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.

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.

Eating My Way Through Greece!

Written by Steve Carlson

These are some notes and photos from a recent trip to Greece. I hope you find them at least interesting and at best helpful in creating some new menu items or in planning your own trip. These are my observations based on a few weeks in Greece and are meant to be that, just observations.

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I have to start with water, in particular a glass of chilled water. This is the basis of Greek hospitality, when you visit a Greek home you are first given a glass of chilled water and a place to sit. The same is true when you sit down at a restaurant or even check into a hotel. In the villages around Mt. Pelion the gardens of most homes have a spigot of constantly running mountain water emptying into a marble basin, the same in the village square.

Greece 1

A waiter filling water pitchers before dinner service at Krista’s restaurant on the square in Portaria

Olive Oil
After water, the most important ingredient is olive oil. There are olive trees everywhere, in one location there is a grove with over seven million olive trees. Olive oil was the only fat we saw used in cooking; for dough, frying, salads and to finish most any dish. The saying seems to be “when in doubt sprinkle olive oil on it”. In three weeks, I only saw about a dozen cows; we were served butter twice and this was goat butter. I’m sure they sell shortening and lard in stores, but I never saw it used in cooking.

A typical meal could sGreece 2013 001tart with tapenade of Kalamata olives, eggplant spread and bread grilled over a wood grill and sprinkled with olive oil as shown here from a meal at Krista’s in Portaria. After raving about the eggplant spread, the chef demonstrates how to make it. But the key we find is grilling the whole small eggplant and a red banana pepper over a wood fire which gives the spread a wonderful hint of smoke. Other than the eggplant and pepper there is only olive oil with minced garlic, vinegar, salt and pepper.

Feta with olive oil and herbs both served cold or grilled is also a popular appetizer. We also had a fresh cheese breaded and fried in olive oil, but I wouldn’t order that again.

Another appetizer I only saw when we made them at Milia Mountain Retreat was Dakos, “rusks” dried halves of rolls, topped with grated tomato, cheese and olives.

Greece 2013 142 (2)Bread
The bread is taken seriously, not just filler to put on the table until the appetizers come. Usually it’s sliced with a thick crust and dense like a country loaf, but often it’s made on premise and there is a variety of white, whole wheat, rye and sometimes dense bread sticks with sesame or other seeds. There is also a Greek bagel, the Koulouria, a circle of dough covered with sesame seeds that is often in the basket. This was a clever presentation with the bread in a paper bag with a side of goat butter in a measuring cup at Vezene in Athens.

The traditional Greek salad is usually served without any greens, or sometimes a little arugula on the top. The rest is of course tomatoes, cucumbers, feta, green, yellow & red peppers, onions, kalamata olives, occasionally capers and croutons, best when made from Koulouria. Sometimes salads contain hard boiled eggs, shaved parmesan, boiled potatoes, pepperoncini, 053radishes, baby endive and in the most extreme example the essential flavors captured as gelato.

Another common salad is arugula, usually translated as rocket salad, served dry or mixed with feta or other cheeses, vegetables and herbs.

Wild greens are very common and a broad category. You can often order these steamed or they may be the filling for pita, mixed with cheese and baked in a phyllo crust. But you can also find salads made with wild greens and herbs like this one in the photo on the right from Monopatia, in Ano Pedina. The photo shows the “wild” greens being grown on either side of beans at the Monopatia farm.

Pita usually refers to a dish with a phyllo bottom, Greece 2013 Anna's 341top crust and filling, usually of spinach or wild greens mixed with cheese of some kind. The phyllo dough is made with flour, water, olive oil, salt and sometimes egg and vinegar. The dough is mixed, kneaded and divided into three or five balls depending on how many layers of crust you want. Each ball is rolled out with long dowel, wrapping the dough around the dowel and rolling it to get to the proper thickness and size to fit the pan. One technique I thought was interesting is the dough is ‘draped’ into the pan, creating wrinkles and folds in each layer of dough. The layers of course are laminated with olive oil. Try this with 10 thumbs…

VegetablesGreece 2013 Anna's 320
Zucchini is very popular, as well as peas and green beans served stewed with tomatoes. Most vegetables are stewed for a long period, but surprisingly remain very flavorful. These were from a harbor side restaurant in Paparana where scenes from Mama Mia were filmed.

We had fava a number of timeg10s, a small yellow bean called Fava Santorini that is cooked and served like Dal and the larger variety we are more familiar with.

Mushrooms may be found in many locations in Greece, but we actually got a chance to forage for them at Monapatia in Ano Padina. Fortunately we only ate the ones that Chef Vasilli found. Most of the mushrooms the rest of us found Vassilli drescribed as “Angel of Death”. There were porcini, chanterelles and a mushroom similar to hen-in-the-woods. We enjoyed these grilled and brushed with olive oil and as a soup with shaved truffles.

Lamb is the most common meat, occasionally a grg11illed rack, but more often stewed with vegetables and tomatoes. Here is a photo from kitchen at the Meteora Restaurant, where Grandma has been preparing five stews; four in the restaurant and one at home (because there is not enough oven space), for longer than I have been alive for sure. You can order off the menu but you can also line up in the kitchen and pick out your lunch. Meteora is home to the famous monasteries on the rocks as seen in the James Bond film, “For Your Eyes Only”.

You can also find goat on most menus. I did have some wonderful Pata Negra pork from Andalusia, Spain at Vezena restaurant in Athens or our last night.

Fish & Seafood
We ate a lot of seafood, but not ag13s much as I thought we would. In the mountains in Ano Padina we had some wonderful trout presumably caught in the beautiful streams spann022ed by medieval bridges. Fish is usually grilled over a wood fire and served whole. Shrimp are also often grilled over a wood fire. All of the octopus we had was very tender. When I had tough octopus before, I assumed it was cooked too long. But in Greece they talk about how important it is to flog the octopus on the concrete for an hour immediately after it’s caught. I heard this again since coming back in a story on NPR,  which also suggested hanging it in the sun all day for further tenderizing.

There is some aqua farming in the Peloponnese Sea where sea bream and sea bass are raised in round pens.

Dessert is usually fresh fruit so care is taken to make sure what is served is at peak ripeness. Much of the fruit we enjoyed was also organic.

But of course there is also Baklava. I learned the key is to cleave the Baklava horizontally, instead of trying to cut thru the layers vertically and sending it flying across the table.

After a meal you need to have a Greek coffee. I learned to og14rder a Metrio, or medium, which usually only has one teaspoon of sugar to the two teaspoons of ground coffee. We learned how to make Greek coffee; add water to grounds and sugar and heat until the edges bubble, pour into a glass and enjoy.

After enjoying your coffee the tradition is to turn the cup over Milia Mountain Resort (9)and let the grounds drip down the side of the cup so your fortunate can be read. Here is a member of our group reading my fortunate which she described as “shrouded is mist”.

Tsichouda or Raki is another beverage served after a meal. This is liquor is distilled from grape skins, similar to Grappa. It is normally served at the end of a meal, but in this case it was used as our hand sanitizer and glasses were available while cooking the meal.

Places We Visited

Monopatia Mountain Resort and Restaurant ( is located in Ano Pandina in northwest Greece in the area called Zagoria and was built around the childhood home of chef Vassili Paparounas, who had the Symposium restaurant in Athens. After he lost his lease, he decided to build this resort which combines very comfortable lodgings with fine dining. There are rooms and suites in buildings near the restaurant or if you don’t mind an uphill hike you can enjoy the privacy of the cottages arranged up the hill.

Vassili and his team manage the restaurant the hotel and do a great job. We enjoyed hiking, site seeing as well as foraging for mushrooms and a cooking class with Vassili and his team.

Milia Mountag15in Retreat, Crete ( is a 17th century mountain settlement that was re-settled 20 years ago by a group dedicated to eco-tourism. They have restored the old buildings into rooms and a restaurant. They are totally self-sustaining; getting electricity from solar panels, water from the original spring, raising chickens, goats, vegetables and making their own olive oil, wine and honey. We enjoyed traditional foods of Crete cooking class lead by Milia’s partners NatourLab,

We visited 100% organic Astrikas Estate Biolea Olive Oil Press ( in Crete. They grind their olives with traditional stone wheels and pressed with hydraulic presses. They also produce two olive oils that are pressed with organicGreece 2013 Anna's 032 fruit, one with lemons and the other with wild oranges.

If you have wondered what the difference is between Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Pure Olive Oil, this is what Pure Olive Oil is made from. This is the pomace left over from the pressing. Biolea uses their pomace as mulch, but pomace from other producers is sold to be mixed with hexane and water and the extracted oil is bottled and sold as Pure Olive Oil.

We visited Manousakis Winery (, started by Ted Manousaki’s, owner of the Bread & Chocolate bakery chain in the town he left at age 11. The winery in Crete is operated by his very capable daughter Alexandra. The wines are named Nostos and made with traditional Rhone varietals. There are six bottling’s: Pink; Grenache Rose; Roussane; Grenache; Alexandra, a blend of Syrah, Mourvedre & Grenache; and Nostros, their flagship, made with Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache and Roussane. They are also producing a line of olive oil and salt called Terroir.

One benefit of the economic situation in Greece was that we were able to get reservations at the top rated restaurants by calling the same day.

Funky Gourmet ( is the only restaurant in Athens I know of that is practicing molecular gastronomy, which has earned one star from Michelin. Unlike so many of these restaurants, the staff doesn’t take themselves too seriously and are friendly and as enthusiastic about the food as the chefs that create it.  Everything about Funky Gourmet is a bit funky including the neighborhood. It’s located on the second floor above sort of a pedestrian square. The cab dGreece 2013 111river didn’t know where to drop us based on the address, but a staff member was waiting outside of the building and led us inside. On the night we were there, the folding windows were open and we had a view of the once stately buildings surrounding the square, g17highlighted by eerie up lighting. We enjoyed the chef’s abstract take on traditional Greek dishes while the hearing the sounds of kids playing soccer on the square below. Funky for sure, close to surreal.

We thoroughly enjoyed our meal and it hit all the “Millennial” sweet spots, whether intentional or not, experience layered on experience. We proved that “Boomers” can enjoy these just as much.  A couple of highlights were the beet root pesto, you grab round pasta pieces stamped with the words “Funky Gourmet” with a tweezers and cook them in boiling water infused with a leek and rosemary and then dip in the mortar holding the pesto.

For “Sirloin on the Rock” you place strips of sirloin, grilled on one side, on a super-heated rock surrounded by rosemary sprigs, cooked to desired doneness and dip in drops of Hungarian paprika sauce. This was accompanied by a 2008 Nostos.

Other menu items included the Greek Salad Sorbet, a fabulous scallop with ginger foam.  This would have fit into any restaurant’s menu, the scallop was cooked but was extremely tender on a truffled sauce the consistency of crème brulee and caramelized onions below that I thought was caviar at first.

And of course something served with liquid nitrogen, “Bread & Butter at -196 degrees” and something made with a smoke gun, “Smoked Ice Cream Sandwich”, basically a s’more for you north-woods camping folks.

One last note on one more restaurant, Vezene, in Athens (; no Michelin stars or molecular gastronoGreece 2013 144my but a great meal just the same. They are known for their seafood but on the night we were there they were out of fish. As it turns out, they get their shellfish and fish directly from the folks that catch it and their fisherman’s Jeep Cherokee was broken down. Interestingly, the fisherman catches the fish by diving and spearfishing not line and bait. I saw several photos of people fishing this way at other locations.g18

They weren’t out of shrimp, so we tried the raw shrimp appetizer with poppy seeds and strawberries along with a giant basket of truffle fries (chips fried in olive oil) with parmesan and truffle oil served in a ¼ round Paderno pasta basket. Just for the record we didn’t eat a quarter of these. The bread in the paper bag/basket from this restaurant is pictured earlier.

On the meat side of the menu, they had a number of cuts of Pata Negra pork from Andalusia. This is the same pig that eats acorns in the fall and is made into that wonderful Iberian ham. We saw a number of different versions of Iberian ham in Spain but I never saw these other cuts on a menu in Spain. Here is Pata Negra Pork skirt served with roasted potatoes and the only al dente vegetables I had in Greece.

All the questions we asked about the food brought one of the owners to our table, and we had a long conversation about how the customers mostGreece 2013 Anna's 055 interested in their food and what they are doing with it are young people (Gen X & Y, not us old Boomers) from the U.S.  The gentleman we talked to had spent four years in Chicago getting an HRI degree while working in a large restaurant in Greek Town. He also introduced us to Mastika, ( from the Island of Chios which I found much more enjoyable than Raki. It has an anise-like, slightly piney flavor.Greece 2013 Anna's III 030

I have to mention that this trip was guided by our fearless leaders Leftheris and Jane Pappageorgiou of Hellenic I can tell you it was one seamless and very comfortable adventure with every detail attended to, from transportation to lodging, by knowledgeable, professional guides with visits to the more popular sites timed to avoid the crowds. All of the cooking class, winery and olive vineyard guides are longtime friends of Leftheris, providing experiences you couldn’t get elsewhere. Named Conde Nast’s Top Travel Specialist for Greece for the tenth year in a row and lucky for us he lives in St. Paul, MN. But if even if you don’t live in St. Paul, Hellenic Adventures specializes in arranging personalized trips wherever you live!