AVI-SPL Serves Up 5-Star Integration at Restaurant Management Lab

AVI-SPL wins the 2014 Integration Award in the higher education category for their work at Florida International University’s restaurant management lab.

Jessica Kennedy
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Florida International University’s new restaurant management lab orders up more than just 5-star quality food.

With its Panasonic cameras, TV monitors, Crestron touchpanels and Polycom video conferencing system, the restaurant management lab is one of a kind in the world, and sets the bar for the future of hospitality training.

FIU wanted to construct a high-tech space that enabled instructors to monitor student performance in both the kitchen and restaurant sections of the lab and engage in distance learning with culinary schools in China and Ireland and each of its own live classrooms.

Dale Gomez, IT director at the Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at FIU, says that the school hoped to take the restaurant and kitchen concept and put it in a classroom with a 5-star look.

“We wanted to focus on teaching and management and give instructors the flexibility to manage both sides of the field,” he says.

3 Integrator Takeaways:
1. Invest in good pan-tilt-zoom cameras if instructors need birds’ eye views of student’s work.
2. Leverage video conferencing.
3. Protecting technology from grease and
high temperatures and considering loud noise factors are keys to ensuring that operations run smoothly in a restaurant lab.

3 End User Takeaways:
1. Start early with programming. AVI-SPL’s Zoran Visnjic says he wished his team started sooner with programming.
2. Make sure the technologies are easy to use. “The idea was to make this system simple so a chef could use it,” Visnjic says.
3. Communicate via weekly meetings with all team members, including engineers, architects and the customer.

Equipment Highlights:
PTZ cameras: Panasonic
Touchpanels: Crestron
TV monitors: Sharp
Wireless mic coverage: Sacom
Video conferencing system and cameras: Polycom

Gomez says once integration firm AVI- SPL started its work on the project, it felt like “1,000 pounds of technology put into a 10-pound bag.”

The technology installed into the restaurant lab includes:

  • 18 Panasonic PTZ (pan/tilt/zoom)
  • Crestron automation touchpanels
  • 0 Sharp TV monitors, which range from 32 to 90 inches
  • Wireless mics at each of the dining tables
  • Digital displays showing food orders, point-of-sales information and kitchen-action video feeds
  • A 24-inch touchscreen lectern to watch and annotate lectures
  • HD displays to support the Polycom conferencing system and cameras, which also function as surveillance cameras after closing

Marci Powell, global director for Education and Training at Polycom, says that PTZ cameras will give instructors a 360-degree angle of their work space.

Related: Complete List of 2014 CI & TD Integration Awards Winners

“You can see what’s going on in the classrooms,” she says. “If the content cameras are mounted above the cooking area, you can get a shot from the ceiling for a top-down perspective to see what the chefs are doing … with the preset labs, the cameras are mounted in different sections, like where the sink is, or where the pastries are made. The chefs can use these without looking over the students’ shoulders.”