As many of you know, after I write a post, I typically send it to all the groups of which I am a member of on LinkedIn. It is such a great site and as I don’t think it does much to generate business per say, but I think it is a great forum to learn from the challenges and successes of others in the industry through the experiences they share about their commercial kitchen design client.
The most recent post I sent to LinkedIn received an interesting response, posing a question from a designer in the UK. He asked “How do you manage a situation where the commercial kitchen design client or owner has commissioned you and you have prepared a scheme which you know will work well, but the head chef has different ideas?
Your reputation versus the Chef’s insistence that it is done his way!! ??” Thanks for that David!
I think this is a situation every that every consultant and architect has met at one time or another in their career and as one would expect, can prove challenging if not approached the right way.
The short answer to his question is “Give the customer what they want.” As anyone can appreciate, this type of situation came up all the time when I was a chef… The server would come in and say “The customer wants to order the crab cakes, but wants to know if he can get them with marinara sauce instead of creole mustard buerre blanc that is on the menu.” My ego immediately say “Are you crazy! I’m not going to serve my amazing crab cakes with marinara sauce!” But I learned early in my career that the customer is not always right, they are never wrong, but they are not always right. As I’m sure you will agree, there is a significant distinction there… My approach to this situation was to ask the customer if he would try the crab cases with my buerre blanc on the side and if he didn’t like it, I would happily send out marinara sauce. Needless to say (gratuitous pat on the back)… The server never came back in for the marinara sauce.
I take this same approach to commercial kitchen design and layout when working with a commercial kitchen design client… My job, as I see it, is to advise my clients on what I think is best for their situation based on the wealth of experience I bring to the table, not just as a designer but also as an operator. In essence, they are paying me for my opinion so I am obligated to not only give it to them, but also educate them on how my opinion became just that. I’ve worked with firms in the past who will make specifications or design components and simply say that is what they think is best and that’s why it is there. If you are anything like me, that doesn’t cut it… I want to know the how, why, when and where. I want to understand the thought behind the recommendation, otherwise, how do I know if it is right for me? This I think is not only my job to provide them with all the information they need to help them make the best decisions they can for their project, but quite frankly, by educating my client along the way, it makes my job easier. Sure, he or she doesn’t need to know all about CFM’s of exhaust and make-up air, but if I explain to him that if he tempers the return air, he will create a better balance of HVAC in his restaurant, thus keeping his utility bills in check, not to mention no one like cold air blowing down on them while working on a hot line… (you’re welcome line guys!)
The moral of my story is this… As a designer and consultant, it is my job to give my commercial kitchen design client as much information as I can so they can understand what I am proposing to them. They don’t have to agree with it, but they do need to understand it. As long as I’m confident that my clients understand it, I have no problem designing the project in any way that they need… My job as consultant has been fulfilled and their decision to eat a crab cake with marinara is ultimately their choice and they will have to live with it. At the end of the day, my job is advise, so until they change my title to “The Guy who just makes you Do Stuff,” all I can do is advise and offer that buerre blanc on the side in the hopes they at least have a taste of what it is they are paying for.
Eat well my friends!