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Tim O'Mara
May 22, 2023
Today’s Challenge to the Profit and Loss Foodservice Contract
Today’s Challenge to the Profit and Loss Foodservice Contract

Today’s profit and loss foodservice contracts demonstrate the unique set of challenges facing many market sectors as the foodservice industry grapples with re-inventing itself post-pandemic.  With COVID-19 in the proverbial rear-view mirror, owners, contractors, and foodservice customers in the corporate, higher education, and recreation/tourism industries must take this opportunity to modify the profit and loss foodservice contract for fiscally sound success.  The question is, how does that happen and what should you look for?

A Little History

With nationwide pandemic closures, many contractors were put in a previously unknown position of having to shut down operations, furlough employees, and mitigate their damages in this new environment.  Additionally, there were material changes in operations, many beyond the control of the foodservice contractor.  For example, some educational institutions chose to conduct classes online, substantially halting the need for foodservices for most on-campus student residents.  Office managers determined that work from home was a new long-term option for their employees. Lastly, some departments of health changed regulations, including those regarding methods of services, effectively eliminating customer self-serve options.

As a result, many foodservice contractors with profit and loss contracts could not sustain this financial agreement, resulting in their approaching clients to negotiate and amend their contracts to a management fee or cost-plus subsidized contract.  Essentially, the basis for their profit and loss arrangement, primarily those being known operating hours, days, and client population, was fundamentally changed.  Clients agreed to these amendments to prevent losing their contractors.  In summary, the Covid era brought in a new paradigm to contracted foodservice, the modified foodservice contract.


Now post-pandemic in 2023, these contract changes still present a challenge.  Permanent alterations to workplace population, changes in points of service (served vs. self-serve options), and updated foodservice health codes are the primary drivers for this new normal in foodservice contracts.  These drivers result in a challenge and opportunity for those site owners and contractors with subsidized contracts that originated as profit and loss arrangements.  Many contracts do not have the minimal customer population and/or minimum revenue available to support a profit and loss contract, directly conflicting with Ownership’s financial and corporate culture restrictions on subsidizing foodservice.

The Challenge

Owners must critically think about their corporate financial, cultural, and Human Resources goals and how these pertain to their foodservice contract.   Owners who must maintain a profit and loss foodservice contract have the challenge of finding the means of meeting the requirements of the foodservice contract to make a profit.  This will entail changes in the foodservice program, both small and large.  These may include changes in foodservice mode of service— self-service or served, menu type, menu pricing, hours of operation, kitchen usage; onsite or offsite production— ghost, commissary; methods of order placement; and staffing.  Owners must take all possibilities into account, allowing for the critical customer and revenue base to be served to support a profitable bottom line while meeting the cultural, financial, and HR goals of their company.

The Negotiation

Once these changes are identified, Owners must negotiate these new terms into their foodservice contract.   A cost and time-efficient mode of doing this is for the Owner to issue an Invitation to Negotiate (ITN). This is a means of renegotiating an existing contract with the Contractor rather than going through the time and cost of a full Request for Proposal (RFP) process.  The investment in effort necessary for the changes in program and contract re-negotiation will allow for a win-win-win outcome for all stakeholder parties, the Owner, Contractor, and foodservice customers.

By:  Tim O’Mara | Project Manager, Management Advisory Services

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Chuck Schuler
March 16, 2023
Delivering Winning Outcomes
Delivering Winning Outcomes

Like many industries, the last few years have been difficult for contract foodservice operators and clients alike.  The foodservice industry has been confronted with navigating historic food inflation, ongoing labor shortages, and the reality that the new hybrid work model appears to be here to stay.  Both foodservice companies and their corporate clients are in search of solutions that provide a superior service experience to employees while managing increasing costs that impact the client’s bottom line.

Transparency, Flexibility, Communication

Unfortunately, this new normal risks creating questions or doubts between a client and their foodservice partner. Now more than ever, it is critical for operators to focus on transparency, flexibility, and communication with the client.  Educating clients on today’s challenges for operations and subsequent solutions is a key step toward aligning both operator and client in the direction of a successful foodservice program.

Operators who fail to address and educate clients find their relationships may be negatively impacted, with any progress in forming future solutions stalled.  Without proper communication, clients are surprised when they receive a monthly statement and realize the costs for providing foodservices to their employees have, in some cases, doubled from pre-pandemic levels.  They may not have a full understanding of the underlying issues that impact their operator’s performance and the increase in financial cost.  Timely, comprehensive reporting and a strategic plan to address the new operating environment can remove doubt or end any potential situation of a client being left marveling over why their costs have increased so dramatically.

Return-to-Work Conundrum

The reality is that clients and operators are doing their best to anticipate or gain clarity on their return-to-work agendas and what the impact will be for future onsite populations.  Clients are constantly in flux regarding their return-to-work policies, and operators need to be flexible and pivot to accommodate these continual changes.  Employees report that they experience many benefits when working remotely.   As a result, it appears that remote work will continue to play a greater role in the workspace landscape, with many employees potentially working from home at least two days a week.  Conversely, it is suggested that companies with food and beverage amenities generally return a higher workplace satisfaction rate, so employers are working hard to create an amenity-rich environment to entice the employee to return to the office.

Consequently, this dissuades clients and operators from offsetting increased costs with value waning actions such as increasing prices, reducing hours of operations, and reducing staffing.  Searching for balance while protecting the client’s spend is dictating the future foodservice amenities landscape.

Appropriately, foodservice companies have focused on reimagining the foodservice experience and accelerating the use of technology tools and data analytics to offset the costs of delivering expected amenities.  Operators are proposing solutions with goals to optimize the customer experience while decreasing costs for clients.

Innovative Strategies

Strategies being recommended to both promote return-to-work and mitigate costs include:

  • Increased focus on destination foodservices like specialty coffee shops in co-working and flex spaces.
  • Streamlined operations with limited staffing, leveraging grab-n-go options and ready to heat meals.
  • Introduce special “pop-up” events on slower “in office” days.
  • Introduce cashless self-check-out at corporate café This does not eliminate cashier support altogether; however, it does reduce the cashier function to a support versus functional role.
  • Unattended retail with “Just Walk Out” technology provides guests a completely frictionless mobile experience with no in-person staffing necessary and offers flexibility in product placement and rotation.
  • Provide digital ordering using personal mobile devices for delivery enhancements such as robotics, food lockers, and app-based delivery options. Emergent technologies are becoming ever-present at an accelerated pace.
  • Digital cafés (some call it ghost kitchens) promote flexibility for operators to scale services for their client’s hybrid staffing model, while eliminating the need for front-of-house staff. Digital kitchens can expand offerings while offering efficient production and waste reduction.

These strategies have been introduced to the corporate dining workplace at a rapid pace and are new to many clients.  Therefore, operators must provide the resources to educate clients on the positive impact they yield.  There are many fundamental approaches that can be considered when redefining a company’s foodservice amenities program.  However, winning programs descend from education and effective communication.  Effective communication between operators and clients mitigates surprises and promotes collaboration, a win-win result for clients and operators.  Clients and operators must work together cohesively to innovate a program that achieves mutual goals.

By Chuck Schuler | MAS

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Kevin Banas
February 15, 2023
How About a Nice, Cold Draft Beer?
How About a Nice, Cold Draft Beer?

Being a part of the hospitality industry often means trying to stay ahead of what can be a dizzying broadside of trends. Shifting consumer preferences, trailblazing chefs and restauranteurs, and the perpetual need to excite and steal attention make for an environment where one must always innovate or die. Through it all, however, there is some bedrock. Foundational elements of food service that never become unpopular, and always drive a tidy profit. One of them is a nice, cold draft beer. So, what do you need to know if you wish to incorporate draft beer into your food service program?

Equipment Basics

Many smaller operations looking to offer a fresh pint can make do with a kegerator. These are undercounter refrigerators with a set of beer taps either mounted directly on top, or with a very short run to a bar top above the cooler. These units are comparatively inexpensive and easy to install and use, but they have the drawback of having limited holding capacity, which in turn, limits your beer selection and requires frequent changing of the kegs. Bar concepts that are at least partially driven by a fresh beer program will need to rely on larger scale systems.

These larger systems begin with a dedicated walk-in keg cooler. Prospective operators should take note of that “dedicated”…many municipalities won’t allow food storage in the same cooler as a keg system, though you can still use some shelving space for the bottled or canned beverages you serve. Your dedicated keg cooler will need reinforced floors to handle the weight of full kegs (and resist damage if an employee accidentally drops one!), specialized shelving, and the connectors between kegs and your beer conduit.

The beer conduit itself is a system of tubes that runs from your kegs to the taps at your bar. They are bundled together in a trunk line and wrapped in insulation to help keep them cold. When designing your facility, it helps to work with a draft beer system provider to engineer everything; these lines can be a particular sticking point as they must be laid out so they don’t kink and restrict flow and have periodic access points to allow old lines to be replaced or repaired. Different cities also have codes pertaining to the material that can be used for the protective conduit around the lines.

Along with the beer lines, your beer conduit will have one or more lines of recirculating coolant; typically, glycol in modern systems, that will keep the beer in your lines cold. This coolant can also be utilized to chill the taps on your bar where the beer is dispensed. Keeping the beer in the conduit at a proper temperature is not only important to prevent spoilage, but also to keep the beer from going flat. Beer that warms above 38 degrees Fahrenheit begins to lose its ability to hold CO2 in solution, resulting in those foamy, sputtering drafts you sometimes get. When using a glycol coolant in your beer lines, look for a fully enclosed system to prevent coolant loss due to leakage or evaporation.

If you have the benefit of designing a facility from scratch, try to place your dedicated keg cooler as close to the bar as possible. Beer conduit is a considerable expense and needs to be periodically flushed for cleaning (about once a month in many cities). Minimizing line runs will save equipment expense and preserve future margins. If circumstances force you to have a very long line run, anything approaching a cumulative 400 feet of length or requiring beer to be pumped up or down elevations in the building, consult with your system designer to make sure adequate pressure is supplied.

The beer taps themselves come in a wide variety of styles, so take the opportunity to express yourself when choosing one. Many are imported, so be careful to choose something with a clear UL or ETL certification, or your local health department may not permit it in your facility.

More Than Suds

Draft systems, whether in the form of a kegerator or the larger systems we’ve described, can be used for more than just beer. Many places have house wines on tap or signature cocktails that are popular enough to justify having them on hand, pre-mixed. Non-alcoholic beverages such as cold brew and nitro-coffees, kombucha, and lemonades are often found on tap as well. All of these different beverages do present at least some logistical challenges.

Many beverages will call for a different gas besides CO2 to be used when pressurizing the keg and the conduit lines. Nitro brew coffee, lagers, and red wine may all use Nitrogen, for instance. These alternate gasses will require their own equipment considerations such as pressure regulators. Having a good sense of your menu before designing your draft system becomes important when working with your equipment supplier.

Strongly flavored beverages such as red wine or coffee may impart some of their flavor into the conduit tubing they use, making those lines unsuitable for other beverages. A limited number of manufacturers now offer higher quality conduit tubing that can resist this effect, but you will still need to thoroughly flush your beverage lines when switching between different types of beverages, or even different types of beers.

Be aware that many beverages brewed in-house, whether custom beers or even kombucha, can contain dissolved solids with the potential to damage or clog beverage lines. Make sure the company you are working with knows if you’ll be serving anything like a house brewed oatmeal stout.

Finally, there are draft liquor systems available for the truly large or extremely bustling bars out there. These systems have the benefit of making well liquors available at the push of a button from a dispenser gun, right at the bartender’s fingertips, significantly speeding up service. They can also be engineered to assist with portion control and inventory which helps maintain the crucial margins that keep liquor service profitable.

Okay, There Are Some Trends

Earlier, we may have described draft beer service as a foundational element in the food service industry, but to own the truth, this does not make it immune to the forces of innovation, market pressure, and trendsetting.

Modal changes in how draft beverages are served to the customer are some of the most immediately apparent trends. Improvements to the quality and consistency in draft systems, as well as portion control and POS systems, have given rise to fully self-service bars and taprooms where customers pour their own drinks and establish a tab on a keycard that they clear at the door before leaving. On a smaller scale, some restaurants now feature tables with individual taps, utilizing a similar system to allow guests to get a drink or a refill without having to flag down a server.

Draft beverage systems are not immune to market pressures either. In 2022, the world experienced a Carbon Dioxide shortage driven partially by ongoing pandemic disruptions and now, also by the war in Ukraine. Commercially produced Carbon Dioxide is primarily a byproduct of ethanol and ammonia production – many ethanol plants in the US shut down during the pandemic and still haven’t reopened, while Russia, the world’s largest producer of ammonia for fertilizer, is currently under heavy sanctions.

Every crisis has at least a kernel of opportunity, however. Large industrial brewers have long used carbon capture as a way to reduce the carbon footprint generated by their brewing processes. Companies like Earthly Labs have been working on releasing smaller scale versions of the same technology that, along with a purification process, can allow captured CO2 to be utilized for storage and service purposes while being cost-effective for microbreweries and other smaller operations.


A robust draft beer program can serve as the cornerstone for any number of different bar concepts. Your draft beer system can be tailored for a menu as approachable, or as sophisticated, as you need. And while beer on tap has been around for hundreds of years, that does not mean it has been stagnant or stationary. Innovative technologies are now helping to diversify menus, increase margins, and even improve sanitation. Large-scale beer programs are a significant expense, and complicated in execution, so be sure to recruit help from an experienced consultant as you ponder one; perhaps over a nice tall pint…

By:  Kevin Banas | Project Manager, Chicago

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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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