operation.

By:  Kip Serfozo, FCSI, LEED AP ID+C, WELL AP | Director of Design, Atlanta

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Alison O'Hearn
September 15, 2022
Designing with Food Allergies in Mind
Designing with Food Allergies in Mind

Food allergies are common in our world today.  Adults and children alike suffer with modest to severe adverse reactions to all sorts of foods.  Ingredients that have the potential to trigger an allergic reaction for even one person can be found in most kitchens.  Does that mean someone with an allergy cannot eat anything they do not prepare themselves?  How do you build a kitchen that is still safe for people with allergies?

Food Allergens 101

There are 8 major food allergens as identified by the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004.  They are milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans.  Sesame will join the list in 2023.  Then there are the more uncommon food allergies, more than 160 according to the FDA, that cause reactions, like garlic or avocados or…the list goes on.

Designing with Allergens in Mind

 Let’s focus on the student segment.  How do K-12 cafeterias and higher education foodservices ensure their kitchens can provide food safety for every student, those with food allergies included?  A foodservice design consultant can work with the operator and the school to develop and implement operational strategies as well as design allergy-free zones that eliminate cross-contamination of ingredients.

In fact, a trend in higher education foodservice is to offer a separate and independent station for students with allergies.  A serving station, prep area, and dish washing area separate from other foodservice prep that will never include the major allergens in the area eliminate the possibility for cross contamination and creates a safer environment for the student with an allergy.  These stations should be equipped with dedicated refrigeration, prep tables, prep sink, hand sink, cooking equipment, utensils, dry storage, three-compartment sinks, and an under-counter, high-temperature dishwasher for ware washing.  Some schools even implement a prep area for students to cook their own allergen-free meals, offering them an opportunity to engage in learning lifelong cooking skills.

Other kitchens utilize a dedicated area and chef to take care of all allergy-safe meals.  They may have color-coded utensils and cutting boards designating allergen contamination, saved in a specially sealed box, and located in the dedicated area.  Once the tools are used, they are washed, rinsed, sanitized, and dried separately from other items.  They are then wrapped in plastic wrap to keep them protected and placed in the dedicated allergy-free area.

 The Allergen Avoidance Plan

Let’s say you don’t have the space, staff, or resources to create independent stations or separate kitchens?  How can you best avoid allergen cross contamination?

Educate your Staff

 Staff need to know the importance of allergies and the protocol for allergen-free operations.  Just like with all food safety, front-of-house staff should be included in this training.  Servers should have accessibility to recipes, so they know the ingredients of each food offering, allowing them to recommend items that are free of a certain allergen ingredient or ask the kitchen to leave it out.

Use a Color-Coding Plan

 Optimize your allergen control with the use of color coding.  Use one color to signify all tools and dishes that come into contact with a specific allergen, from the storage of raw ingredients to the cooking and serving of the menu item, and a different color for another allergen.  Purple is the traditional color of choice for products that are free of the 8 common allergies.   The level and depth of coding can be tailored based on your individual operation’s needs.  The key, however, is to ensure that the layout and design of your facility is in sync with your color-coding plan.

Use and Follow Recipes

 It is easy to have a plan to avoid the 8 most common allergens, but what happens when a guest is allergic to something else like garlic, for instance?  Is there chopped garlic or garlic powder in the pre-made sauce, or garlic in the stock?  Following recipes is not only helpful in flavor consistency, but also it allows trust in the product regardless of the line cook making it.  There will always be the same ingredients in the dish when everyone follows the same recipe.  Accessible recipes are critical to allergen-free food safety.

 Engage a Nutritionist

Some schools work with their nutrition or dietetics departments to ensure that students with allergies can feel confident they are eating allergy-free foods.  It’s a good idea to include a nutritionist in the planning stages of a design.  They can provide input to the foodservice consultant developing allergy-free strategies and zones.

How Do They Handle It?

 Before I started designing kitchens I worked in them, and I was able to see how many different types of operations, both big and small, handled allergies.

At a buffet restaurant in Disney World the chef will walk each guest with allergies around the buffet and tell them exactly what is safe to eat because all recipes are followed, and stations are set up to avoid cross contamination while cooking.  They even have a cast member dedicated to watching the buffet line and replacing serving utensils in case there is a possibility of cross contamination.

Frying donuts can also lend itself to being potentially hazardous.  A small shop decided to make vegan and gluten free donuts alongside their signature yeast donuts.  This recipe did not include any of the 8 major allergens— they were always mixed, rolled, cut, and fried before the yeast donuts to lower the risk—however it was an open-air kitchen where cross contamination was very possible, so they added specific signage that alerted the patrons to be cautious.  The front of house staff was also encouraged to remind the customers of the possibility of cross contamination.

A small French bistro has a message at the bottom of every page in the menu requesting the guest alert their server about dietary restrictions so the chef can recommend certain dishes or modify others.  Is this type of note required? Unfortunately, no.  Restaurants that make food to order are not legally required to warn their customers about possible allergens.  Each local jurisdiction does have different rules, so please check the local regulations.

Safety First

Allergen safety is a team effort. Initially, the foodservice consultant, project team, and operator, and then later, the kitchen staff, servers and even the student must communicate and work together to provide a healthy and safe allergy-free environment.

By:  Alison O’Hearn, Associate | Germantown

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Kevin Banas
August 15, 2022
How Does Your Garden Grow?
How Does Your Garden Grow?

A savvy restaurant goer in search of the best dining experiences knows to seek out restaurants with changing, seasonal menus, and chefs that are acclaimed for their focus on how and where they source their ingredients. Produce, in particular, should be fresh, flavorful, and as free as possible from the artifice of industrial scale production. Some years ago, the term “Hyper Local” entered the restaurant lexicon as a way of describing ingredients produced by, or at least in partnership with, the restaurants that would ultimately use them. More than just a snobby way of describing a chef’s backyard garden, the term was a blanket for several innovative growing methods that, since their conception, have become even more accessible to chefs today. So where do we stand with our herbs and microgreens?

The Backyard Garden

The age-old tradition for a chef who wanted the freshest possible ingredients, was to produce them himself, in a garden cultivated on some extra square footage at the restaurant, or in the chef’s own back yard. And there is still a lot to be said for this approach: it is affordable with very little barrier to entry for novices, and so long as you have the space, you can grow almost anything you set your mind to, so long as it’s regionally appropriate.

There, unfortunately, we do hit our first drawback to the traditional ways. Outdoor gardens are subject to seasonal and regional limitations, to the unkindness of weather, and to pests. Growing produce at a scale where it can be useful to a restaurant in these conditions does require the most dedication from a restauranteur; and what restauranteur has time to spare?

There is also the limitation of space. So many of our acclaimed restaurants are in urban areas where real estate prices only seem to climb and climb. Some creative chefs have found success with rooftop gardens, though if you rent your space be prepared for complex discussions with your landlord before starting one.

The Green Wall

One way to bring the garden inside and eliminate some of those risky variables is with a green wall. These have any number of names, including living walls, but the concept is basically the same: horizontal space is used to grow attractive plants, and integrate appealing, natural elements into your interior design.

These installations are usually large, eye catching, and very near to customer accessibility spaces like a bar, lobby, or dining room, to maximize appeal. Specialist designers work alongside owners to choose plans and layouts to suit your interior, and customized management programs keep things growing all year-round while simplifying maintenance.

When these green walls are used to grow edible plants such as herbs and microgreens, you do unfortunately run into some limitations with what vegetables can be grown, versus a traditional garden. Also, you do not want your entire wall to suddenly appear barren during a harvesting cycle, so customarily only about a third of the surface space on a wall is dedicated to edible applications, the remainder is usually decorative.

The Hydroponic Cabinet

A number of companies are now making enclosed cabinets that hydroponically grow produce like microgreens, herbs, and salad greens, using nutrient enhanced water and LED sun lights to optimize growth. Integrational with technology meant to monitor growth and notify you when plants are ready to be harvested take the guess work out of the process and make everything foolproof.

Although these cabinets can be given prominent display positions, they are usually not meant to be located in a dining room or directly near a customer like a green wall is. Like a green wall, they also have a limited range of produce that can be grown in such an environment, though they can produce a good variety of things and at a rate high enough to support your restaurant’s needs.

As a final precaution with this option, many manufacturers design their hydroponic cabinet to accept seed pods of their own design, compelling you to order refills from them when its time to start growing a new crop.

The Fruit of Your Labor

A word of caution for chefs considering these ideas – hyper local sourcing does not guarantee safety, nor does it excuse poor food handling. Though you may have lovingly grown those heirloom strawberries yourself, all produce should still be washed, dried, and stored in appropriate fashion. A sick employee might have been the one to harvest your baby spinach; a guest may have sneezed on your green wall.

As to which option works best for you – they are all constrained either by space, budget, or amount of time you have to dedicate towards them. Your food service designer can help you further discuss the pros and cons of each, and work with your architect to integrate these spaces into your restaurant. If you think you’d like to feature some home-grown greens on your menu, we can help you make it happen.

By:  Kevin Banas, Project Manager | Chicago

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Marleen St. Marie
August 15, 2022
Meet Me at the Lobby Bar!
Meet Me at the Lobby Bar!

The lobby bar is a great destination spot to easily meet up with friends, family, and coworkers.  It can create a favorable first impression of a hotel if it has the right vibe and aesthetics.  It also can generate revenue for a hotel if it offers the right drinks and food.  But why exactly do you go to the lobby bar?

  • It’s Convenient

You do not have to leave the hotel property or go far to enjoy a special handcrafted cocktail and delicious snacks.

  • The Ambiance Speaks to You

Every hotel lobby bar has its own feel to it.  Is it a place that is bustling with activity, drawing you into the social hub of the hotel and perfect for casual networking or meeting a friend?  Maybe it is quiet and discreet, suggesting a romantic date night or a good fit for a business meeting?  Some hotel lobby bars have great artwork and cool designs that set the vibe for the day and evening.  The environment works as a great conversation piece as you grab a quick drink before dinner, relax after work, or catch up with friends.

  • The Drinks and Food Draw You In

Who doesn’t enjoy feeling like a VIP when sipping on a signature-crafted cocktail made “especially for you?”  Don’t we all feel good when we support our local businesses?  We are seeing trends these days where bars create a “local flavor” by offering a variety of locally sourced craft brews, ciders, seltzers, liquors, and mixers.  Not only does this create goodwill in the neighborhood but also it provides out-of-towners with an opportunity to immerse themselves in it.  The drink menu can also range from signature-crafted cocktails or creative mocktails and “exclusive to this bar” vintage drinks.  The bar food menu, especially during happy hour, can also be a great draw into the lobby bar.

So how do we design a lobby bar that attracts customers and is operationally successful for the hotel?

  • Programming is Essential

Regardless of the size of the space, you need to understand what you want and need the lobby bar to be and how you can achieve those expectations, as well as any constraints you may have that might require adjustments.  Hours of operation, food and drink menu design and development are a big piece of programming as it drives the types of food service equipment required.

Perhaps you plan to utilize the lobby bar space in the morning requiring coffee and breakfast to be offered on the menu.  If so, espresso machines or coffee brewers and pastry displays are needed.  What about necessary labor requirements for the lobby bar to function efficiently?  Maybe self-service options such as self-pour stations, cocktails on tap, and self-ordering tablets will need to be incorporated into the design.  Let’s imagine a food menu is offered.  Where will the food be cooked?  Is there a kitchen down the hall or on another floor?  Does the design need to include equipment to hold cooked food or re-heat menu items behind the bar?

It’s important to identify and understand the program and function of the space as it relates to the food and beverage operations team.

  • Visioning with Architectural Design Team

Working closely with the architect and design team is extremely helpful especially when it comes to the vision of the space.  You do not want elements of the bar (such as a beer tap color/finish) to clash with the artwork and feel of the bar.  Designing a casual sports bar is very different compared to a chic cocktail lounge.  That said, it is imperative the foodservice design elements and operational flow are not compromised in the process.

  • Flexibility is Vital

While some elements are the workhorses of the lobby bar and will always be essential to bar design, others come and go as easily as the trends to which they are bound.  It’s important to design the lobby bar to be flexible for current trends as well as future ones.  For example, storage space (both back of house and behind the bar) has become a priority in design.  Supply chain disruptions as well as rising ingredient costs have made the size of storage space worth a second look.   If buying in bulk makes sense to your operation, allocating an ample storage area might be the answer if you have the space for it.  Alternatively, if space is at a premium, perhaps you might look at limiting the types of food and drink you offer, thereby decreasing the inventory of ingredients you need to have on hand.

  • Streamlining the Operation

Understanding the overall floorplan of the hotel and how the lobby bar location relates in the space can also help the food and beverage operation and flow run more smoothly.  For example, if food is being offered, is the kitchen close to the lobby bar?  If not, support space such as a server’s station to accommodate the food pick-up would be a necessary element to include in the design.  A simple, streamlined design incorporating efficiency in operational flow will eliminate added strain on the workforce and reduce operating costs.

The lobby bar has much to offer and can potentially generate a lot of buzz and revenue if the programming and function of the space are clearly defined at the start of a design.  There are a lot of details and elements that make a lobby bar a great spot to visit.  Every lobby bar is unique to its location…so what brings you to the lobby bar?

By:  Marleen St. Marie | Project Manager, New York

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Kavish Kapoor
July 19, 2022
Waste Segregation – A Collective Responsibility
Waste Segregation – A Collective Responsibility

The world’s population and the overall economy are growing fast and so is the Municipal Solid Waste (MSW).  Consumption of various goods and services has never been higher and though there’s more environmental awareness in the world today, our carbon footprints are not slowing down.  Both the volume and diversity of waste types are an increasing challenge.  This puts enormous pressure on haulers, recyclers, government agencies and even individuals as we try to make sense of our waste and what to do with it while aspiring to live “greener lives.”

What can be done about this?  How can businesses and individuals implement best practices for Waste Segregation and Process?  Lots of municipalities are playing catch up as they tackle this all-important issue.  Not only do processes need to be implemented for existing facilities but it is crucial to develop a plan early in the development of new construction.  A Waste Consultant can plan your development to follow the current guidelines and create a flexible design capable of adapting best practices for the future, while safeguarding the development from huge cost implications.

Processing Waste

It is impossible to prevent waste from being generated. But waste can be processed to make it part of the circular economy, reduce the extraction and usage of natural resources, and curb greenhouse emissions.   To process the waste and extract the valuable material from the waste, we must segregate waste into different streams. Garbage can be segregated into three major streams: Organic Waste, Landfill Waste, and Recyclable Waste (latter includes glass, metals, plastics, fibers, and other specialty items like universal waste and hazardous waste).

No Standardization of Segregation Between Jurisdictions

But the major problem is there are different by-laws and rules for waste segregation and processing in counties, municipalities, and cities across North America. For example, one Municipality in Ontario, Canada, doesn’t need its residents to separate organics from the combined waste stream. However, the adjacent municipality requires residents to separate organics to ensure that no compostable waste is sent to landfill sites. People move from one place to another for various personal and professional reasons, and they don’t necessarily know the differences in waste segregation and processing between their old and new home locations.  Now the residents who never segregated the organics must adapt to the different by-law as it was never a part of their lives, resulting in a spike in contamination of landfill waste.

Similarly, some municipalities do not need their residents to separate cardboard/fibre from comingled glass, metal, plastic streams while others require their residents to separate the fibre stream from recyclables. This can be a particular issue for residents living in high-rise buildings with smaller residential units lacking enough space to accommodate separated recycling.

Whose Responsibility is It?

The problem doesn’t only lie with the end consumer; it lies with the producer of packaging and establishments using them.  There are literally hundreds of different types of material that can and are used to manufacture the same product…some are bio-degradable, some are recyclable, and some can only go to landfill sites.

Now, imagine yourself buying a great cup of coffee from your neighborhood coffee shop, but after finishing up the coffee, you don’t know where that cup should go, not to mention the spoon used to stir your coffee, the top used to cover it, the emptied sugar packet, or the napkin you also used. These items will likely end up in the wrong stream; after all, who takes the time to analyze what type of material is in your hands as you head to the coffee shop’s disposal area?  This leads to a waste of your efforts necessitating additional energy on the part of the hauler/recycler to retrieve/process it appropriately.

Let’s Get the Conversation Going

It is essential that we focus on Extended Producer Responsibility or EPR, where the producer of goods ensures the end cycle of the product, meaning the packaging, complies with the waste processing infrastructure that currently exists for that type of packaging. In addition, intermediate consumer/ service providers should also make sure to focus on using the right product instead of the cheapest material available that may not comply with the waste processing infrastructure. This will lessen the burden placed on the environment while helping different partners of the circular economy. Raw material producers will be able to take advantage of the economy of scale, and manufacturers will be able to allocate more dollars to research. Intermediate users will be able to procure material at a lower cost. Waste processing companies can streamline their infrastructure across the board, leading to considerable savings in financial and natural resources.

Responsibility is a Must

Waste is a collective burden requiring collective responsibility.  Identifying problems and enacting sensible policies coupled with subsequent education are necessary if we wish to reduce our impact on the environment.

By:  Kavish Kapoor, Project Manager – Waste Consulting | Toronto

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Lisa Paige-Pretorius
June 14, 2022
Foodservice – Color Tastes Better
Foodservice – Color Tastes Better

When you look outside, life’s colors are bright and vibrant, or dark and dwindling as the day ends or the seasons change. Sunlight and bright green leaves tell you Spring is right around the corner, which prompts every walker/jogger/distance runner to lace up and get out there, right?  Color affects so many aspects of our daily lives, influencing the mood, excitement level, and direction for your day – all in an instant as your eyes open.  The color of the environments in which we work and live also sets the stage for how each moment will flow through to the next.  Trends and fads change every year whether you notice the shift or not, with color playing a major role.   How then, can the design consultant integrate color into the design of the foodservice facility?

Color – The Eye’s Feast

When you go into a restaurant – what’s the first thing you notice?  The layout? The lighting? The other customers? …. or is it the color and feel of the space?  I bet subconsciously you aren’t thinking about color theory and the deep psychology of the exact shade of green or off-white on the wall and what it all means, but you know how it makes you feel…. So, let’s take a second to dig in:

What is Color Theory?

Color theory is the general application of color principles to design. It involves different types of additive and subtractive color systems that define a palette of colors to be used online, digitally, or in print.

Since there are infinite color combinations out there, it can be hard to decide what color scheme will work the best for your space.  Fortunately, we have color theory, a discipline that helps us select balanced and effective color combinations.

Age and Color

Age also plays a role in color preferences. Faber Birren, the author of Color Psychology And Color Therapy, found that young people tend to prefer colors with longer wavelengths (such as red and orange), while older people like colors with shorter wavelengths (such as blue). Joe Hallock’s same study on gender and color preferences confirmed Birren’s findings, but also found that many age groups prefer purple.

The Application of Color

Take a look at the images below and think about what you immediately know upon seeing them… what’s on the menu? are the patrons hip and young, or older and polished? Price point of the meals? An instant “We have to go there tomorrow!” Is it a new hot, trendy spot or a special night just for the two of you?

Over the past 30 years (yikes, I’m feeling old for my 25 years!!) in the foodservice industry as a teenage worker, patron, and designer, I’ve designed more than a few restaurants, corporate serveries, university, and medical facilities from concept design to completion, and the one aspect that keeps my eye sharp is the color.  Color is used to entice customers to come inside, experience and enjoy, hopefully bringing you back for more.  Is it fresh and new, dated and old, or meant for children or seniors? Color can help express that instantly – think 1950-1960’s home kitchens (were the stove & refrigerator yellow, green, or orange at your family’s house?)

Expressionistic Color

The menu can also be expressed when you see the color of a beautiful dining room.  At the hands of the chef, the ingredients- – – the spices, vegetables, meats, and sauces all come together to create a feast for your eyes.  Bright red, gold, and green tomatoes, yellow cheese, blueberries, deep green cucumbers, and brown crusty bread.   Did you see the toss from the bowl into the air of your mixed greens salad?  I bet it caught your eye.

How can we apply our knowledge of color theory to the kitchen itself? Commercial kitchens are fairly limited on finishes, (due to health & safety standards for non-porous and bleach-cleanable surfaces – i.e. stainless steel everywhere). This picture does seem a bit colorless and monotone, right?

How then do we integrate color with function and expression? One of the best design decisions made is when an establishment opens the heart of the kitchen to you via open kitchen design.

Open Kitchens

An open kitchen is just that – a cooking environment open to view that entices the senses of the customer through sight, smell, and movement.   The visual appeal of an open kitchen is where the skill and talent, along with the flames, creates a medley of color that excites and invigorates you the guest, client, or observer.

The colors chosen in the image below, offer a clean, open, and airy environment, don’t you agree?

In designing an open kitchen, the biggest feature you want to showcase should be a) the food by way of a consistency of color cohesion with the rest of the dining room or b) you can choose a true accent piece to pop the rest of the space.  I’m leaning towards “A” on this one as the seat coverings and utensils above the serving line all have a common color element, which helps pull the whole space together to create continuity.  The color of the food should be a feast for your eyes and taste oh so vibrant in this establishment.

Or do you want to feature a pop of color to draw your eye to a certain element?  Then let’s Celebrate it and look for the burst to happen on your palate! Here the simple use of a single color, draws the eye to the exhaust hood and ties it to the countertop edge. The rest of the space is black and white with blue dishes.  Did you notice the dishes were blue – or just saw the yellow of the hood?  Your attention and eyes are drawn to the main focus and just  below as you watch and wait for your meal to be presented right off the grill, still sizzling and delicious – the main dish.

What’s for Dinner?

“What’s for dinner?” has to be the most asked question – ever! The color of food and the environment it’s served in can and will forever-more make it taste so much better (than boring grey and white).

Viva La Color Revolution! Enjoy those veggies, spicy dishes, and “everything and the kitchen sink”-topped salads!  Enjoy all of the moments you have together with the special people in your life over a colorful and nourishing meal.

By:  Lisa Paige-Pretorius

Project Manager | Charlotte

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Stephanie Herrrett
April 19, 2022
Minimizing the Supply Chain’s Impact on Kitchen Design
Minimizing the Supply Chain’s Impact on Kitchen Design

Supply chain.  These two simple words are part of our vocabulary now more than ever.  We’ve all had trouble finding certain products and cringe when we see “out of stock” or “backordered” on our favorite shopping website.  Just as the supply chain dilemma has affected our daily lives, these difficulties have made their way into the foodservice design and equipment manufacturing community.  The question we face is how do global supply chain issues impact commercial kitchen design?

We will focus on identifying some of the key obstacles our designers encounter and provide solutions to create a functional facility that minimizes the hardship associated with current supply chain issues while providing the flexibility to navigate the future.

Long Lead Times for Equipment

Equipment manufacturers are dealing with unprecedented disruption and stoppages in production caused by unavailable raw manufacturing components and labour shortages.  Add into the equation shipping, rail, and trucking delays and it’s no surprise that there are long lead times for equipment.  In fact, some are as long as 20 weeks from the time of order.

What can we do to minimize the disruption these delays can cause in the project without sacrificing its integrity?  How can we combat the long lead times?

Think Offense Not Defense

Planning ahead and being prepared with creative and flexible design options relieves the stress of having to re-allocate, re-design, and re-specify because of supply chain disruptions. When we think offensively and have a Plan B and even C in our pocket from the beginning, costly and unfortunate project overruns are eliminated or at least minimized.  The result is an innovative foodservice facility with design elements that accommodate global missteps along with current and future trends, viable long after the supply chain problem goes away, not a facility of compromised design caused by temporary supply issues.

Specify Equipment Early

Once the needs of the facility are understood and programming is underway, it’s not too early to think about equipment specification.  How can multi-functional equipment be incorporated?  Which equipment sources have inventory in stock or with shorter lead times?  Can “alternates” be quoted that are readily available?  It’s key to have an open line of communication with the equipment manufacturers as well as bidders to ensure accurate information is at your fingertips.

Phase the Project

Another option is to phase the project so that some areas can be operational while you wait for backordered equipment to arrive and be installed in other areas. While not ideal, it allows for a “soft” opening to promote the establishment until the grand opening.

Food Costs and Supply Concerns

Difficulties with sourcing certain foods means that chefs and operators have become even more creative with doing more with less.  Streamlining menus to offer flexibility in food offerings minimizes supply hardships.  For example, instead of compromising on the taste or quality of the dish by using lesser cuts of meat, recreate your menu with new and different offerings utilizing cuts of meat that are more readily available and cost-effective.

We can all agree that food costs are on the rise.  Inflation mixed with the supply chain conundrum has resulted in rising food costs on the operator’s side and increased menu prices for the customer.   Researching and sourcing food that is locally grown eliminates unnecessary shipping costs.  Purchasing in bulk well ahead of time or when items are available at a lower cost is a great solution to offset this problem but only if there is adequate space to store the food while preventing unnecessary spoilage with appropriate cold storage provisions.

Multi-functional equipment reduces the footprint of the cookline, allowing for more space to be allocated for other needs in the kitchen such as dry and cold storage, for example.  Equipment like blast chillers and vacuum packaging (vac pac) machines are essential components to extend the shelf life of the food product without deteriorating or spoiling its quality.

Planning a roof or outdoor garden area, or even an indoor herb garden, will ease some of the food supply concerns while offering the extra benefit of creating a sustainable environment.

It’s Only Temporary

The supply chain hurdles of today, while costly in time and money to everyone involved, can be overcome with forethought and plain old-fashioned creativity on the part of the entire design team.  By continually seeking innovative strategies to offset supply issues, the industry will weather this and future disruptions.

By:  Stephanie Herrett, Project Manager – Toronto

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Chuck Schuler
March 16, 2022
Foodservice Programming Outside the Lines
Foodservice Programming Outside the Lines

For most, the term programming does not hold much meaning in normal day-to-day life.  However, it plays a role in many aspects of your life.  Imagine for example, you decide to build your forever dream home.  You have a plan to include everything on your wish list.  It seems perfect until you begin to live in your new home and realize key details were overlooked or missing altogether.  Why did you install the washing machine down two flights of stairs from the bedroom?  How did you overlook installing a pot filler over Fido’s water dish to eliminate multiple trips to the sink?  Your forever dream home missed its mark and you wonder, how did that happen?  The essential first step of the design process, the programming…the foundation of the design if you will…was missed.

Now imagine being an aspiring restaurant owner, or a corporate CEO planning for the company’s new café, or a college with the vision to rebrand the campus’ foodservice to grow enrollment.  Programming is a critical and first step in the design process, one that must be performed for a successful design and operational outcome.  Consider it a “plan now” or “pay later” exercise that cannot be eliminated.

Outside the Lines

The basic principles of a design program are to define the vision and parameters that guide the design process.  As a consultant engaged by a client to assist with planning their new foodservice operation, I make it my utmost priority to become an authentic partner and educator with the mission to understand the vision and “whys” for the project, an essential component of programming outside the lines.

Today, defining a foodservice program is not as simple as using some standard statistical calculation or industry “rule of thumb” that defines spaces with square footages. The world is changing and so is the demand for new, innovative culinary experiences. From mobile ordering and delivery to implementing sustainability initiatives, embracing global ideas, and supporting worthy causes, new components must be considered if you want your design to engage customers, increase demand, and subsequently drive up profits.  Programming outside the lines has never been more significant.

The Why of It

As a foodservice operator for over 25 years, I have seen and worked in hundreds of commercial kitchens, cafés, concession venues, and more.  I asked myself on numerous occasions what the rationale was for the functional back-of-house production and support spaces, food station layouts, and overall layout to be designed the way that it was.  Did the design deliver an inviting and engaging food experience?  Some were well thought-out, and some fell short. Nine times out of ten, the designs that were poorly executed resulted in sub-par customer experiences.  Service and food quality were compromised.  And in the back-of-house, it led predictably to challenging working conditions and high labor costs.  This was unfortunate given the large capital cost investment for the facility and could have been avoided with a programming exercise.

The Easy Part – Data Gathering

The fundamentals during data gathering are elementary. Asking questions to aid in defining the vision for foodservice. Requesting the basic information needed to calculate participation demand including employee population, length of lunch hour, general breakdown of employee demographics, how often employees work outside the office… all become considering contributions for a program. Data gathering is completed with the intention of determining the projected demand levels that outline the considerations to adequately size the facilities that service the customer.  But there is more to programming than just calculations of peak meal periods.

The Overlooked Part

Unfortunately, some fundamentals during foodservice programming are overlooked.  Understanding the owner’s/client’s expectations for providing the service tops the list.  The client who says “we just want to reach as many customers as possible” may not have a good understanding of foodservice operations (why would they?) and the potential ongoing costs associated with providing the amenity.   It is important for a consultant to take the client’s broad statement and help them define in detail their expectations while educating them on the potential options available to meet those goals.  Equally essential, financial modeling education and an overview of all cost-impacting factors to achieve the objectives and overall outcome for the desired program must be provided as a part of the program.

Putting It All Together

Let’s take another look at the client’s broad objective, “we just want to reach as many customers as possible.” The overall program should identify the operating model using varied and different solutions.  Some will be “tried and true” …the data gathering.  Others will be “trending and evolutionary” …different options to achieve the desired objective.

In this example, we identify innovative delivery solutions such as dedicated and convenient mobile ordering and food pick-up areas outside of the traditional café and service areas as the key to “reaching as many customers as possible.”  The objective then becomes “to reach an increased number of diners by implementing multiple innovative delivery solutions while meeting the client’s financial objectives.”  It is better defined and more focused to attain desired outcomes.

A Solid Foundation

A well-developed foodservice program is the solid foundation for the design that follows. Providing thorough well thought out programming and concepting recommendations leads to fewer late-stage surprises and disappointments. And most importantly, taking the time to properly define the outcome will reduce the likelihood of overlooking that special “pot filler” your customers always wanted but never knew it.

By:  Chuck Schuler | Management Advisory Services

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