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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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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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