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!

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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

Foodservice Equipment Specification Tips from Casinos

Foodservice Equipment Specification Tips from Casinos
Published on Wednesday, 24 July 2013
Written by Amelia Levin, Contributing Editor

While they may want their customers to roll the dice, so to speak, casinos do exactly the opposite when specifying foodservice equipment. Their approach can best be described as thorough, calculated and effective. In this article, a veteran foodservice design consultant shares 10 characteristics casinos look for when buying foodservice equipment.

Best to learn from the pros. When it comes to gaming, seasoned consultants in this segment know what clients look for: large-scale or small, each have needs unique to other types of foodservice operators. Steve Carlson, FCSI, president of Robert Rippe & Associates clues us in to the top 10 characteristics casinos look when it comes to foodservice equipment and design.

1. Equipment service is more important than features. This is the case particularly in Native American casinos because they reside in remote areas. Casinos want to know if they can get access to service agents when they need them. And they want to know who the service agent is because they’re not all equal. Sometimes, the casino may use its own staff to service the equipment. If that’s the case, the operator is not interested in the latest and greatest model, but rather, specific equipment models that are easy to fix and their parts are well-stocked, even if these items do not represent the most efficient options available. Standardization is more important than having the latest and greatest.

2. Casinos know what they want. Many casinos have already tested a number of manufacturers and models because they need to make sure the foodservice equipment they buy can handle 24/7 operations, which is how these gaming operations roll. These casinos are particularly knowledgeable about banquet carts, warmers and other equipment they use on a regular basis because they have usually selected the specific model that works for them and want to stick with it. I have even seen casinos that have done extensive research on castors because they’re moving equipment around all the time for flexibility and cleaning.

3. Carefully consider controls. There is a wide variation in terms of what type of controls casinos want. Sometimes the chef wants a combi with the latest controls because he wants to use it in a banquet system where he will cook the food in the combi, and then blast chill and reheat it for later use. There are others, though, who just want an on and off switch because the kitchen employees speak a variety of different languages and have different levels of training and experience. Some don’t want digital controls at all because of the complexity, and also because many casinos spray the equipment down at the end of the night.

4. In large buffets, “flames and spinning wheels” are in. Among operations that seat 400 to 600, casinos want “flames and spinning wheels,” such as a charboiler with open flames. And they position these items up front, where they can to add visual appeal. I have also specified charbroilers and other cooking equipment that rotate around in an open kitchen. In these larger operations, casinos usually have enough volume and labor to justify a piece like that in order to create a unique experience for the guest.

5. Smaller, regional casinos are more concerned about labor. In a 250-seat buffet, for example, a casino may have just one action station that they can roll in and out of the open kitchen line so it doesn’t sit there dark when not in service. These operators also tend to prefer mostly self-service applications with a carving or omelet action station set up just on weekends when they get busy.

6. Casinos prioritize performance. Casinos want the basics — they want the cold food to stay cold and the hot food to stay hot. It’s all about continuous performance without all the bells and whistles.

7. Casinos are concerned about up-front costs. While hospitals and universities tend to think further down the road, especially if they’re going for LEED certification, casinos on the other hand are more concerned about initial cost. As a result, there is not a whole lot of conversation about energy- and water-saving features. They mainly just want to get open as fast they can for the lowest cost so they can quickly pay their debt and investors. They don’t have a 20- or 30-year horizon; they like to make their money back in as soon as one to five years. Many have more than one property, so if they can show a quick return they are more likely to get the same investors to invest in a new project. This is especially the case in a high tax state like New York or Indiana where there might be added gaming taxes and margins are thin.

8. Casinos want affordable, not cheap. Though concerned about initial costs, casinos still want the most bang for their buck. They don’t want cheap equipment, but pieces that will do the job. One area where we have been able to specify more efficient equipment that might cost a little more up front is in the exhaust. If a casino has a lot of hoods as a result of island display cooking, then their savings are greater in terms of the exhaust volume if they choose individual, efficient pieces.

9. Some casinos are looking into unique added service stations. Many casinos in the 400 to 600 seat range are adding more customized action stations like noodle bars, juice bars and specialty coffee stands. I have seen one even open up an ice cream and cotton candy station. These casinos tend to be in a market where there might be five or six other casinos so every year they have to tweak things to try and stay new and exciting.

10. Many buffets now offer liquor. Some larger casinos, even some of the Native American ones, are adding liquor in the form of beer, wine and cocktails. We are working on a number of projects where we have added draft beer and wine-dispensing systems. Some are also trying to squeeze service bars into the existing casino floor to open up new revenue streams without losing any gaming space.