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Four Considerations for Kitchen Renovations

Four steps to a sucessful kitchen renovation.

Foodservice renovations can be tricky for a variety of reasons. Successfully navigating one of these projects requires a thoughtful, step by step approach. Here Garrett Lennon, principal/partner with JLR Design Group in Seattle, shares his thoughts and experiences about what goes into a successful commercial kitchen renovation project.

Step 1: Identify the Operation’s Needs Upfront

“Depending on the size of the project, the first step in any renovation project is identifying the ultimate needs of the client, and what we’re trying to achieve with a renovation,” Lennon says. “If we don’t have that critical information and programming in place, there are going to be delays in the design process and much more chance for more hiccups along the way.”

Take the time to review an existing operation’s current program to identify any deficiencies and note where they can improve on design and operations. For example, if the operator wants to replace an oven, the question posed by the designer or consultant should be, “Why do you want to replace that oven?” Determining if that’s a real need and subsequently which oven is right for the space depends on the foodservice operation’s future goals or plans for any menu changes. When specifying equipment for a foodservice renovation, the project team should make room for menu and food expansion in the short- and long-term.

Design problems may also be at the root of these types of considerations. “Maybe the hood works fine, but the prep is undersized and we have more room to expand there because the dishwashing area is way too big,” says Lennon. “Or, maybe the kitchen has terrible flow overall.” Now is the time to determine if the design requires an adjustment or a complete makeover. Either way, look for ways to make the operation more efficient and drive labor savings.

In the case of going into an existing kitchen space for renovations, operators often wish to save all the equipment and the layout to reduce costs. But that’s not always the best method. Go back to the drawing board to get a crystal clear understanding of the operation’s goals and needs, says Lennon.

Step 2: Conduct a Thorough Assessment of the Space

Conducting an assessment of the current space from an equipment inventory and mechanical-electrical-plumbing (MEP) standpoint plays a critical role in any successful foodservice renovation project. “You want to clearly determine the capacity for gas, electricity and overall building codes in the space first,” says Lennon, who contracts with engineers to make those determinations well before any design and equipment specification happens.

The project team must also take into consideration how low local codes will affect its plans. Codes can change year-by-year in different cities and municipalities so the assessing the current space to determine if it meets code becomes very important. With the assessment complete, the project team should work any necessary changes into the design and equipment specification. If the project team fails to take this important step it runs the risk of falling short during plan review and equipment, Lennon notes.

Step 3: Consider Resource-Saving Equipment and Designs

Consider that energy- and water-saving equipment could benefit the operation.

“Even if a piece of equipment is working well, it might be using a ton of energy and water,” says Lennon. “During renovations, you want to help the operator determine their value of necessities, if you will. Maybe that’s replacing a dishwasher that consumes double the water as it should, or an oven that’s causing a huge energy drain. Or if the client wants to add a new hood, now is the time to consider DCV control.”

In these instances, life cycle analyses and ROI determinations can come into play to help justify new equipment purchases. Conducting a current energy assessment of the space is also important to help the client determine where savings can be achieved.

“Customers seem to be more willing these days to spend more upfront if they know they will get better equipment that will last,” says Lennon.

Step 4: Reassess the Budget

Reassessing the budget naturally plays an important role in any successful renovation project. Simply keeping or dumping all the equipment may seem the easiest approach, successful renovation projects often experience a lot of give and take when it comes to making informed decisions that manage the operation’s spending.

“Make sure the budget accounts for all the equipment the operation might want, and make sure you have completed a thorough inventory on what is critical to the operation and what is not,” Lennon says. Again, life cycle analyses can help determine if certain equipment purchases are worth the investment.

Finally, before submitting renovation plans for review, double-check your work, says Lennon. This sounds obvious, but making sure the information is as accurate as possible and collaborating with all players before construction begins will help avoid those little surprises that can lead to big dollar drains throughout the course of the project.