Category Archives: Commercial Kitchen Design

Australian Food Standards Update

The Australian food safety standards were recently released with a new updated version. Not a lot has changed from previous versions, and in my view they really missed an opportunity to improve training and compliance standards.

I’ve cherry picked a few items below that are interesting.

You can download your own copy here. http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/code/Pages/default.aspx

Australian Food Safety Standards

extract: from standards 2.2.2 re training

(1) A food business must ensure that persons undertaking or supervising food handling
operations have:
(a) skills in food safety and food hygiene matters; and
(b) knowledge of food safety and food hygiene matters, commensurate with their
work activities.
Persons supervising or conducting food handling operations must possess the skills and knowledge
in food safety and hygiene matters required to handle food safely.

“Specific mandatory training in food
safety and hygiene is not required by this clause, as it is recognised that skills and knowledge may be
gained in different ways.”

?!?!?!! What! ‘not required, ‘may be gained in different ways’ Like how?! I’m sorry , I don’t see people in the hospitality industry spending their weekends reading and studying the details of food safety, systems, procedures, issues and concerns…if you don’t take the industry away from the workplace and train them in this area then we are asking for trouble…and its exactly why standards are SO LOW THESE DAYS , the lack of awareness, knowledge and understanding not only of food safety by operators but also the legal and business ramifications is poor to say the least.

They really missed an opportunity to really put some firm black and white minimum training standards in place here…the wording they used is weak and ambiguous at best.

extract: from standards 2.2.2 re mobile and temporary food stands/stalls 

This one could easily take up pages…needing to keep it brief… ‘How’ are a few trestles, esky, all laid on on some dirt, with a bit of cold water and detergent in a plastic sink, in anyway comparable to properly designed commercial kitchen or food van?

The answer is that they are not. I love local food markets/stands/stalls/vans etc , but even in among themselves  this group is widely different in standards. It’s not uncommon to see a description as above competing with an operator who has a correctly designed and built trailer or van worth tens of thousands of dollars. Correct refrigeration, waste management, hot water, santised surfaces, vermin control, v’s $500 of health risk.

Again they  missed the opportunity to get some decent standards in place. Once you start reading the 3.2.3 standard it’s clear that most mobile or temporary food stands haven’t got a chance at meeting many of these standards, yet they are increasing daily, most with poor standards.

4(2) When complying with subclause (1), the proprietor of the food business must answer all
questions asked by the appropriate enforcement agency in relation to the matters listed in
subclause (1) in the form approved from time to time by the relevant authority under the Act.

This read as …’we have wiped our hands of this issue and concern and will handball it off to the local council inspector, we really don’t want to know about it!’

extract: from standards 2.2.2, re food storage temperatures

General best practice for refrigerated storage
To make sure that cold food remains safe during storage, proper refrigeration is essential. For best
practice, businesses should ensure refrigeration equipment is operating and used correctly using the
following measures:
• Food temperatures are checked with a probe or infra-red thermometer to make sure the food itself
is at the required storage temperature, rather than relying on the refrigerator’s temperature gauge.

Great advice about not relying on the actual fridge display temperature as these can be hugely inaccurate , but so are infa red thermometers …it all depends on what is aimed at! I can get massively different readings just by pointing at items and areas. They are good for a quick guide, but they  are ‘loose’ to say the least.

‘Some food businesses may have temperature monitoring devices installed which provide an
ongoing measurement of chilled storage.’

Well they missed the boat here…if you have a device that measures and records your storage temperatures (and one that allows live 24/7 viewing of those temperatures) you know EXACTLY what your storage temperatures are , all the time AND you have evidence, should be mandatory minimum standard.

Without the above, there is no quality, independent, verifiable evidence, it’s basically just a bunch of numbers jotted down on a piece of paper , by anyone, anytime, with no meaning  and really wouldn’t last 5 minutes in a legal challenge.

If food manufacturers and major supplier/producers have accurate verifiable digital standards in place , why isn’t the wider food/hospitality industry doing the same?

There is a large section of 3.2.2 dedicated to temperature , monitoring and control, both of stored and cooked foods. To comply with the requirements as they are written is a seriously labor intensive job. I see areas such as health care, complying to it, general hospitality not.

3.2.3 deals with design and build.

My pet hate, not a new one, it’s always been in the code, the one that I wish architects would investigate at the commencement of a project rather than the end, because 9/10 times they have not allowed enough space.

(b) provide adequate space for the activities to be conducted on the food premises and for
the fixtures, fittings and equipment used for those activities

this also has always been there ….

The design and construction of food premises must:
(a) be appropriate for the activities for which the premises are used;

upgrade to ventilation codes…i have covered the new style canopies in other section on this site… but this is the one a LOT of new operators get caught with….they are Falsely (normally by real estate letting agents)  that the ‘old kitchen’ will comply with what their new plans are . BS!!!  in many cases that old exhaust canopy will need to come down…= big cost.

This is often also the case for plumbing/sewerage, just because there is commercial trade waste on site DOES NOT mean that it is suitable for your operations needs, especially if you are renovating and or upgrading facilities from an older premises….in many cases it will require an expensive commercial trade waste upgrade….a hydraulic consultant is the only person who can tell you this, and they can only tell you this in conjunction with your kitchen design and menu and anticipated volume of business .

The Building Code of Australia for Class 2 to 9 buildings (ABCB 2016, which includes commercial
buildings) — Part F4 on Light and Ventilation states that a commercial kitchen must be supplied
with a kitchen exhaust hood complying with AS/NS 1668.1 and AS 1668.2 -2012 where cooking
apparatuses have power inputs above specified levels (e.g. where any cooking apparatus has
a total maximum electrical power input exceeding 8kW or a total gas power input exceeding
29MJ/hour).
• AS 4674-2004 — in addition to referring to the Building Code of Australia and standards AS/
NZS 1668.1 and AS/NZS 1668.2, this standard covers provision of an extraction system where
a dishwasher or similar equipment vents steam and causes condensation on walls and ceilings.
Example
Change in ventilation system needed when a food premises changes hands
A business purchases a pre-existing food premises and begins operating in it using the
existing fit out, including ventilation equipment. Over a few weeks, the proprietor notices
that a greasy film is appearing on the walls and ceiling around the cooking equipment.
This shows that the mechanical ventilation that was suitable for the previous business is
no longer adequate. It needs to be upgraded or replaced with a system that will effectively
remove all the new business’s cooking vapours.

Summary:

In all there is 225 pages of content, a lot of is it also ‘examples’ and ‘training’ its actually a really good document and one that everybody that is ‘professionally’ involved with food should get to know. I keep a copy on all my digital devices and am constantly going to back to it ‘just to be sure’.

My Grief and much of the commercial food service industry’s grief is the clear lack of ability for local council inspectors to follow this guide correctly, they all are supposed to be following it.

Food Safety is no different in Nth Qld than it is Tassie. Yet time and time again i see new premise licences issued to new builds that clearly don’t comply to all of the standards, some but not all. And the worst is ‘existing premises’ that are so far off the standards it’s scary.

I have seen some of the ‘check lists’ that are used by various local authorities, they are brief. But what I can’t understand is that within meters of each other different premises can be so widely different in standards, (which also equals operators costs), it’s grossly unfair to the operator spending the money to comply as best as they can, it’s costly to comply.

Local politics  has a lot to do with it also, I won’t go into specifics, but i have seen it first hand played out, by players at the top. The local inspector often has their hands tied, and cant ‘really enforce’ because of such.

‘Food premise inspections and approvals should be carried out by independent bodies in my view, this keeps politics out of the way.’

An example where design can impact food safety.

A Chinese Restaurant on the Gold Coast that put caustic soda in the salt shakers!!! (yep true story*) …end of the day the chemicals and food should not have been stored anywhere near each other! If the design achieved this the chance of mix up would have been seriously negated. Those types of chemicals shouldn’t have even been in the kitchen ! OR? was the Salt (food) being stored in the chemical area?? That place had several inspections in recent times…I wonder if they were ever pulled up on it, initially its a design fault, then user fault, my guess the design didn’t have a dedicated chemical area out of the kitchen.

Good design can’t stop these things happening 100% but it certainly can make it really hard for it happen, to the point of only being able to be blame human error. (which still should have been avoided!)

*same happened in a chicken franchise WA few years back.

Good design not only can means increases in inefficiencies, improved sales and profitability , but it’s also paramount in achieving good food safety.

download your copy of the standards here, http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/code/Pages/default.aspx

 

Changing the beverage game, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic.

Changing the beverage game, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic.

Since the beginning of time, it seems that all restaurants cafes and bars have been limited to their drink offerings by what’s available on the RTD (ready to drink) bottled beverage market.

As a child I fondly recall the ‘slades’ truck rattling around our neighborhood delivering crates of locally bottles soft drinks. Then the big corporate’s of the world wiped these businesses out with mass production/distribution and marketing war chests the size of some nations defense budgets!

In the liquor industry things are not that much better with the bulk of Australia’s beer and wine all coming under the corporate umbrella of a few massive corporations.

Whilst the variety and choice of product out there now has grown massively a few of things haven’t changed.

*Look behind the label/brand, you will see in most cases it’s owned by the big corporations, even when it looks ‘bespoke’ or ‘craft’

*Profit margins are stagnate, and linked to the above controlling the market.

*People actually are aware and care these days. Think about the carbon foot print of that bottle of French bubbly water the next time you order…or the boutique euro beer. The cost of producing let alone shipping and distribution on our environment is massive, it’s a crime really, and really did it taste any better than local? Then there is the ‘wastage’ of the container’s, sure some of this can be recycled, but that is still not great for the environment, for starters  it all has to be shipped back to a recycle center, not to mention the energy and costs to recycle.

*Sugar is quickly going down the same path as the tobacco  industry, bottled soft drinks and RTD pre-mix’s are full of it, in very high amounts. Customers are looking for low sugar healthier alternatives.

 

How the game is changing.

1.Independent machinery that can chill/serve beverages ‘of your choice’, and importantly is not owned by the beverage supplier.

  1. Compact high-volume system solutions, machines that are smaller than a domestic under bench bar fridge that can dispense over 250 ltrs of chilled beverages per hour!

 

independent beverage systems

 

Water: No need to purchase any water be it still or bubbling when you can have high quality filtered local water, direct at your bar. No transport, no storage, less floor space, no packaging, no waste. No matter if you charge for your water or not, you are still in front.

sparkling water on tap

Soft Drinks: Ditch the nasty sugar companies, select low sugar locally produced flavour syrups, or even better make your own! Or simply flavour with fresh fruit/s, no sugar required at all, choice of flat water or bubbling.  Healthy, no freight, no transport, no storage, less floor space, no packaging, no waste. And the profit margin? MUCH higher when you make your own!

home made soda

Beer: Unless you have been living in cave lately, its pretty clear to see that Australians actually do have beer taste, consumers are looking for locally brewed, interesting and different flavours, and they are a wake up to the big brands purchasing the medium craft brands to gain that market. Customers want the beer brewed down the road, by real people in real business.

The same system that do our bubbly and flat chilled water can also be used to dispense keg beers, perfect for small batch brews. The restaurant/bar /café can change flavours/brewers to any time they want, as they own the dispensing equipment they are not locked into supply contracts.

The ability to offer ‘real’ craft beers is a massive drawer card for customers, and the ticket price at the cash register is higher than commercial product.

craft brew tap system

Wine: By the Glass, what!, wine you ask? Its always going to be bottled! Nope, and I’m not talking casks either!

There are many producers now making ‘keg’ wine and these systems can dispense chilled whites, or ambient reds also, and for all the wine snobs out there, the taste through the tap for the same wine compared to the bottled version is often MUCH better! There is no oxidization occurring with half opened bottles and the slight aeration of the wine as it’s poured from the tap enhances the  flavour.

Again, no freight, no transport, no storage, less floor space, no packaging, no waste. And the profit margin? MUCH higher.

 Coffee: Surely not?! Yep coffee. The two big trends in coffee that are hear to stay are ‘cold brewed chilled coffee’ and ‘espresso martini’ and guess what both can be dispensed by the same system with all the advantages listed above.

espresso martini on tap

Other Drinks: There are very few limitations, healthy brews such as kombucha are popular iced teas and even pre mix cocktails.

Rent: is expensive in the industry, one of the single biggest costs, just as it is also for the beverage manufacturers. They LOVE it when you store their product on your premises at your expense!

The floor space that commercial refrigeration occupies, then the back up storage in the dry store and or waste areas is insanely expensive, and that without adding up the massive electricity bill of that ‘free fridge or two’ (THOUSANDS of $$$ per year).

‘It’s a no brainer if you own a cafe, restaurant or any business that serves beverages in any sort of decent volume you really need to be looking at these systems’, beverage are possible the most profitable part of your operation, and if done correctly can be even more profitable.

I have worked with customers that implemented these system into their operations, and confidently tell me every time , ‘best thing we ever did’ even ‘now we are making good profit’!

Learn more about these systems here. http://vestalwater.com/

 

Commercial Kitchen Design News & what is a ‘commercial kitchen designer’

Finally found a moment to catch up on the Blog and newsletter, we did promise these would not flood your inbox! Ten issues a year is realistic target, so this one is lengthy to make up for the void.

We have been busy over the past half year or so, about complete design number twelve which is a Bar renovation/transformation, which is looking amazing! During the last half a year we have done everything from portable mining camp kitchen for a RSL , small cafes, childcare centre kitchens and major kitchen/bistro renovations.

In between projects my inbox is flooded with reading from sources all over the food, hospitality, design and equipment sectors both here and overseas, the overseas material providing the most inspiration by far. The reason for this is simple, volume. The Australian hospitality/food and associated industry is tiny in comparison to international markets, we simply do not have the population to drive anywhere near the same size industry, be it operating hospitality/food and or associated service industries we are (some industry quotes) less than 1% of the international market place!

So for inspiration on trends/equipment/design/industry it always pays to look overseas, and then see how those ideas can translate back here in the Australasian market, it’s not always the case of because they do it X way overseas it should be the way it’s done here. In many examples here in Australia we generally pick the best of a massive marketplace overseas and implement that here locally, I’d say we do that pretty well. We also have unique situation in this country where most parts of the continent are scarcely populated meaning that local service support can be very limited, so keeping things very simple is often the best way.

In May is one of the world’s biggest hospitality/foodservice trade shows in Chicago, we will be there this year looking new trends/products and success stories that have been happening in the USA.

The states provide such a wide range of ideas as the food service industry in America is huge, there is the obvious massive fast food industry, industrial/Institutional catering sector, think universities/hospitals/aged care/prisons and the massive empire of the US defence force, it is a massive sector where you can learn a lot about large scale catering.

Growing each year in the USA is a modern and cosmopolitan food scene boasting amazing Restaurants/Bars/Hotels all boasting amazing produce innovative menu’s and quality and service of the highest standard…often very health and low food miles are the features, its not all burgers and chips state side!

So for this blog edition I have selected a few good articles that provide good general information and considerations, quick reads reinforce important messages.

 

    •  
  • New equipment technology that actually delivers more than the sales pitch, here is a real equipment game changer  

 

  • Food safety, too often an afterthought, one of the key early preventative measures is temperature control  

 

What’s been a constant question and discussion point always is what is does a Commercial Kitchen Designer do, and what are their background and or trade and qualifications.

Well the name does suggest what we do, but it also covers a wider scope than kitchen’s alone. Bar’s, servery area’s are our domain also, and occasionally designing bespoke equipment solutions where there is no off the shelf solution available.

In some projects you need to have creative menu planning skills also, as you may be designing a project where there is actually no user/tenant client in place yet, so you are making assumptions on the type/style of food/service..so being a chef helps here!

We cross into interior designing some of our work, where colours, finishes and the look are critical, typically open kitchens, bars and buffet service areas. In some cases we are required to prepare seating plans and full dining interior designing of the facility.

We marginally touch building drafting and architecture, we may require to add new internal walls, or discuss with building engineers the reasons for certain building items to be located where they are, or understanding how and why those decisions were made. We don’t ever touch any of the building or structural design at all but we need to understand and work with Architects and engineers to find the best solution that accommodates all key stake holder needs.

Plumbing /Hydraulics/Electrical/Mechanical Air and Ventilation/Refrigeration/Lighting/Flooring are all other speciality trades and disciplines that we need to understand the key factors associated in the food service design. Commercial appliances normally require serious service planning just to make sure the right services are in place to operate the kitchen.

Stainless steel and cabinet making trades, and custom equipment manufacturer, whilst we don’t need to know how to operate a break press or CAD laser cutting machine we do need to understand what this does, what is realistically achievable in a sensible commercial budget by these trades. How it all goes together, what information and plans they may require and a keen eye to attention to detail of the finished product to ensure best quality is achieved for the client.

Then there are the Builders, that put all this together we have to understand what their key needs are, this includes clear, accurate documentation and actually understanding how they are going to go about completing the project, it certainly helps if you have been on the project management completion end of a fair few projects, as experience is the only way you can truly understand what happens at the end .

A good commercial kitchen designer is also wearing a health inspector/environmental health officer’s (EHO) hat on during the process also. Our plans are checked and signed off by these Authorities so we are always keeping one eye on the Australian standards to ensure our plans meet and or exceed guidelines, and they always get approved!

In some cases we often provide an independent kitchen report/inspection service to clients, basically covering the same as what an EHO may do, but generally we will find more issues, as we have more time to spend on the inspection. In many locations the workload of the EHO means that it’s not possible to get to all registered food premises, and even if they do, the opportunity to follow up is severely limited, we can get to a client quicker and let them know their issues much quicker before it becomes too late!

During the design process we are always looking to ensure HACCP and food safety guidelines can be met through good design, in smaller projects this is not always possible but we are always looking at ways to ensure our clients can deliver food service safely.

Design operational, it makes a MASSIVE difference if you have been there and done it, it cannot be said any clearer than that. If you haven’t worked in a busy hotel kitchen, don’t tell me you know how a hotel kitchen operates! Likewise that crammed up little cafe that somehow you managed pump out 100 covers in an area the size of your bathroom at home! Far from ideal, but when you get your menu and equipment selection right it can be done. Likewise, if you have had the keys handed over to you in the middle of nowhere to mining camp feeding hundreds of meals a day to bunch of blokes that have been sweating it out in 40degree heat all day and this is their ONLY highlight of the day is what you are about to cook them from a limited product range, don’t tell me you know how a mining camp kitchen operates, oh and by the way…the next stores are in 14 days good luck!

Then somehow you need to get your head around the dozens of importers of commercial foodservice and refrigeration equipment, the hundreds, more likely thousands of products available and then know what’s the good gear, what actually easy to obtain, offers good value for money, is energy efficient and most importantly which ones have good back support locally! If you have had many years selling both retail and wholesale equipment from various brands and manufacturers you build up a pretty hand arsenal of knowledge based on experience, experience of dealing in millions of dollars of equipment, understanding the customer’s needs, the process of order/import/logistics/installation/operation/training the inevitable breakdown’s.

Lastly but by no means least is the ability to design/draft/document to scale designs, initially mark ups often start on paper the old fashioned way with drawing pencil and a scale ruler before making their way to 2D and or 3D CAD drawings. These days the CAD side of things is not simple either, the days of only 2D schematic drawings is becoming a thing of the past, you are often required to be able to document ‘conceptual’ presentations, this may include programs such as REVIT, ARCI CAD , AUTO CAD, SKETCH UP to name a few, some programs get along with the other programs well, others will not! Whilst all of these programs are similar in nature they are all quite different in actual operation, you may find yourself needing to work with 2 or 3 different CAD draft persons to finish a project.

The latest trend moving forward is BIM documentation, (Building Information Management) this means EVERYTHING that is on the plan as a schedule of DATA attached to it, no matter what the item is, a wall, floor, light, oven etc. When the project is complete any item of that project can be opened up, zoomed in and full information of the item in question, great for accurate concise documentation.

And there is the ‘renderers’!’ the modern version of Rembrandt! The right person the right program can bring your design into such a lifelike view that you would be forgiven that it was real photo of the project, in some cases they can even walk/fly through the building opening doors and taking you deep inside the building, much like some modern computer games! This is another level of skill and serious computer hardware altogether.

The licensing fees on some of these programs above run into many thousands of dollars, so when considering your plans for your business you need to consider what sort of detail is required, the more pretty and lifelike you want your plans the more investment$$ is required!

If I have counted correctly there about 18-20 specialist professions/trades covered in the above, so the next time I get asked, I may just reply ‘design commercial kitchens’!

Classic design mistake I often get is ‘my chef can design our kitchen!’ I’d say in most cases not very well! Most chefs are lucky if the have ever been involved with 1-2 designs in their career, mostly the kitchen is in place when they arrive and they have to make do with what is there. Kitchen design at trade school is almost nonexistent, so don’t think it’s covered there!

The better approach is I’d like our chef to have lots of input into the design, this is the perfect approach, especially if the chef has been at that position for a while, I will normally extract all the key needs they require to put together a great design. The foot note here though is unless your Chef is financially a shareholder of the operation tread cautiously with any specific favourite wants or needs that others may find not so helpful, as the reality is the Chef will most likely not be with you in 6-12 months time. I always believe that no plan is perfect, the opportunity for perfect doesn’t seem to come up, there are always, space, time, budget limitations that mean we will do as ‘perfect as possible’!

Recently in the UK a university degree program has commenced for the discipline of ‘food service designer/consultant’, it’s hard to see it happening in Australia in the short term, until then we will learn what we can from our international professionals whilst maintaining and building on our local experience and skills.

If you got this far on this article and your heads not spinning well done, hopefully you have an understanding of what we do, and all the different skill sets, knowledge and experience that goes into your plans.