Brown-Forman Corporate Cafeteria
“Flexibility is the key word.”
That was the motivating factor behind the recent cafeteria renovation at Brown-Forman, a spirits distiller based in Louisville, Kentucky, says Brad Jennings, food services manager for the company.
“One of the driving thoughts behind our corporation is agility,” Jennings said. “And we’re applying that across the organization, all the way to the food service.”
The renovation got its start thanks in part to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Brown-Forman, whose flagship product is Jack Daniel’s whiskey, has about 800 employees on its main Louisville campus, including a production and bottling line that never stopped running during the pandemic.
“We had a small space with a lot of people working in there, so we needed to increase the kitchen size to maintain social distancing for the workers,” Jennings said. “Once we decided to tackle that, we went ahead and looked at everything to determine how we could improve the whole operation.”
Equipping for flexibility
Starting from scratch meant the food services team could also select the equipment that would best suit their needs.
“Some of our equipment was at the end of its usable life, so we started fresh with equipment that better fit our needs and allowed us to expand what and how we serve.”
Among those choices was UD-Wall counters from LTI.
The historical building that houses the cafeteria had limited utility connections. The cutouts inside the UD-Wall paired with an LTI load center made it possible to run data and electricity lines that could support the entire servery.
“The facility had to pull one main electrical feed to energize the entire serving system,” said Neal Hix of Helix Solutions Group. “Using UD-Wall made the whole system turnkey in a tight timeframe.”
The flexibility of UD-Wall, where cutouts allow for equipment to be rolled in and out as needed, also supported the project’s goals.
“Plus, having the plug-and-play option and being able to reconfigure the space to bring in different equipment options — that was really appealing. The flexibility is really what drove us to going with this choice,” he added.
In addition, Brown-Forman installed LTI’s QuickSwitch wells in its serving lines. These convertible wells are independently controlled and can switch between temperatures in an hour or less.
“Having the QuickSwitch was one of the more exciting introductions for my culinary team. Being able to go from hot to cold to frozen gives us more opportunities,” Jennings said. “We have cold omelet ingredients at breakfast and switch to hot foods at lunch. And we’re even looking at fun options like an ice cream social.”
Designing for appeal
The renovation is the first major update to the cafeteria space in 40 years, Jennings said. In addition to expanding the cramped space, the project also set out to modernize its operation.
“We tore out the old stationary salad bar. We just don’t see a need to go back to that, and it opened up the space considerably,” he said.
The refresh also came with an updated appearance.
“Visually, it’s obviously very striking and a dramatic change from what we’re used to seeing in there,” Jennings said.
Prior to the renovation, the servery was mostly a mix of stainless steel and brown vinyl. A traditional cafeteria tray rail fronted the serving line.
“We absolutely modernized it. We took the cafeteria rail away, which got rid of that institutional feel. We went with blue and wood grain finishes to complement the white countertops, and that really brightened the space dramatically, particularly since it’s an area with no windows,” Jennings noted.
Learn more about how LTI can support modern corporate dining operations here.