Kitchen Design, Equipment Supply & Installation
The move of the TruStage (formerly CUNA Mutual Group) headquarters to a new building proved to be a perfect time for a complete overhaul of the employee dining options. The old-style cafeteria not only seemed outdated, but the concept meant long lines backed up at the peak lunch time each day. The Boelter team worked with foodservice supplier Eurest USA and the architect firm of O’Kelly Kasprak to create a new, free flowing space that is not only open and inviting, but also allows people to enjoy fresh food made in front of them.
The new format consists of six stations, each with its own name and concept.
- Flame (the grill)
- Graze (salad bar)
- BB’s Market (bakery)
- Fork and Flour (pizza and pasta)
- Hometown (flexible)
- Urban Kitchen (hot entrée)
Equipment plays a central role in each station’s overall design, setting the tone and adding to the beauty of the facility in addition to its functional role. For example, at BB’s Market a Balforne pizza oven takes center stage, where the rust-colored glaze provides a pop of color to the station. Nearby at the Graze salad bar, a custom-made curved glass salad tower provides space to display salad ingredients which highlight the fresh-made concepts that are an important priority of the new cafeteria. “We wanted to bring in equipment that was impactful on this project, both to the customers as well as the staff using it,” says Robin Hernaez, vice president, culinary, Eurest USA.
Of course, equipment plays more than an aesthetic role, and in this case what’s not seen is just as important as what customers view while at the station. “Everyone wants to see fresh food cooked to order, but in this concept we were also paying attention to speed of service and worked hard to balance the two,” Hernaez says. “Each station comes equipped with undercounter refrigeration and hot holding cabinets to allow items prepped in the back kitchen to be stored at the station where needed.”
Designed for Flexibility and Speed
As with any large construction project, the TruStage headquarters construction from planning to completion took place over a few years, which in this case meant the COVID-19 pandemic occurred after initial plans were made. As foodservice establishments dealt with new concerns, such as the need to ramp up to-go orders or provide extra layers of protection through shields and sneeze guards, the teams on this particular project adapted the design to allow for flexibility, whatever the future of foodservice might bring. “We designed the individual stations with adjustable glass, so each station can transform from a full-service option to a self-serve station where guests come take their food,” says Eric Chaplick, Director, Operations & Design, Boelter. Sneeze guards were also set up with flexibility to allow the station to be service or self-serve.
Flexibility in food production was also a key component of this project. At the Hometown station, portable equipment under the hood means the menu can be changed week to week or day to day. Staff plugging in a griddle one day allows them to serve up Mexican and switch it out with a wok the next day for Asian cuisine. “With this project, the goals were functionality, timelessness, and flexibility. And the Boelter team was great at keeping that the focus,” Hernaez says. “For example, where people might want a Mongolian grill because it’s trendy right now, they would recommend a flat-top to have more flexibility and variety in the long run.”
Equipment choices also played a part in improving efficiencies for the operation. Digital menu boards and ordering kiosks were installed to help keep traffic moving. “There’s more space in this cafeteria than in the previous building, which allowed us to spread out the stations to help move people through, but adding in the ordering kiosks also helps increase the efficiency and avoid long lines for service as more people come back to the office to work,” Chaplick says.
Coffee Shops Add Variety
In addition to the employee cafeteria, Boelter also helped with the design and equipment supply of two coffee shops in the building. On the ground floor where people are coming in and out of the building, the coffee shop has grab and go cases for pastries and snacks. The operation on the second floor is designed to be more of a place to sit and meet with other employees, complete with a juice bar, comfortable seating, and a fireplace.
“The goals of this new foodservice operation were to enhance the employee experience, to make the workplace more collaborative and create meeting spaces and places for people to gather,” Hernaez says. “The coffee shops are an extension of the cafeteria services and provide those gathering points for employees.”
A Turnkey Solution
From foodservice design to sourcing equipment to supplying smallwares, Boelter’s team was there from the initial planning stages to opening day of the TruStage foodservice facilities. “We were able to supply the opening package of smallwares, food pans, utensils, and cookware,” Chaplick says. “It’s a real benefit for the client to be able to work with one company on so many facets of the project. There’s a continuity to the project that helps things move along seamlessly, and it helps meet the client’s expectations better when there’s one point of contact moving through the processes.”
At TruStage, Chaplick and his team created a space where the company’s 2,000 employees can get a good meal without interrupting their workday by having to leave campus or wait in a long line. This beautiful facility helps make the transition to working in the office even better as the company comes out of pandemic restrictions and welcomes back its employees.
For additional details on this project, check out our Foodservice Equipment & Supplies Magazine Design of the Month feature here.
Read more about Eric Chaplick, and see some of his extensive project portfolio.