Customers’ experience at service lines contributes greatly to their overall dining satisfaction. For staff members, efficiency takes priority in a service line. Their experience in how well the line runs affects their morale and, in turn, how well they interact with customers. Layout and equipment selection contribute to all of the above.
Theater, transparency, freshness, engagement, customization — foodservice customers today want it all. Action stations occupy the unique position to satisfy those demands, bringing prep, assembly and/or active cooking out from the back of the house and into the front-of-the-house spotlight. Coast to coast, in market segments from corporate and campus dining to K-12 schools and healthcare facilities, serveries now sizzle with stations built around myriad concepts. Action stations give customers diverse choices, the ability to get what they want how they want it, and a bird’s-eye view of their food prepared or assembled just for them.
Long a favorite dessert for many Americans, consumers are getting more curious about different flavors and even textural variations of ice cream available around the globe. Consumers can continue their culinary exploration with the many new types and flavors of ice cream on menus today.
With the movement toward ever-decreasing kitchen sizes, when does small become too small? Is efficiency sometimes sacrificed as a result of reducing the kitchen footprint? Or can equipment completely compensate for the reduction in space? When designing a smaller kitchen, finding the sweet spot requires a combination of efficiency and space saving.
On-site diners have typically sought two things: a positive dining experience, created by good service and a pleasing environment, and a variety of high-quality menu items to choose from.
What happens when the architect wants you to design a bar and restaurant, but the chef hasn’t even been chosen? Not knowing the menu can be a foodservice designer’s worst nightmare and it’s becoming a bigger reality these days, especially as more urban developers get into the restaurant game. The fact that menus, chefs and concepts now change faster than ever only adds to the dilemma and requires designs be more flexible to withstand the tests of time.
In a perfect world, every restaurant kitchen would have thousands of square feet of working space, contain all of the latest equipment and include an ergonomic design to maximize the flow of both staff and product through the space. But, it’s not a perfect world. Most foodservice kitchens are small — in fact, some
are downright tiny. Yet, even with small kitchens, many operators find ways to thrive.
“Back-of-the-house workflow — receiving, storage, prep, production, service — is ultimately driven by the menu. However, the design of these areas is a well-coordinated dance. The size and plan of one space has an impact on the other,” says James (Jim) Richards Jr., president of PES Design Group, Sarasota, Fla.
If the kitchen is the heart of a foodservice operation, dish rooms are the lungs of the facility — dirty serviceware in, clean ware out. Despite their importance, however, dish rooms are often the last design element considered when building or renovating a restaurant or noncommercial dining space.
Greenville County Schools in Greenville, S.C., reflects much of what school foodservice has become. The 44th-largest K-12 district in the country maintains fully equipped kitchens that produce 80,000 chef-driven meals a day for its 76,500 students at 106 schools and centers. “Our program has evolved from a typical K-12 school foodservice program that served highly processed products to one that scratch cooks the vast majority of our meals,” says Joe Urban, the district’s director of food and nutrition services. “The major shift started with the 2010-2011 school year, and it took us about four years to transition the entire district.”