Displaced from its on-site location by the renovation and expansion of Newark Liberty International Airport, United’s catering operation faced a strict relocation deadline, making innovative coordination and sequencing between builders and designers vital. 

November 2, 2022

United Catering Project Receives ProFood World Innovation Award

Facing a tight deadline at the height of COVID in the New York City area, Haskell worked closely with subcontract partners to deliver the cutting-edge facility.


The final project of Haskell engineer Dana Lee Helman’s career lives as a testament to his legacy and continues to collect awards to buttress the point.

Helman and his team were assigned to the United Airlines Catering Operations Kitchen project in Newark, New Jersey. After weeks of analysis, detailed design and testing, they created a proprietary and revolutionary refrigeration system that accomplished a complete cleaning in 40% less time than originally planned. This cleaning only took four hours as opposed to the original starting time of six hours.

Tragically, Helman passed away in May 2020 after a long health battle, but United and Haskell honored him with a plaque at the facility. Further, Helman’s unique refrigeration system will be implemented in future projects.

This plaque commemorated Haskell Engineer Dana Lee Helman’s contribution to the project and many others during his distinguished career.

And recently, the United Airlines Catering Operations Kitchen added the 2022 ProFood World Manufacturing Innovation Award to its collection of accolades already bestowed by the Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA) and the Association of Builders and Contractors (ABC).

Keith Perkey, Haskell’s Vice President of Manufacturing Solutions, recently accepted the ProFood World honor during Pack Expo in Chicago and said the project was special for two distinct reasons.

Joyce Fassl, Editor of ProFood World Magazine, left, presented the publication’s Manufaturing Innovation Award to Haskell’s Keith Perkey, Vice President of Manufacturing Solutions, during Pack Expo in Chicago.

“One thing that made the project unique was the speed with which they had to execute it because of a deadline from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey so they could construct part of the new airport,” Perkey said. “The team worked with all the local subcontractors and the customer to very rapidly make decisions and get it built.

“Then the other unique thing was that it was built during the peak of COVID in New York. The team really banded together with the subcontractors and did some pretty special things as a site to keep people working. They jointly made the decision to keep working through it, and they were able to provide them the opportunity to stay safe and keep working to meet the goals for the project.”

Displaced from its previous on-site location by the renovation and expansion of Newark Liberty International Airport, United’s catering operation was to relocate to a nearby warehouse selected for conversion to a food-safe, commercial kitchen. The new site’s proximity to the airport minimized down time of the catering trucks, which was a top priority.

United had a strict relocation deadline, and innovative coordination and sequencing between builders and designers were vital. Further, creation of the new facility could not disrupt ongoing catering operations and create flight delays.

Accessibility to the Newark airport required special considerations and infrastructure to accommodate communications with catering trucks at the airport and along the route to and from the new production building. The facility was designed to meet TSA security requirements, but with improved food safety, hygiene, and efficiency standards required to maintain a competitive advantage in the airline market.

Installation of screens to obscure rooftop refrigeration systems was a vital point of success for integration into the local community and the City of Newark zoning regulations. In addition to meeting United’s current needs, the facility was designed to accommodate 20 years of projected growth and expansion. This ensured the facility’s long-term usability and demonstrated United’s commitment to the Ironbound, New Jersey community.

Putting Food Safety First

Food safety was a principal project objective. As part of its new high-quality safety standards, United and Haskell teams collaborated to incorporate food safety specifications throughout the design, eliminating unnecessary exposure during food handling and preparation by creating distanced areas that didn’t disturb workflow. The facility’s design, layout, material flow and personal flow took a zonal approach to food safety and risk mitigation, with each segregated into high-, medium- and low-care to prevent cross-contamination from foot traffic.

Food preparation areas required daily washdowns with rapid dehumidification and refrigeration capabilities, and custom food preparation equipment, curb, and wall design handled frequent washdowns and minimized gaps where food harborage could occur in high-care areas.

Conclusively, the tested safety processes withstood all challenges brought forth by United, as well as the additional challenges of COVID-19.

Industry 4.0 at Work: Advancements in System Analytics

Haskell applied system analytics to calculate the allocation of space needed during peak loads, ensuring that the new facility will accommodate an increased future capacity. Additionally, material handling and flow were designed to meet speed, food safety and ergonomic requirements. To quantify space requirements throughout the facility, Haskell analyzed the complex and customized international menu of United’s catering operations and created a model that assigned time to each step of the process and extrapolated the time across United’s flight schedule.

The output of this model showed the number of operator workstations required to achieve current operations and growth models. In addition to modeling the facility’s output and space requirements, the Haskell team closely worked with United’s operations team to optimize the space and equipment for their new facility.

Structured Planning, Efficient Execution

From the beginning, Haskell worked closely with United’s commercial real estate (CRE), development, and food safety teams to plan objectives and goals. A transparent project execution process ensured that the original vision of the client is carried out effectively.

The first step of this plan was to clearly define the client’s business opportunity and project objectives of higher food safety standards and greater productivity to house more prepackaged foods while keeping them fresh. Haskell’s design team worked closely with the engineering team to make these objectives a reality, then moved into the execution phase, when detailed design, permitting, equipment sourcing and integration proceeded.

After eight months, Haskell transferred the facility and operations to United, and production began.

Haskell’s fully integrated team of architects, engineers and construction professionals specialize in solving complex facilities challenges. Contact us to discuss the possibilities.

Haskell delivers $2± billion annually in Architecture, Engineering, Construction (AEC) and Consulting solutions to assure certainty of outcome for complex capital projects worldwide. Haskell is a global, fully integrated, single-source design-build and EPC firm with over 2,200 highly specialized, in-house design, construction and administrative professionals across industrial and commercial markets. With 20+ office locations around the globe, Haskell is a trusted partner for global and emerging clients.

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