Step Into the Cloud: Foodservice Pros Leverage Technology to Work Collaboratively

Members of the foodservice design project team rarely find themselves working from the same location at the same time. What to do? Step into the cloud where a slew of technological solutions help bring project teams closer together.

Online project collaboration continues to become the norm for many businesses and the foodservice industry is no exception. Good news is that foodservice professionals can now access a variety of tech tools and programs to support working with both colleagues and clients "in the cloud" and make projects come together in a more clear and concise manner.

During the FCSI Symposium earlier this year, representatives from Foodservice Consultants Studio (FCS), a design firm based in Montpelier, Va., talked about their transition to remote collaboration. In doing so, they pointed out a handful of online tools that both design and MAS consultants can use to work together and share drawings and documents with clients from anywhere, any time.

Dropbox for Business (Dropbox.com/business) — this web-based, file-sharing program costs $15/month for unlimited storage and an enhanced file back-up service. Users can upload and download drawings, designs, photos and other documents via computers, smartphones and tablets and invite other users to share folders. Dropbox recently added a comment posting option to keep conversations organized in one place and to allow users to gather feedback in one spot. To bring someone into the loop, type "@" followed by their name or email address. That person will receive an email notification with your comment and a link to the file in question.

Jing by TechSmith (Techsmith.com/jing.html) — this free screen capture tool takes screenshots and features a built-in annotation tool so collaborators can share drawings or renderings and also take notes, circle things, note comments, and email the file to others. Users can also post the annotated files on HipChat, a private group chat program, to quickly share ideas with clients or team members and pose questions or comments. Jing can also be used to create short, 3-minute videos off a user's desktop for use in presentations or training.

Join.Me (Join.me) is a user-friendly, screen sharing and meeting tool. Simply open the program, click "start meeting," and the program will generate a 9-digit code to use in setting up the meeting. Within seconds, users can see each other's computers while communicating on the phone for enhanced collaboration over drawings and other documents. While Jing and HipChat are useful for quick questions, Join.Me provides opportunities for extensive collaboration and can also be used for one‐on‐one training. Free to start, paid for upgrades.

Zoom (Zoom.us) is a videoconferencing tool using built-in cameras on computers that makes it seem like you're sitting in the same room with others. The program also allows screen sharing so collaborators can look at Revit or AutoCAD documents on another person's desktop. In addition, the program has a note-taking feature where users can record comments and questions for follow-up. Free for conferencing up to 40 minutes, $10/month for unlimited use.

Microsoft OneNote (onenote.com) and Evernote (evernote.com) are online programs for capturing notes and to-do lists. Use this program to take written and audio notes during client meetings. Notes can then be accessed from a computer, smartphone or tablet at anytime and/or shared with clients for viewing or editing. FCS has used these programs to share and take notes on design proposals as well.

Citrix ShareFile (Citrix.com/products/sharefile) is an online file-sharing program that allows users to create a custom-branded, password-protected space to exchange documents with clients easily and securely. The program can also be used to send large files by email, conduct a secure file transfer and set up a collaboration space. Documents can be accessed via smartphones and tablets during client meetings and the program allows users to view downloads in progress.

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