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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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Katja Beck
October 12, 2021
Designing for Extreme Weather
Designing for Extreme Weather

We all love sunshine, but it seems recent extreme weather events have us on a collision course with Mother Nature when it comes to protecting our communities from the non-discriminating storm ravages we continue to see.  Will bad weather affect your foodservice operation and if so, how?  It’s true, you can’t wish away the weather, but you can, through thorough planning and careful design, prepare your operation for the best possible outcome.

Implementing Building Codes

Not only can the damage from a storm potentially ruin a foodservice business by destroying the inventory of furniture, production equipment, and raw food products; but elements of the building itself can become missiles when picked up by strong winds, causing damage to other structures in the vicinity.

With the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events and hurricanes increasing, and the High Velocity Hurricane Zone (HVHZ) possibly expanding to areas further inland, counties that previously did not have building and construction codes to protect from storms will need to consider implementing regulations to protect structures from high winds and flood waters.

Counties in areas that typically face tropical storms have implemented requirements into their building codes to make the buildings as safe and stormproof as possible with today’s technology.  These mandates include specific rules for foodservice equipment installed outdoors, where often most of the damage from a hurricane occurs.

Case in Point – Miami-Dade County

Miami-Dade County is one example.  Their Building Code provides valuable compliance information.  If, for example, you want to install an outdoor walk-in cooler or freezer, the walk-in must be directly next to a building wall, which can provide a degree of shelter and wind protection.  The walk-in requires a minimum slab spacing of an added 6 inches to the overall footprint for the installation of hurricane angle brackets, which bolt the unit to the slab.  Condensing units cannot be located on top of the walk-in and must be either secured to the slab next to the walk-in or secured on the roof of the adjacent building.  In addition, a rain roof with a minimum 1/4-inch pitch away from the adjacent building must be installed over the ceiling panel of the walk-in, so rainwater cannot accumulate.  Overall sizing limitations also exist, so the walk-in maintains a rectangular shape without being too small or too large, which would increase the risk of wind damage.  Finally, the walk-in must be impact tested prior to installation.  All these added requirements to a standard indoor walk-in will have to be considered in the cost estimate of the project and extra time must be allocated to allow for permit review.

Inside the Building

But what about the foodservice spaces inside the building?  Here, much of the protection falls under the responsibility of the architect and structural engineer?  Kitchens and dining areas with windows to the outside should have impact-proof glass installed, which protects against breakage when flying objects picked up by high winds are hurdled against them.  High-impact windows mean a substantially higher cost than installing standard ones, but they can be highly effective and provide the added bonus of the operator not having to shutter the windows, which is often mandatory in hurricane zones.

Equipment Considerations

When planning a kitchen in a hurricane zone, a few considerations must be given to the foodservice equipment up front to make the operation a safer place during a storm and recovery easier afterwards.  Specifying as much equipment as possible with high grade stainless steel can increase the life of the item, when the kitchen floor is flooded.  With luck, the water entering the kitchen will not rise very high and will drain away quickly, avoiding a total loss of all equipment.  Stainless steel provides the best protection against rust and if it is thoroughly cleaned and buffed after the weather event, it might be salvageable.  Other equipment finishes, such as galvanized stainless, will not fare as well and rust spots will occur even after a good cleaning.  Of course, water is a safety hazard for food products, so anything that comes in contact with flood waters must be discarded.

Let It Roll

Specifying equipment on casters allows the possibility of pushing it to interior areas or higher floors inside the building that might be in less danger of being flooded.  While casters on cooking equipment and smaller worktables are always a good idea to allow for easy cleaning of the floor beneath, operators in areas where extreme weather is common might consider buying as much equipment as possible with casters.  Reach-in and undercounter refrigerators and freezers, prep tables, and storage shelving are all offered with casters.

Instead of installing long worktables that are difficult to move, especially around corners, smaller units can be substituted, allowing movement around the building in the event of a disaster.  This author, of course, realizes that a few pieces of the foodservice operation must be fixed in place and cannot be moved, such as any floor mounted equipment that is connected to a water supply (the dishwash machine or utility sinks) or large and heavy items such as baking ovens or walk-in complexes.  However, any equipment that can be saved is a piece of equipment that does not have to be replaced.

Mix It Up

If your kitchen is in a storm prone area, it might be worth considering a mix of natural and propane gas powered cooking equipment as well as electric equipment that can be hooked up to a generator, so in the event of a natural gas failure, a few key pieces of equipment are still functional.  Another option is to have several propane powered equipment items as backup that can be rolled out and used after a storm.

It is generally understood that a very reduced menu will be offered after a hurricane, and this affords the facility an opportunity to provide meals to the neighborhood when the residential community experiences a loss of power.  It is especially important for hospitals to consider the possibility of an extreme weather event during the planning phases, so adequate propane tanks and generators are available to power enough kitchen equipment to provide simple meals to in-house patients and staff during and after a storm.

Walk-in refrigeration often is connected to emergency power in any facility, so in case of a loss of power, the valuable inventory doesn’t spoil.  In the case of a storm, it is even more important that the emergency power generator is designed to be housed in a water-proof enclosure and is anchored down properly, so it can function throughout the weather event and afterwards without a long interruption.  The generator needs to be carefully sized by the specifying division, so all connected equipment items function properly during the entire period of the power outage.

An inexpensive but often forgotten option is the purchase of water-proof storage containers to keep important paperwork or the most valuable ingredients safe during a storm.  Insurance papers, maintenance agreements, treasured hand-written recipes and any non-digital documents are easily lost forever if not properly protected.  Digital documents that live on a local server can be downloaded and saved on external storage devices and stored in a protective container.  High priced ingredients such as caviar, select cuts of meats or even spices such as saffron can be placed in containers inside the walk-ins for extra protection.  The old saying applies, better safe than sorry.

Preparation Matters

In the end, no matter the structural and interior design elements, a kitchen and building structure is never completely storm disaster proof.  So, above all, the owner/operator must have a tested crisis management plan in place, which includes a communication plan among all staff members, so everyone knows what his or her role is in securing and evacuating the foodservice spaces, and panic does not break out, damages and financial losses can be minimized, and operations can be restored as soon as possible after the event.  After all, the sooner normal operations can be restored, the better it will be for the business and the surrounding community.

By:  Katja Beck, Project Manager | Ft. Lauderdale

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Tracy Diaz
September 13, 2021
The Not-so-Sexy Drain
The Not-so-Sexy Drain

Drains are not sexy. They are not shiny, like a new combi oven. They do not stand out in a room like an 80-gallon kettle. They cannot wash racks of dishes at the speed of light. But what they can do is save you a huge headache when located and coordinated appropriately.

Let’s Talk Drain Basics

There are two different types of waste connections:  indirect and direct.  An indirect waste pipe does not connect directly with the drainage system. It discharges into the system through an air gap.  Imagine your three-compartment sink….at the bottom of the sink are your pipes emptying out soiled water. There is a physical “gap” between the end of that pipe and the floor drain below it. This “gap” prevents contaminated water from backing up into your water supply.  These indirect waste connections are seen mostly with prep sinks, dishwashers, and combi ovens. In case you are wondering why an “oven” would require a floor sink, combi ovens also utilize a wash cycle that dumps water.  A direct waste is just that – it connects directly to the sewer line in one continuous pipe. This is seen with hand sinks and is typical in residential homes.

Location Counts

As underrated as drains are, it is a costly mistake if they are not located appropriately.  It is good practice to place area floor drains (sometimes just called floor drains) every 12 feet.  (Check with the local jurisdiction to confirm your project’s code requirements.) Typically, they are a 4-inch diameter grated hole that is flush with the floor. They are used to remove free-standing water/grease.

A floor sink is normally a 12” x 12” basin, installed in the floor structure. It is connected to a waste pipe.  They can be partially covered with grating or even supplied with a dome to prevent back splash. A floor sink is used where a piece of equipment requires an air gap and dumps a significant amount of water.

Volume Matters

While floor sinks can hold some capacity as it drains, it is not capable of holding an unlimited amount.  One must consider how the operator will be using the equipment, how many pieces of equipment will require drainage, and where they will be in the facility.  If you have four combi ovens, do you really want them all routed into the same floor sink? While the sink may not overflow during service, someone will inadvertently run all the wash cycles simultaneously causing a potential flood. Will the operator dump all filled compartments of a three-compartment sink at once? Normally someone only does that once – and then they realize their feet are wet and they have a mess to clean up.

A floor trough acts like a drain or channel for water/waste but on a grander scale. They can be seen in front of an ice machine, kettles or in dish areas…to name a few places. They are designed for more volume than a typical floor sink. Just because a floor sink/trough is located per the equipment specs, it does not necessarily make it an ideal location. Structural issues play a large factor in locating floor troughs and floor sinks. For example, will duct work run under your location? What is the slab depth? Will the building have nearby columns that interfere with your proposed location? The list continues.  Regardless of whether this is an existing building or new construction, this is where diligent coordination with the Plumbing Engineer and Structural team must occur.

Some Good Tips

Keep in mind some of these tips to avoid coordination pitfalls:

  • A floor trough should cover the full pour path of the equipment it is servicing.
  • The floor should be sloped 1/8” per foot towards the drain to prevent water from pooling.
  • The legs of the equipment should never sit on the trough or floor sink grating. This equipment is especially heavy and can break through the grating.
  • Grating should be removable for maintenance and cleaning access whether it is a floor sink or trough.
  • Drains should be located close to the equipment. This avoids long, expensive copper line runs.
  • The use of a smaller funnel floor drain should be considered instead of a floor sink when possible. This minimizes cost.
  • And always think through drain location as it pertains to foot traffic to avoid potential trip hazards.

Avoid the Headache!

What do you do when your drains are not located properly? Throw up the white flag and surrender? There is no such thing as surrender in the foodservice world!  If it is a minor infraction, the operator can create a work-around.  So, for example, one can clean a kettle and pour soiled water into a drain caddy to be dumped elsewhere.  Not a perfect solution but adequate for the situation.  If it is a big “oops” and the slab is already laid, then it may have to be dug up and repoured. The jack hammer breaking apart the slab will not only give you a headache, but it will also have you crying in your sleep from lost revenue. Coordination is the key to a good night’s sleep.

By:  Tracy Diaz, Project Designer | Germantown

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Lisa Paige-Pretorius
August 17, 2021
How Do Virtual Brands Relate to Foodservice Design?
How Do Virtual Brands Relate to Foodservice Design?

I know you are asking yourself, how does this work? What is a “virtual” brand – is it real? What is virtual food? A ghost kitchen? If I drive over or have it delivered, will there really be a bag waiting with my name on it? Good news, the answer to all these questions is YES!

What Exactly is a Virtual Brand?

Let’s start with what a virtual brand actually is.  A quick Google search provides this definition… “A virtual brand is one that exists digitally, but with no physical presence. … Virtual brands have been around for a few years, but the global pandemic, with its resulting forced restaurant closures and massive increase in food delivery, has seen them proliferate rapidly in 2020.” For anyone wanting to order some lunch, dinner, late night snack or cookies at 2am, there’s an app for that and someone is working behind the scenes to satisfy your hunger pangs.

Tech Meets Food

Foodservice design covers all areas of the kitchen, front and back of house — drive through and pick up counters included. Food is the glue that keeps us all together.   People enjoy being with one another around the table sharing a meal together, be it at the restaurant or at home.

While the pandemic intensified the need to pivot to different foodservice options, tech had already exploded on the convenience-to-life balance ratio, forcing the savvy restaurant operator to make changes to their business models to retain existing customers and build business.  Many have adapted their dining rooms to pick-up areas or curbside service or to new menu items that are more travel container-friendly.

Virtual brands are providing operating kitchens a way to offer customers new and different options, revitalizing the restaurant industry at a time when new movement is critical to the industry’s future success.  But how is this done?

The Kitchen Design….

How do we get from the “virtual” idea of producing the food to the “actual” process of getting the food into the customer’s hands?  This is where the foodservice designer steps in.

Designing a kitchen and planning for a virtual brand means we must plan for the virtual kitchen or ghost kitchen with some of the tightest budgets, equipment shortages, and time frames that are ever decreasing.

A virtual kitchen is a current restaurant that is making and selling a brand that may not have their own brick and mortar storefront as an additional service point via delivery services (by app or online ordering portals) … think DoorDash, UberEats, GrubHub, etc.

A ghost kitchen is a professional facility that creates delivery-only meals for various brands and packages them for delivery to off-site facilities.  They have actually been around for ages; you might just not have recognized them.  Your favorite Food Truck will most likely be required to prep for their day in a commissary kitchen (a ghost kitchen).  Meal prep services are in this same category.  They are required by law to work in a certified kitchen that is inspected by the local Environmental Health Department for sanitation and preparation practices approved by local and state jurisdiction.

It’s All Relative

Designing for the virtual brand is an essential part of planning for your client’s budget, space and flow to the kitchen itself.  Does this brand need special equipment to achieve the final product – a tandori oven, for example?  Does it require a large number of sauces that have to be freshly prepared everyday?  What would that entail for the refrigeration needs?  A ton of questions come to mind about the menu for the brand and every one of them plays into how we would layout the kitchen space to accomodate it.  Is Foodservice Design relevant to Virtual Brands? Absolutely!

Distribution Plays a Part

One of the latest ways many across the country are approaching the distribution of the huge growth in online orders are “cubbies”, food lockers, and an old friend call AutoMat.  In New York, circa 1936 , when the world was young and growing with the first thoughts of touch screen smart phones, people were grabbing some lunch or dinner from a wildly crazy new concept, the Horn and Hardart AutoMat. This was automatic vending at its finest for the times.  The last one in operation closed in 1991.  Check out this image…

Look vaguely familiar to what we see today…minus the hat and overcoat?

Today, while our old friend took a sabbatical from popularity for several decades, the concept is back, just a little more streamlined and certainly more high-tech.  Behind every food locker or cubbie, however, a ghost kitchen exists to provide the food offerings filled by kitchen staff, much like postal workers fill individual post office mailboxes from the central distribution facility.  Brands are able to fullfill orders quickly and in a timed fashion to ensure the quality of the product.

Another method of distribution is the food hall, the fastest growing trend of the last decade.   Virtual brands can feature new items on their menus without a huge roll-out, while achieving maximum exposure to the throngs of people looking for a quick bite in a place with ever-changing options.  The design of these spaces generally is compact as the hall will give the vendor a designated amount of space to create their concept.  The kitchens that help support these concepts are geared for larger boxing/assembly areas.  Technology infrastructure for orders and additional sanitation protocols are all taken into consideration.  How far away is this kitchen from the hall?  Available space to create and/or service the kitchen that is supporting the virtual brand is a very large factor in how well the brand will be able to perform.

Design is Paramount for Success

The stream of new ideas is endless.  Foodservice design is needed as the partner in virtual brand evolution to ensure every step forward is a success.

By:  Lisa Paige-Pretorius, Project Manager | Charlotte

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Daniel Kwon
July 14, 2021
The Supply Chain Conundrum
The Supply Chain Conundrum

There is a serious supply chain crisis that continues to disrupt many industries and the foodservice consulting industry is not immune from this.  The pandemic has negatively affected the foodservice equipment supply chain from manufacturer to end user.

How does the foodservice consultant deal with this?  What strategies should we implement to efficiently source materials and equipment for your project?  How do we cope with rising costs, lack of product, indeterminate delivery time frames as we all navigate the supply chain conundrum?

Dealing with the Supply Chain Crisis – What’s the Problem?

The most notable problem we face currently is the frustratingly long lead times for equipment that we have specified and the subsequent issues this causes in terms of adherence to the design schedule.  It used to take about 4 weeks to receive a piece of equipment.  It has increased to 8 weeks if you are lucky; 16 weeks isn’t out of the realm of possibility.  What is causing the delay?  There is no single what.  There are a collection of issues causing a domino effect and resulting in delays and backorders.

Global Sourcing

Equipment, even those “made in America,” are made with parts sourced globally and those parts are taking longer to get to the production line due to shipping container shortages, the unavailability of the desired part, or pandemic-related reduced operations capacity by the parts manufacturer or the shipping company.

Supply and Demand

Raw materials are in low supply and high demand, creating inflated costs which drive the end product’s price higher.  Add to that the fact that there is a hefty price increase on the shipping containers.  The Asia-US West Coast container prices increased 4% to $6,861/FEU (Forty Foot Equivalent Unit), a rate 178% higher than the same time last year, and the Asia-US East Coast prices climbed to $10,002/FEU, a 215% increase compared to rates for the same time last year. (AJOT)

Non – Negotiable Delivery Dates

James Lee, a spokesperson for James Worldwide, a freight forwarding service company, and colleague of mine, explained that the biggest challenge for all the members of the supply chain is not knowing what is going to happen. There is no negotiating on the delivery dates and how many containers to ship. “Once you start to negotiate, you will miss your turn and wait another 4 weeks to get your turn back,” said Lee.  He also mentioned, “Last year, manufacturers and dealers started to change their purchasing patterns by buying 2 months of supply at a time rather than buying 10 days at a time.”  Today, you are at the mercy of the shipping container company and their scheduling.

Think S.M.A.R.T.

The crisis will undoubtedly end.  But when and at what cost is the big question.  Forecasts indicate that disruptions will impact the supply chain through next year.  So, how do we implement effective strategies to neutralize the situation and create workable solutions?  We need to think S.M.A.R.T.:


Given the parameters of long lead times and equipment delays, it might make sense for the project team to put the equipment package out to bid earlier in the project timeline.  With this preemptory strike, unavailable equipment or equipment with questionable delays can be taken out of the design equation and revisions can be made to incorporate available equipment without jeopardizing the overall facility design or the client’s needs.  This proactive approach will not only save on schedule delays but also will allow the project team to stay on budget.


As the project team collectively and independently manages their portion of the project, it is essential to continually ask ourselves supply chain questions throughout the duration of the project.  Some questions might be:  Do we have enough visibility of the equipment’s supply chain to properly assess the overall impact? Did we explore our alternatives? Do we know which equipment will potentially be impacted?  How will alternatives impact our design, if at all?  Will the cost of the project be impacted?  Will there be disruption to the goals of the project?  How can we effectively design without compromise?  Today, supply chain leaders are reassessing their new realities and trying to forecast what the future may bring. It is time for us to do the same so that there is a Plan B to avoid supply chain problems when they crop up.


It goes without saying that accuracy is imperative in most situations, especially in the design industry.  Imagine what could happen if building specs weren’t quite accurate.  Accuracy doesn’t happen by chance.  Among the obvious skill of expertise within your discipline, it also takes knowing your project inside and out, being able to anticipate issues before they become a serious problem and having alternate solutions in your back pocket.  When supply chain disruptions occur, accurate information and advice shared with the entire project team is essential to the project’s success.


We might not have any problem today, but tomorrow, we might have a big challenge waiting for us.  While we can’t control getting unfortunate news about equipment backorders or delays from kitchen equipment companies, we can stay prepared by consistently and continuously keeping tabs on which manufacturers are experiencing disruptions and where our specified equipment is in the process.  The earlier we discover a problem, the sooner we can address it and find a solution.


We can complete the project on time and even on budget if we plan ahead, stay flexible and utilize effective strategies to offset problematic supply chain issues.  But equally important is the trust between all project team members.  Open and direct dialogue in the kick-off meeting about how to deal with potential supply chain issues will foster effective contingency plans should the need arise to use them.  Collaborative strategies will enable the project to move forward without the burden of endless redesigns.

The Finish Line

Supply chain disruption isn’t a new phenomenon.  Lots of factors play into this current conundrum we all find ourselves in and it can wreak havoc on the best project plans.  But by thinking S.M.A.R.T., effective strategies can move your project to the finish line on time and on budget, making it a win all the way around.

By:  Daniel Kwon, Project Manager | Atlanta

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Kevin Banas
June 14, 2021
By Design
By Design

Whether big or small, on a restricted budget or a princely one, no project succeeds without proper coordination between all the stakeholders.  As foodservice designers, our first point of coordination is usually with the ownership:  What sort of facility are they developing?  How many guests are they targeting?  What will the hours of operation be?  The menu?  These questions only begin to scratch the surface, and we’ll no doubt have dozens more for the architects, engineers, and operators.

All too frequently, however, we allow interior design to become a stumbling block in our efforts to coordinate.  Aesthetic considerations can clash with equipment practicalities in open service spaces, while budgetary concerns can raise issues of who owns what items in a project’s scope.  But whatever difficulties arise, proper coordination with the project’s interior designer has a tangible and significant impact on the pleasantness and function of a foodservice space.  As you ponder how to lay out your commercial kitchen, look out for issues that can arise between our trades, and give some thought on how to turn these stumbling blocks into opportunities to build a better facility.

Kitchen Finishes

Health code requirements for surface finishes are frequently a little ambiguous, in many areas providing guidance as sparse as “smooth, non-porous, and easily cleanable” and nothing else.  In many cases this leaves interior designers wondering what the best options are for floors, walls, and ceilings, and how to balance them against their budget.

Your foodservice designer should be well equipped to discuss with you what surface materials work best in specific areas.  Options such as tile, Fiber Reinforced Plastic (FRP), or stainless-steel wall flashing have wildly divergent price points, and what works in your dish room might not be best for what works on your production line.

We are often asked how high the smooth, non-porous, and easily cleanable finish must extend on a wall and the answer is floor-to-ceiling.  The cooks I’ve worked with have yet to find a wall tall enough that they couldn’t splatter food residue up and down its entire surface.

The surface material on a kitchen floor is often decided by budget but when there is room for flexibility, this is an excellent area to coordinate with interiors.  Flooring options can be matched to a kitchen’s purpose:  vinyl installations work great for spaces that anticipate future reconfiguration, while monolithic poured floors made of polyurethane or epoxy can be better suited than tile or vinyl for heavily trafficked areas or punishing environments.

A frequent stumbling point to watch out for is your back-of-house storage spaces.  Most municipalities require these to meet the same standards for surface finishes and lighting as a food preparation space.  Over the years we have seen more than one project built out without knowing this, only to be docked for it on their health department inspection.

Smaller Back of House Considerations

There are a number of smaller considerations for back-of-house spaces that are often neglected, particularly in larger projects.  But as they say, the Devil is in the details, and remembering these (and others) can help improve quality of life in the kitchen and better preserve the space as the years go by.

Corner guards should be specified for all corners in the kitchen to protect from collisions with carts and speed racks. Cini-Little typically recommends corner guards at least four inches wide and to a height of 48” AFF.  Similar in purpose, rubber wall-mounted door stops should be provided in areas where coolers, holding cabinets, or other equipment with doors are adjacent to the walls, or you will quickly find yourself with unsightly dents or cracked wall tile.

Doors in the kitchen, and particularly between front and back-of-house spaces, should be equipped with windows to help prevent collisions between busy staff.  In heavily trafficked aisles and pathways where deliveries are received, doors should have rubber stoppers to allow them to be temporarily propped open.  In bathrooms, we recommend hands-free door pulls to allow employees to exit without cross-contaminating their recently washed hands.

The Big One:  Millwork Counters

For the sake of durability and longevity, foodservice designers usually advocate for metal framed construction on front counters in a servery.  However, budgetary considerations often make wood construction counters an attractive option.  Millwork is loosely defined as any wooden fixture fabricated in a mill, and in a front-of-house setting, this usually includes doors, molding, trim, and often furniture like custom seating.  Because of this, it is usually under the scope of the interior designer or architect.  Millwork shops often provide simple counters for functions like trash drop-offs, but when it comes to larger service counters with a lot of equipment to coordinate, many millwork fabricators will need to partner closely with the foodservice designer to get things just right.

We have seen an unfortunate number of relatively recent installations requiring renovation designs because of millwork service counters that were not properly designed and coordinated.  When working with your interior designer and millwork fabricator, keep these critical considerations in mind:

  • Support Structure:  The counter must be designed with properly sized cut outs for drop-in equipment and with adequate support for the weight of the equipment, or you can expect to quickly develop cracks in any solid surface countertops you use.
  • Solid Surface Requirements:  Different types of natural or engineered stone will require different supports within the cabinet body and will also have different sensitivity to heat and cold.  Although some engineered stones sell themselves based on their resistance to temperature, it is still advisable to provide insulated bezels for chilled or heated equipment to prevent temperature gradients from cracking your surface materials.
  • Air Flow:  Cabinet bodies will need to be designed to allow ventilation as equipment dictates.  Compressors on cooled equipment are the most common pieces to require this, but foodservice designers should be prepared to alert millwork fabricators to sensitive pieces of equipment you might not suspect of needing proper airflow, such as induction burners.
  • Moisture Control:  Millwork cabinets being made of plywood, even marine grade, makes them vulnerable to encroachment from water. This can be fluids spilled from service equipment but is often also water that works its way into vertical panels from mopping around the counters. Millwork counters should be sealed inside and out to satisfy NSF requirements, and should be mounted on curb bases to protect from spills or mopping on the floor.

Apart from these, foodservice designers should partner with and review millwork counter plans to help provide those small touches that make foodservice easier:  convenience outlets for portable equipment, glove dispensers, foot pedal activated access to trash bins, slide-out housing for refrigeration condensers, and other such considerations.

A Marriage of Talents

It is a lot of work making sure your foodservice designs mesh with architectural, engineering, and interior design plans.  But this marriage of talents is what produces exemplary foodservice spaces that not only look great but function well and stand the test of time.  By staying alert and seeking out opportunities to share expertise with all of our partners on a project, we can be sure we’ve delivered the best possible kitchen under every circumstance.

By:  Kevin Banas, Project Manager | Chicago

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Barry Skown
May 19, 2021
How Does an Industry Re-Staff Itself?
How Does an Industry Re-Staff Itself?

The Trials and Tribulations of the Foodservice Industry in 2021

Nearly every single person in the world agrees that the year 2020 was one of the worst on record.  It was certainly the worst year most of us on this planet have ever experienced.  Yet, as bad as it was for everyone individually, I cannot recall a year that was as devastating to any one business segment as it was to the Foodservice & Hospitality industry.

But Wait!”, you say…”What about 2008-09 and what that did to the economy?”  Fair point.  But let’s think about that for a moment.  The last half of 2008 and all of 2009 were indeed devastating to a lot of people and professions.  Architecture firms folded, construction slowed to a trickle, financial institutions laid off thousands of staff, and real estate took a nosedive.

And while all of those were bad…everyone in the U.S., and the world, still had the opportunity to go to their favorite restaurant, bar, pub, sporting event, convention, wedding, funeral, birthday, anniversary, graduation anytime they wanted. In one word…we could all “congregate” whenever, and with whoever, we wanted.

All of that went away through 9 and a half months of 2020.

Suddenly, no one could get together with…anyone! …outside of your own home.  And because no one could congregate, that also meant that the venues that host get-togethers could no longer stay open.  That meant that every office building, every hotel, every restaurant and bar, every classroom, every church, every country club, every stadium had to close for an undetermined amount of time.

So, in April 2020, hundreds of thousands of hospitality and foodservice workers across every state in the country were either furloughed or completely laid off.  Retail restaurants struggled to stay open offering only take-out food or delivery.  But the contract food segment…meaning foodservice operations within a completely different type of  business or facility…had to shut down completely since there were no employees at work and no students at college.  Fast forward to one year later in late March 2021 with vaccines approved and being distributed in a constantly increasing pace, and offices, universities, and retail restaurants and bars making concrete plans to reopen…finally.

The Catch?  No one seems to want to apply to return to their old restaurant or contract foodservice job.  Last week, Cini-Little moderated a panel of contract foodservice industry professionals to discuss the unprecedented challenge of hiring back hundreds of thousands of employees amidst a reducing timeline before businesses and universities reopen, as well as trying to ensure worker safety and addressing other challenges that have been part of the industry for many years.

A number of potential variables have been cited by industry professionals as to why former workers are not lining up to return to work in droves.  These include, but are not limited to, reasons such as:

  • Concern for worker safety as customers may, or may not, be vaccinated when they dine out again
  • The level of hourly wages and employee benefits traditionally offered by the industry
  • The current unemployment benefits that most states offer their citizens during the pandemic, along with periodic lump-sum federal stimulus payments
  • Former foodservice workers taking this opportunity of “unemployment” to learn a new skill or trade or further their education, which then leads them to obtain a new job in a different industry altogether
  • The demands on family and personal life that a “hospitality” career and weekly schedule requires
  • And a few others

It is likely that each former foodservice worker has a slightly different reason for not wanting their old job back right now…or ever.  Regardless of the reason though, the deadline for office buildings and university campuses reopening is getting closer and closer…and quickly.  Already, both retail restaurants and contract foodservice operations are openly complaining that they cannot get anyone to even submit an application for employment…let alone actually show up for an interview.

Meanwhile, national labor statistics continue to report that the unemployment rate remains at, or above, the 6% mark.  Clearly, there is a big disconnect between the two that has to be bridged in order to get the overall industry staffed to a healthy level again.  It may not be as simple as vaccinating every living person.  And it also may not be as simple as increasing hourly wages by 50%.  But an answer (or, several answers) must be found to help the industry rebound to its former self.

From a human resources perspective, the contract foodservice industry has put in place various employee search and recruitment tactics to attract former and new staff.  They have considered the concerns mentioned earlier and worked to assuage them through hiring incentives, flexibility in schedules, ongoing training, and continuing education and benefits incentives.  But the contract foodservice segment, and the overall industry, may need to consider a larger reorganization as well from an operational standpoint.  For example, can new technology help reduce the need for specific staff positions while simultaneously addressing social distancing protocols for some operations?  Can production efficiencies in the kitchen  — and the front of house –reduce the number of staff required?  Is it time to re-visit business models to identify the caliber and number of staff required before charging headfirst into re-hiring the workforce to pre-pandemic levels?

But the point we are trying to convey is…there is no one definitive answer to the question of how this industry re-staffs itself.  No one has a “silver bullet” answer.  The foodservice industry has been notorious for having a much higher employee turnover rate than almost any other type of business.  But they’ve never had any trouble in attracting employees to work…. until now.  The goal moving forward must be to create a valued partnership between contract foodservice companies and their newly acquired staff to ensure high retention rates with a balanced life-work environment, appropriate wage structures and benefits, and mutual understanding so that people want to stay in, and return to, the industry even if another major interruption in service occurs (hopefully) many years down the road.

By:  Barry Skown, Director of Management Advisory Services

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