What happens when an engineer in food processing and a chef meet? Coming from a background of consulting technicians from the engineering perspective, Suresh Vanalia’s work took him places. Meanwhile, Paul Sheppard made a career change from a chef to sales and marketing for commercial kitchen equipment. Along the way, both gentlemen eventually met and found that they shared common ground; believing that their different experiences can be of value to the foodservice industry. Thus, they established Tri-Arc as an independent Design and Planning Consultant in 2003 with a strong team of 30 personnel.
Nowadays, one would say that restaurateurs are savvier and know the edge of working with a consultant. However, opportunities were plenty back when they started. From their previous work place, they knew that many projects handled in Thailand were usually carried out by the contractor whose expertise and responsibilities lie in making things work. They were mostly stainless steel fabricators themselves or bought items off the shelves. There was less concern or they lacked information on how design works in a commercial kitchen.
THE FULL WORKS
Headquartered in Thailand, Tri-Arc’s project gallery spans across all settings and over the years has had presence in over 20 countries including Australia, Maldives, Egypt, India, New Zealand, St Kitts, UAE and most of Southeast Asia’s countries. Right from the get-go, everything is designed in-house where the combination of Paul and Suresh’s experiences meet the engineers in the Civil, Mechanical, Electrical and Industrial fields. The technicalities are then fused with the creative side of Architecture and Interior Design. Being constantly on-the-ball as a food and beverage consulting firm is one of Tri-Arc’s approach in being on top of its game in commercial kitchens and laundry design. This is due to the Principals’ knowledge that the diversity of Thailand is on par with how its people look at eateries – they are always on the lookout for something new. Walking along the street near Tri-Arc’s office, both gentlemen could remember vividly what F&B outlet was opened before that; a testament to the industry’s fast pace. “The timeline is 6 months. If you make it, you should be safe to hold on to your business for a few years”. This was the sentiment shared by both Paul and Suresh regarding the Thai market.
Market and consumer trends aside, a consultant’s role has gained value in restaurateurs’ perspective because commercial kitchen and its equipment are constantly evolving due to trends, concepts and even cooking techniques. “We have seen how kitchens have gone from behind-the- scene, to be placed in front and centre and now some are moving them back in! And equipment like combi-ovens continuously go through upgrades after upgrades in software that simplifies programming, monitoring and diagnostics”, the principals noted. Tri-Arc serves to bridge the industry to businesses and assisting the latter in remaining relevant and sustainable. As equipment is one of the most hefty investments for a kitchen, they believe that equipment specified must be able to withstand change; in terms of operator or handler. This is crucial in large establishments where high turnover is a familiar issue. In this scenario, operators do not have much time to provide training to new employees, resulting in many machines operating at only 50% of its total capability. This usually happens when a complicated machine is placed in a kitchen and in the end, operators might feel that it did not do much for the business and think about investing in something else.
Precisely why Tri-Arc’s very simple rule is “be practical” when it comes to designing or specifying equipment telling us that most manufacturers design equipment with the necessary and many trained chefs are able to work around them with a little tweaking to get their desired results. “It’s nice to have the best of everything, but you do need to see the environment that you are designing for. In some rural resorts, an overly complicated machine might not be the best solution, even if the customer has the budget. Should the machine run into complex technical problems, it might end up being sidelined while waiting for parts and service due to its remote location”, they opined.
THE TRI-ARC PLEDGE
It is not by chance that it has customers that remain with them since day one. One client has even co-operated with the company on 16 projects. By understanding the business owner’s goals and ambitions yet envisioning the final results through the audience’s eyes, the team creates concepts that will meet the expectations of both parties. The company upholds the importance of practical, relevant and stylish design both in the front and back-of-house, ensuring that there is support for clients every step of the way. One of its outstanding elements which clients have spoken of is their detailed documentation and according to LSG Sky Chefs Catering Unit of Bangkok International Airport, “their work is very thorough and documentation is excellent”. Meanwhile, The Four Seasons Koh Samui said “Tri-Arc team was proactive at all stages of project planning and implementation. Their deliverables and cooperation with our in-house project team are credited for assisting project completion on time and on budget”. Such factors are extremely vital as one project involves many parties and with everyone needing to be on the same page, Tri-Arc makes sure that its clients will not have problems with following up in the future. All these elements has definitely worked in favour of the company and, garnering it market recognition with international hotel chains as a leading Commercial Kitchen and Laundry Designer & Planner offering practical, functional designs that does not lose its stylish edge. Amongst its association as an approved consultant include Hilton, Hyatt International, Marriot, Starwood, Banyan Tree, InterContinental Hotels Group to name a few. The company’s service and design value is not limited to places of leisure but is seen in the setting up of inflight catering services, hospital and healthcare foodservice facilities.
Truly, Paul and Suresh have successfully utilised their background to provide clients insightful ideas to best bring their foodservice dreams to life. In concluding the interview, Tri-Arc advises aspiring business owners to “spend your money wisely and to do that, you need to know your market and be realistic about it, making a decision with the right information”.
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