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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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Theresa Chadwick
February 15, 2022
Preparing for Plant-Based Proteins
Preparing for Plant-Based Proteins

It’s not just a trend – Plant-based or alternative proteins are our present and future. Is your kitchen equipped for the new wave of products consumers are eating up by the billions?

On the Rise

In a survey conducted on NielsenIQ 7/31/21, more than half (52%) of U.S consumers are eating more plant-based foods and they believe it makes them feel healthier. (NielsenIQ) During the first half of 2021, online searches for “plant-based” increased 17% on Amazon, and 50% on Instacart. The main reason: to eat healthier. A close second: environmental concerns, as animal protein production practices present various harmful effects and challenges. These were exacerbated by the Coronavirus pandemic as Covid-19 plagued meat packing facilities across the country.

In response, alternative meat innovators went into overdrive, and we saw a 27% sales growth in 2020, bringing the total plant-based market value to $7 billion! (gfi.org)  Products range from raw to frozen; meat, cheese, milk, and even bacon made of coconut have risen from the demand for protein from unconventional sources. Some innovators utilize intricate production facilities to manufacture more highly processed products while others tout humbler natural and locally sourced ingredients.

It’s All About the Prep

No matter what plant-based product you choose to offer at your establishment, it all comes down to preparation. As with any dish, consumers eat with their eyes first. The last thing they want to see is a bland, grey-ish patty on their plate when their colleague is about to dig into a hot, juicy burger. The biggest problem with many plant-based alternatives can be the unpleasant (different) consistency. This can happen by failing to cook to the instructions provided or trying to cook as you would its animal protein counterpart. However, since these plant-based proteins are often highly processed, they will not automatically behave like meat.

Equipment Matters

Here is where efficient kitchen design and equipment come in to play.  Pre-cooking plant-based proteins is the first step to a more appealing product.  One of the main reasons vegetarian-alternative interest is on the rise is that it is a health-conscious option, with the benefit that many alternatives are made to mimic real meat and can be prepared to look like their counterparts.  Pre-cooking allows the operator to use marinades to increase the flavor of the product and add grill marks to create curb appeal.

But adding the equipment and operations necessary to pre-cook these new proteins can create a dilemma especially if there is limited space or budget.  It is crucial to evaluate the proteins you plan to prepare and determine which pieces of equipment will allow you to implement your new offerings most efficiently.

Some key pieces of equipment might be combi ovens, holding cabinets, and air fryers, although it is best to consult with a foodservice design consultant who can tailor your kitchen to your specific needs.  Combi ovens paired with hot holding cabinets can achieve the desired result easily without drying out the product.  Hot holding solutions, when used per the manufacturer’s instructions and typically for no more than 2 hours, are important to maintaining ideal safe food temperatures and retaining crispiness and desired textures.  Also, the combi can be used to cook other proteins simultaneously, allowing for multiple food products to be cooked at the same time with several programs that can be saved; the versatility of these units simplifies operations and reduces labor and associated costs.

Plant-based nuggets have become increasingly popular; however, they typically are still cooked in the same fryer as the meat nuggets, which can be an issue if you expect your vegan/vegetarian clientele to eat them.   Since most operations do not have the capacity to increase frying operations by installing an additional fryer, air frying has become a potential solution…it is relatively easy to add an air fryer to an existing kitchen and it is a healthier cooking technique. Consistent, even, vertical airflow from the top and bottom allows you to achieve a perfect, crispy finish, delivering a healthier product to your customers while also eliminating the additional associated labor and operating costs from bulk oil and oil disposal, both of which can be a costly operational expense.  As a bonus, this equipment is highly programmable, allowing you to develop recipes specific to the size, shape, and texture of your food product, as well as for consistency and ease of use for your employees; and highly customizable so they can stack in varying configurations depending on the size of your operation.

The New Wave is Here!

While there is a still a market for niche operations catering to vegan-only offerings, the growing popularity in the “weekly vegetarian” is increasing the demand for alternative protein options at your traditional fast-food chains, food halls, catering operations, etc.  As sales continue to increase, more establishments across the country are offering unique plant-based alternatives on their menu, resulting in growing profits. As more products come to market, more consumers will want to see them in restaurants, grocery stores, and anywhere they purchase food. No matter what plant-based protein you choose to incorporate into your foodservice operation, preparation is key. The new wave is already here. Be prepared!

By:  Theresa Chadwick | Project Designer, San Francisco

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Joseph Sorgent
January 18, 2022
Why Waste Management?
Why Waste Management?

We’ve all seen it.  A huge development is built with the best and latest of everything from smart technology to exceptional design finishes.  Except, wait, what is going on with the trash?  Waste management received minor attention within major project planning for many years.  But in the last ten years, and seemingly growing exponentially year by year, waste management has become critical to all project developments.

The Past’s Ideology is Today’s Necessity

Twenty years ago, I remember proposing on a project with a plan to establish 35% diversion from the landfill by waste recycling and was met with serious resistance from the owner and development team. Today, environmental goals to stretch landfill diversion up to 90%, also known as “net zero” waste planning, are the objective, not the exception.  Project teams must understand these goals and adhere to the many new laws for recycling, particularly for commingled recyclables (glass, metals, plastics, and cardboard/paper) and organics/compostable wastes.

Successful waste planning on major projects requires focus to be given to the handling within the facility, which includes “separation at the point of generation” (a mantra in waste planning), movement from point A to B, and the employment of the best equipment and proper staging areas for eventual pickup.

A Key Discipline

Increasingly, waste management is not only the best practice for the developer and planning team, but also, it is required for site plan approvals.  A waste consultant is key to a project’s success, particularly when considering that today’s plans need to account for future conditions and goals for many decades.  And while we all want to reduce our waste footprint, waste still exists and needs to be handled efficiently and properly… not to mention safely, especially if there is hazardous waste involved.  A cohesive plan to address the waste people will generate, including soiled dock planning and waste hauler pickup, must be developed in the early stages of the project as part of the base building planning.  And who better than an independent specialist with knowledge and experience to tackle the issue?

First, the Prep

Once engaged, the waste consultant works with the team to determine just how much trash, and what types, might be generated based on the makeup of the project.  Is this a residential apartment building with retail in the lobby?  Is it a campus of several buildings, some of which are residential, some commercial and still others with food-related outlets?  Is it a healthcare facility with bio-hazardous, chemical, pharmaceutical, and other hazardous and specialty waste handling requirements?

Trash is Trash, or is it?

The permutations of who, what, where, when and how waste is generated requires careful thought and identification.  After all, trash comes in all shapes and sizes.  Some is useful; we can reuse or recycle it.  Some is nasty; this might be hazardous.  Some we call specialty; this must be handled differently.  Some is food waste; it smells.  Some is plain old general trash.  Generation estimates are made based on these permutations.  This waste generation estimate is then utilized as a basis for waste area design planning and waste handling equipment specification.

The Bottom Line

Waste is a necessary evil.  Everybody makes trash but no one wants to talk about it, see it or most importantly, smell it, that’s for sure.  Moreover, everyone is becoming more socially conscious about the effect of waste’s contribution to global warming and the essential need for all of us to take immediate action to reduce our carbon footprint on the world.

The proper handling of it can mean the difference between a successful environment that the public uses or an inadequate facility that ultimately proves to be a logistical nightmare where waste is concerned.  Waste handling is one area that, while simultaneously no one and everybody cares about, it is easily overlooked until it is too late.

Do yourself a favor….don’t just throw some dumpsters out in the parking lot and think waste will take care of itself, if this is even allowed given increasing regulations.  Instead, add a waste consultant to the team who can address these complexities with forethought and make waste management a successful component of your project.

By:  Joe Sorgent | Director of Sustainability

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December 15, 2021
Sending Warm Wishes and Holiday Cheer!
Sending Warm Wishes and Holiday Cheer!

All is Calm. All is Bright.

May 2022 bring




to you and your loved ones.

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Marleen St. Marie
November 8, 2021
A Shift of Power – Electric Kitchens
A Shift of Power – Electric Kitchens

Ask anyone who works in a kitchen what their cooking priorities are, and they will answer with these four key elements…flexibility with the menu, equipment with lots of fire power for faster cooking, strategic equipment placement to reduce inefficient steps and unnecessary crossover for staff and, of course, a cooler environment because all that fire power sure can make it hot!  Impossible to achieve?  Absolutely not!  Electric cooking, once reduced to playing second fiddle to gas as the most popular energy source in a commercial kitchen, is now becoming the star performer in the race to preserve our global environment and our natural resources.

An Oldie but a Goodie

Electric equipment has always been available for commercial use.  However, in the past, with natural gas being plentiful and no discussion of fossil fuels in our collective minds, gas equipment with its hot-on-demand feature provided a better, cheaper, and faster operating alternative for chefs.  It’s no secret that while grill marks on burgers and steaks can still be achieved with electric equipment, it is the perceived flavor profile provided by gas equipment that chefs prefer.  Some believe that customers are drawn into the authenticity of flavors when they see and smell food being cooked on an open flame.

Today however, with goals of reducing carbon footprints, the use of electric equipment is on the rise (and has been for quite some time).  In fact, manufacturers and consultants alike are sharing their knowledge with chefs that electric equipment with its improved energy efficiency is the wave of the future.  Some states and jurisdictions are even banning or limiting the use of gas equipment in new construction to reach their goal of net zero – cutting carbon emissions and energy waste.

What’s Its Worth?   Shrinking the Footprint

The traditional gas cookline takes up a relatively large footprint to cover all the different varieties and styles of cooking.  By contrast, electric equipment offers us options to condense and eliminate bulky equipment (think: vertical kitchen) while providing the same fire power and cooking capacity.   For example, a combi oven is a convection oven and steamer in-one, creating more efficient cooking methods while reducing the footprint from two units to one, with a stackable feature available.  Not only does this reduce costly real estate, especially in places like New York City, but it also shaves precious time off labor use.  You might think smaller kitchen size equals hot kitchen, but by eliminating the heat of the open flame, the room temperature is more manageable even with the reduction in footprint.

Reducing the Hood Length for Good

By reducing the footprint of the cookline, the length of the exhaust hood is decreased as well.  This directly affects the HVAC requirements, as the cfm calculations are also reduced, ultimately resulting in a decrease in operational costs.  Only electric equipment also offers the option of going ventless, meaning no black iron duct out of the building is required.  This is a huge cost savings to the HVAC team, as insulated, fireproofed, black iron ductwork doesn’t have to be coordinated through the entire building.

Reduction in Labor

Another added benefit of using electric equipment is that it can typically reduce labor, which directly affects the client’s bottom line.  Less equipment means potentially fewer employees are required to work on the cookline.  But it is a delicate dance in terms of operations and equipment training; you need to be sure that the decreased number of employees can handle the volume and understand how to operate the equipment efficiently.

Time to put Induction in the Spotlight

Electric equipment also offers us the option of induction technology that uses electric currents to create a magnetic field to generate heat within the cooking vessel itself.  This is a more precise and efficient use of energy because minimal heat energy escapes since the energy goes directly into the pot/pan/cooking vessel.  As a result, the kitchen environment doesn’t get as hot, making for a pleasant working condition.  The cooktop itself remains cool to the touch making it easy to clean as well.  The induction units do require a certain cooking vessel that responds to electromagnetism, such as vessels made of stainless steel and cast iron.  A simple magnet test—placing a magnet on the pot/pan to see if it sticks—can help determine if the pot/pan will work with induction (if it sticks, it will work!).  Typically, induction equipment is a bit more expensive, but the benefits can outweigh any negative aspect.

What’s the Right Answer?

Will an all-electric kitchen be the demise of a gas kitchen?  The answer is probably not.  Why?  Because right now it’s too cost prohibitive in certain circumstances and the required infrastructure might need to be upgraded and sized properly to accommodate the electric equipment.  But the answer could simply be to use a mix of gas and electric equipment (if applicable).  We can begin to reduce our carbon emissions by using induction equipment and also high efficiency gas equipment.

There is no single right answer to the question of electric vs gas.  Instead, you need to look at the parameters of the building, the jurisdiction requirements, the associated costs, how you plan to use the kitchen, what you plan to serve, how you can make reductions across the board and have a design solution that works well into the future.

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

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