By:  Laura Lentz
Senior Associate/Project Manager – Washington, DC Office

A Raw diet is any diet that consists primarily of unheated food or food cooked to a temperature less than 104°F to 115°F.  The most well known of these is Veganism but there are many forms.  This blog takes a look at my journey to understand Raw Foodism and some of the things I discovered along the way.

My interest started with a client who asked us to design a Raw foods station.  As a foodservice design consultant, I figured success would mean working myself out of a job.  I spec cooking equipment for heaven’s sake, what I am going to give them, an empty counter with a refrigerator?  I knew there had to be more and while I had heard the terms before and am a little familiar, I couldn’t figure out how or why someone would want to take meat out of the equation, much less cooking!  Even I need a burger and fries every once in a while. 

 But through a friend I found a local D.C. dietician who offered a raw diet that seemed like something I could live with and was based on a cookbook by Trader Joe’s.   Most importantly, it was only seven days, and I figured I could tolerate just about anything for seven days.  So I went to the grocery store and loaded up on veggies and fruits (8 cucumbers, 5 lbs of carrots, seven large bags of greens and much more).

Day 1: It was the kick off, and I was excited.  I made my morning Green Apple Juice smoothie and packed my snacks for work including a Mango Salad with Corn and Chick Peas.  The day went by easily, mostly I spent the day raving about this new detox diet I was doing, but I really did have more energy and felt a little lighter.  Little did I know, day 2 was the hard day. . . .

Day 2: The article said you might get a headache and on day 2, I’ll admit, MY HEAD HURT.  But the morning shake was Carrot Cucumber and it was a delicious recipe that I immediately liked.  At dinner, I was struggling through the diet and was fighting to make myself eat the veggies on the list.  But I was feeling better and more energetic and loose.

Day 3: I researched to learn that Raw Foodies believe that if you don’t cook the food beyond a certain degree your body retains much more of the energy and nutrients.  Day 3 was proof of that.  I started the day with a Shamrock smoothie that was awesome. I had more energy all day, went for a 6-mile run and didn’t even eat all the food that day.  In fact, I hadn’t really been hungry once during the diet so far and had really liked a lot of the food choices.  Dinner was Veggie Papusas, which were a great menu item that tasted delicious.  I’ll say, not like authentic papusas but they were delicious.

Day 4: This was my first tough day really craving a burger and fries or some junk food. A lack of sugar was harder than I thought too.  I made it through the day and enjoyed a delicious dinner recipe of lentil stew.  Don’t let me neglect to mention the benefits of weight loss. By this time I was seeing results in the scale which helps keep me from that nagging sugar craving.  For a RAW foodie, you see, the sugar must only be natural “raw” sugar found in foods, and in the case of this diet, only before noon. 

Day 5 and Day 6 Continued with better eating and wonderful foods and recipes.  I had a wonderful Kaleidescope Bean salad that continues to be a favorite.  It was only flavored with small amounts of salt and pepper and a delicious vinegar (no olive oil).

Day 7: I’ll admit on my final day, I celebrated with a happy hour beer and a cheeseburger but this was a great seven days and I have more energy, feel lighter and have even lost a few pounds.

My search for exploring Raw Foodism has been enlightening and while I have only touched the tip of the iceberg, I have learned a lot.  The Raw food diet I tried was 80% Raw Food Consumption with 20% cooked food consumption but there are many other formats and diet patterns.  I have a pile of new recipes. 

In terms of foodservice design, mostly I’ll say that a well designed RAW food station has a few must haves: A top of the line juicer, a blender or two, if the facility is large enough, you could need as much as a cutter dicer, a rice cooker for each type of rice is recommended, likely a brown rice cooker and possibly a second for Quinoa or hard rice, lastly a vessel for holding soups warm like a lentil curry and vegetable stews.  It is likely obvious but you need many cutting boards and lots of refrigeration.  You may like to include a sushi refrigerator as well.

Because of the simple preparation, the beauty of a raw foods station is that it can be carved into an existing servery quite easily.  It works great as a feature display kitchen or flexible station because it requires very little equipment and no exhaust hoods.  If done well, this can become a whole feature station in itself with independent choices offering vegetarians and special diets something beyond the salad bar.  As a self serve feature, a grain bar can also provide a consistent offering at this station.  The key factor to success is to recognize that raw foodies are serious about nutrition.  Many Raw Foodies believe that the western diet does not include enough fresh foods, veggies and fruits and that maintaining a proper balanced diet is critical.  Any schools or programs that are looking to implement this type of menu option should contact a local dietician or culinary professional to ensure that the menu items are nutritionally balanced.

Currently, a number of Universities and Colleges offer Vegan/Vegetarian food options and stations.  Oklahoma City University, claims to be the first University to offer a full raw food station beginning in 2010.  I wouldn’t know whether this is a fad or a trend just yet but it certainly puts more awareness on healthy food options and is getting a lot of press.  With a growing population that has a number of food allergies and an awareness of many complications that bad food diets cause later in life, students today are searching for options and better decision making.  A raw food diet may be just what they need to implement a healthier diet.

By:  Nahum Goldberg, LEED AP
Senior Associate/Project Manager – San Francisco Office

Despite health concerns related to the consumption of fried foods, frying will still have its place on many restaurant and institutional menus, and most commercial kitchens are still being equipped with fryers.  Vegetable frying oil, after repeated exposure to heat and food elements in the fryer, degrades and must be exchanged for fresh oil. Proper handling and recycling of the used oil integrates sustainable values and good business practices since the used oil has considerable value to the burgeoning biodiesel industry. Additionally, how the operator handles used oil is critical to worker safety and to the overall cleanliness of the facility. 

Initially An Environmental Challenge
Spent cooking oil from fryers should never be poured down the sewer drain because it can solidify and clog sewer systems, causing huge costs for property owners and water districts.  Local and national laws and codes require that the oil be captured before entering the public sewer lines.  Oil that does get through pollutes waterways and clogs ground water absorption systems.

While not the main focus of this article, incidental spills and oily residue is often washed down the drain while cleaning the kitchen or processing food. As a result, in-line oil and grease interceptor tanks are used to collect the grease and oil before it hits the public sewer system.  Required in commercial food service facilities, such central grease capturing devices must be emptied regularly, and the oil must be disposed of properly by specialized service companies.  Installing these devices and contracting with removal vendors is a cost that must be borne by the owner or operator.

On the other hand, the disposal of fryer oil – initially seen as a cost of being environmentally responsible – has turned into a financial plus for operators. 

Waste Vegetable Oil – A Commodity With Increasing Value
As most operators/ managers know, waste vegetable oil has become a highly sought after, valued commodity. The value of the used oil fluctuates based on commodity prices for “yellow grease” and biofuels. One only needs to Google the words “stolen cooking oil” to see pages and pages of recent news reports on sophisticated oil theft operations all over the country – New York, Atlanta, Los Angeles to mention a few. This is no surprise since the value of biodiesel has risen from about nine cents per gallon ten years ago to well over $3 a gallon recently, in line with oil price increases in general.

National and regional oil collection companies actively are seeking new business and will compensate (rebate) for the used oil.  There are generally no collection equipment costs when food service operators enter into a contract with an oil collection service.  The collectors are eager to get the oil and make their profit from reselling or processing it. Contracts may contain variable pricing or may “lock in” to long-term prices, may depend on volume and quality of collected oil, and may be tied to the commodity price for “yellow grease”.  Some local companies encourage a donation program whereby operators can opt to give their proceeds to local schools and non-profits – or alternatively the operator can receive a quarterly check. As in any service or product offering, learning the local offerings, terms and contract details will prove valuable in negotiating the agreement with an oil collection firm.

What to Do With Fryer Oil??
Let’s discuss briefly some options for handling waste vegetable oils – and don’t forget – always check local building department and waste water district requirements for your area and application.

For the small establishment or caterer, even a few gallons of oil need to be handled properly. Once cooled, return to original packaging, seal well and label.  Seek a local recycler or disposal method compatible with local codes. Local waste districts will usually have drop off locations for residents. Regional processors such as Sirona Fuels in N. California or The Alternative Fuel Foundation in the Northeastern U.S. can provide you with locations for delivery, and in some cases will even pick up smaller quantities of oil. See links below for more info.

For small restaurants, with a low-to-mid volume of used oil, the best solution is to drain the cooled oil to a bucket and transfer either to the original containers or out to a 55 gallon drum in the dock area for collection. Drums are usually provided free of charge by the collector. A tremendous step up from schlepping buckets of oil around is to use an oil transport unit, available from the prominent fryer manufacturers, which includes a spill resistant tank and a pump for transfer from the fryer to the collection vessel.

For larger frying programs, such as an operator with several fryers and a mid-to-high volume of used oil, a direct plumbed oil transport system could be considered. This type of arrangement greatly improves workplace safety as it eliminates the handling of hot oil and prevents dangerous spills. Cleanliness is also enhanced and careless dripping and spills are prevented. Used for decades by most major fast food companies, we have found that institutional operators and facilities managers are generally pleased with the direct plumbed systems for the same reasons.

The direct plumbed system connects the collection tank, available in 100 – 300 gallon versions and located near the pickup or dock area, directly to the fryer or fryer battery. Keep in mind the fryers must have a pumped filter system with installed 3-way valve to pump oil out. Alternatively, there are other methods, such as a wall-mounted pump station adjacent to the fryer(s). The pump station usually includes a wand, which can be inserted into the fryer vat to pump out the used oil, transporting it directly through the pipes to the collection tank on the dock.  Coordination between fryer manufacturer, plumber and oil collection company is required for a properly installed system.  Check out the links below for more information and options.

Collection Tank Options
As mentioned above, various tanks such as the basic 55 gallon drum or a mobile +-100 gallon mobile tanks are usually offered at no charge by the oil collection companies who are eager to contract with operators. Frontline International and Darling/Cleanstar also sell the larger more sophisticated tanks for direct plumbed systems. Features include safety valve systems, fill gauges, overfill alarms, line heating systems and more. Darling recently introduced an indoor 200 gallon “BOSS spacesaver” oil collector. The 48” x 27” footprint unit combines functionality as an oil storage tank while supporting wire shelves from front mounted standards and is designed to accommodate small facilities who might not have the space for other methods. Links to several equipment suppliers’ websites can be found below.

To prevent the likelihood of oil reaching the ground water or sewer systems, local codes often require secondary containment systems for outdoor tanks or waste oil holding areas. Some tanks have integral dual wall containment. Used oil receptacles should generally be placed in covered areas with basins to capture spills or overruns. For smaller venues with limited space, this can be a major challenge. A plastic weather proof containment system designed for a 55 gallon drum is a low cost solution. A link to a manufacturer website is provided below. Always check with local authorities for requirements.

Whichever tank collection system is used, a collection truck will come periodically with suction equipment to remove the oil or they may switch out the smaller tanks or drums. Larger collection tanks can be plumbed to a convenient location where the collection truck’s suction hose can connect. Large collection tankers have suction capacity that allow emptying of the collection tanks in a matter of minutes.

Remember to get complete information about collection tank alternatives, location access requirements, and spill clean-up procedures before signing a collection company contract.

Onsite Biodiesel Processors and Oil Powered Generators
This year’s National Restaurant Association Show’s Kitchen Innovation winner in this area featured the Springboard Biodiesel Processor which produces high grade ASTM biodiesel in a small footprint fully automated process. For a larger facility this may be the way to go – efficiently transforming your used oil to fuel for your vehicles.

 The Vegawatt, an NRA Kitchen Innovation Award Winner from 2010, converts used oil to power and heating.

In principal these innovative technologies makes great sense, but should be looked at carefully to assure appropriate sizing per your oil usage, return on investment and equipment reliability references. See links below for more info.

What’s Next?
By saving waste vegetable oils and converting them to energy and fuel  – restaurants and other food service facilities take their efforts a step further – from saving energy to creating energy.  We will be looking forward to seeing further innovations in equipment, systems and operational practices that will encourage foodservice operators to generate renewable resources.

Links and Resources
The links below are examples relevant to the subject matter. Please note they are not meant to be comprehensive nor are we endorsing any suppliers.

 Calfog.org – Tips on cleaning and maintaining your grease interceptor http://www.calfog.org/docs/SJ_handouts.pdf 

USDA Weekly Yellow Grease Commodity Pricing Report (commodity pricing source) http://www.ams.usda.gov/mnreports/lswagenergy.pdf

 Waste Vegetable Oil Collection – Services and Equipment 

Alternative Fuel Foundation – N. Eastern U.S..  http://www.alternativefuelfoundation.org/

 Darling Industries – National http://www.darlingii.com/pdf/Grill Grease Management 6 11 08.pdf

 Frontline International – National – (Equipment Only) http://www.frontlineii.com/waste_oil_direct.html

 Sirona Fuels – N. California Area  http://www.sironafuels.com/recycle-your-cooking-oil/

 Yokayo Biofuels – N. California Area http://www.ybiofuels.org/ 

 Spill Containment System for 55 Gallon Drum  http://spillsource.net/SPILL_CONTAINMENT_PRODUCTS/SPILL_PALLETS/OUTDOOR_SPILL_PALLETS/OUTDOOR_ENPAC_SPILL_PALLET/ULTRA_HARDTOP_P1_PLUS.html

 Vegawatt – Cogeneration Device  http://www.vegawatt.com/

 Springboard Biodiesel – Biodiesel Processing Devices  http://www.springboardbiodiesel.com/

By:  Stuart Davis, LEED Green Associate
Senior Associate/Project Manager – Chicago Office

LED lighting presents an energy efficient option, but it may not be suitable for all areas of a foodservice operation.  With the long list of benefits that LED lighting provides, there are many situations where it is the best choice.  However, not all foodservice applications are created equal, and the pros and cons of all available lighting sources should be considered when determining the best option for each application.

What makes LED lighting a good choice?

  • It has a longer life – lasting 10 to 25 times longer than other bulbs (see footnote 1).  This can be ideal for maintaining lighting in relatively inaccessible locations or in operations where lighting is in use for long periods of time.
  • It has lower heat emissions – 5 times less than an incandescent bulb of the same wattage (see footnote 2).  LED lighting can be beneficial when used in areas where heat can compromise the surrounding areas, such as refrigerated display cases.
  • It has a lower operating cost, which becomes very important considering that lighting represents approximately 11% of a restaurant’s energy bill and 40% of energy usage in a commercial building.
  • It is environmentally friendly (no mercury, and in some cases, lead-free).
  • It turns on instantly.  This can be a valuable asset for walk-in refrigerators and freezers, where it is necessary to get in and out of the walk-in as efficiently as possible.
  • Lower temperatures increase light output and efficiency, also making it a good option for walk-in refrigerators and freezers.
  • It has more design options, offering greater flexibility. 

Where does LED lighting fall short?

  • A lack of standardization within the industry causes differences in quality.  Even products within the same manufacturer’s batch can vary in light output and color temperature.
  • It is expensive.  Average retail cost of a 60-watt incandescent is $1.25, compared to $35.95 for an equivalent LED bulb (see footnote 3).
  • Color appearance can lack quality and consistency.  Color appearance is measured by correlated color temperature (CCT) on the Kelvin (K) scale. For most interior lighting applications, warm white (2700K to 3000K) and in some cases neutral white (3500K to 4000K) light is appropriate. Bulbs with a CCT higher than 3000K begin to develop a bluish appearance and may not be appropriate for many foodservice applications.  Even high-quality LED lights can develop a drift in color temperature shifting from a natural light to a bluish color in just 1 to 2 years’ time.
  • LED bulbs with a higher color temperature than 2700 Kelvin can cause glare.
  • It cannot produce a “range” of color when dimmed.  Incandescent light becomes warmer in color when dimmed, whereas LED light produces the same white output.

 Where should foodservice operations use careful consideration when specifying LED lighting?

  • Refrigerated cases.  The color temperature of the light should be specified properly to compliment the contents of the case.  Using no higher than 2700 Kelvin lamping is essential, as higher color temperatures can render food unappetizing.
  • Areas that require dimming.  If an appropriate range of color or consistency cannot be achieved with LED lighting, other lighting options should be considered.  Careful consideration should also be applied to the transition between display kitchens and the surrounding dining area. Theatrical gels can be used for modifying the range of color in LED lighting in a dining area, but they do not meet the health code requirements for display kitchens.
  • When cost is a factor.  Depending on the size of the project, the upfront cost of LED lighting may be prohibitive.

 With technological advancements and more standardization, the cost and quality of LED lighting will hopefully improve and foodservice consultants can increase its use.  In the meantime, consultants can demand to see a sample of the LED product specified in use, in order to determine if it will be adequate for the application.  Consultants should not assume that a 2700 Kelvin bulb will be appropriate for an application without testing it, as they are not consistent from manufacturer to manufacturer.

Getting involved and working together with the lighting consultants and architects on each project will ensure the lighting installations offer the best possible experience for the client and the consumer.

 Footnotes:

(1)  http://www.energysavers.gov/your_home/lighting_daylighting/index.cfm/mytopic=11978#q11
(2)  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Light-emitting_diode
(3)  http://eartheasy.com/live_led_bulbs_comparison.html#a

By:  Armand D. Iaia, FCSI
Regional Manager – Chicago Office

One of the things that many architects and interior designers don’t consider when they are planning foodservice facilities is the staff count and associated cost of labor that will be needed to run the facility they are designing.  While large cafeteria facilities typically generate enough cash flow that they can afford operating staff as required, smaller facilities are a different issue. 

If smaller facilities have stations too spread out or situated out of the way so that it requires one or more dedicated person to run each station, it can doom a facility before it even has a chance to get on its feet.    Smaller facilities need to have stations that are connected so that when the operation is not running at full tilt, the whole place can be run by a single person.   This is especially true for small cafeteria serveries and coffee and snack bars usually found in healthcare, universities, offices and hotel lobbies. 

But it’s not just about the size of the facility.  Even larger facilities have slower periods.  The desire to provide customer service and convenience in the slower evening and weekend periods has to be balanced with the need to keep operational costs low.  Consider stations with flexibility in mind, not just stations in a row.  For example….a grill that doubles as a deli or maybe an international (Made To Order) station, or a deli that doubles as a grab & go by using convertible   sneeze guards.  This way, the overall footprint can be kept smaller and labor costs can be minimized during slow periods.

Cashiering is another important factor to consider in small facilities or large facilities with slow periods.  A separate remote cashier station staffed by a cashier is great for peak traffic flows but the labor cost cannot be justified when traffic count is low.  A separate cash register should be on the primary counter so the staff person there can serve and handle the cashiering function.  If there is no room there, a separate mobile cashier stand should be available to be wheeled into place next to the primary counter.  This secondary cash register needs to be located in a position with a good sight line to the entire facility, especially the entrance.  This allows a single person to run the operation while facilitating good customer service and proper security protocols that reduce the potential for theft.

While labor costs can and do vary quite a bit from place to place in North America, U.S. minimum wages (currently $7.25/hr and above, depending on state) plus any benefits that may be required make it important that small facilities keep labor to 33-35% of total sales (depending on sector).  Too high a labor cost or too much theft will sink a small facility that would otherwise be a great convenience to patrons.

Consider also the labor costs associated with cleaning.  More space means more space to clean and typically higher labor costs.  Along those same lines, china and flatware means a dishroom and the labor costs associated with that.  Consider whether disposable wares make financial sense for small facilities or during slow periods.  Balance this with how it fits with your facility’s mission of environmental responsibility.

Regardless of size, all facilities should be designed with the peaks and valleys of customer demand in mind.   The design can either allow or constrain the operation’s flexibility, and in turn its ability to provide good customer service within acceptable operating costs.

By:  Theodore E. Farrand, FMP
President – Washington, DC Office

 Definition and Purpose:

 The term “programming” is a very broad category in the design world.  It can mean a simple list of rooms/spaces  with square footages assigned to each, or it can mean a detailed description of the operating parameters and design criteria for a new or renovation project. It can take many forms in between the two.

 The purpose of a Program in any design is to define the scope and parameters of the project that will guide the planners in all that is designed, so that the final product meets all the objectives of the client and users.

 A carefully developed design program saves time in the entire process, avoids costly changes after the design has been finalized, and is based on sound data and analysis early in the process to allow well thought-out decisions by the stakeholders of the project.

 Participants:

 In addition to the owners, architects, engineers, and others on the design team, other parties may also be involved in the early data gathering stage. Current or future operators, maintenance personnel, and customers are likely to have valuable insights to assist in the process.  There may also be an opportunity to survey the employee base for their input as to preferred food types and favorite outside dining establishments, which guides the planners in including food outlets that will likely be most successful.

 Objectives:

The goals of the owners must be the starting point.  A number of questions must be posed before any planning begins, such as:  What is the client’s vision for foodservice?  Do they want to update their older, facilities in exchange for a more efficient and/or sustainable operation?  Do they want to increase or decrease capacity to match a new demand?  What policies exist in this corporation’s culture that will affect the future foodservice, such as virtual work policies?  Do they have a cashless payment system in place today or do they want to implement such a system?   

 If they have no on-site foodservice today, do they need assistance in learning all about the capital, space and operating costs that will be required for full or scaled back foodservice operations?  What is the client’s estimated budget for the new or renovated facilities?   Visits to comparable sized operations can provide important impressions of what the client wants, particularly if they have no current foodservice or need to see new concepts that are popular today.

 Data Gathering:

 The basic information needed includes employee population, general breakdown of employee categories (i.e., portion of the staff that are in sales and therefore frequently out of the office, the portion that may be call center staff, who have very limited times for dining, the ratio of executive/management to general staff categories, etc.).  In addition, the projections for population growth are critical for the design team, as they must determine what the “design population” is to be.  In other words, what is the targeted population for the design?

If the project is a renovatiton, current operating statistics are very important and should include customer counts at all day parts, for every day, for a representative period, and if seasonality affects participation, then different months’ statistics may also be included.  This will tell the team what the current participation rates are today, and allow calculation of what the potential increased participation will be in the new facilities.  Current sales mix (what foods are purchased today) will help with planning the menu platforms for the new facilities. The amount of customers purchasing take out foods tells the team how much of the foodservice should be “express” or “grab n go” concepts versus “cooked to order” stations.  It is also important to understand check averages and client P&L or subsidy goals to understand what the market will bear in considering the stations to be included.

Concept Development:

 Today’s successful on-site dining concepts focus on foods freshly prepared in front of you, and incorporate healthful menu choices along with traditional foods. The “cafeterias” of yesteryear, with their huge kitchens and a sea of stainless steel steamtables have been replaced with “dining centers”, or “cafés”.  Servery Stations have been replaced with exciting “destinations”, where oftentimes food is prepared or finished to order in front of customers.   Fresh food displays, locally sourced foods, vibrant graphics all contribute to lively dining experiences today.  The majority of cooking is done in the servery, and much less in the kitchen.  The programmer must translate all the previous information into a clear list of what will be included in the new foodservices. What part does sustainability play in the project?  Is it to be LEED certified?  If so, have all possibilities for foodservice been considered, such as Energy Star equipment, variable speed exhaust hoods, composting and other solutions?

 Quantitative Requirements:

 The projected demand levels for the peak serving period guides the programmer to adequately size the facilities.  Industry rules of thumb are used to calculate the peak demand throughput. The dining spaces are sized based on the degree of comfort the owner desires.  Many dining rooms are subdivided spaces with a mix of types of tables: traditional tables for two and four, lounge type “soft” seating, bar type seating, etc.

 How do the sizing calculations relate to the expected operating costs?  Is the facility sized right?  Is the owner/client willing to subsidize operating costs if the offerings are more generous than the sizing directs?

 Cost estimates for major foodservice equipment is generated early, to which the architect adds the total costs of construction and other furnishings and finishes.  The estimates keep the project on target and are revised as the project progresses through each design phase.

 Strategies are often developed at this stage for the following elements:

 Centralization and decentralization:  If there is more than one point of service, is it practical to group some of the function components in one facility to be able to supply all locations?

  • Flexibility of Destinations:  How much flexibility should and can be incorporated into the design?  Future concept shifts are possible with counter top equipment versus drop in equipment.
  • Flows of customers, product, serviceware, and trash/garbage/recyclables/composting:  Have all logistical routes been optimized in the planning?

   Preparation for Schematic Design:

  The next tasks are for the client/owner and architect to approve or modify the written design program so that the foodservice designer can begin to test fit the available spaces.   The designer develops the foodservice facility with a logical plan following the natural flow of the foodservice:  loading/receiving dock, storage components, preparation and production, service/final cooking areas, cashiering, dining, tray return, dishwashing, potwashing, trash/garbage/recycling/composting functions.  The designer must follow the goals of creating efficient workstations, following all applicable codes.

 A well developed foodservice design program will serve as a solid foundation for the design that evolves.

By: William V. Eaton, FFCSI – Chairman of the Board, Washington, DC Office
And Nahum Goldberg – Senior Associate, San Francisco Office

Culinary Schools tend to have a personality all to themselves, driven to a great extent by a combination of the teaching faculty and the history of the school itself.  Schools with decades, and in some cases centuries of history, have a strong basis in tradition.  That does not say that they are not forward thinking, just that there is history and tradition to be considered as they continue to mature.   Newer schools tend to look at the historic leaders for guidance and direction and then strive to match, or even surpass, the cornerstone institutions.  Each seems to find its place in the fabric of Culinary excellence, providing a firm basis in culinary skills and then fostering the individual growth of the student so that he or she can attain the position in the industry that fits the skills and passion exhibited.  

As we work with culinary schools across North America, we form a partnership with the various stakeholders including faculty and administration in order to define the ultimate goals of the institution and then work carefully to provide the tools necessary to meet the vision.  Standards of design often relate to the class size and individual laboratory and student workspace as well as how the workstations are developed and whether students work individually, in pairs, or occasionally in groups of four, or even six.  There is no “right” configuration, but one that meets the teaching format of the faculty.  Some important elements and considerations include accessible workstations, teaching and demonstration stations with maximal visibility by students, and the inclusion of 21st century technology options such as smart cameras and screens for demo stations, prep and cooking cams to view the Café kitchen, POS/printers/communications technologies in the Café, and where applicable, the infrastructure for educational recordings and broadcasts.  These details are narrowed down as a direct result of our research in the early programming phases. Generally, as the faculty and instructors download their ideas, we are able to combine and sort them into the best arrangement for each teaching application. 

The most significant trends in the industry relate to preparing the students for the vast array of culinary options that currently exist and are changing and expanding daily. While not every student is destined to be a highly acclaimed chef, just as not every athlete is destined to be an Olympic Medalist, none should be dissuaded from aspiring to that position.  Teaching laboratories require the best in equipment, a variety of manufacturers, and a variety of fuels. Flexibility in design is key to “future-proofing” the facility as menu, curriculum and area usages change over time.  This can be achieved by making cooking equipment mobile, plug-and-play and not built-in.  Utility systems (power, water, fire suppression systems and drains) can be placed at key locations to allow for equipment changes.  Worktables and other items can be put on casters with ceiling mounted cord reels.  In the end though, most students will find themselves to have seen their best kitchen while in school until such time as they have the backing to build their own restaurant or are fortunate enough to be selected to open a new property. 

The industry is focused on sustainability although no one is quite sure what that means.  To many it is simply “being green” yet the lengths one goes to attain that goal determines the seriousness of the commitment.   Fresh ingredients obtained locally is a big step, so a well-designed deboxing and washing station should be included for vegetable sanitation for local produce deliveries.  The behind-the-scenes actions of energy and water conservation, composting and recycling are important lessons as well and should be designed into the facility. A direct plumbed used cooking oil disposal system should be considered, providing a better product for biodiesel recycling in a safer, cleaner manner. 

One cannot ignore the importance of eating healthy food and making healthy choices in order to combat the problems facing the nation relative to the combined impact of obesity and hunger.   Working for a better nation and world through the knowledge of food done well cannot be overemphasized.  The culinary school environment should be one where students learn today’s methods and are inspired to create a better tomorrow.

By:  Ronald P. Kooser, FFCSI
CEO –  Cleveland Office

Johnny asks:  Why can’t I have an ATV, like all the other kids?

Suzy asks: Why can’t I have a pony like Jane?

In response, Johnny might get asked: “Johnny, will you take care of the ATV, provide fuel, maintain it, buy insurance? And where will you store it?” or Suzy gets asked: “Suzy, will you take care of the pony, clean the stall, buy feed, pay for the vet, etc.? And where will you keep it?”

Similarly, I hear from smaller facilities like 150 bed hospitals and 900 student colleges: “Why can’t I have a cafeteria like University hospital with 1,000 beds, or like State University with 40,000 students?”

It does seem similar, doesn’t it, when we receive requests from clients who all want Pizza made to order with hearth oven, a Deli made-to-order station, Salads made/assembled rather than a self-service salad bar, Pasta Station with ingredients assembled for each customer, Grilled sandwich made to order, etc.

And my response is similar too:  “Can you afford it? And do you have space for it?”  These features all take more space, and more labor, and more utility resulting in higher capital and operating costs.

Yet, foodservice is no longer a minor amenity to the building, no matter the population count. Colleges and hospitals are using foodservice to establish a high quality image.  Foodservice is also used for recruiting and retention, at both types of institutions.  In terms of justifying an investment by the ROI (Return On Investment), we have to ask: what is the return?  It might not be actual dollars, but rather more the human resources benefits. These intangibles sometimes justify the added expense by maintaining competitiveness in the marketplace, improving visitor, student and employee satisfaction, reducing staff turnover, reducing time away from the institution seeking other alternatives, and so forth.

Since it is difficult to put a dollar return to these benefits, we need to consider all avenues for reducing the costs.  Can stations be combined to reduce labor? Can hoods be minimized to reduce both capital and operating expenses?  We continue to evaluate until we reach that pivotal point where the facility best meets the needs of the client at a price the client can afford.

Of course, all this works best when the process is collaborative with the architects and engineers on the team.  Admittedly, they often enter the project with the perception that this will be the “typical” cafeteria operation for a smaller facility. Understanding the client’s broader objectives with the foodservice operation, we work with the design team to explain that more space and budget dollars will be needed than they have allocated.

All of these issues make the consultant’s job for the smaller facilities a real challenge, but that is what Cini•Little does:  collaborative partnering to plan functional and successful facilities.

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