What do the military and foodservice have to do with each other?
If you're Glenn Therrien, it's a way to pay back his fellow soldiers and provide a valuable service to those in need.
Therrien, president and CEO of Kitchen Corps, is a certified Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) that provides temporary kitchens to clients that are unable to use their current kitchen facility due to renovations, construction, disasters, events, or even remote areas for the military.
“I retired from the US Navy after 21 years as a Warrant Officer. While I was in the Navy I learned the logistics of foodservice and mass feeding while stationed on US carriers throughout the fleet,” he says. “I took the knowledge from my military experience and used it to build this company and support those who need our services.”
Therrien, a disabled American vet, used his benefits to assist with his business, providing full-service industrial kitchens anywhere in the U.S. and Canada. “The military men and women who are on active duty now, they're performing duties that allow all Americans the opportunities we enjoy every day,” he says. A Seabee moto Glenn has taken with him from the military and uses every day with his company is, “The difficult we do right away, the impossible takes a bit longer.”
Therrien provides mobile temporary kitchens in two categories, those that are pre-planned such as renovation and construction projects and those needed in disaster or emergency situations.
With the preplanned, we like to make a site visit to discuss the client’s options. After gaining all the pertinent information we make our recommendations for the equipment needed and the placement of the facility. It’s relatively easy. But during a disaster, our emergency units move within 24 hours of initial contact. We try to get all the planning done while the temporary kitchen unit is moving. We have a team travel to the location and that's where the impossible comes in. When you're in emergency mode, things seem to move faster.”
The company now has 50 plus units available to move from project to project to serve as temporary kitchens wherever they're needed – construction sites, disaster sites, hospitals, colleges, business locations, and much more.
Therrien recalls one assignment: a college whose kitchen experienced a catastrophic fire. “We had a temporary kitchen that consists of five units that we customized into one facility, located in Arizona,” he recalls. “This college was on the East Coast. Fire struck the kitchen on a Wednesday evening, our project team arrived on site Thursday. On Friday we were awarded the contract because we were the only company who could provide the needed facility and services within seven days. The students were on spring break and they wanted it completed before they came back. We had all five units from Arizona on location by Monday morning. We put them together in the middle of winter which required removal of two feet of snow prior to setup! By that Friday, the kitchen was put together, with all the utilities, decks, and ramps to feed the students when they arrived back Monday.”
Therrien says this is where his military experience comes in handy at the company. “I'm going on auto pilot. We band together as a team. We dig in and meet the goals. There are 24 hours in a day, therefore nothing is impossible.”
Most of his business, he says, consists of locations – hospitals, schools, even military bases – that are 50 to 60 years old and need their kitchens renovated or updated.
“A lot of times they need asbestos removal, which is a large and time consuming project, or their plumbing or electrical is outdated and not able to meet current codes and inspections in these outdated commercial kitchens. That's where we come in, while they're renovating,” says Therrien.
The CEO says only about 25% of his business is taking care of emergencies. “The majority of our work is hospitals, colleges, and construction sites. Immediate emergency and disaster relief are quick and short term needs. Our facilities become necessary during the long rebuilding term for these projects instead. But there are plenty of times, a temporary makeshift kitchen is essential for immediate relief,” he says.
Kitchen Corps played a big part in Hurricane Katrina. “We brought military ethics into the civilian world,” he says. “When Katrina made landfall, our phone was ringing off the hook for weeks. Our entire team was working around the clock to meet the demand of our services in the gulf coast. Although, many companies took the opportunity to raise their standard pricing almost 3 times as much as normal, Kitchen Corps prides itself in the fact that even during the emergency and disaster of the hurricane we kept all of our standard pricing for our clients.”
Therrien says what makes his company stand out is that our equipment is maintained better than our competitors. “We spend our profits on keeping our units clean, maintained and up to date. All of our units arrive on a client’s site grease-free and operational. A client is shown that the entire facility and all the equipment are sanitized and operational prior to their use.”
At every project site the temporary kitchen facility will be inspected by the local health department. Our clients have no need to worry about the temporary kitchen facility being rejected. Our units meet all International Building Codes and local Health Department needs.
What's really significant to customers is that the temporary kitchen’s commercial exhaust hoods with tempered-air make up. This means that the air being brought into the facility is temperature controlled, allowing our units to maintain comfortable working conditions in all climates. The same unit can go from International Falls, Minn., to Key West. It's often above what our customers expected.”
Therrien says he's starting a new project: attachable kitchens. “It's a permanent solution if someone wanted to expand its existing operation. We would install the modular kitchen to the outside of the existing building, attach it, create an access to its current kitchen, and it would help them manage their overflow. It also eliminates construction time on their site,” he says. With this concept the client’s do not have to be concerned with the hassle of an active construction site. Within a matter of weeks an expansion on the current kitchen facility with less cost and time of a renovation.
Therrien says Kitchen Corps has an internal marketing department, however, being in a small industry, references and word of mouth is one of our best marketing tools. “All we need to know is how a clients current operation works and we'll supply a facility that will continue to feed their clients or patients,” he says.
He says the company didn't start out as a temporary kitchen business but as food service management. “My wife had 20 years' experience with government contracts, I had foodservice experience, and so we started feeding military troops in remote areas and used a mobile kitchen. However, with the US going to war, the contract was cancelled. In the '90s we had this very expensive mobile kitchen and didn't know what to do with it. So we spent 30 days on the phone calling shipyards, construction companies, hospitals, anyone we could think of that could use a temporary kitchen, and the phone hasn't stopped ringing since.”