Shared by:  Ron Kooser, FFCSI
Chief Executive Officer
Cleveland Office

You can just ask anyone who has gone through a multi phased/multi year construction project and they will question the savings, as they, and the staff has gone through h…….  But, they will also say it was a learning experience, if done properly with the thorough planning that is necessary.  If the project team is doing their job the operators will be thinking of issues they never would have considered and the end result will be a better operation for the process.

Yes we saved over $1,000,000.00 dollars at Mass General when we did the cafeteria project, but they were fortunate to have a space large enough to create a temporary facility to serve a limited menu.  In fact it was so successful people didn’t want them to shut it down.  It does show how you can be creative and accomplish a plus when negatives are perceived.  They created the Hard Hat Café, using plastic construction helmets for the staff, bare hanging light bulbs (I know about health department issues), ladders and work horses to support tables, portable food shields, and fun menu items.

Of course phasing the construction of a kitchen is another issue. This is especially challenging in hospitals, where foodservice never stops, and educational facilities where the down time for construction can be very limited.

This is when pre-planning with a project team that understands the operational requirement of the kitchen is essential.  It is also critical to have the engineers and architects on the same page of planning as it is not a simple manner to shut down an area, seal it off from other areas with dust screens and keep on operating.  Many times, in fact most times, interrupting service utilities while shutting down one area also shuts down an adjacent area.  Will it be necessary to create temporary utilities to allow this process to occur?  This may very well be the case, and what does this do to the budget?  These types of unforeseen costs can balloon the project cost out of reality, and if they occur after construction has already started can cost jobs.  Administration, or management, does not appreciate these surprises.

There has to be adequate time, and fees allocated for this critical phase, to look at all of the possible options.  Time and money needs to be available to evaluate the construction costs for each option, as well as the operating costs.  When you shut down the dish room for a period of time, and utilize all disposable ware, what is that cost.  If you have to switch some menu items to purchased/convenience foods what does that do to the costs.  Do these costs become part of the project construction budget, or are they just increased operating costs?

Is it worth purchasing, or leasing temporary equipment to minimize the length of time of a phase?  Often it is worth renting refrigerated trucks to be utilized while replacing old in efficient walk ins.  Can food be purchased from another facility in the area rather than by convenience foods?  Can the menu be reduced during phases? Can the schedule be phased to have work done in slower calendar periods?  Educational institutions obviously take advantage of summer schedules, but are there summer programs that are impacted.  Hospitals, depending on their location, or types of service might have slower times than others.  Corporate dining operations might be able to set up tents for summer picnics, or cook outside.

There are many options that need to be considered in the phasing of a foodservice construction project.  Pre-planning cannot be overemphasized, and the time and money to do it thoroughly comes back in many ways, including the sanity of the staff that has to live with it every day.

And of course all of this has to be coordinated with the health department.