How the Museum of Science and Industry's kitchen renovation solved sustainability challenges

While redesigning the kitchen at the Museum of Science and Industry, sustainability and employee satisfaction were top of mind.
Museum Kitchen
The Museum Kitchen now offers only reusable dishware. | Photo by Reyna Estrada.

When the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago underwent a renovation on its kitchen last December, employees were involved in the process from the very beginning.

“This has been a great project for me to work on, the remodeling of the space here. We were involved from the ground up, designing the concepts, choosing the equipment and then opening, “said Bonnie Paganis, general manager at the Museum Kitchen.

One goal that was top of mind for the staff, and for Sodexo Live!, the museum’s foodservice provider, according to Paganis, was including environmentally conscious initiatives in the new space.

The Museum Kitchen now uses only reusable dishware. Before the redesign, the only reusable ware offered was the trays.  The team was able to rid of disposables thanks to a new dish machine installed as a part of the redesign.

The new dish machine is called a flight machine—the equipment is large and requires two employees to operate—one who loads dishes on one end, while another worker unloads from the other. The team also has a designated sink for pots and pans. The new dishwashing routine is made possible due to the space redesign. Much of the redesign shifted labor from the back- of-the-house to the front-of-the-house, making more space in the back for washing dishes and working on large orders.

Design by Reyna Estrada

In another effort to be more sustainable in the space, Sodexo Live added Waste Watch Powered by Leanpath, which is a system that measures back-of-house waste.

“It tracks how much goes into the landfill, we can track how much is donated, we can track it by station, by food type. It also gives us the financial impact, so if we were to waste that amount every day for a year, what would be the result on the bottom line,” said Paganis.

The program provides valuable insight to the team, for instance, Paganis has learned that donuts, from the museum’s Stan’s Donuts concept, are the biggest culprit of waste in the operation.

“Sometimes you just don’t know how many people are coming in,” noted Paganis.

The team also takes care of sorting waste, to ensure recyclables go into the right place.

Sustainability has also made its way over to the menu, with nearly every concept offering plant-forward options.  Even Farmstead, which offers mostly chicken and burgers, menus a black bean burger.

One menu item at the Harvest Station, for instance, is the Kitchen Sink Salad, which is made with seasonal ingredients. It also makes use of produce that was purchased for special events but not cooked.

In addition, the museum is shifting away from plastic—beverages that were previously served in plastic containers have been switched to aluminum.

From energy efficient equipment to managing the operation we consider our environmental footprint in every decision,” said the Museum Kitchen team.

When it comes to sourcing, the team uses local and diverse vendors whenever possible. They have established a goal to use at least 25%-30% of vendors from the Minority Business Enterprise.

While one of the focuses of the redesign was improving its sustainability efforts, the new space has also improved employee satisfaction, said Paganis.  

“Our employees—I think their satisfaction rate has gone up hugely. Because not only is the space more amiable and more pleasant to be in, they have all the tools that they need to do their jobs successfully. And it’s really top of the line equipment. Most average kitchens don’t have the type of equipment that we have here,” said Paganis, who also noted that productivity has increased.



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