Case Study: University of Albany-New York Expects Productivity Gains of At Least 30 Percent

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Alto-Shaam CTP7 oven

Alto-Shaam foodservice equipment is playing a major role in the three-phase campus center expansion and renovation at the University of Albany (UAlbany). As the campus moves toward front-of-house cooking concepts, Alto-Shaam is supporting the project with new equipment and culinary assistance.

Phase 1 and 2 have been completed while phase 3 is wrapping up this summer. The first phase involved the construction of an east side addition to the campus center while phase 2 focused on the university’s new west addition and the existing central portion of the building. Phase 3 consists of a refresh of the east addition that includes the east food stations and new menu offerings.

One of UAlbany’s goals was to build a west wing adjacent to the existing campus center, which would incorporate the student government offices, resource centers and a 400-seat auditorium. In addition, the university decided to renovate the existing center, which combined major renovation construction with an overall facelift.

“During this process, all main dining venues in the campus center were either eliminated or redone,” says Stephen Pearse, university auxiliary services executive director. “Nothing now was how it was prior to the renovation.”

This foodservice dining program overhaul included changing up menus, creating more diverse portfolios and offerings, and incorporating the necessary equipment for these changes.

“Some of the older equipment was retained, but most of it was new, as we decided to bring much of the cooking out of the kitchen to the front of house,” says Pearse. “We added a Mediterranean concept named Niko’s and a halal venue called Halal Shack, both of which were created and will be operated by class of 2011 alumni.  A Southeast Asian brand, Star Ginger, also was incorporated.”

Because much of UAlbany’s equipment was outdated, this was an opportunity to incorporate the latest technology.

“We renovated a faculty/staff kitchen two summers ago and brought in an Alto-Shaam combi oven, which was something we wanted to include in the new facilities,” says Pearse. “We’re big Alto-Shaam fans, so anywhere we could incorporate this equipment, we tried to do so.”

Having equipment from the same manufacturer, including steam-injected ovens and warming boxes, also made sense from a maintenance and service standpoint.

This was a big project by any standards and one with many challenges.

“Behind the west wing, a brand new kitchen replaced one that hadn’t been touched for almost three decades, other than minor changes,” says Kevin Cromwell, owner of Cromwell Consulting Inc., based in Stoughton, Mass., who worked on the project. “The electrical system was outdated, a lot of the infrastructure needed updating, and they didn’t have enough refrigeration space.”

Because a historical building was involved, certain walls couldn’t be touched, the ceiling’s grand arches needed to be maintained and other aspects of the facility needed to remain.

“I would be generous in saying that we saved 5 percent of the (older) equipment, not including the wire shelving,” says Cromwell. “The 60-quart mixer was 22 years old and needed refurbishing, but everything else needed replacing. We had two companies come in to see if we could sell the remaining equipment, but it wasn’t salvageable.”

When the third phase is completed, the catering/secondary prep kitchen will include more dedicated space and updated equipment for added efficiency. This includes two Alto-Shaam roll-in combis, a double-stack combi set and two cook & hold ovens.

“This will increase productivity between 30 and 40 percent, improve food quality and consistency, and provide benefits from ease of use, as the Alto-Shaam combis are used across campus,” says Cromwell.

The main kitchen will include another Alto-Shaam roll-in combi oven and a stacked combi set. There will be a total of 12 new combi ovens installed in UAlbany’s kitchens, in addition to drop-in waterless food wells, cook & hold ovens and heated drawer warmers.

“We chose Alto-Shaam as the main equipment provider not just because of the equipment itself, but also due to the extensive culinary support,” says Cromwell. “Their ability to answer quick questions online and the fact that we can easily program equipment utilizing a thumb drive from equipment to equipment across campus to ensure consistency was beneficial from a user standpoint.”

Although the project is not scheduled for completion until the middle of this summer, the equipment was chosen for its versatility, user-friendly operation and the quality of the end product.

“We’re closing one of our traditional resident dining halls, and students will more readily use the retail area for their meal plans, so we’ll see volume like we haven’t seen before,” says Pearse. “We’re  confident the Alto-Shaam equipment is up to the task and will fulfill our aspiration to be one of the leading retail operations in the Northeast.”


Learn more how to use Alto-Shaam’s system solutions and full line of commercial foodservice equipment to improve food quality and increase production. Register now for a free A Taste of Alto-Shaam demo at a kitchen near you

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