When Not to Hire a Professional Foodservice Consultant

Wait a minute! Why would a professional foodservice consultant say that you should not hire him? As someone who makes a living ensuring that my client’s best interest are protected, I realize there are times when a client would be better served by obtaining design services from someone other than me. Let me explain. Foodservice facility designers generally follow one of two business models. They are either fee-based designers (all professional members of FCSI fall into this category) or value-added designers (companies that offer design services in addition to direct sales of equipment fall into this category). Some projects are better served by fee-based designers, while others are more appropriate for value-added designers. The type of designer needed for the project is dependent on the characteristics of the particular project, as I’ll explain below.

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Fee-based designers act as their client's unbiased advocate

Our firm utilizes the fee-based business model and we are compensated solely from the fees charged to our clients. We take no compensation from manufacturers or other sources for specifying particular brands of equipment nor do we receive compensation from the sale of the foodservice equipment. Compare this to a foodservice equipment dealer who offers design services for little to no expense to the client knowing that he will have an opportunity to sell the equipment package and pocket the profit from that sale.

Projects that are relatively small (meaning a foodservice equipment budget of less than $150,000) and that don’t have complicated systems (e.g., conveyor systems or complicated refrigeration rack systems) are perfectly suited for the foodservice equipment dealer. In this case, the dealer can provide design services for very little up-front cost. When he sells the equipment package to the client, he will recoup the costs for his design services.

Owners of larger projects or projects requiring highly engineered systems are usually better served by fee-based designers, such as professional members of FCSI. Why? The fees incurred to secure the services of a professional member of FCSI can be justified through the competitive bidding process. Typically, our firm’s clients realize savings through the bid process that more than cover the fees for our professional services. In order to become a professional member of FCSI, one must demonstrate competencies in the foodservice industry by passing a written Industry Knowledge Exam and a Professional Skills Exam. In addition, one must have a minimum of three years of project management experience. Professional members of FCSI must also subscribe to a strict code of ethics that ensures that they serve as client advocates throughout the design and construction process, and most notably, FCSI consultants never sell equipment.

In conclusion, you should seek the services of a professional fee-based consultant for any project that requires significant expertise, includes highly engineered systems and are of sufficient size that the competitive bidding process will offer sizable savings. Small and relatively simple projects may be better suited for foodservice equipment dealers offering design services as a value-added service. If you have a project that you would like to discuss in general, feel free to give us a shout. We’ll be happy to help you determine which kind of food facility designer would be right for you. Thanks for reading!