An understanding of how the equipment you are designing will be used and possibly abused helps a lot. Will an oven be used to cook one meal a day and tenderly cared for by school foodservice workers? Or will it be jamming from morning to night and maybe wiped off at the end of the day? How rugged does it have to be? Will the door be kicked shut? Is it front of house equipment that needs to be attractive as well as functional, or will it be tucked in among other heavy equipment in the kitchen? Will employees stick around for years and learn the fine art of cooking or move on after summer vacation? Is it more important to automate the equipment or to allow a creative chef to play?
It helps to talk to people in operations to appreciate how their kitchen functions. And even then, it may not be the whole story. Back in our Stellar Steam days an operator insisted that the kitchen was not hosed down at night by the cleaning crew – but nighttime surveillance proved him incorrect.
Service agents give another important view of what works well and what doesn’t. We learned early on that they did not like removing 27 screws to take a side panel off, so we devised a very simple method of removing side panels that required only a capture screw.