Modular Kitchens for Education: What You Must Know

Essential Insights on Modular Kitchen Solutions for Educational Institutions

You’ve known for a while that you need to remodel your kitchen and servery and dishwashing facility, and even your dining hall. You’ve finally gotten the architects and engineers and administration on the same page, and you’ve even gotten the budget approved.

now what?
You know there are a hundred things to think about and plan for. First off, you’re going to be down for 12-15 months—which you know will probably stretch to 18 months or more if things go like they usually do. And while you’re down, you still have thousands of meals to serve every day to hungry students. Not to mention the special events all over campus that require food service support.

Challenges Foodservice Operators Face

Who do you engage to assist in a delicate, complicated, important project that has to go right?
When the University of Southern California, The Naval Academy at Annapolis, Harvard Business School, Arizona State University, the University of Mississippi, and many other schools and universities faced exactly that problem, they called on Kitchens To Go, the leader in modular, temporary, and mobile food service facilities, and winner of the 2012 Kitchen Innovations Award for our Bolt-On modular kitchens, presented by the National Restaurant Association.
Kitchens To Go engineers, architects, and food service experts will respond to your inquiry with a complimentary site visit to get to know everything there is to know about your situation.
Your menu. Your food preparation style. Where you might place temporary facilities. Obstacles to that placement, like buildings and trees and difficult access. If there is flexibility in the timing, what time of year would be best to start the process. How long you’ll need an interim solution. Should you lease or buy. And all the hundred and one other considerations.
You can’t make that call too soon, by the way. Much like the demolition and construction of your new permanent facility, it can take a year or more to hammer out a final design, get health and building permits approved, get your modules built and furnished and delivered and installed, get utilities connected, and get approved by the health department.
Before you do make that call, here are some of the things to be thinking about, along with a few answers, so you’ll be prepared:
Size, layout, configuration of multiple units, type of energy used, equipment, dry and cold storage, delivery time, etc.
Modules are available in sizes ranging from 8.5 ft x 20 ft up to 12 ft by 60 ft, constructed for use with natural gas, propane or electricity, and with or without HVAC and refrigeration. All equipment is commercial grade, and is NSF and UL approved. Equipment is pre-installed and pre-tested to avoid any on-site challenges. In compliance with the strictest safety standards, units include Tempered Make-up Air, and exhaust systems with fire suppression as well.
Modules can be configured for cooking, food prep, assembly, serving, and washing. Other modules can be used for storage or office space. There are even toilet and locker room modules, as well as trash rooms and recycling centers. Modules are designed to maximize flow, accessibility, and productivity, even when many modules are connected together. They are designed to be able to be lifted and set by crane if road access isn’t feasible. Rooftop placement, arborist concerns, or ensuring historic venue safety and protection are all easily handled.
Modules can be configured in unlimited arrays. When USC needed a solution, we designed, built and linked 17 individual modules, and connected them to an 11,000 square foot custom-built aluminum-framed membrane structure that we also built to ensure long-term integrity and aesthetic value. When the Naval Academy replaced their facilities, we provided the membrane structure (that successfully withstood several nasty blizzards) and other modules that enabled the Academy to prepare and serve some 14,500 meals per day to their 4,500 Midshipmen.
We have solutions for smaller operations, too—from about 50 students up. We will provide a comprehensive engineered drawing package that will help your team in getting required code approvals and permits from campus, regional, and state Building and Health Departments. We’re familiar with code requirements throughout the country, and all modules are designed and built to conform to all health and building codes.
1–4 weeks, or longer for very large or complex projects

2–4 weeks

1–4 weeks, or longer for very large or complex projects

1–4 weeks, or longer for very large or complex projects

2–5 days

5 to 18 weeks, or more, for larger projects
As you can see, a large or complex project, such as one with a great deal of high-end custom design, with significant physical or environmental challenges can easily take six months or more to design, build and install. Our expertise can help in the planning process, so the earlier we get involved, the better.
In cases of emergency or disaster relief, we have self-contained units ready to ship in just a day or two, for rapid delivery and installation. We can get you up and running very quickly with a multitude of turnkey solutions, but might not have all the custom options available when we have time to engineer a solution specific to your operation.
The single most important factor when dealing with our solutions is that every cost is outlined before you commit, so there are no surprises later from hidden costs. That is absolutely critical to a successful implementation, so please make sure that you are guaranteed of that from your provider. After all, if you’re 6 months in to a big project and a hidden cost comes up, what are you going to do – have all the equipment removed and start over? Not likely.
In many instances, our clients find leasing this kind of equipment makes the most sense. Modules can also be purchased, which generally starts to make sense if the project is anticipated to last more than 18 months and there is a defined use for the facility after the end of the project. For example, USC purchased the student union complex  and converted it into an athletic arena, but returned the kitchen production units when their new kitchen and dining facility was ready.
Every solution we offer is unique, so we urge you consult with an expert to assist you in navigating every single facet of your project roll out and implementation. Delivery, Installation & Removal fees vary based upon the size of the project and site conditions. Utility costs are comparable to the average costs for the facility being replaced.
Phased construction may be an option, but it typically takes two or three times as long and is much more expensive and disruptive than doing the entire job as a single seamless process. Phasing may not be possible in instances where the new facility covers the existing footprint, or where there are security issues, such as on a military or high-tech facility.
Halting in-house foodservice and partnering with an outside foodservice provider to have meals brought in from an off-site venue can often cost 20% – 30% more than in-house production. There is also the possibility to consider that you lose control of food safety, consistency and quality. In addition, a kitchen shutdown can cause morale problems as you have to relocate or lay off staff. An interim kitchen reduces costs, minimizes the length of the project, and ensures quality control and consistency.
Temporary kitchens are a cost-effective and efficient solution for:

Check out these related case study videos from Harvard University, the U.S. Naval Academy, and California State University, Long Beach.

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Kitchens To Go provides mobile, modular and containerized solutions for projects of any timeframe. Markets and conditions are changing constantly, however, so please connect with us to find out what options are currently available for your project’s need and timeline.