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Facility Design Project of the Month, Aug. 2006: Café 37 at One South Dearborn in Chicago

Equipment and supplies tightly arranged in a servery, a support kitchen and floor pantries provide employees and guests at Sidley Austin with myriad food options for daily dining, conferences, meetings and special events. Placing the E&S in the narrow space allotted without obstructing the spectacular cityscape views yet allowing foodservice staff to be flexible and creative presented a logistical conundrum that was overcome with creativity and persistence.

In November 2005, law firm Sidley Austin LLP moved its Chicago offices from the former Bank One Plaza to the newly constructed One South Dearborn, the building situated directly across the street. Built by developer, owner and property manager Hines and designed by architectural firm DeStefano Keating Partners Ltd., the 820,000-square-foot office tower in the Loop section of downtown Chicago rises 40 stories with a dual-crown lantern soaring 60 feet above the structure. A 16,000-square-foot outdoor plaza of Italian granite fronts Dearborn Street, providing entry into a three-story glass and marble lobby. The building's infrastructure consists of a steel frame, reinforced concrete core and glass curtain wall cladding. One South Dearborn's tenant amenities include an on-site fitness center, conference facilities, 8,000-square-feet of retail space and four floors of above-grade parking.

Providing its attorneys, staff, visiting clients and guests a place where they could mingle and enjoy foodservice options ranked as a top priority for One South Dearborn's anchor tenant, Sidley Austin.

Gensler architects and interior designers and Romano Gatland consultants were hired to design Café 37, located on floor 37, and its adjacent kitchen, which supports the café, conference dining on the 37th and 38th floors and special event catering.

“The building creates a timeless character inspired by Chicago modern design, which has a plane composition where the walls act as architectural elements and become sculptural rather than decorative,” says Jayson Koback, Gensler's project designer in Chicago.“The planes extend, connecting the space and extending views and volume. We wanted to provide a backdrop to display the Sidley art collection as well as give access to the views and daylight. The interiors reflect the design direction of the building, including the balcony access from the conference center and café areas. The space is organized around the shape of the building and materials are inspired from the building. In addition, we integrated audio visual and technology in all meeting areas, including wireless connectivity in the café.”

Interior designers carried the palette of materials found in the general office space, including colored glass and stainless detailing into Café 37. Among the materials brought into the foodservice facility include ceramic wall tile in the kitchen, etched-back painted glass wall tile in the servery, quartz-based agglomerate material for the servery floor tiles and countertop material, iridescent white plastic laminate on the servery face panels and nylon carpet tile in the dining room. “We wanted the café to feel restaurantlike,” Koback says. “The vibrant colors, including pomegranate, offset by grays and blacks, offer visual interest.”

Adds kitchen consultant and designer Bob Pacifico, executive vice president of Romano Gatland, “From day one, it was a balancing act to satisfy all the needs requested by Sidley Austin — a servery and seating, a staff and lawyer cafeteria, conference dining and special event catering. Not only did we have to figure out how to place all the equipment and supplies needed to provide a top-quality café and conference dining, but we also had to figure out a way to transport food from the kitchen without going through a public corridor.”

Numerous meetings and tours to other foodservices revealed that Sidley Austin would have to make compromises in order to provide desired services within the space allocated by the architects. “The scope of services was narrowed,” recalls Richard Stolarczyk, vice president, Romano Gatland. “For example, though an action display cooking station was preferable, we only had space to do this at the grill. Another limiting factor was having only one hood out front.” According to Pacifico, the architects' insistence to keep the kitchen hidden from public view when the kitchen doors were open also consumed nearly 300-square-feet, which put further restrictions on the space availability. In addition, no sinks or vents could be placed on windowed walls, which comprise half the wall space.“We also created a coffee kiosk that could stay open after hours and a grab 'n go section that would allow for quick pick-ups throughout the busy periods,” Pacifico adds. “This contributed to making a flexible, good looking, utilitarian and multi-function space.”

While Pacifico and Stolarczyk designed the foodservice, Kent Bain, who heads up Romano Gatland Insights, was brought in to develop an RFP and select a foodservice contractor. Securing the business was Food for Thought Management, a 23-year-old Chicago-based foodservice provider that is a women- and minority-owned business. “This company brings a strong emphasis to food,” Bain says. “They have a mindset that allows them to look at food and service through the customers' eyes.”

Food for Thought got its start as an upscale catering company and extended its reach into business and industry 15 years ago. Nancy Garcia-Sharp sits at the helm of the company. Currently, her brother, Robert (Tim) Garcia, is vice president of foodservice management. After much deliberation and give-and-take between the architects, foodservice designers and consultants, the facility emerged into a 1,868-square-foot servery featuring a contemporary menu with limited exhibition cooking and made-toorder options. A coffee kiosk opens at 6 a.m., an hour before Café 37 begins general operations, and closes at 6 p.m., four hours after Café 37 closes.

Upon entering the servery, customers see a small display explaining and offering options for the cashless dining system.“This is the state-of-the-art way to transact business because it increases transaction times, line speed and operational efficiencies. This system offers exceptional reporting capabilities that help us manage our business,” Garcia says. The system accepts a Sidley Austin identification card, credit cards or debit cards. After customers make their menu selection, they approach a cashier's station where an employee tabulates their purchases, and they swipe their cards like a speed pass. The cards are recognized by a proximity reader.

At the entrance to Café 37, customers encounter the coffee kiosk. During Café 37's operating hours, customers walk along the line where refrigerated cases hold pre-made salads, such as honey lime chicken, grilled chicken Caesar, Italian antipasto salad, Mediterranean seafood, Southwestern chicken and cobb. Healthy Express items also include fruit and low-fat selections. Adjacent cases hold a variety of wraps such as vegetable, crispy chicken and Italian chef. At the end of the line are Tuscan Toasters featuring panini selections, including three cheese, honey lime chicken, the Sicilian and roasted vegetable. A reach-in refrigerator, a countertop slicer for deli meats, a panini grill and a countertop conveyor oven sit behind the counters for on demand use. Also on display are “toasted classics,” which are subs including Italian grinder, turkey, bacon and cheddar, and classic tuna. Staff also make pesto chicken salad, grilled tandoori chicken, smoked turkey and other specialty gourmet sandwich combinations.

Perpendicular to the refrigerated cases are three adjacent stations. First, a self-service Bistro station features entrées, such as a daily roast, casseroles, baked pasta, vegetables, potatoes and other starches, and a daily vegetarian selection. “We place the dishes in display cookware that sits on a stainless-steel plate that is positioned over steam wells. Heat lamps provide extra warmth from above,” explains John Reed, CEC, Food for Thought's divisional executive chef, who brings years of restaurant training to his position. He led the original team that selected Café 37's menu.

Reed adds that a custom-made well is being designed similar to a soup well in which pans will drop in and hang over the steam. “We believe we will have better control of the heat because the pans will be engulfed in steam,” he says. “We'll have a heat lamp, but it won't be positioned as close to the food as it is now.” Self-serve bistro selections are sold by the ounce, as are salads and soft-serve yogurt.

To the right of Bistro is the Charcoal Grille, where staff use a heavy-duty grill to sizzle beef and vegetarian burgers and chicken. Grilled items are also used for the bistro, sandwiches and catered menus. Staff also fry fish and house-made chips, chicken tenders, corn dogs, french fries, onion straws and tempura green beans.

At the end of this line is Trattoria Centro, offering individual-sized, thin-crust or pan pizza, which sits on a hot-plate pizza warmer. Also on the menu is a pizza cup, available with cheese, sausage, mushroom and pepperoni pizza varieties with the crust folded into a golden brown cup and topped with a marinara sauce. The menu also offers calzones. In addition, staff prepare omelets and eggs for breakfast at this station.“The hot food area can be manned by one employee if needed, so it is economical,” Pacifico says.

Sitting in the center of the servery is an elliptical-shaped salad bar presenting self-serve salad ingredients and prepared salads. Daily cream- and broth-based soups and chili sit in heated wells at the end of the bar towards the grill side. For breakfast, the bar displays fresh fruit and traditional and nonfat breakfast breads. Staff transform the equipment into serving venues for menu specialties during special events. Perpendicular to the hot food service section, is another serving counter that runs along a windowed wall. First on the line are beverage and ice machines. Food for Thought Express sits to the right of the dispensed beverages and includes refrigerated cases carrying bottled selections, fruit smoothies, yogurt parfaits, sushi, hummus and chips, cheese and crackers, coleslaw, potato salad, sandwiches, fruit cups and sliced fruit. An adjacent dessert section holds housemade desserts, dessert bars and cookies. Soft-serve yogurt is dispensed from an adjacent machine. Twelve toppings sit in containers next to the dispensing machine. A nearby toaster sits on a counter for heating bagels, muffins and croissants during breakfast service. At the end cap are packaged chips and cookies.

“The servery was designed quite efficiently within a very compact footprint,” Garcia says. Reed agrees and adds, “We inherited this space and we had to make our menu program work within the space. We didn't comprise quality at all.”

A pressing concern for Food for Thought Management, as well as Romano Gatland, was queue management. “We were able to use a double-sided salad bar, for example,” Reed says. “And, we noticed that traffic was dispersed well over the lunch period, which helped ease the lines.”

In the 2,600-square-foot dining area, a variety of furniture gives customers options to relax at four- or five-top round, white laminate tables, some of which can be adjusted to be used as standing café tables for special café events. Nylon-meshed-back dining chairs are stackable. Counter seating affords customers the spectacular north, south and western views of the city skyline. A corner area encompasses a gas fireplace, comfortable seating and a plasma screen. Also at this end of the servery is a 1,100-square-foot employee pantry and vending area. “Food made in the cafeteria is placed in vending machines, so it is fresh and appealing,” Garcia says.

A 1,100-square-foot kitchen abuts the servery's hot line. “We have all the equipment we need to be successful for the café, conference dining and special events,” Garcia says. “It allows minimal footsteps because there is not one wasted inch.” Though the kitchen functions well, Garcia and Reed admit they would prefer at least another 200-square-feet.

For production, staff bring food up to the 37th floor in elevators that empty into a foyer just outside the café. They transport food about 25 feet from the elevator into the kitchen's storage — a walk-in cooler, a walk-in freezer and dry storage — via a non-public hallway. In the front of the kitchen, directly behind the right side of the servery's hot line, staff use a six-burner range with a convection oven to make scrambled eggs, soups, sauces, stews, ragouts, vegetables and pasta. “We consider the Bistro to be like an à la carte restaurant,” Reed says. “Everything is prepared in batches.”

Also in this section of the kitchen is a tilt-jacketed kettle for making soups and sauces. Staff use a convection steamer for refreshing and finishing vegetables and pasta.

To the right of the convection steamer, staff put the doublestacked convection oven to continual use as they cook all pastries, biscuits and breads, and roast sirloin, turkey breasts, pork loins and other meats, and vegetables.

On the opposite side is another workhorse, the pizza deck oven. In addition to cooking pizzas here, the oven slow-roasts meats and quickroasts and carmelizes potatoes. Adjacent to the oven, a tilting skillet blanches vegetables, pasta, stews, ragouts and stir-fry dishes. Reed admits he is “partial to” the tilting skillet because “it is a great multitasker.” Staff use another versatile piece of equipment, the 60-quart mixer, for mass production of pizza dough as well as mashed potatoes. Also in the back of the house is a 300-square-foot warewashing section, complete with a rack conveyor, a mobile soak sink, scullery sink, a garbage disposer and shelving. “Café customers exit the servery and place their trays in a rack. Warewashing is further down in the core of the space,” Pacifico explains. Sound was a significant consideration when designing the warewashing area. “We had to soundproof this area outside and underneath because the machine could be heard in the offices,” Stolarczyk says.

For conference dining, staff use a dumbwaiter to transport food up three and a half feet to the 38th-floor catering support kitchen. “Originally, the dumbwaiter was in the middle of the kitchen,” Stolarczyk recalls. “Bob advised the architects not to keep it there because it would have taken up 16-square-feet and we desperately needed the space for equipment and staff movement.”

Three narrow pantries, consuming only 75-square-feet each, and holding beverage equipment and refrigerators, support conference catering buffets set out on black granite. When the pantry doors are closed, there's no evidence of a pantry behind because the access panels, made of lacquer, fit in with the floor's décor. Each buffet counter stretches 30 feet long, on which staff place a salad, two sandwiches, two entrées, vegetables, at least one side dish and soup. Most items are presented in freestanding chafing dishes protected by inconspicuous food shields. Desserts and beverages are served in individual meeting rooms.

“We utilize our base program as a starting point and then custom-design it for each site,” Garcia says. Each corporate culture is unique and we know that, simply put, the happier we make our customers, the more successful we'll be.”

In the days ahead, passion and competitive fitness will undoubtedly propel the Food for Thought team as they work to please discerning Sidley Austin attorneys, staff and their clients. Durable and reliable E&S will continue to be essential to the ambitious mission they pursue.

DESIGN CAPSULE

Café 37 at One South Dearborn provides foodservice to Sidley Austin employees and their guests. An adjacent dining room accommodates 144 customers in a variety of tabletop seating configurations. A counter has seats for 32. The café can serve up to 1,200 daily, but on average it serves 250 for breakfast daily and up to 600 for lunch daily. The foodservice provider, Food for Thought, also provides foodservice for conference dining on the 37th and 38th floors, as well as special events. The coffee kiosk in Café 37 is open Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. – 6 p.m. Café 37 is open Monday-Friday, 7 a.m. – 2 p.m. All purchases are cashless and processed with an ID badge, credit card or debit card. On the 37th and 38th floors, conference dining staff use a small kitchen and pantries to serve approximately 200 guests daily in a buffet-style format. Total foodservice staff is 26. Equipment package totaled $723,000.

Developer, Owner and Property Manager, One South Dearborn: Hines; Scott Timcoe, Chicago

Architects of Record: DeStefano Keating Partners Ltd.

Anchor Tenant: Sidley Austin LLP; Carrie Goble, conference center manager, Chicago

Facility Architects: Gensler Architects; David Winans, coordinating project architect, Chicago; Gary Bazzoni, project manager, Chicago

Interior Designers: Gensler; team includes Ken Baker, principal, managing director, and Gail Gates, project designer, Washington, D.C.; Jayson Koback, project designer, Chicago

Foodservice Consultants, Kitchen and Servery Design: Romano Gatland, Woodstock, Ill.; Bob Pacifico, executive vice president; Richard Stolarczyk, vice president; Kent Bain, Romano Gatland Insights, Connecticut
Foodservice Contractor: Food for Thought Management, Lincolnwood, Ill.; Robert Garcia, vice president, foodservice management; Andrew Dickman, district manager; Jody Singletary, general manager; John Reed, CEC, divisional executive chef; Chris Moore, on-site chef
General Contractor: Pepper Construction Co.; Robert Bruno, vice president, Chicago
Equipment Supplier: The Boelter Companies, Lincolnwood, Ill.; Rich Sytsma