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Barry Skown
March 24, 2020
HACCP…Now More Than Ever!
HACCP…Now More Than Ever!

The world is going through an unprecedented time right now…much different than the Great Recession of 2008, and different, but possibly equally as impactful, as WWII.  For certain, a situation that no one born after WWII has ever faced.  We, as a nation, and the world, are just starting to see the possible economic impact from this global crisis. But it doesn’t take the proverbial “rocket scientist” to already understand, and know, that the “service industry” (think hotels, restaurants, bars, retail stores, convention centers, sports venues, etc.) will be one of the, if not the, hardest hit sectors of the global economy.

“Tried and True” Advice

As the general population struggles to keep up with daily updates and guidance from the combined medical, scientific, and healthcare experts, it can be both confusing and overwhelming to separate fact from fiction from social media rumors and myths.  But one of the major items of advice that has held constant since the crisis began is “Wash Your Hands.  That advice has always been a hallmark of the foodservice industry to ensure safe food handling and safe food service to restaurant guests.

Every Step of the Way

That advice also brings up another industry practice that has been, and still is a guiding principle in the foodservice world—the HACCP Plan, or the “Hazard Analysis of Critical Control Points” Plan. For anyone who may be unfamiliar with it, a HACCP Plan is basically a step-by-step analysis of each menu item/recipe a foodservice operation offers to its customers that identifies where potential food safety gaps, or “hazards,” could possibly occur during every step of the menu item’s production cycle.  And when I say “every step”…I mean everything from the time of delivery of the raw ingredients to the facility, storing them properly, prepping the ingredients, cooking the menu item, holding it for service, serving it to the customer, and storing any leftover food.  The analysis and plan not only identify the potential “hazards” along the production/service process, but also inform the foodservice worker how to either correct the situation to bring the food item back into the “safe range” or when to dispose of it altogether.

Some History

The HACCP Plan was a huge foodservice industry buzzword back in the 1990’s, and its guidelines were adopted by several states, and even county/city jurisdictions as part of local health codes and foodservice permit requirements.  Some counties/cities even required a HACCP Plan to be submitted with final construction drawings as a requirement for a Building Permit to be issued by the local authority.  Indeed, I completed several of them for clients at that time to assist them in obtaining the permits they were applying for and because they also wanted to ensure that their staff followed the strictest food handling guidelines the industry had published.

A Goal AND A Must

The healthcare industry in particular was keen on adopting these guidelines and principles since their #1 goal is to ensure the safety and health of all their patients.  The HACCP guidelines are still very important, and in daily use, in the healthcare segment of foodservice…both for patient meals as well as food sold in public cafes in hospitals and medical centers.  But the HACCP Plan doesn’t only apply to that sector of the foodservice industry.

Any foodservice operation that serves a high volume of food can, and should, strongly consider creating and adopting a HACCP Plan to ensure that production and service staff alike are following safe food handling procedures and guidelines.  The current global situation only brings that goal back into clearer focus and importance.  Every food operator knows that the surest way to sink their operation is to have an outbreak of foodborne illness tracked back to their facility.  Once this happens, the public trust is severely damaged and may possibly never recover.

Consider “high volume” food operations such as an amusement park, a sports stadium/arena, a convention center, an airport, a large convention hotel (think Las Vegas or Orlando), a university campus, a large corporate/office campus, or even a cruise ship.  All of these typically have multiple foodservice outlets of various service styles and menu themes…oftentimes served by a single foodservice operator, but sometimes served by multiple operators.  Each foodservice outlet has the opportunity to handle and produce food safely…or not.  Fulfilling that opportunity for safe food depends on what lengths the management and staff are willing to go to ensure that all food…all along the path from delivery to service…is handled, stored, and produced to ensure its, and the customer’s, safety.

Constant Vigilance

But a HACCP Plan itself cannot actually store food properly, or cook food properly, or hold food properly.  That responsibility is up to each facility’s staff and management to take the words from each HACCP Manual and put those words into action each and every day. Constant vigilance and oversight by each staff member, along with daily and hourly checks and updates, must also be a part of the HACCP Plan for the guidelines to be truly effective. If left unused…the best written HACCP Plan is just another “binder on a bookshelf.”

HACCP First and Foremost

The current global health crisis once again shines a bright spotlight on the general population’s health and safety.  And nowhere is this more evident than in the foodservice industry that is being tested to its limit right now.  With in-restaurant dining closed in many jurisdictions, food-to-go is the only option for many people.  To meet this service and delivery style, food must be held and delivered at a safe temperature, and within strict time limits.

But even after this crisis is past us…and we WILL get past this…safe food handling, production, and storage will never go out of style.  And the acronym “HACCP” will never be just a “buzzword” again.  Stay Safe.  Stay positive.  Be well.

By:  Barry Skown | Director of MAS

 

 

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Keith Short, Khaled Halabi
February 20, 2020
Airline Club Lounges – A Slice of Zen
Airline Club Lounges – A Slice of Zen

People travel by plane all the time.  And with travel comes waiting—and lots of it.  Waiting to get through security, even if you are TSA pre-approved.  Waiting at the gate…waiting to take off.  Sometimes it seems the amount of waiting is longer than the flight itself.

Where experience is everything, airlines find there is stiff competition to deliver a positive experience inflight.  But they can offer up a great experience while you wait for your flight.  Airline clubs are making a comeback in a big way.

At the intersection of Waiting and Experience

Airline clubs have been around since the early days of airline travel.  Back then, membership was considered a luxury, allowing select travelers the comforts of home while they waited for their flight.  Today, the airline club lounges promise luxurious and amenity-laden surroundings for anyone willing to pay for the experience.

A Valu-able Experience

What makes one airline club unique and different from another or from airport restaurants for that matter?  How does the design support the elevation of the club to a distinct level, one that travelers, either the frequent flyer on the run or the seasoned globe-trotter, will use?

Without a doubt, the club needs to offer a valuable experience.  Our world operates 24-7 and travelers expect to stay connected every minute of every day and night in a surrounding that offers comfortable seating, up-to-the-minute technology, premium food and beverage choices, and ease with services that support this experience.   They need to see the value of joining an airline club, rather than spending time in the secure side of the airport, balancing their laptop and their sandwich on their laps and looking for a place to charge their phones.  Here’s where the right foodservice design can make a big impact.

Elements of Design

Fast…efficient…Quality.  These are the goals that should be considered when designing a facility with an elevated food and beverage program in mind.  But you also need to consider other points – ones that will affect the programming and may dictate the design.  For example, how large a footprint is there?  Can the lounge support a kitchen?  Or just a warming pantry?  Will the food come prepared from a commissary or will there be cooking on-site?  Are there grab n go options for the traveler in a hurry?  What is the average time spent at the club?  Is this club in an international or domestic airport wing?

First Class all the Way – Even When You Fly Economy

Airlines wish to attract all travelers to their member clubs and that means the lounge needs to provide multi-purpose and service.  For example, some travelers might enjoy sinking into a soft, comfortable chair in an atmosphere of relaxation and harmony before boarding the plane, warranting a sophisticated beverage service replete with cocktail station, wine displays and tasting platforms.  A full catering kitchen supports an upscale menu to complete the experience.

Alternatively, a non-cushioned seating area may attract the “fly-in fly out” passenger who requires a limited beverage dispensing bar for quick choice and service along with an adjacent open-style kitchen offering opportunities to be entertained in a spontaneous manner.

The frequent flyer on the run might not have time for a sophisticated experience or even a quick-service experience.  Rather kiosks, refrigerated, ambient or even hot, positioned at the entrance of the club lounge, housing non-consumable and consumable items might be just what they need or desire.

Tight Footprints

Narrow, tight space and airport lounges tend to go hand in hand.  Typically, there is limited back-of-the-house space since the lounge is located in narrow concourse areas.

While the location and the geometry of the space may reduce the overall real estate for the club lounge, a well-thought out design may allow for service to two different types of travelers. For example, if a kitchen is positioned in between two bar areas, one side of the kitchen and the adjacent bar might service the FIFO traveler, while the opposite side, within the same kitchen footprint, offers a cocktail-style bar to travelers.

Versatile Equipment

Restrictions of gas operated equipment in most airports and other jurisdictional mandates about hoods and grease cooking increase the challenge for the designer.  These constraints necessitate an efficient design, utilizing minimal equipment with maximum versatility.  The equipment must have the ability to produce not only a broad array of food options, but also a large volume of food – all in a short period of time.

Ventless technology has come to the rescue.  Frying, baking, steaming, broiling, toasting and slow cooking are all feasible with carefully selected ventless equipment.  More refined menu options, a trend in airport restaurants, can now be cooked on-site, relegating pre-prepared cold sandwiches to the grab and go food outlets throughout the terminal.  However, while the ability to cook with a variety of methods is alluring, the goals of fast…efficient…quality, are still of paramount importance to the success of the airport lounge food program.

Stacked foodservice equipment creates a vertical kitchen, giving back precious real estate to the front-of-the-house for other amenities such as therapeutic massage areas for travelers embarking on long flights, shower facilities, and additional restroom lounges.  The design/catering team might propose a “this goes with that” solution to increase cooked production within a smaller footprint…for example, a combi oven and blast chiller stack, conveyor oven toaster stack, vector units, combi oven stack, and coming to the U.S. market soon, a split pot braising pan.

Bottom Line

Airlines offer travelers the opportunity to enjoy their travel wait experience in a refined and luxurious way by visiting the newly transformed airline club lounge — a little slice of Zen in an otherwise chaotic and stressful airport.   And while the airline succeeds in edging out the competition, the traveler wins with top-notch experience sure to add value to even the most mundane of trips.

By:  Keith Short, Director of Design – West Coast | San Francisco

And Khaled Halabi, Project Manager | New York

 

 

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Joseph Sorgent
January 8, 2020
Is Zero Waste Achievable?
Is Zero Waste Achievable?

We are an increasingly disposable society who for the past decade or so have realized that while disposable is convenient, it is not necessarily good for our communal existence here on Planet Earth.  Today, waste is big news.  It’s serious.  And it’s hard to ignore.

The 5 R’s

We need to manage our waste by methods of the 5 R’s.  Here’s how it works…

  1. Refuse what you don’t need.
  2. Reduce what you do need.
  3. Reuse by using reusables.
  4. Recyclewhat you can’t refuse, reduce, or reuse.  And finally,
  5. Rot the rest – compost.

We have been trying to recycle for quite a few decades, but now the pace has picked up considerably.  There is an increasing focus on waste diversion from landfills and measures to reduce waste before it is generated.  30 years ago, 15% “diversion” from landfill was a good level; nowadays cities and states are mandating goals for 50 – 75%; and some individual facilities are trying to achieve net zero …90% diversion from landfill.

What Does It Look Like?

So, if our Utopian goal is “zero waste,” how do we achieve anything close to this in a commercial setting?  What can proactive waste diversion look like when commercial and institutional buildings generate significant amounts of materials and waste?

Understanding Why Waste Management is Important

Perhaps the most important reason for proper waste management is to protect the environment and the health and safety of the population.  Certain types of waste can be hazardous and can pollute the environment.  Poor waste management practices cause all sorts of problems from land and air pollution to serious medical conditions.  Alternatively, a well-planned waste management program helps to protect the environment and all of us, while benefitting your business with energy efficiency, cost savings, and resource recovery measures, to name a few.

It Starts with Education

The first step is to understand the increasing need for separation, and proper separation, at the point of generation.  What does this mean exactly?  It means not all trash can be treated the same.   Take two disposable cups, for example.   Even though they might look the same, they are not necessarily made of the same material.  We can’t just toss them both in the same blue recycling bin to be hauled to the recycling center.  Another example is a food bowl – given the bowl is a compostable type material, it and the left-over food content can go to the organics stream, but often the bowl’s plastic lid is not compostable, and it must go to another stream. This is how entire loads are contaminated and while the good intention is there, the effectiveness is not.  The more effective model is to separate items at the point of generation as the first step in waste stream diversion.

Effective separation at the point of generation requires a well-planned program for materials used, space and waste equipment.   It necessitates buy-in from people using the facility, operators, building managers and haulers so that the different kinds of waste streams can be held in central trash rooms effectively, composting can occur if it makes sense, and coordination with haulers for off-site processing can be administered correctly.  Bottom line, we want to ensure that effective waste stream diversion increases, while decreasing the amount of waste sent to the landfill for eternity.

Municipality Mandates and Regulations Are Key

Any way you look at it, waste recycling regulation is here to stay, and by all accounts become more stringent.  In most US and Canadian states, cities and provinces we are seeing an uptick in mandates and codes, as well as required waste management plans linked to building permits.  While general diversion goals and regulations are more common, many new regulations target specific waste streams – two of the more critical are plastics, an increasing environmental issue; and organics/compost, a promising recycling stream through aerobic and anaerobic processing.

It Doesn’t Need to be a Headache

And while calculating anticipated waste for your facility and generating a report to submit to your municipality may seem like a headache, it doesn’t need to be.  Whether or not it’s mandatory in your jurisdiction, it’s smart to seek out an experienced waste management specialist to become a part of the architectural planning team. It is best to deal with your anticipated waste stream as early in the design process as possible.  Ideally, this means while you are in the concept stage, so the waste infrastructure can be integrated seamlessly into the whole design rather than an afterthought.  A non-existent or ill-conceived waste management program means lots of problems and lots of money to address them after the fact.

Future Earth will Thank You

While zero waste is a lofty goal, it is not insurmountable.  You can take steps today to begin on the track to a cleaner and more viable Earth for decades to come.

By:  Joe Sorgent

Director of Sustainability | Los Angeles

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Kevin Banas
September 17, 2019
It Could be Wurst: School Lunches Then and Now
It Could be Wurst: School Lunches Then and Now

The second Sunday of every October marks the beginning of National School Lunch week, a time to recognize, appreciate, and support the meal programs at public schools that nourish so many of our nation’s children. Unfortunately, school lunches do not enjoy a great reputation in the United States; they are often derided as bland, over-processed, and lacking in nutrients. As a casualty of this perception, the poor lunch lady is also maligned as uncreative, unmotivated, and just plain bland as well. The degree to which these stereotypes are true varies wildly from school to school, but somewhere in the budgetary fights and politics, the average American lost sight of how important the school lunch program can be.

A Little History

The Federal Government first dabbled in school lunch programs during the Depression, subsidizing farmers by buying surplus crops and donating them to school lunch programs run by cities, or in some cases, private welfare organizations. During World War II, these programs largely dried up as farmers found the military to be a customer with a bottomless need for food.

Meanwhile, the military found itself with a different sort of food-related issue:  many potential recruits grew up hungry during the depression, and large numbers of them were being turned away due to lasting medical issues stemming from malnutrition during their developmental years. When Congress considered reinstating school lunch programs after the war to once again prop up farmers, they found the military to be a fervent supporter of the idea. Making sure children were adequately nourished was, at least initially, considered to be a matter of national security.

National School Lunch Act

The passage of the National School Lunch Act in 1946 suddenly guaranteed subsidy to any school that would feed its children. Almost overnight there was an explosion in commercial kitchen construction as schools built new facilities. Supply chains were established to bring ingredients to every corner of the nation, along with improvements in canning and food preservation. Many of the major equipment manufacturers and food suppliers you recognize today are the product of consolidation and reorganization of regional companies that joined together to take advantage of the opportunities created by the National School Lunch Act.

Prior to 1946, restaurants in the United States were mostly an urban phenomenon. Families in rural America ate their meals together or carried lunch to work in tin pails. The iconic single-room school on the prairie often released children for more than an hour to return home for lunch, or limited classes to half the day to let students return home for meals and participate in afternoon chores. By serving lunch, rural schools soon emulated their urban counterparts with a full day of classes; attracting students from a larger radius since they didn’t have to return home for lunch.

More immediately impactful on our culture today, the addition of a social meal at school taught many Americans how to have a meal outside the company of their immediate family. Food became a social event, and in combination with the opening of supply chains mentioned earlier as well as other societal changes like the automotive boom, the path was paved for an explosion in the US hospitality industry.

So Where Did It All Start to Go Wrong?

National population and school enrollment had increased dramatically by the 1960s, and Congress had not made provisions for the increase in expense this caused the school lunch programs. Congress attempted to mitigate expenses by eliminating free meals across the board and, switching to a system of subsidization, covering a larger portion of a given student’s meal based on their economic need. This caused two immediate problems: Dividing students into economic strata discernable to their peers painted a target for bullies on the backs of the economically disadvantaged students. A stigma became attached to receiving a free meal at school in many districts.

On the national level, turning the lunch program into a matter of welfare to deliver aid to the economically-needy subjected the program to the same fiscal and philosophical debates that surround all state welfare programs. When the Reagan Administration made welfare reform a major issue in the 1980s, the school lunch program was included in the list of targets. A few years back, there was outrage when the FDA allowed pizza sauce to be considered a vegetable to help cash-starved schools meet dietary guidelines in their lunch program; but by 1981, politicians were already making identical suggestions about tomato ketchup.

Still Going Strong

Today, the school lunch program is still, for good and bad, a source of innovation and trend setting. The introduction of highly processed foods in the 1980s and 90s as a cost savings measure directly correlates with the rise of childhood obesity in the United States. Healthier menu requirements (along with grant programs to help implement them) were introduced during the Obama Administration, and while older children had a famously difficult time accepting the new, healthier foods, studies have shown that younger children, familiarized with different fruits, vegetables, and cuisines as they grow, do acclimate to these menus, developing better eating habits expected to last their lifetimes.

Debate may rage on over how best to manage the school lunch program to positively affect America’s youth, but the program’s influence as a tastemaker is absolutely unparalleled and underappreciated, far exceeding the brief celebrity of any individual chef or restaurant. Sometimes it’s good to set aside our cynicism and remember that.

By:  Kevin Banas

Project Manager | Chicago

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Katja Beck
September 4, 2019
Food Insecurity on Campus
Food Insecurity on Campus

Hunger.  It’s real.  It’s in our society.  And whether you know it or not, it affects college students at an alarming rate.  It’s called food insecurity….it sounds less threatening, but sadly, many students face this dilemma one or more times during their studies.

We can discuss the why’s of how this is happening.  Continuously rising college costs, financial aid not keeping up with these costs, difficulty in finding work that accommodates student studies, just to name a few. But the bottom line is we need to find a way to beat hunger on campus.  Today, let’s focus on what we, as consultants, can do to stamp out hunger.

Every college campus tour features a stop at the student center replete with a dining hall featuring more bells and whistles than ever.  We offer nutritious meals, allergen-friendly foods, zillions of choices…after all we want our students to eat well.   College dining, always a necessity, has become an amenity as well.   Food security equals a higher level of academic success.   But how about the student who struggles financially?  The student who needs to choose between paying for textbooks or paying for food?    How do we help them?

On-Campus Food Pantries

It seems fairly obvious.  Open a campus food pantry.  And for years, schools have done just that.  A good example is Michigan State University; they became the first student-run, campus-based food assistance program in the United States way back in 1993.  Others have followed suit.

But there are obstacles to this idea.  How do you make a food pantry?  Where is it located?  How do you carve out space for the pantry?  How much space needs to be allocated for the program to be successful?  How do you figure out the flow of distribution to the pantry?  What equipment do you need to keep food at the proper temperature?  Is there a daily hot or prepared foods grab n go offering?  What do you need to make all this happen?

It seems daunting.  But the solutions to all these questions lie in first determining what the pantry program will include.  Foodservice design consultants can work with the college or university to create this program, and then develop a design, unique to these needs.  And in the case of new construction of a dining facility, a food pantry can be programmed into the space in the early phases of design.

A food pantry can be as simple as a place to store and distribute “canned foods.”  Or with some ingenuity and the right design, it becomes a place where nutrition is taught, instructional cooking takes place, and meals are served based on ingredients offered within the pantry.

How to Get “Buy-In?”  Some Out-of-the Box Ideas

So, now you have a food pantry.  The next big challenge is how to get buy-in from students who need it most?  They might feel embarrassed or ashamed that they need help.  There might be a perceived stigma attached to using these resources.  They might even think that since they work or receive financial aid, they can’t use it, that there are others who need it more.

Once again, creativity comes into play.  Why not create a monthly calendar of events on campus featuring health-conscious free meals?  Or offer a free weekly “ugly” fruit and vegetables market, conveniently located near the pantry, where all students can pick up items that might otherwise get tossed out?  Perhaps left-over prepared foods from dining halls’ breakfast, lunch, and dinner can become a free event at the campus pantry under the guise of a “don’t waste it – eat it” campaign.  Maybe a “stamping out food insecurity” campaign can be written into the Foodservice Operator Selection requirements when the time comes to select and contract with an Operator for campus feeding.

There are lots of ways to create a stigma-free environment for students in need with a little imagination and a lot of buy-in from the university or college.

Sharing the Wealth

How many students with meal plans end up losing the unused “swipes” at the end of the semester?  It happens a lot.  So much so that in 2010, a group of friends at UCLA founded a program called Swipe Out Hunger.  The concept is simple, the reward, great.  Students with meal plans donate unused meals to a meal bank so that those in need may use them.  According to their website, eighty-two colleges participate currently.  Ideally, this kind of program could reach every college and university around the country, making a significant dent in the number of students feeling the effects of not having enough to eat.

The Bottom Line

We need to eliminate food insecurity across our college campuses.  Our students are our future and we want them to be successful and contributing members of our society.  They, in fact, are the leaders of our future.  No one wins if hunger persists.  Let’s all work together to alleviate food insecurity with some simple and creative adjustments to campus foodservice operations.

By:  Katja Beck

Project Manager | Ft. Lauderdale

 

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Kevin Banas
May 6, 2019
The Many Faces of Water
The Many Faces of Water

Water is one of those strange things that some kitchens can easily ignore, confident in the quality coming out of their tap; while others are cursed to obsess over and spend to improve theirs. Wherever you wind up on that spectrum, it always pays to spend a little effort and attention on your water. As an ingredient, it is in every bit of food and drink you serve, after all. If you get the right water flowing through your espresso machine, every shot you pull can be rich in color and taste, with a perfect crema on top. Haphazardly dump any old water into your steamer though, and it may just eat your equipment from the inside out.

The Bad Actors

Problems with your water broadly fall into three categories: dissolved minerals, suspended sediment, and added chemicals.

There are all kinds of minerals that can dissolve in water and impact the taste. While they may add an unpleasant flavor, the bulk of these minerals are not harmful for human consumption. Notable exceptions to this include lead and mercury, which can sometimes be found in water supplied adjacent to heavy industrial activity where waste was not properly isolated from the environment.

In terms of your equipment, the minerals that filter manufacturers look to remove are magnesium, phosphates, iron, silicates, and calcium. The presence of these and other minerals is measured in Grains Per Gallon (GGP). A single Grain of water hardness is 17.1 parts per million of dissolved minerals. If water has more than 7 Grains per Gallon, it is said to be hard, while anything above 10.5 Grains is very hard. In layman’s terms, 7 GGP would be roughly one pound of dissolved minerals in 1,000 gallons of water.

Sediment, meanwhile, is large particles that don’t dissolve in water, but do suspend themselves in it and get carried into the supply. This includes materials like sand, or bits of organic matter such as decaying plants. The presence of sediments is measured in Turbidity, and while there are complex ways to quantify turbidity based on light refraction, it is easiest to think of it as the “cloudiness” in your water. The cloudier your water, the higher its turbidity, and the higher the amount of sediment in it.

Finally, the dissolved chemicals mentioned earlier usually come in the form of chlorides, often as a byproduct of the sterilization process your city performs on its water supply. Their presence in your water is not harmful to your health, but as we’ll discuss below, they can dramatically impact the flavor of your beverages and the operation of your equipment.

What Could Go Wrong?

The most immediate problem you may notice with hard water (or water with chlorides in it) is a bad taste. Perhaps you’ve traveled somewhere with hard water and noticed a sort of iron or sulfur flavor to the water – that’s hard water you’re dealing with. In addition to this odd flavor, hard water can result in flat soda from dispensers, cloudy coffee and tea, and espresso with no crema (foam) on top.

When water isn’t treated for this excess minerality, the next problem you’re likely to face is scale build-up. Scale is the term for when these minerals precipitate out of the water and deposit on nearby surfaces. You’ve probably seen this in your own bathroom in the form of soap scum. When it happens in pipes (inside your walls or inside your equipment) the build-up can choke your water flow, reducing water pressure and the available supply. When it happens in boilers, such as for combi ovens or steamers, the scale forms specifically in the location where the heating elements are, creating an insulative barrier that reduces the energy efficiency of your devices. Left untreated, this will eventually burn out your heating elements. Calcium, in particular, bonds with carbon to produce an especially tenacious and hard to remove scale called Lime.

Chlorides can also be quite damaging to heated equipment. When temperatures rise above 212 degrees they can quickly bond with sodium to form a hydrochloric acid that corrodes the metal in boilers. This corrosion is known as “pitting”, and if you’ve ever seen exposed metal near the sea being eaten away in the salty air, then you’ve seen pitting in action.

Is There a Cure?

So what sort of treatment options exist? Solutions can broadly be grouped into chemical or filtration. The most common chemical treatment that many might be familiar with from their homes is water softening. In water softening, sodium ions are exchanged for the mineral ions in the water, taking their place. This adds some sodium to the water, but usually in low enough concentrations that you wouldn’t taste a salty flavor. Water softening excels in applications such as dishwashing, where water temps usually hover around 180 degrees and excessive hardness would impact the efficacy of the detergents. However, it is not recommended for beverage or cooking applications, as it causes over-extraction in teas and coffees, leading to bitterness and cloudiness. In cooking, water is usually raised to above 212 degrees, where the sodium from water softening would combine with chlorides and cause pitting.

Various other proprietary chemicals get used by filter manufacturers to reduce hardness, and while it would be impossible to write about them all, they do function in a similar fashion: these chemicals are added to the water supply, where they serve as nucleation point for dissolved minerals. That is, instead of precipitating onto the boiler where the heating element is and forming scale, the minerals precipitate onto these larger chemical molecules, which resist settling on the boiler and get flushed out of the system when the boiler is drained.

In standard filtration, water with a high turbidity should begin treatment by going through a sediment pre-filter. These pre-filters pass the water through a physical medium with pores too small to allow sediment past the filter. This process is a lot like your coffee filters at home, albeit with somewhat more sophisticated materials. A sediment pre-filter is not strictly necessary, just to be clear, but if you have high-turbidity water and no pre-filter, you will burn through your carbon filter cartridges at a much faster rate.

Carbon filters typically consist of spun fibers coated in activated charcoal. Activated charcoal is charcoal that’s been treated with oxygen to create lots of tiny pores on its surface, increasing the surface area exposed to the water. As water passes in and out of the absorbent fibers, the charcoal has a chance to absorb impurities, such as the commonly found minerals we’ve discussed, as well as chlorides. High-capacity water filters will often have 2, 3, or 4 carbon filters working together, to increase the overall rate of water flow. If you notice that the water pressure coming through your filter has lessened, slowing the overall flow, this likely means that your filters are expended and should be replaced.

Last, but not least, are Reverse Osmosis systems. These systems use pressure to push water through a semi-permeable membrane that allows water to pass through, but rejects minerals, chlorides, sediment, sodium, and most pathogens. R.O. systems operate slowly, so most are continuously filtering water into a reservoir tank for when it’s needed.

These systems produce water so pure that in some applications it becomes necessary to add a small amount of minerality back in. For example, minerality is usually added back into the R.O. system’s product before use in steamers and combi ovens, otherwise boilers can be damaged. In coffee and espresso applications, small amounts of magnesium should be present in the water to improve extraction from the coffee grinds and for flavor. When R.O. is used in coffee or espresso applications, the manufacturer will often supply a cartridge to returned measured doses of magnesium to the water before it goes to the brewer.

 Flow Gently, Sweet Afton…

So how does an intelligent designer determine the needs of their kitchen? Your best bet is to partner with your selected filter manufacturer, and to obtain their recommendation. Most large municipalities publish water quality reports annually, but if you lack an expertise in environmental science, it can be easy to become dazed by all the information presented. Most of the larger filter manufacturers have experience with wide swaths of water tables throughout the country and can help with preliminary specifications, but it is always a good practice to obtain a local water supply sample and order a test be done to verify their filter recommendations.

If you do partner with a filter supplier for model recommendations, consider sharing specification sheets with them for any ice machines and any heated equipment such as combi ovens, steamers, and hot water boilers. Manufacturers often provide their water quality requirements in the small print, and as water mismanagement is a growing source of warranty disputes, they are getting very particular about their requirements. A few dollars for a water sample kit and some leg work in the design stage can prevent some tremendous headaches during the lifespan of your water-using equipment.

By:  Kevin Banas

Project Manager | Chicago

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Khaled Halabi
March 20, 2019
Instagrammable Moments
Instagrammable Moments

Instagrammable:  Definition – a photo that is worth posting on Instagram

Instagrammable moments happen all the time.  Diners capture picture after picture of what they are eating, who they are eating with, what is new and innovative…from the food to the menu, even to the sugar packets with adorable sayings on them…the list goes on.  Instagram feeds have launched many a restaurant in overly-saturated markets, leaving other popular restaurants scratching their heads, wondering what just happened to their customer base.  Most people check out Instagram before deciding on a place to eat.  And if the “likes” aren’t there, then they aren’t either.

What if Instagram could affect sales in your dining hall?  Or in your corporate cafeteria?  Suppose you could increase your sales without really increasing your marketing budget just by several clicks and posts on Instagram?  Imagine googling most Instagrammable foods and finding your dining facility’s specialty on the top of the list?

Sure, sometimes things go viral without doing anything special on your part.  That’s pure luck!  But if you want to cash in on the Instagram pot of gold, a well thought- out facility design can make a difference.  But where to start?

First and foremost, you don’t want your students or staff to leave your campus to find food elsewhere.  You want them to find excitement in the mix of menu, the feel of the space, the signature dishes, the story you are sharing….the essence of the experience at YOUR facility.

Conceptualize It

The first step in becoming Instagram-friendly is to think about the overall design of the space at the time of conception.  Think about eye-catching areas, like a nook or a corner where people will gravitate to capture the moment to share with their followers.  Think about the whole experience from the exterior to the lighting inside and everything in-between.  Attention to detail is a must.  A unique design element can go viral in no time.  Food artfully plated is a necessity.  No one takes a picture of mediocre food.  Customers are savvy; they know they have options.  They know what they want.  They are food-smart, enviro-smart, every kind of-smart out there and they will search for what they perceive as their experience until they find it.  Let that experience occur in your facility.

Create the Right Mix

Who says you can’t be something to everyone?  Creating vegan, dietary and ethnic stations as part of your facility mix offers menu items to accommodate the diverse population on your campus.

Other places offer constantly changing menu offerings to entice people to return for every meal.  By designing stations with flexibility in equipment, you can offer the latest food trend without much change to your operation.

You can keep your operation fresh with anticipation for the next latest and greatest by designing “pop-up” stations or indoor “food trucks” to lure diners and fortify sales as the next trend emerges.

Show it Off

More and more facilities are opting for an open kitchen to emphasize locally-sourced ingredients and to bring the cooking process to the forefront.  Many chefs are reimagining food and presentation for maximum social media exposure.   In the age of celebrity chefs and the importance of transparency in food sources, the exhibition kitchen is taking center stage as the star of the show.  In some places, students or staff members can select their own ingredients for the chef to prepare a customizable, unique meal right in front of them.

Be Techno-Savvy

Advance ordering and point of sale apps and kiosks can be integrated into the design to enhance the speed and efficiency with which diners navigate your facility.  Easily linked to other social media platforms, this is a win-win scenario for diners and operators alike.

The Instagrammable Moment

Each nuance in design offers an Instagrammable moment to share with friends.  Social media is here to stay and growing.  Don’t let this incredible opportunity pass you by.

By:  Khaled Halabi

Associate Project Manager | New York

 

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Kip Serfozo
February 19, 2019
Innovative Solutions
Innovative Solutions

The North American Association of Foodservice Equipment Manufacturers (NAFEM) recently sponsored its trade show showcasing extraordinary new foodservice equipment solutions.  In conjunction with the show, Foodservice Consultants Society International (FCSI) sponsors a conference which, this year, addressed cutting-edge trends and solutions, reflecting today’s society and environmental awareness.    Lots of new equipment products and innovative ideas are shared by all!

My colleague and I attended the show and conference, immersing ourselves in the world of foodservice equipment.  We look forward to not only viewing the new equipment; but also trying it, handling it… in short, experiencing it.  After all, as independent foodservice consultants, we continually strive to educate ourselves and evaluate each piece of equipment based on the value it will provide to you, our client.

Here’s Our Take-Away

The big drivers of equipment innovation continue to be how to make new equipment…

  • within a smaller footprint
  • positively impact LEED principles (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)
  • multi-use
  • easy to operate and with customer-facing technology
  • able to assist with creating better tasting foods

Oh, and did we mention… SPEED? Let’s see how to do all the above FASTER than ever before! Read between the lines – “lower labor cost,” which is the highest cost that operators face daily.

Many manufacturers came up with solutions to speed processes for cook times, prep times, and cleaning up times.

It Caught Our Eye

Hundreds of pieces of equipment later, we concluded that yes, innovation abounds in our industry.  We want to share with you (in no particular order) trends and types of equipment that caught our eye…Star Performers if you will, in that they bring something new or different to the industry.

Please note, neither this list nor the manufacturers cited, should be construed as a recommendation.  Rather we feel these items and ideas are worthy of consideration for many specific applications.

  • The race to robotics is in full force in foodservice equipment….

Imagine eating a freshly made salad from a vending machine.  Crazy idea?  Maybe a few years ago but not today.  Not with one piece of equipment that creates made-to-order salads inside a vending machine. Just a push of several buttons and your idea of a perfect salad is prepared for you. (Chowbotics)

Other robotic entrants are evident in ware washing and cooking tasks. A new robotic arm design is currently utilized to prep pizzas, prepare “bowls” and make your favorite espresso drink!

And another robot will take orders from the kitchen and deliver your food to your table.

  • The winner of niche product innovation goes to….

A piece of equipment that can infuse cold smoke into sauces within an enclosed environment. We overheard some chefs mention that this would be a good application for cannabis-driven recipes. (Fusionchef)

  • Fan favorite…or maybe just our favorite….

A beverage dispenser that dispenses healthy alkaline water, sparkling water, and hot water. The sparkling water is produced by a new carbonation technology that creates tiny stable bubbles reminding us of expensive champagne. This is a good example of one piece of equipment that can perform multiple tasks, all in a small footprint, producing a better beverage product. (Hoshizaki)

  • Urban farming technologies…

Shipping container farming and vertical indoor gardens support salad bar operations.  (FreightFarm)

  • Award for multi-use goes to….

One manufacturer offers a piece of equipment that can chill, blast chill, freeze, thaw, harden, proof, low temp cook, and retherm! (American Panel)

  • The race to zero waste continues…

With lots of equipment designed to minimize, reduce, and recycle foodservice waste.  One manufacturer has a closed loop system that grinds food waste and pumps waste to an external composter. The compost is in high demand by local farmers. (Insinkerator)

  • Customer-facing technology is prominent…

A new breed of self-serve espresso makers sport credit card swipes. All the espresso drinks taste like our favorite barista is right at our side! (Rancillio)

  • Web-based pre-ordering food is becoming all the rage…

One manufacturer has a hot and cold cubbie allowing you to access your pre-order lunch with a tap of your app. (RPI)

  • This year, more than ever, manufactured equipment is taking on more of a front-of-the-house look…

This goes with the trend of blurred lines between the kitchen and the dining areas. Lots of equipment have various color options and marketing options such as integral digital menu boards and messaging.

  • Winner for smallest cooking footprint….

A company that makes a double stack combi oven, ventless, that is just 22” wide. (Henny Penny)

  • With our ever-moving, mobile society…

So are examples of creative grab and go merchandisers. Merchandisers come in more sizes, configurations and style than ever before!

  • Energy reduction without sacrifice…

Induction technology hot food wells use less electricity and do not require drains or water. (Vollrath)

High-efficiency deep fat fryers continue to increase output and improve oil quality and ease of disposal. (Frymaster)

  • User-friendly and budget conscious….

One refrigeration manufacturer offers a very user/installation-friendly monitoring device, that is quite affordable, making it a great spec for any budget. (Coldzone Refrigeration)

  • Truly ventless….

One manufacturer has developed an undercounter dish machine to be truly ventless.  It’s designed to allow for steam to be captured internally before the door is open to reclaim the heat and keep the steam from a bar customer’s face. (Meiko’s MiClean)

Another manufacturer has designed almost all their dish machines, from door type, conveyor and flight type, to be ventless.  They seem to be leading the charge for ventless on every size machine exceptionally well.  (Champion)

Another mention that sticks out is a combi oven that can be double stacked under one ventless hood. In places like New York, this is a great spec for a small space looking for high firepower. (Rational)

  • As simple as it sounds…

One manufacturer offers a low-cost detergent entry point accessory which stops “detergent vendors” from randomly penetrating equipment. This is a common problem after installation and, many times, costs the customer their warranty. (Champion)

An Exciting Time

NAFEM demonstrates that there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to foodservice equipment.  The integration of new ideas that supports smart technology with streamlined production means environmentally-friendly, innovative solutions for everyone involved.  It is an exciting time to be a part of the foodservice industry.

By:  Kip Serfozo, FCSI, LEED AP, WELL AP | Design Studio Manager | Atlanta

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Kip Serfozo
January 24, 2019
What Does A Well Café Look Like?
What Does A Well Café Look Like?

Every day we are bombarded by unhealthy food choices. It’s the fine-dining restaurant that serves oversized steaks and it’s the c-store that offers low-cost 32-ounce sodas. It’s the Michelin-star chef who puts too much butter and salt into dishes and it’s the big food companies that advertise cheap processed foods.   Two thirds of Americans are over-weight and one third are obese. Related health care costs are at an all-time high. One way to fight this epidemic is to create healthier environments. Smart leaders around the world are working hard to do just that.

Enter the International WELL Building Institute, or WELL

WELL is the world’s first building standard focused exclusively on human health and wellness. It combines best practices in design and construction with evidence-based medical and scientific research, using the built environment as a vehicle to support human health and wellbeing. WELL certifies buildings based on the level of overall healthy environment that they support.

The focus is human health and sustainability. WELL has partnered with GBCI, which also administers the LEED building certification. WELL focuses on the people in the building while LEED focuses on the building systems. A WELL certified building is noted as having the best possible work environment for its occupants. These buildings typically attract and retain high caliber workers. From an HR standpoint, healthy environments translate to low absenteeism and low injury rates. WELL certified buildings are a huge advantage to the local community due to all its sustainability features.

The WELL Standard = Seven Categories of Health

The WELL standard focuses on seven categories of health; namely nutrition, air, water, light, comfort, mind and fitness. There are building facility characteristics and operational criteria that focus on optimal performance of these categories.

With respect to nourishment, there is a focus on healthy menu items and motivating people to make smart food choices. This is accomplished through education, messaging/advertising, food positioning/merchandising, portion control and menu design. Some WELL strategies are accomplished through building design and equipment selection; while other criteria are accomplished through operational policies and procedures.

WELL Café – Form and Function

Let’s examine WELL criteria for the dining room and kitchen areas. Imagine you are a customer entering a WELL café.  This is what you could experience.

  • The main entrance is in a convenient location, and you see interior elements that celebrate delight, sense of place, culture and spirit. You first notice lots of vegetables and fruits as you approach the menu or food stations. Nearby, you might see a hydroponic garden.
  • Nutritional information is posted. Nutritional beverages such as sparkling water, fruit-infused waters, and plain filtered mountain spring water, are prominently displayed front and center with good visibility.  Typically fountain soda is either not offered, or if offered, the cup sizes are smaller.  There is no advertising for processed or high sugar foods, for example soda signs.
  • There are options for smaller portions at lower prices. Most foods are organic and labeled as humanely raised. There is a wide selection of foods offered for folks who have special diet requirements, such as vegan. The menu has a lot of vegetable-centric entrees and there is most likely a very large salad bar selection.
  • As you approach the dining room there is a lot of daylighting and views to the outdoors. Indoor plants are in the dining room. There is a dedicated area for mindful eating, away from the TV area.
  • Large digital screens are mounted to the wall that show indoor air quality measurements including temperature, humidity levels, particulate matter, C02 levels and outdoor ozone levels. Other screens and iPads present nutritional information and food source information for all the menu items.

Each of these elements contributes toward points toward WELL certification, platinum being the highest level.

The Chef Experience

Now imagine you are a chef going to work in a WELL kitchen!

  • If you rode your bike to work, there is a dedicated bike storage area and shower facilities within 650 feet of your kitchen.
  • The kitchen is relatively quiet as the facility is designed for a maximum noise criterion of 40 decibels.
  • Some of the work tables are adjustable and can be raised/lowered for the type of work you are doing. The Chef’s office includes a sit/stand manager’s desk.
  • There are a lot of windows in the kitchen. Chefs notice the kitchen is well lit, without a lot of glare from the stainless-steel surfaces.
  • Thermal comfort is optimal – no more hot, steamy kitchens! And there is a large digital screen on the kitchen wall that shows indoor environmental qualities including current decibel levels, temperature, humidity, water quality standards and air quality standards with respect to particulate matter generated from cooking exhaust hoods. The cooking exhaust hood has demand control ventilation modulating with the cooking equipment load.
  • The kitchen smells fresh! All heating and cooling equipment has large digital displays showing the temperatures. The janitor’s closet has a self-closing door with dedicated ventilation to remove orders. And there is dedicated separate storage for raw meats.
  • All the pots and pans are stainless steel, ceramic, aluminum or cast iron with no Teflon coatings.

Your shift is almost over – you are feeling healthy and the company has great health insurance benefits for you and your family. You look forward to coming to work on Monday to participate in a charity golf tournament.

All the above are examples of criteria that lead to WELL certification. Many of the criteria are company policy driven to ensure employees can maintain a healthy, mindful lifestyle. Employees and customers love the company culture of transparency that WELL encourages.

The WELL Journey

As you prepare for your WELL journey, a foodservice consultant can be a valuable team member to assist with WELL certification, from both the design and management consulting side of operations. Foodservice consultants are key decision makers during early stages of design to ensure projects are teed up for WELL success!

By:  Kip Serfozo, FCSI, LEED AP, WELL AP

Design Studio Manager | Atlanta

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News
July 6, 2018
Remembering John C. Cini
Remembering John C. Cini

Foodservice consulting icon John C. Cini, FFCSI, one of the founders of the firm, passed away peacefully at home surrounded by his family on Wednesday July 4th, 2018. He is survived by his wife, three children and their families.

John enjoyed an active, successful career in the foodservice and hospitality industry and was highly respected in the specialized field of foodservice design consulting as a pioneer and driving force that paved the way for many others. He began his career at Stouffer’s Restaurant and Prexy’s in New York City, gaining solid operations experience. In 1963, he was recruited by Marriott Corporation to direct its Food Facilities Design Division in Maryland. Five years later in 1968, he struck out on his own and was joined by fellow Cornell alumni, to start his own consulting firm, now known as Cini-Little International, Inc.  “To say it quite simply, John had the greatest impact on my professional life of any single individual, and an equally important influence on my life in general as one of a handful of those who have been a friend for over five decades.” says Bill Eaton, Chairman of the Board. John retired from the day to day business in June 2002, after leading his firm for 34 years as Chairman and CEO. John remained active on the board until 2016.

“I am privileged and thankful for the opportunity to work closely with John for almost four decades,” shares Ron Kooser. “As a colleague, business partner, and most of all, a friend. He had a zest for all things in his professional and personal lives, and enriched those who were fortunate enough to cross his path. Our industry has lost a bright light, and we will miss him.”

John started his firm in an era when foodservice within commercial facilities was regarded as a necessity with little emphasis placed on the important role food and dining plays within our everyday lives. John innately understood the importance of planning and designing a strong, efficient and dynamic foodservice operation to connect the community of people they served. Working with prominent architects and clients, his firm designed commercial kitchens for corporations, hospitals, universities, museums, and sports complexes as well as for hotels and famous restaurateurs. John was a master at selecting the best talent and expertise to design and produce a great project.  Thinking outside the box, John and his firm designed many of the “firsts” in the industry including the first food halls and scatter-style serveries.  John was responsible for designing kitchens and support facilities in a number of landmark projects including the iconic twin towers at the World Trade Center, Colonial Williamsburg, The Greenbrier, IBM, and the National Gallery of Art.

Diane Dowling, CFO/CEO, shares “As his daughter, I had the privilege of seeing how much my dad loved his profession and the foodservice industry in general. He had an innate curiosity and ability to reason through difficult problems that led him to be so successful during his career. It was my honor to work by his side for many years and now to lead the company he built.”

John was a founding member of FCSI, Foodservice Consultants Society International, and was honored as a member of the “FCSI Council of Fellows” in 1986, for his extraordinary contributions to the foodservice and hospitality industry.  Dick Eisenbarth, Vice President of Strategic Relations and Board Member of Cini-Little, reflected, upon hearing the news of John’s passing, “He believed in preparing young people for careers in the foodservice industry and supported the growth and education of the foodservice consulting profession through this Society.”

John’s interests and involvement extended beyond Cini-Little as well. He served on a number of board and advisory committees including University of Delaware’s Hotel, Restaurant & Institutional Management School’s Advisory Council during the creation and early years of the program. John, a Cornell Hotel School Alumnus, was an active member of the Cornell Hotel Society. As an opera enthusiast and music lover, he held a long-term position on the Board of Visitors for the School of Music at the University of Maryland. He was a long-time supporter of the arts.

John made a huge impact on our industry and personally touched many, many people, inside and outside of the firm.  Kathleen Held, CMO of Cini-Little, remembered John fondly, “He always asked profound questions and his mind was razor sharp. He had the ability to articulate his thoughts in a way that made everyone stop and want to listen. You are just a better person for having been around and mentored by someone like John Cini.”

We mourn the loss of a warm and wonderful man. John will be deeply missed and always remembered. The family will receive visitors at Pumphrey Funeral Home, 300 W Montgomery Ave, Rockville, Maryland, on Monday, July 9, 2018, from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, July 10, 2018, at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church, 9200 Kentsdale Dr, Potomac, MD. Burial will follow at Gate of Heaven Cemetery, 13801 Georgia Ave, Silver Spring, MD.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests contributions be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

 

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