Friday, February 13, 2015


During my tenure as a Food Service Consultant, I've had the pleasure of working with the Sarasota County School Board in the design of many of their K-12 schools. The first High School Kitchen/Cafeteria project I worked on was Riverview High School. Overall, the project presented many challenges such as historical preservation of one of the buildings and how to build an entirely new school on the same limited property as the the old while students continued to attend school. 

Riverview High School Cafeteria, Sarasota County, FL

Due to the site restrictions, the school's new kitchen and cafeteria ended up being designed in a very long and narrow space. It was especially condusive to a typical design of a high school cafeteria. Additionally, the school was planning to shorten lunch periods and this had to be considered during the design phase as well. 


  • The size and shape of the kitchen and cafeteria space was extremely long and narrow.
  • A student body of 2,600 students had to be fed in three 30-minute lunch periods.
  • Past problems with student supervision in the lunch room needed to be addressed.
  • A declining economy meant less cafeteria staff, which meant the design had to be efficient and able to be run with limited staff.
  • In my initial meetings with the Director of Food and Nutrition for Sarasota County School, I was directed to create a cafeteria design that was more of a "food court" concept, rather than the typical cafeteria style buffet lines.


  • First, by dividing the student body of 2,600 into three lunch periods I arrived at the number of students to be fed per lunch period. That number was 866. 
  • Next, based on input from the Director of Food and Nutrition, we figured that approximately 15% of the students bring their lunch to school, leaving 85% (or approximately 750 students) to be served in each 30 minute lunch period.
  • I determined that a total of ten serving stations would be required, four reimbursed meal stations and six "grab-n-go" stations.
  • I designed the four reimbursed meal stations in the style of a penisula, due to the narrowness of the kitchen, a located it directly off the kitchen. Two of the stations were back to back with the other two stations, enabling back up refrigeration and hot holding cabinets to be shared, thus reducing the cost of additional equipment. This also reduced the number of staff required and seperated the students into two distinct areas allowing for easier supervision by teachers and staff.
  • I located a four station "grab-n-go" serving island directly opposite of the reimbursed meal stations in the long and narrow cafeteria. The stations were completely self-sufficient with hot and cold holding. The stations could be stocked prior to and for the duration of all three lunch periods. Because of the "grab-n-go" nature of the stations all four stations could be managed by four cashiers and one or two runners who would restock the stations. Again, the stations were back to back, thus splitting the students up and making supervision easier. Additionally, we made two of the stations accessible from an outside patio area. 
Riverview High School Cafeteria, Sarasota County, FL

  • I located two additional "grab-n-go" stations against one wall of the cafeteria, mid-way between the reimbursible stations and the "grab-n-go stations. These stations were easily managed by two cashiers and one runner. 

Altogether, the ten stations split the student body into groups of approximately 75
students per station, provided greater supervision, easily feeding students within the 30 minute lunch periods with limited staff. The "grab-n-go" stations provided the students with a sense of choice. Because the grab-n-go stations were identical they could be opened and closed depending on the demand and staff availability.


One of the key components of the kitchen design was that it was consistent with other K-12 schools in the district. This enabled the district to move cafeteria staff around as needed, without having to retrain them. The kitchen design and equipment within the Sarasota County School District was kept very consistent between schools. With ample storage and plenty of room, the kitchen design was extremely efficient. 

Riverview High School Kitchen, Sarasota County, FL

In the end, the kitchen and cafeteria design was such a success we adapted the design in three other Sarasota County High Schools: Venice H.S., Booker H.S., and Sarasota County H.S.

Venice High School Cafeteria, Sarasota County, FL
Venice High School Cafeteria, Sarasota County, FL

Here is the testimonial from Beverly Girard, Director of Food and Nutrition, Sarasota County Schools.

"Jim Richards was involved in many kitchen designs with the School Board of Sarasota County, Florida, working from concept to the finished production kitchen and serving areas, when he worked for the company that designed many of our school district’s school kitchens. Jim listens, comes up with great ideas, and quietly but expertly puts plans in motion. Some of the school kitchens Jim was involved with were brand new construction, however, other projects were the reuse of an existing building, which can pose a significant design challenge. However, I always found that Jim maintained a professional composure and was, essentially, unshakable. Jim is respectful of clients’ knowledge and preferences, and works with them to find workable, functional solutions. He takes responsibility throughout the design process, and strives to provide a superior experience, and an excellent finished product. I have very high expectations when designing school kitchen, and have always enjoyed working with Jim."

Beverly L. Girard, PhD, MBA, RD
Director of Food & Nutrition Services
Sarasota County Schools

At the PES Design Group our mission is: "Designing functionally innovative, attractive and profitable c-store and food service facilities on time and on budget". Our promise to you is, that whatever your project may be, we will approach it as unique. We will use our years of experience to design innovation and uniqueness into your project helping you to set yourself apart from the rest. We can provide you will a store design that will help you achieve a greater positive customer experience.

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About the Author

Jim Richards is the Managing Member of Cademan Enterprises, LLC and Principal Design Consultant with the PES Design Group, Southeast Office. During his 25 years of experience in the Food Service Design Industry, Jim has encountered countless challenges that he has overcome through experience and innovation.  

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