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BOWLS–Food That’s Good For You! Wins IHMRS 2014 Foodservice Pioneering Concept

Healthy and decidedly upscale food in a convenient, fast-casual setting was the winning combination that took first place in the International Hotel, Motel + Restaurant Show’s 2014 Foodservice Pioneering Concept competition, Nov. 9-11 at Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York. 

Creative collaboration, combined expertise and a clear vision of what today’s customers are looking for made the winning concept, “BOWLS—Food That’s Good For You!,” a home run with the contest judges. Robert and Corey Nyman, the father-and-son team heading The Nyman Group, with offices in Las Vegas and Scottsdale, Ariz., teamed up with foodservice-facilities designer Steve Carlson, FCSI, principal, Robert Rippe & Associates, Minneapolis, to create BOWLS.

“My background is food and nutrition,” Robert Nyman, president, says. “Natural, nutritious food has always interested me, and there are so many great resources today.” But to work in a commercial foodservice, he adds, nutrition can’t be forced. When an industry friend suggested he enter the IHMRS Foodservice Pioneering Concept competition with his natural “good for you food” concept, Nyman was intrigued. Tapping into the natural, hormone- and nitrate-free food resources he and his son, Corey, director of operations, rely on in their menu-development work, the two came up with a truly innovative menu. Nyman then called on long-time collaborator and good friend Carlson to design the restaurant.

The Food 

Customers begin with bowl bases: lavosh, brown rice, quinoa, hearty vegetables or gluten-free pasta and then choose a natural protein such as beef, chicken, ahi tuna, white shrimp or tofu (or they can just opt for additional vegetables). On top of the proteins, BOWLS offers a wide selection of salad toppings, including fennel, herb corn, jicama orange, morrocan cucumbers and spicy Brussels sprouts. Next comes what the concept team calls “crunchies,” items that add flavor and texture; organic tamari pumpkin seeds, mango slices, chopped dates, dried cherries, ginger cubes, mesquite or dry-roasted almonds and crunchy green beans are examples. Finally, dishes are topped with dressings; selections include Anchovy Feta; Asian, Dijon Yogurt, Nightshade-Free Cherry BBQ Sauce, Garlic & Caper Citrus Vinaigrette and more. 

Desserts and beverages complete the menu.

All selections are featured on the menu boards, logos and graphics for which were designed by Jef Salazar, principal with Okami Brand, a strategic partner in BOWLS, who is responsible for the concept image design and aesthetics. 

Carlson handled the facility design, attending not only to the pragmatic aspects required in designing a foodservice concept for a nontraditional space—small footprint, no ventilation, electric power only and limited access to water—but he managed to equip the concept with sustainability at the fore. For example, BOWLS uses stainless wherever possible (shelving, counters, counter framework, front-of-house wall paneling, etc.) because it is almost 100% recyclable. Induction is the cooking method of choice with induction warmers on the front service counter and an induction plancha on the back counter. The undercounter dishmachine requires only an incoming cold-water connection, but still provides hot-water sanitization. An Energy Star-rated refrigerator with an expansion-valve refrigeration system is specified.

Adding to the aesthetics and the intention to locally source ingredients, the unit design calls for installation of a Chef’s EcoWall Garden and EcoWall Planter System. They include live plants on trellises overhead and a chef’s wall and shelves filled with living—and usable—herbs and produce. 3M Architectural Markets lighting products enhance the entire atmosphere of the concept. 

After viewing the Nyman/Carlson contest submission, competition judges—Melanie Corey-Ferrini, DYNAMIK Space, Seattle; Michael Atanasio, Overlook Medical Center, Summit, N.J.; James Dale, Grand Hyatt New York; Robert Doland, Jacobs, Doland, Beer, New York; Maura Doran, New York Methodist Hospital; Mark LoParco, University of Montana; Geoffrey Mills, Crowne Plaza Times Square Manhattan; and Tracy Nieporent, Myriad Restaurant Group, New York—were impressed.

One summed up the general opinion:

“The concept addresses the need for a healthy, affordable and convenient dining experience with a unique approach,” the judge says. “Concept is very interactive with personal attention to customer needs. It addresses a wide array of sustainability issues and incorporates a number of technologies.” 

Setting Up For The Show

Once BOWLS was chosen as the first-place winner, Foodservice Pioneering Concept Program Director Marsha Diamond, with support from IHMRS Show Director Phil Robinson, shifted into high gear to hire and direct fabricators to build the working-scale model for the IHMRS show floor, hire a video company and graphic designers and procure all of the equipment, materials, servingware (including compostable utensils from World Centric), kitchen prep space, food and volunteers to begin the process of bringing BOWLS to life. 

Working with Peter Cooper, Middleby’s v.p. of consulting services, Diamond was able to procure a Blodgett Oven mini combi oven, a CookTek induction plancha, Wells ventless-solutions exhaust hoods and sloped drop-in cold pans and an induction drop-in warmer from Carter-Hoffmann. Additional equipment from local rep firms included a Beverage-Air reach-in refrigerator, Hamilton Beach rice cookers, The Vollrath Co. cider warmer, a Lakeside mobile hand sink, a Federal Industries self-serve display case, a Unified Brands cashier stand and VGS menu boards.

With all hands on deck, including the Nymans; Carlson and his wife, Anna; local culinary-school student volunteers; and chef friends, BOWLS served hundreds of samples to show attendees throughout the three-day event. Nyman reports that several parties have reached out with inquiries about developing the concept. 

More Winning Concepts 

Second Place in the 2014 competition went to Al Dente by Chris Tripoli, principal, A’La Carte Foodservice Consulting Group, Houston, Texas. Although it’s intended to serve global pasta—everything from herb spaetzle to soba noodles to whole-wheat spaghetti—Tripoli says community connection is the driving force behind how the restaurant looks and operates. It’s about 200-300 sq. ft. in size, but each Al Dente would be unique because the unit is intended to embrace the community in which it’s located. Local artists, ideally using reclaimed materials, would make the furniture, countertops and artwork. The menu would feature hyper-locally sourced ingredients. Even the staff would be involved in service projects to help better the community that supports Al Dente—it’s all part of the brand.

Third Place went to CaféBellas by Steven Coté, managing director, and Jasna Ostojich, president, Brickton Realty, Winnetka, Ill., with input from A.J. Barker, a chef and director of operations for Think Tank Hospitality Group, Lynnwood, Wash. CaféBellas is a micro concept for a micro community, a very cool-looking 150-sq.-ft. mini foodservice with a sous-vide-based menu of healthy foods. Everything from tender ribs to small plates to artisan cheeses are offered, along with a full selection of coffees and teas. The concept can install anywhere, on a mountaintop at a ski resort to a hotel or hospital lobby. It can lock up and be moved; it works indoors and out. Coté had a full-size model of it built and displayed on the IHMRS show floor.  

Get Your Creative On

Have a fantastic idea for a new foodservice concept? Think small spaces, no access to gas or ventilation, limited access to water, but plenty of electricity. What would you come up with?

The goal of the Foodservice Pioneering Concept competition is to draw ideas for compact, trendsetting foodservice concepts that can install anywhere. Environmental responsibility, wireless connectivity, relationship to the host venue and community are all aspects that play a part in judges’ consideration when choosing winning concepts. The first-prize winner enjoys the spotlight as a scale model of the concept is built on the IHMRS show floor in November.

Entering is easy: You’ll need to submit a concept description, floor plan, equipment list and renderings. 

If you’d like to enter in 2015, contact Program Director Marsha Diamond at marsha@marshdiamond.com after Feb. 15, 2015, to ask for entry materials (submissions likely will be due in April). Put “IHMRS 2015 Foodservice Pioneering Concept Contest” in the subject line, and good luck!

IHMRS Foodservice Pioneering Concept Sponsors 

Many thanks go to the competition sponsors: Middleby Corp. (with special thanks to Peter Cooper, Middleby’s v.p. consulting services), Carter-Hoffmann, CookTek, Blodgett Ovens, Wells, 3M Architectural Markets and EcoWalls.

And IHMRS is grateful for the support of goods and equipment from Beverage-Air, Bob’s Red Mill, B.S.E. Marketing, Davidson’s Pasteurized Eggs, E&A Hotel & Restaurant Supply, Federal Industries, Hamilton Beach, Kontos, Lakeside, Pecinka Ferri, Restaurant Depot, Stock Yards, TD Marketing Co., Tri-State Marketing, M. Tucker, Unified Brands, VGS, The Vollrath Co., Waiakea, Woodstock Farms and World Centric.

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