Talk to any foodservice designer right now and you’ll hear them talk about the same ongoing challenge: dealing with lingering supply chain issues caused by the pandemic.
Right now, almost every type of foodservice equipment has longer lead times than was the case pre-pandemic. Clients, of course, don’t want to hear about anything that might delay a project, but it’s more important than ever to be transparent and explain what is feasible or not, explains says Ryan Mikita, FCSI, principal, Ricca Design Studios.
“If [a client] wants to start construction in June, there are certain realities they will have to live with to meet their timelines,” Mikita says. “This means going above and beyond in terms of client care and doubling down on those soft skills.”
As frustrating as these supply chain challenges may be, foodservice designers can stay ahead of the curve and work with their project teams to anticipate, deal with and plan for extra time when developing equipment packages. Here, Mikita offers a few tips on this very topic.
Develop early equipment packages and prioritize certain pieces. “Right now, we are encouraging the owner to push equipment with long lead times to the front of the project,” says Mikita. “It’s all about prioritizing those and encouraging ownership to review purchase orders and sign off on them earlier versus submitting the entire specification for the foodservice project later on.”
For example, Mikita will take those 5, 10 or however many prioritized pieces with the longer lead times and set the wheels in motion so they come in by the time the project takes off. “Basically, we need to know the musts — if there is a particular manufacturer that [the client] absolutely must work with, so that we can create a hierarchy of most important to least important equipment.” Based on that, the foodservice designers can more easily make alternative recommendations for pieces lower on the prioritization list.
Work more closely with manufacturers’ reps and manufacturers directly to determine lead times. “We’re engaging reps and manufacturers to find out if the lines our clients want are going to be available in the proposed timeline,” Mikita says. “For example, if a client wants a specific range, then we go to that manufacturer or manufacturers’ rep and ask what the lead time is for the unit. If it lines up, we’re OK, but if not, we have to go back to the client and consider alternatives.”
In cases where the client is more flexible on brands, Mikita will call all his reps and ask which lines currently have the best lead times. That can make or break a specification these days.
Try to get things in writing. Mikita admits some reps may be hesitant to do this, but, when possible, ask the rep to take a pen to their proposed timelines. “Try to do everything you can to get the lead times in writing,” he says. This makes it easier for you to “hedge your bets” so to speak and protect yourself and your work later on if there are any unforeseen hiccups in the equipment supply timeline.
Where possible, choose buyout versus custom fab pieces. This ties into the aforementioned hierarchy that specifiers need to work with their clients to create. “The more items that have to be custom fabricated bespoke to a project, the more labor that’s required and the more potential for a timeline conflict,” Mikita says. “It’s important to work with the client to find equipment that can be templated to streamline the process as much as possible.”