How does a foodservice design consultant differ from a foodservice equipment supplier?

By Steve Carlson

Why should you use an independent Foodservice Design Consultant instead of a foodservice equipment supplier?

What are your objectives? Do you want an efficient, functional design and to get the most competitive price on the best equipment for your operation? Then, you should use a Foodservice Design Consultant.

No matter how small your project, foodservice equipment is expensive; so it’s important to get the best equipment you can for your budget.

Is it worth 6-7% of the equipment value to have complete plans and specifications prepared for competitive bidding? Consider the alternatives. You could enter into a cost plus agreement with an equipment supplier, typically a 5-7% over factory invoice. With today’s competitive marketplace the mark-up on competitively bid projects is 2-3% over net. The difference almost pays for the bidding documents and you get the best equipment for your operation instead of the equipment from the manufacture with the best rebate to the supplier.

Large high end exhibition kitchen in restaurant

You could also have the equipment supplier draw the plans and write specifications, for a smaller fee or at no cost and then use those for bidding. But then what motivation does the supplier have to make the bidding documents as clear as possible if they hope to get the order for the equipment? What about quality design? Does the person preparing the design have experience working in a kitchen? Are they asking you questions about your operation, your menu, staffing, peak times, and slow times?

Other reasons to use an independent Foodservice Design Consultant

  1. Independent Professional Advisors    We work as an advocate for you and the facility. We make equipment recommendations based on menus and staff skill level. We recommend equipment that we know is easy to operate, maintain and that will achieve the best results. Since we have no financial relationships with manufactures, our recommendations are true, arms-length recommendations.
  2. Operational Based Planning    We develop plans from discussions with you centering on how the facility will be operated. Based on these discussions and our experience working in foodservice facilities we are able to design kitchens and bars that can operate efficiently on a Saturday night or a Tuesday morning.
  3. No Surprises   With 35 years of experience coordinating with Architects and Engineers, we anticipate to eliminate surprises. Our success depends on making sure Architects and Engineers understand the requirements for the equipment and include those requirements in their documents. We continuously improve our drawings, details, and communications tools, so there are no gaps between the equipment suppliers’ work and the work done by the General Contractor and the MEP trades. This means no surprises once construction starts and no costly change orders caused by a gap in responsibility.
  4. Accurate Cost Estimating   Since we have designed all types of facilities for many different market segments, we can provide accurate cost estimates for the programming phase through contract documents. Once the equipment plan is established, we use AutoQuotes software, the same system used by equipment suppliers, so we know the net price for all manufactured equipment. For custom fabricated and specialty equipment, we maintain a data base that is constantly updated with costs from current bids.
  5. Complete and Accurate Construction Documents   Our goal is to make sure clients receive the most competitive bids possible. This is the most important distinction. Our bidding documents are our finished product, not a preliminary step on the way to receiving an order to supply the foodservice equipment. How can a company that hopes to supply the equipment be motivated to make sure the client receives the most competitive bids as possible?
  6. Large Enough to Handle Your Project and Meet Your Deadlines   Design is all we do; we are not one department in a company that may sell equipment as well as food. We have a staff of 26 people divided into four teams. We can quickly create a team to manage your project. We are experienced at managing deadlines and projects. We have learned to be nimble – at any one time we have 200 active projects with constantly shifting schedules and deadlines.
  7. Pioneers in the use of BIM and Revit in Foodservice   We have been using BIM/Revit since 2009 and have led the industry in establishing standards for Revit for Foodservice equipment. We use Revit for the obvious benefits of the easy to understand 3D views; but we also make extensive use of the data that can be imbedded in the Revit families, so that we again communicate the special requirements for Foodservice equipment to the Architect and Engineers
  8. Multi-Disciplinary Experience   While we have designed many restaurants and bars, we also have worked for many years in Healthcare, College and University, Corporate, and Corrections. We have helped many of our restaurant and hospitality clients by incorporating into their operations technologies that we have used in high volume operations. We draw on ideas for efficient layouts from healthcare operations where the emphasis is on reducing labor and incorporate those ideas into our hospitality designs.
  9. Passion for Foodservice Design   Again this is our core business. Everyone who works at Rippe Associates has a passion for solving problems. Whether the problem be a client’s budget, a tight space, a short deadline, or an efficient-as-possible design – meeting these challenges is what gets us up in the morning.

New Project Showcases Collaboration at its Finest!

IMG_3673_smOne of our new projects showcases collaboration at its finest – the result of Robert Rippe and Associates teaming up with HGA Architects to design a room-service patient kitchen and a retail dining space in the newly built, 90-bed tower at St. Elizabeth Hospital in Appleton, Wisconsin.

The challenge was a 12-foot-wide corridor that connected the patient tower with a surgery center which ran straight through the center of the servery ceiling. Foodservice designer, Christine Guyott, was concerned about the space feeling too low and closed off.

Read how the design team solved the issue and created a “Whole-Foods” inspired Marketplace with display cooking stations and versatile equipment to work around this daunting challenge.

The full story was published in the spring edition of Focus on Healthcare Foodservice.

Fostering a fresh community at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities

Stand alone concepts feature different flavors in our project for the new 17th Avenue Residential Hall.
Published in FSD Update

ImageThe Mongolian Grill is the centerpiece of the dining space, where made-to-order items are prepared and served

In the fall of 2013, students at the Twin Cities campus of the University of Minnesota were getting acclimated to more than just new class schedules. With nearly 300 double-occupancy rooms, three community lounges, multiple study and music rooms as well as a community student kitchen, the new 17th Avenue Residence Hall was designed to foster a community environment for the growing university population. A central focus for the new building is its dining facility, Fresh Food Company, managed by Aramark Higher Education. “From a dining perspective, we felt it was a really good idea to bring the most current framework of services forward for our residential students and the University of Minnesota,” explains Karen DeVet, senior resident district manager for Aramark at the university. “We don’t have any other facility on campus that’s like this Fresh Food Company, so we’re really excited about being able to show this particular brand to our residential students.”

ImageAll of the campus dining facilities use reusable serviceware and are trayless, helping to reduce the use of detergent, energy, water and waste. But at the 17th Avenue hall, in addition to the new menu approach, the design also incorporates a number of other sustainable elements, such as energy-efficient equipment, composting and recycling programs and tabletops made from recycled materials.

Image“The entrance into the hall and then entrance into our dining space is made out of reclaimed wood from Minneapolis,” DeVet says. “It’s called Wood from the Hood, and a lot of the wood is from trees that were blown down during the tornado that came through Minneapolis two summers ago.”

ImageIn addition, special items are often featured, such as chicken nugget night and a caramel apple dipping special, highlighting local apples. “Oh my goodness, the students loved it. It’s just apples and caramel, but when you put a staff member there that’s really engaging and talking with the students and creating the apples to order, it was a fantastic opportunity to really highlight those seasonal items,” Hedrick says.

FE&S’ Cook-Chill Equipment Applications and Best Practices Webcast

Join Connie Dickson and a panel of experts for a webcast on Cook-Chill best practices!

Foodservice operators interested in using fresh, locally sourced and seasonal ingredients are looking for new and innovative ways to maximize flavor and yield in an effective and efficient manner. Cook-chill equipment is one way savvy operators employ to meet these objectives. While many foodservice professionals think cook-chill equipment is the exclusive domain of very large operators, the fact remains that operations of all sizes continue to employ it to save on labor costs and generate consistent menu items. In this hour-long webcast our panel of operators will discuss their approaches to cook-chill and share best practices.

FCSI members and certified foodservice professionals may earn a continuing education unit by registering for and viewing the webcast and then completing a short quiz (the URL to the quiz will be provided after the webcast).

Connie Dickson is a foodservice design principal with Robert Rippe & Associates, Inc. She provides clients with functional space planning and equipment options, coaches them through new possibilities, and ensures the design documents reflect the operator’s vision. Connie holds degrees from Cornell University in Nutritional Science and from Kendall College in Culinary Arts and is affiliated with FCSI, AHF and SFM. She began her career as a registered dietitian, and then joined Sodexo for 14 years in foodservice operations prior to joining Robert Rippe & Associates in 2006. Connie’s primary area of expertise is in healthcare, senior living and corporate markets.

A few images of our project at University of Wisconsin-Madison Gordon Avenue Market – Dining and Event Center






Environmental Responsibility: More than Buying Local


Terry Pellegrino will be presenting “Environmental Responsibility: More than Buying Local” with Nelson Hard, University of Minnesota’s Assistant Director of Contract Management at NACUFS Continental Regional Conference on February 25th!

This program will illustrate how to create a campus wide culture of environmental responsibility in dining services. The foodservice operation at the University of Minnesota’s award winning new 17th Avenue Residence Hall encompasses a myriad of sustainability efforts all in one building. Learn how these practices can be incorporated into your program!

Image Image

Terra State Foodservice Renovation & Culinary Lab

C:UsersmoDocumentsTerra State (central)_mo.pdf

The college has outgrown its current kitchen and dining facility, which was originally meant to be just a snack bar. Expanding and updating the existing campus food service and dining operations will provide the college with a new full kitchen which will be utilized for the overall campus food service operation as well as catering in other buildings on campus and in the college’s new conferencing center.

The renovation will also include the addition of a new state-of-the-art culinary learning lab for students in the hospitality management program. The lab will promote not only the honing of basic culinary skills for Terra State students but also will promote the hospitality management program to future students and members of the community.

To learn more about how we can help you with your next foodservice design project, contact us through our website at

Mt. Carmel St. Ann’s Hospital

Pizza Oven Staff

Our project at St. Ann’s created a warm inviting bistro that brings in staff and guests! As part of its $120 million renovation, Mt. Carmel St. Ann’s Hospital in Westerville, Ohio, dedicated $4.4 million toward the design and construction of Bryden Bistro, a contemporary on-site eatery that provides staff and guests a place to relax and enjoy a delicious meal, as well as providing room service to patients.

Thanks to Foodservice Director for highlighting this story!,1