This past summer was a busy one at Hernando County School District in Brooksville, Fla. The district was faced with the task of renovating four cafeterias within the 10-week break.
“Foodservice had excess funds that needed to be expended, and I knew that at a couple of the schools the work was a little less extensive,” says Lori Drenth, director of food and nutrition services, on the district’s reasons for tackling four cafeterias at once. “Additionally, with a larger scope of work (and much of it using similar trades for each school), we expected to have more vendors bid on the project.”
Organizing a team, applying for permits and keeping track of deadlines can be a daunting task for just one renovation, let alone several. Here, operators share how they and their teams stay on track while tackling multiple renovations.
1. All hands on deck
A quality construction crew wasn’t the only key to keeping Hernando’s projects on track. “The most important thing was to have the contractor and superintendent on every site every time a subcontractor was working,” says Project Manager Jill Edwards. With those decision-makers on-site, she and Drenth could get up-to-date information at the drop of a hat.
At Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., last summer’s projects weren’t quite as straightforward: A coffee shop was relocated, an on-campus food court was renovated, a former Cosi was transformed into a new sandwich concept, and a two-story eatery was converted into a split all-you-care-to-eat/food hall concept. With so much work happening, Associate Vice President of Auxiliary Services Joelle Wiese says it was sometimes difficult for the team to stay focused.
“When we’re in a meeting and we’re talking about one specific area, it was hard to not divert and all of a sudden start talking about the project that we’re going to talk about in the next hour,” Wiese says.
Wiese says that along with taking the time to step back and regain focus during meetings, assigning a separate manager to each project helped make sure people weren’t stepping on each other’s toes.
2. Staying on top of deadlines
Renovation projects aren’t just about the actual renovating work. Edwards says her biggest challenge was getting team members to understand the real time constraints behind completing four simultaneous projects.
“A lot of people on the design side tend to forget about [time]. They forget about board approval time and permitting,” she says.
To help overcome skewed perceptions, Edwards asked her team for constant updates and made sure to enforce the schedule, which she printed out and taped to her desk.
3. Planning starts now
While the Georgetown team was dedicated to keeping the projects flowing, Wiese says other components beyond their control, such as the waiting process for permits, still made timing a challenge, even though they were able to finish the projects on time. Her advice to other operators tackling multiple renovations: Start earlier than expected.
“If you think you’re going to get something in six months, add three more months to the planning,” she says. “You can never start early enough.”