Now that the design and or development team has selected, it is time to get down to business… This is typically where a new owner’s heads start spinning, particularly if we are discussing a hotel kitchen layout approach due to the vast complexities of such a concept. They will field questions about their concept from everyone involved… But again, with the right team and coordinator in place, the overload of questions would be kept to a minimum, but even then, it can be an overwhelming time in a project for even the most seasoned restaurant and hotel operator. I am well versed in all the facets an owner will encounter, but this blog is all about kitchens, so I’ll stick to a restaurant or hotel kitchen layout approach aspect here since they are essentially one in the same…
I cannot speak for all kitchen design and supply consultants, but I jokingly like to tell clients that all I need to get started is for them to give me the menu and for the architect to tell me where the walls are. This is in fact a true statement, and I have designed many a kitchen with just this basic of information, but I think this approach of designing strictly by menu and rules of thumb may not always be in the best interest of the client, and their budget.
Case in point… Several years ago, a very prominent architecture firm, and one who in fact was instrumental in helping me get started in this business and has since been a long time client, brought me a foodservice project located in a very high-end health club. It wasn’t a large job, basically a small café that whose intention was to offer healthy restaurant quality meals and beverages to their substantially sized membership. Since I have a large culinary and management background in this type of environment, I probably have a better perspective on the needs for such an establishment than others, but that is a different conversation entirely.
The short of it is that the client was sold on the value of incorporating such a concept into their business and once approved, the preliminary drawing the architect developed was sent to me to revise and provide the functionality that was needed. The design I received was basic enough and the style of restaurant or hotel kitchen layout approach that was taken by the architect was a valid one as he was following the general “rules of thumb” for developing a kitchen; including a cooler, coffee equipment, blenders, range, etc. but what struck me was the aspect that those rules of thumb told the architect to install a walk-in freezer, which would typically be roughly a % of the size of the walk-in cooler. This is of course a standard course of development for a cafe, restaurant or hotel kitchen layout approach, but being a chef myself, and understanding the needs of a café in this type of facility, as I started my redesign, the first thing I removed was that walk-in freezer.
A health club, particularly a high-end establishment, whose goal is to provide quality, healthful food items does not need to incur the expense or implement the use of such a walk-in freezer. To make a short story longer, a café in this environment dictates that the food items it sells should be comprised of fresh, and hopefully locally sourced, and even better, organic ingredients; which is far more compact than one would see in a hotel kitchen layout approach. Providing food offerings in this type of environment that consist of canned or frozen, partially fabricated items is completely contradictory to the aspect of living a healthy lifestyle that the club is trying to promote overall.
Needless to say, once the redesign was completed and the explanations were given about how our design approach was developed, the client quickly asked for a proposal from my firm to fully develop their operations for the café including budget ROI and menu development, chef hiring, training and so on. Today, we have a very happy client, who in turn has a very happy membership and have a classically trained chef in their employ that now lives a dream lifestyle of relatively normal work hours, while getting to do what he loves best.
The lesson here is that unless there is a certain amount of guidance provided by the client as to the intended operations of the project for something as small as a health club cafe, it is up to the food service consultant to either personally become intimately familiar with the operation itself, or pose the right questions to get the information they need to design the project to meet the needs of that client, not exceed them.
Eat well my friends!