Love at First Bite: Quick-Service Concept Hiya Taco Powered by Back-of-House Cook-Chill System

Foodservice Equipment Report (FER) highlighted how starrdesign helped create the new fast-casual restaurant design for Hiya Taco just outside of Milwaukee.  While most traditional taco concepts use a scoop & serve method to meet speed requirements, this method allows the taco fillings to stew in a steamtable for hours. Hiya Taco offers cooked-to-order tacos using a cook-chill-finishing method offering guests exceptional food quality, quick ticket times, and very unique flavor profiles.  This new cooking method and the creative design set Hiya Taco up for a multi-unit expansion.


12 Chef-Inspired Recipes To Shake Up Your Quarantine Dining

Tired of making the same few things from your pantry-friendly foods? Even restaurant industry foodies feel like they’re running out of unique ideas to cook for themselves and their families while sheltering in place. So we’re here to spice things up. We reached out to our friends in the restaurant industry for some of their favorite recipes that you can make right in your own home.

Celebrity chefs and professionals with over 140 + combined years in the restaurant industry pitched in some relatively easy recipes that can be made with ingredients that are likely already sitting in your pantry. If not, you can easily find them at a local grocery store (in your mask, of course!).

While we still encourage everyone to support their favorite restaurants with take-out orders much as possible, we understand that it can become a bit taxing on some already tightened purse strings. So dive in and enjoy one of these 12 chef-inspired recipes from the chefs we’ve grown to know and love over our many years together in the restaurant industry – we know we will!

1 Problem, 3 Solutions: A Restauranteur's Guide to Selection & Procurement

As product options and providers increase across the globe, narrowing down restaurant furniture can be difficult. Procurement can be even more difficult, particularly as globalization continues to open doors to new opportunities and to new challenges.

For the purpose of this article we focus on seating, one of the most imported furniture products in the country. It also is one of the most essential, practical parts of restaurant interior design. However, ensuring that you have all of the right seating in time for opening day can be a huge pain in the you-know-what.

Here are a few practices you can take to minimize stress and complications when trying to get the best product into your concept seamlessly and cost-effectively:

Make sure expectations are clear

You should have a clear understanding of what your budget and concept mean for your furniture selection. We categorize seating in terms of the amount of time you intend a guest to sit in the chair (i.e. full-service dining restaurants usually use 45 – 90 minute chairs; whereas fast casual restaurants typically look for 30-45 minute options). If you’re used to “45-minute chair” prices in your casual dining concept, it’s important to note that you’ll need to pay more for a “90-minute chair” that’s suitable for a fine dining experience. Cost often correlates with average time spent in a chair, so it’s important to know how long the average customer will sit. QSR’s typically have a higher volume of shorter seat times, making comfort less important than durability.

You can also follow this old rule of thumb. If you are looking at wood chairs or stools and have physical sample, you can self-evaluate by looking at its number of mechanical fasteners (i.e. screws, bolts, brackets, etc.). The fewer mechanical fasteners, the higher the quality. When the joints are all wood, the chair is more likely to flex under pressure rather than break.

Look for properly rated products

BIFMA (The Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association) is a non-profit organization that sets safety and performance standards for commercial furniture products. It runs stability, durability and safety tests on products from different manufacturers and uses scientifically-backed standards to rate each product. It can be challenging to differentiate between good, better and best quality products by looking at a catalog, despite the huge differences between them and their relative prices. Looking for BIFMA certifications not only provides direction but can also shift liability from you to the manufacturer if the product malfunctions. Although it may increase the cost, BIFMA-rated products are recommended for sustainability in the long run -the higher the rating, the more weight it is designed to support and the more durable it is.

Communication is key

Communication also is essential to mastering the lead time between ordering and receiving your furniture. This includes doing your research to see how long vendors will hold items, how much notice they need before placing an order and making storage arrangements for the products if they arrive before construction is completed.

One way we deal with this is to always include specifications for how and where the General Contractor should store the furniture should it arrive early. This is particularly important in today’s age of globalization, where shipping times can often be unpredictable (foreign countries, typhoons, etc.). Ideally, you want to work it out so that the furniture arrives once the restaurant is ready for it – but this is rarely reality. Therefore, clear communication about when the furniture is needed, how long it takes to ship, how far in advance to make the order and whether you need housing accommodations will help save you from overpaying for air freight or sacrificing design for quick-ship options. Using a purchasing agent or ensuring that your designer can act as a purchasing agent (and is familiar with these issues) can often save you a lot of money and pain in the you-know-what.

Featured in Restaurant Development + Design.

Former burger joint prior to takeover

Post Covid-19: The Pros and Cons of Location Takeovers


Former burger joint prior to  takeover
Former burger joint prior to takeover

As the novel coronavirus continues to derail restaurants’ plans for 2020, owners and operators may be beginning to contemplate what is in store for their future. Inevitably, some will fail. Others, however, will be ready to expand into new spaces– and with some concepts closing their doors, there will be an increase in vacated real estate open for takeover.

While it is possible to take over an existing restaurant space quickly, effectively and affordably, you have to be careful. Those unfamiliar with this type of development often think they’re getting a great deal because so many required elements of a typical restaurant build-out are existing. Landlords and brokers will emphasize these aspects, highlighting the opportunity to “save.” However, these existing conditions rarely work out the way they’re promoted and can end up costing more in the long-run.

Restauranteurs have the potential to keep these costs down, but in order to do so, it’s important to understand why the costs might not be as low as expected or promoted. There are two key things that influence the costs of developing or taking over an existing restaurant:

Differentiation – a fine line

The former restaurant you’re taking over most likely failed. There is a very thin line that separates the amount of changes required to convince customers that there is a totally new concept and operation in the existing failed space. Finding that line is difficult - falling short can mean continued failure. Blowing past it can mean overspending, making it nearly impossible to make a reasonable return on investment. It is critical to define the minimum amount of changes and investment required to ‘exorcise the demons’ from the failed restaurant and make it clear that a unique, new concept has settled in.


There are many variables associated with redeveloping an existing restaurant. People will often initially assume that much of the equipment, building utilities and existing build-out can be reused because there was a previously operating restaurant in the space. Unfortunately, regardless of what landlords or brokers may tell you, there are too many unknown factors related to reusing existing items: updated building codes, changes in use, condition and useful lifespan of the existing items, etc.  Many people may tell you that all of the existing conditions are “grandfathered” because there was an existing restaurant in use prior to you taking possession of the property. Unfortunately, the threshold for reusing existing elements that may not meet current requirements is very low. Every jurisdiction sets their own requirements for allowing non-conforming, existing conditions and these requirements are getting more and more strict.

HIYA Taco rendering for taking over space pictured above

how to control true costs

Keeping in mind why the costs might be potentially higher than you originally expect, there are three simple things any restaurant owner can do to understand the true costs associated with redeveloping an existing restaurant site and how to control these costs:

Do your homework:  As soon as you identify a potential existing restaurant location that you think might work for your concept and execute a Letter of Intent to acquire it, we highly recommend you work with professionals that can help you with thorough due diligence. This may be speaking with your Architect to identify and understand any potential existing areas that are non-compliant with current building, zoning and health codes. It could also be working with your contractors to examine the building systems (especially the HVAC and kitchen exhaust systems) to make sure they’re in good working order with reasonable life left. Do the same with your kitchen equipment vendor on the refrigeration, electrical and mechanical components of the existing foodservice equipment.  Don’t make assumptions. Verify as much as possible so that you can clearly ascertain the true costs.

Locate the Documents:  There are two different sets of documents that contain critical information and will help with the due diligence above. One set is the Base Building Construction Drawings and the other is the latest Tenant Upfit Construction Drawings.  These should include Civil, Landscape, Architectural, Structural, Food Service, Plumbing, Mechanical, Electrical and Fire Protection drawings.  Several details could be evident in these drawings that won’t be readily visible in even the most thorough site investigation, like the size of a grease interceptor, under-slab plumbing, exhaust duct sizes, etc. The accuracy of this information can easily swing a project budget almost $100,000 in one direction or another.

In many cases, the only place to find this information is in a detailed set of Construction Drawings. These documents are often available through the landlord or property seller. If not, you can also usually access them for a small fee from the local building department. The really good real estate brokers will make it their responsibility to find and copy these documents for the project team’s use.

Verify the fit:  We strongly recommend preparing a “test fit,” or a preliminary layout, as early as possible to determine which aspects of your ideal layout, including cookline, prep kitchen, bar, seating, etc., will fit in this specific location. For example, even though a kitchen exhaust hood may be existing, it might not accommodate your standard equipment line-up. This could either lead to an atypical operation or require significant changes. Either option may be the difference between success or failure.

We also often see an assumed number of seats and / or tables able to fit in a given space based on its square footage, or what was existing. Many times, we find that once a “test fit” is performed and the actual kitchen is laid out in a non-standard shaped space, either more extensive modifications are necessary to get the required seating capacity or the seating capacity becomes secondary to saving money. In either case, the ability to meet the desired ROI is compromised.


These are three simple and very low-cost things you can do to better ascertain the true costs associated with taking over an existing restaurant. Once the true costs are determined, it’s much easier to either negotiate up-front to address these costs or look at other design alternatives to mitigate these costs.

Featured in QSR magazine.

Cleanliness in the Restaurant: Reality & Perception

Just because dine-in business is on hold doesn’t mean your restaurant’s future has to be. Now is the time to get ahead and make sure you are equipped to adequately address what customers will likely be worried about most: restaurant cleanliness and sanitation. 

Although celebrity figures like “Bar Rescue” host Jon Taffer recently told “Fox & Friends” viewers that his biggest worry for restaurants is “the premise of spacing continuing into the retail environment,” there’s going to be more that operators will need to evaluate.  

We agree that “people aren’t going to want to sit shoulder to shoulder" at first, and that “they are still going to be cautious and want some spacing.” However, we expect the initial reduction in seating capacity to be closer to 25-30%, not 50%. This period will likely last 4-6 weeks, and we expect the seating reduction to create table spacing of approximately 9’-0” on center (from the typical 6’-0” on center).   

As restaurants adjust back to a new normal, we expect operators to incrementally add tables and seats back to their longtime standard. We believe this because we know that people are social beings and require social interaction to stay healthy.  

Original Seating Capacity
Original Seating Capacity
Seating Capacity 25% Reduction
Seating Capacity 25% Reduction
Seating Capacity 50% Reduction
Seating Capacity 50% Reduction

The key here will be providing guests with an environment characterized by both the reality and the perception of cleanliness and healthfulness, even if the restaurant concept is all about indulgence. There is and will continue to be a heightened awareness around how clean surfaces are and a wariness around things people are touching. But what does “clean” really mean? 

The Reality of Cleanliness  

We know that some viruses, including the novel coronavirus, can live for days on certain surfaces. This makes howhow often, and what surfaces you clean extremely important. Here are the three main levels of cleaning you should be concerned with: 

Cleaning – removing physical dirt, debris, soils etc. from the surface. Though it doesn’t kill germs, it is often seen as the most important part of a hygiene process because it impairs environments once conducive to them. 

Sanitizing – reducing, not killing, the occurrences and growth of bacteria, viruses and fungi on a surface.   

Disinfecting – killing or completely destroying microscopic organisms and pathogens on surfaces. While it does not clean dirt or germs off of the surface, it helps to prevent infection or disease transmission by killing germs. 

Sanitary Surfaces 

It’s also important to consider surface material. A recent New England Journal of Medicine study shows that the virus that causes COVID-19 can live anywhere from four hours on copper to two to three days on stainless steel and polypropylene plastic (often used to store food). However, antimicrobial technology might be the ticket to reducing the chance of those germs lasting there in the first place.  

Antimicrobials can be integrated into products like fabric and plastic, acting as a form of built-in protection.  They can also be applied as a coating on metal surfaces like stainless steel. These compounds contain active ingredients, such as silver, that work to suppress and prevent pathogen growth upon contact. Providers like AgION and Microban offer a wide variety of antimicrobial products for equipment used at large in the restaurant industry, such as ovens and HVAC systems. 

HACCP-compliant Processes 

The ability for germs to live on surfaces for multiple days also emphasizes the need for restaurants to implement processes and procedures based on Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points, or the HAACP system. HACCP is a methodology that restaurants use to monitor food safety practices by setting processes, responsibilities and record-keeping systems. 

One former Darden back-of-house trainer describes it as a “checks and balances system,” allowing businesses to track where health related problems could have stemmed from. HACCP methodology establishes specific expectations for what needs to be cleaned, how it’s to be cleaned, how often it’s to be cleaned, who is responsible when, and more. While it’s customary to have a team of individuals who are responsible for monitoring HACCP compliance and everyone’s health as a whole, it’s important for every employee to be trained on, concerned with and committed to everything on the checklists. 

The Perception of Cleanliness -- Visual & Psychological Cues 

So, you know how to truly clean, you’ve found antimicrobial products that will do some of the work for you, you’ve established methods to keep the environment safe and you’ve trained your staff on complying with them. Then, a customer walks in the door: 

Door handle. Chairback. Tabletop. Menu. That’s four touchpoints in the first seven minutes upon entering your restaurant. And questions linger:  

How clean is this restaurant?” 

“Am I safe eating here?” 

Using visual and psychological cues to affirm to guests that you have gone above and beyond in promoting restaurant cleanliness is going to be key to eliminating these thoughts. This kind of design doesn’t have to be monumental or cost an arm and a leg, either.   

One example would be to put hand sanitizer or wipe dispensers in accessible areas. This not only gives the guest control over their environment (which people naturally like), but also sends the message that cleanliness and sanitation are important to your restaurant. Similarly, you can install foot handles in places like the bathroom door, so guests don’t have to use their clean hands to open it. Again, you are providing the guest with more control over their environment and communicating an effort to reduce the spread of germs. 

Additionally, we expect aesthetic trends to scream cleanliness—a cleanliness with warmth rather than sterility. For instance, something more sustainable but reminiscent of the white, butcher paper on wood tables that was popular in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. From a table covering that is replaced between parties to light-colored quartz bar tops, plan to see the sharp, fresh, white trend reemerge. Though it seemed as though this trend had passed its peak on the trend curve, it will rise again due to how effectively it communicates cleanliness. Dirt or soil is easier to see on a white surface, so if you have a clean, light surface, you’ve already won half the battle.  

Warm, white, clean design
Warm, white, clean design

The next half of the battle is communicating sanitation, or that your space is “germ-free.” This can easily be portrayed by hanging up charts that list your HACCP processes and task frequencies. Include boxes for employees to sign off what time they complete specific tasks. By showing guests exactly when an employee cleaned the sink they just used and how often someone cleaned it that day, you are highlighting and celebrating the fact that it is, in fact, clean. 

Front of House HACCP Checklist example
Front of House HACCP Checklist example

Dining room doors will eventually open to the public again. Now is the time to invest some thought into how you communicate your cleaning habits and how others can and will perceive them. At the end of the day, you want to reassure your guest with messaging that says, “cleanliness and healthfulness is important to us.” 

Featured in Modern Restaurant Management magazine.

Restaurant Cleanliness

Foodservice Cleaning and Hygiene in the Age of covid-19

"When we look at a typical food service establishment, there are three distinct areas to address: front of house, back of house and restrooms."

Cleaning your restaurant and keeping it clean is not just something every restaurateur should be doing on a regular basis. It’s now going to become something that customers and guests will expect and local authorities will likely require.  

We know that the COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t caused by or transmitted through food, but the foodservice industry may forever feel its impact. Guests will expect a higher level of cleanliness, at least for the short-term, when restaurants reopen for dine-in business in the coming weeks or months

Midlab, Inc. professional Keith Manning breaks down levels and high-focus areas of cleaning within a restaurant, along with best practices in each to promote health and safety in the foodservice industry. 

Manning says that while cleaning and disinfecting have always been important parts of a healthy environment, the emergence of the novel coronavirus emphasizes how critical each is for the long-term health and safety of both foodservice professionals and their guests.   

According to Manning, there are 4 aspects of keeping a foodservice establishment clean and sanitary: 

  1. Hand Washing best way to prevent both your staff and guests from getting sick.   
  2. Cleaning surfaces  removing soils and food sources from surfaces. While cleaning does not kill pathogens, it is the most important part of the hygiene process because it impairs the environment where those pathogens would thrive.   
  3. Sanitizing food contact surfaces –  lowering the number of germs on surfaces or objects to a safe level, as judged by public health standards or requirements, but not as thoroughly as a disinfectant. 
  4. Disinfecting touch points killing pathogens on surfaces or objects. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs, but by killing germs on a surface after cleaning, it can further lower the risk of spreading infection. 

Many people will mistakenly use disinfecting interchangeably with sanitizing, but it is important to note two major differences: effectiveness and application. Disinfecting with a product such as the Maxim Facility+ disinfectant cleaner removes more germs than sanitizing, making it more effective in killing pathogens like Covid-19. However, disinfectants are not generally food safe. Due to the high level of actives and detergency in disinfectant products, they must be followed with a potable rinse once the dwell time, or amount of time the surface must remain visibly wet, is achieved.

In contrast, food safe sanitizers like the 430 Maxim Hard Surface Sanitizer Tabletop and Decanter, removes pathogens to a safe level after cleaning and food products may be placed on the surface immediately after the dwell time. Though such sanitizers may not remove pathogens as thoroughly as a disinfectant, the application process is simpler because they do not require a potable rinse. 

When we look at a typical food service establishment, there are three distinct areas to address: front of house, back of house and restrooms. Each area plays a vital role to guests and should be kept clean at any and all costs. Especially now. Here’s what Manning also recommends in terms of each: 

Front of house

In a typical food service operation, cleaning and sanitizing have always been the rule of thumb.  From wiping off gross soil with a wet cloth to cleaning surfaces with an all-purpose or glass cleaner and food-grade sanitizer, this has been the norm for general surface hygiene.   

Moving forward, what will we see?  We are already seeing more of an emphasis on disinfecting rather than sanitizing as we deal with concerns over more contagious pathogens such as Covid-19.  We will likely continue to see more disinfectant usage.   

The keys are the staff and guest touch pointsStaff should be disinfecting, not just sanitizing, the areas that employees and guests touch frequentlyThis includes, but is not limited to, all door handles, rails and non-food contact countertops.   

Tables are considered a food contact surface, so food safe sanitizers still need to be used between guests. Disinfecting followed by a potable water rinse needs to be done daily.  

Back of House 

The good news is that heat kills viruses at about 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Therefore, cooking and dishwashing will take care of viruses and bacteria on what you eat and eat on.  Again, staff hand washing best practices are another key to reducing the spread.   

Slow times are an excellent opportunity to implement best practices. This means using that time to disinfect touch surfaces with dwell time and a potable water rinse on food service areas. 

In summary, the simplest and most effective measure for combating the spread of viruses is to keep them away from you.  Hand washing and high touch point disinfecting, along with being more aware than normal, will win the day for you.   


Restrooms are one of the main danger areas for the spread of infection, not to mention the image of a business in general.  Surveys show that dirty restrooms can have a negative impact on guest satisfaction overall.   

Disinfecting touch points, such as fixtures, flush handles and dispensers, several times per day is best practice. Deep cleaning, including thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting every major surface and scrubbing down toilet bowls, is best done daily. 

People may not continue wiping down their environments with Clorox wipes every 30 minutes, but we do know they will be paying more attention to how clean public areas are, especially restaurants. Legal requirements and regulations will likely increase maintenance standards, and customers will be even more conscious of slightly unkempt bathrooms. Do your research to make sure you’re using A-grade products and practices throughout all areas of your establishment, and be prepared to increase how often you disinfect instead of sanitize. And finally, make sure you teach your employees the difference.

Featured in QSR Magazine.

About Keith: 

Keith Manning is the Vice President of Sales at Midlab, Inc., a cleaning formulations provider focused on solutions that promote clean and safe environments. With over 20 years in the chemical solutions industry, he seeks to help clients solve challenges through safe cleaning solutions that fit the environment. 

1 problem, 3 solutions: launching a takeout & delivery system

Getting creative in the restaurant industry doesn’t just put you ahead now. It keeps your restaurant alive. With the restrictions on dine-in services across the globe brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, restaurants are being forced to creatively use resources and rely on takeout and delivery to stay afloat.  

Luckily, the art of takeout is something we’ve been studying for years. And yes, it is an art, in both presentation and execution. There are challenges surrounding making sure all parts of an order get delivered, how the food looks, tastes and feels when it arrives to a customer, and food safety. When done poorly, it can be detrimental to a brand’s reputation. When done successfully, the restaurant has a chance to stand out and, most important, can keep customers coming back. One of the keys is an accurate, inexpensive and safe packaging system. 

Order Accuracy and Completeness 

messed-up order is a pain for everyone. The unhappy customer will often drive back or call to address the issue. In turn, someone on the other end has to deal with it and figure out how to make it right. While mistakes happen, this is more often the result of disorganized order assembly and tracking system. To avoid this, we recommend utilizing a kitchen display system (KDS), one to two thermal printers and branded labeling. 

Although we recommend KDS monitors for the majority of the food production process, one or two good old-fashioned thermal printers - used to print individualized descriptions for each item onto a low tack label - is best for to-go orders. This label allows you to describe the specific item with any modifications and how one item may be part of a bigger order.  These low tack labels go directly onto the item’s wrapping. You can use generic wrapping like foil, wax paper or butcher paper to save money and get up and running quickly, while printing branded stickers to “seal” the wrappers and give it your own look and feel. 

These individual items can then be placed into generic to-go or carry-out packaging. That overall packaging is also sealed with a branded label that adheres the order receipt onto one of the bags and communicates the customer’s name, order time and number of bags/boxes that complete the order. This way, the customer or delivery provider knows exactly how many bags and/or boxes they should be leaving with, leaving nothing behind. 

Flexible Branding 

You want your takeout to look nice, allow your product to travel well and clearly communicate your brand, and you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars to do it. We recently worked with HIYA Taco, a new fusion taco concept out of Milwaukee, Wis., to implement this practical, inexpensive takeout and delivery model. The goal was to design something that reflects the taco shop’s That 70’s Show-inspired aesthetic while allowing the new concept to experiment and figure out what packaging best fits their menu items without having to invest in custom printed and produced packaging.    

First, we opted for generic packaging. Whether it’s the small sheets of wax paper used to transfer each taco from station to station, foil wrapping around the to-go tacos, the cardboard box holding multiple tacos and salsa or sharables like their “taachos,” or the brown paper bag transporting the majority of the order together, it’s all off-the-shelf product that you can bulk order from just about anywhere. This versatility is critical for restaurants that are trying to figure out what products work best for various takeout items.  

Then comes the actual brand expression. From logos and icons to taglines, you can easily create custom- printed labels and stickers that express your brand and make anything identifiable as your product. With HIYA, we used key icons and elements of the brand design to create stickers solely for branding on individual items, and the logo and tagline for labels that seal the larger packaging. Again, this prevents you from having to invest a lot of money on custom-printed, bulk ordered packaging, which is already more expensive, that might end up not even being a good fit for your menu items. These stickers and labels can easily be printed on any color laser printer for the couple of days it takes to get large quantities of custom-printed labels and stickers produced and delivered. This saves a lot of time and money compared to custom produced packaging. 


One of the great things about this system is that it ensures safety during transport by communicating to the customer that everything is closed and sealed in the restaurant. Using stickers to seal individual items and packaging labels to close boxes or baggage both keeps the contents sealed and communicates to delivery drivers and customers that it has been sealed. That way, if that seal is ever broken, customers know something has happened after it left the restaurant. It’s an inexpensive way of evoking the taper-proof packaging that pharmaceutical companies developed after the Tylenol incident. We believe that this helps everyone feel more comfortable in these times when we’re all hyper-vigilant about who and how people touched our food. 


Featured in Restaurant Development + Design.

COVID-19 Resources

Restrictions on restaurants and large gatherings due to COVID-19 have swept the nation with lay-offs, particularly within the restaurant, hospitality and service industries. Many restaurants have had to reduce to a skeleton staff, leaving business owners with difficult decisions and thousands of servers, hostesses, cooks and more without their main source of income.

In light of these circumstances, we’ve gathered a few resources that we hope can provide a little support and insight as we all weather these challenges:

show your support for someone in the service industry

what: Tip a local service industry worker each time you pour a glass at home.

how: Select your city and you’ll receive links to donate to an impacted service industry worker via Venmo or Cash App (if your city is not listed, be sure to fill out the form and help expand there).

whoImpacted Service Industry workers – Find your city and fill out the form to be submitted to receive tips (we are counting on you to be honest!).

Restaurant Owners – share with your network and make sure your impacted workers know they can submit their information.

Everyone – Submit your tip and spread the word!

Huge thanks to Charlotte Agenda for sharing this platform that started in Chattanooga, TN and for supporting this concept throughout Charlotte.

financial crisis management tools

what: Free crisis management resources from Simple Numbers author Greg Crabtree to help navigate the current difficult economic circumstances.

how: Follow this link to access videos, templates and case studies (completely free).

who: Anyone looking for guidance on crisis cash flow planning.

launch an accurate, inexpensive & safe delivery & takeout system

what: Simple steps and key products that can help restaurants roll out an accurate takeout system that is low-cost, on-brand and can be implemented in a matter of days.

how: Read our guide here!

who: Restaurant owners or managers that want to launch, fine-tune or cut costs on takeout systems.

foodservice cleaning and hygiene in the age of COVID-19

what: Are you using the right cleaning techniques throughout your restaurant?

how: Find out here!

who: Restaurant owners or general managers who want to give their restaurant cleaning processes a "health check."

we are in this together.

How we're addressing COVID-19.

COVID-19 Response

Our sympathies go out to all of those impacted by COVID-19 – from those who have been diagnosed, friends and family of those who have been diagnosed, those whose jobs and schools have been impacted to so many more. We are feeling the impact together across the country and around the world. This is an unprecedented time for small and large businesses alike, but what’s not unprecedented is our ability to rally, respond, learn and end up stronger in the long run.

We want you to know we are still readily available to meet your needs. Here are the precautions we are taking to continue business as usual while trying to help “flatten the curve:”

social distancing : the hot topic

Time to give each other some space!

  • We are reducing the number of people in the office by allowing employees to alternate between coming into the office and working from home (with full access and connectivity) on staggered days. We will continue to adjust in accordance with CDC guidelines.
  • Rest assured, someone will be available during normal office hours every day. Direct lines can be found in employee email signatures. You can also dial our office (704-377-5200) to be connected to someone by name.

hygiene : the name of the game

In addition to our regular daily cleaning service providers, we are:

  • Wiping down the office at the end of each day (some of us, multiple times a day) and hiring additional deep-clean services.
  • Keeping hand sanitizer readily available for employees and delivery providers.
  • Regularly using soap and warm water to wash hands.
  • Asking staff with any symptoms to stay out of the office for the CDC recommended time periods.

I have even given in to running my coffee mug through the dishwasher every day. Something else unprecedented.

technology : the key to connectivity

Teamwork is at the core of our work at starrdesign. That said, we have been investing in innovative, collaborative technology over the past several years to properly equip and enable us to efficiently work remotely. Investments include:

  • A premium-grade videoconferencing system in our conference room that is also accessed by everyone's personal computers. Our team will continue consistent communication via Microsoft Teams and BIM 360 technologies.
  • Completely migrated shared files to the cloud for secure, all-encompassing team access.
  • The last stage of our shift to complete virtual access taking place when our new timekeeping and billing system, Ajera, goes live on April 1st.

travel : the one taking the back seat

Due to the ever-evolving circumstances, we are limiting business-related travel to only what is absolutely necessary.

Our team is driven by the principle that we get better working together every day, and today is no different. We will continue to monitor the rapidly evolving situation around COVID-19 and take the necessary actions to prioritize the health of our team and the American community. In the meantime, friends, stay safe, stay clean and stay strong.



steve starr, ais, fcsi

chief and President

starrdesign, pllc

Restaurant Development and Design

Designers Dish 2020!

Ever wish you could pull up a chair with a few crack restaurant designers over cocktails to chew the fat about what's in, what's out, what inspires them, how they handle tough client issues and what they see coming around the bend?

Steve joins other industry professional in serving up what they see in the restaurant design industry in 2020.

The original content of this post was written by Dana Tanyeri for Restaurant Development + Design magazine.

starrdesign named Best and Brightest Companies to Work For in the Nation for 2019

The designation was given by The National Association for Business Resources and honors 540 businesses across the U.S.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (March 12, 2020) — The National Association for Business Resources (NABR) has named starrdesign as one of the Best and Brightest Companies To Work For in the Nation. The 2019 national winning companies were assessed by an independent research firm, which reviewed a number of key measures relative to other nationally recognized winners.

The Best and Brightest Program honored 540 national winning organizations from across the country out of 5,000 nominations.

“We are honored to be recognized by the NABR,” said starrdesign principal, Steve Starr.  “This was a really tough year for our team on the personal level.  Several of our team members went through some difficult life transitions and the entire team rallied around each individual. Receiving this honor is testament to the team’s resiliency and their commitment to making starrdesign the kind of place where each individual wants to work.  It’s a business environment that fosters both personal and professional growth.”

starrdesign has a history of receiving top accolades for its professional environment, having earned the designation of “Best Places to Work” in Charlotte, N.C. for the past several years. In 2016, the company also received the Corporate Culture Award from SmartCEO magazine.

“The fact that we continue to thrive as a workplace for interior designers, architects, graphic designers and brand marketers is exciting and rewarding,” Starr said. “For that, we are truly grateful as we continue to provide the ‘best and brightest’ designs and innovations for our clients and partners.”

With over 20 years of experience conducting the Best and Brightest competitions, members of the NABR have identified numerous best Human Resource practices and provided benchmarking for companies that continue to be leaders in employment standards.

“With the war on talent hitting the door steps of the Best and Brightest, this achievement means even more than it did a year ago. As we continue to raise the bar, these companies rise to the challenge through cultural innovation, maximizing their workforce potential,” said Jennifer Kluge, President and CEO, Best and Brightest Programs.

The companies nationally recognized as a Best and Brightest Company to Work For® were featured in the February online edition of Corp! Magazine.

As seen in: Restaurant News

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The original content of this post was written by the staff at Modern Restaurant Management magazine. Read the full MRM article here.