Keeping the foodservice equipment marketplace up to date with the latest menu and concept trends.


Factors Impacting Foodservice Design

Juan Martinez, FCSI, principal and founder of Profitality Labor Guru, an industrial engineering consulting company, sees an advantage to applying industrial engineering-based principles to foodservice design.

juan martinez hsHe believes that focusing on parameters, process, procedures, place (facility), people (labor), platforms (equipment and technology), product (menu) and promotions — in that order — can have a significant impact on an operation’s throughput and more. Here, he explains some of the key factors changing commercial foodservice design today. 

Q: In the past, food used to flow from the loading dock to the dining room. Now, it’s common for food to flow to the dining room drive-thru, delivery pickup area, retail service and more. How do you design for all those different formats? 

A: The best way to tackle this issue is to apply process-mapping techniques. Just like when you wake up in the morning and “process map” the way you go to work, you need to follow the process for how food gets in and the different ways it gets to the guest. In the olden days, people simply came to a restaurant to sit down and eat; then, the drive-thru came to be, and now, we have many different ways to order and get our food. These different revenue options also bring with them labor requirements that are different and have a direct impact on flow. For example, a digital customer does not require extra time on the operator side to order and pay because customers are doing that on their end, but there may be more expediting time required if curbside is an offering. There may be additional or different steps to take in a kitchen here or there, depending on what food delivery options exist. 

Q: Is there a good rule of thumb when it comes to aisle space? 

A: Three by six feet is ideal; any wider than four feet can become wasteful. The length of the line is important too; longer lines may be less efficient. A best practice is to know what’s going on to the right and to the left — there has to be a specific function; anything else is redundant or a waste. 

Q: There’s been a push toward equipment that can perform multiple functions. Can relying so heavily on a couple of items unwittingly create bottlenecks? 

A: You can account for redundancy on any piece of equipment based on the capacity and even reliability of it. This will depend on the cost of the equipment and the importance of it. To minimize this, brands need to have — and execute — planned maintenance programs so that there is less likelihood of equipment failing. For example, when I worked at Burger King, I knew that the broiler is the heart of the brand, so high care was taken to clean it thoroughly each night to make sure that the chance of failing was minimized. Planned maintenance is so important — some people see it as a cost, but it’s actually a cost savings in the long run. There’s no need to add an additional fryer (which costs more and takes up more space) because you’re worried about one of them going down if you are making sure your main fryer is working properly. 

Q: How can remote monitoring technology, like being able to monitor cooking progress of a cook-and-hold or combi oven from one’s phone, help keep things moving smoothly? 

A: Any technology that enables self-monitoring or cooking is helpful since it provides for an autonomous operation that can enable the operator to be doing other things. Having access to the process in one’s phone supports this better, especially if it has warnings when part of the process is getting out of order. These systems are not intended for managers to be looking at their phones constantly, but they are really helpful in alerting them if the walk-in went down at 2 a.m. or is off temperature because someone left the door open. 

Q: When it comes to renovations or replacing equipment, like-for-like is the most common way of doing so. How do you go about introducing new technologies that could help move things forward more efficiently and quickly? 

A: When replacing or investing in new equipment, operators should always look at new options that are available and what these can bring to support the operation and improve efficiency. Usually innovation comes at a cost, so the return on the investment is important (quality, consistency, labor costs, operations costs, etc.). The operator does have to be cautious of the data they use to understand the possible improvement. In addition to the information provided by the supplier, they should check with case studies from other concepts that have used them. An important aspect to consider is the life-cycle cost and benefits of the possible change.

Q: Are there any common back-of-the-house mistakes you see that you wish designers would avoid?

A: Not including objective versus subjective information to help aid design. These data elements might include customer service times, peak hourly throughput, labor, equipment, quality, space design and information flow, among many others. The key piece is to objectively analyze and review how efficient you are — or not. Designers shouldn’t be afraid to tell their customers what they need to hear based on the data versus what they want to hear. If real-life data shows that the operator doesn’t need four fryers to do this or that — they can work with three — then it’s up to us consultants to tell them that. 

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