When I first begin working in this industry most of our projects were directly contracted through an end user, the foodservice operator. While projects still go through this process, we see a major shift in project delivery methods that detaches from the foodservice operator. As a result, we often have little interaction with the operator and this applies to both design-build and design-bid projects.
Although it may not be a new development, this disconnect continues to expand and as consultants we must provide leadership and be experts at both form and function to deliver successful projects. Industry wide we must continue to focus on the end user/operator and operational modalities regardless of the end user involvement, we must champion the cause of the operator.
A foodservice designer's level of influence and responsibility does not begin and end with the kitchen but rather extends into various components of a project. To a degree, as consultants, we no longer design kitchens but rather culinary dining environments. And the extension of a culinary environment has far more reaching implications to the totality of a space, area or building.
A common link exists between the culinary experience and the creation of social spaces. We can no longer just be kitchen equipment experts but rather we must have a great understanding and vision for the environment that we create. Consultants have the ability to influence how one interacts within a space by intentionally designing to foster collaboration, social interaction and learning through the common link of a culinary experience.
Take, for example, an elementary school, where foodservice has evolved at a slower pace than any other segment in our industry. What if we could design spaces that begin to showcase good nutrition and promote physical activity? This environment may include teaching kitchens, intentional graphics and pathways throughout the dining areas and school gardens. One design movement refers to this approach as "human-centric design." This does not end with the customer but extends to the kitchen staff as well. Providing a comfortable, safe and inviting working environment is part of this new movement.
While the role of the consultant constantly changes, that is a direct reflection of the fact that our clients and consumers constantly change. As a result, this constant state of change affects the rest of our industry. So in a world of declining services, consultants need more resources than ever before, which will lead to extensive partnerships. Our industry has the enormous advantage of being a relationship-driven community, so further collaboration between supply-chain partners should come naturally.