American Custom and our lineage of custom glass and metal fabrication companies have a rich history in dealing with large chains and large projects. I could effuse about many, but let me target just one. In 2002 and 2003 we worked on what was called the OSA program for a major sandwich chain. The program was to enter the store at 8:00 pm, close it and re-open it at 11:00 am the next morning with 187 changes to the entirety of the store from window signage, new wallpaper, new menu boards, electrical changes, plumbing changes, kitchen equipment additions and changes. The counters were cut down in the store with new veneer and caps installed and new sneeze guards set.
Now this was extraordinary to do in a store, but imagine doing 1,900 stores in 90 days. And that is what we did. It was the largest LTL and truckload freight program on the planet Earth in 2003.
We worked as a tight knit team with scores of suppliers, fabricators, contractors, freight companies to make it happen.
We were deeply involved from day one. We spent weeks in Las Vegas to test the theory that it could be done and done so on a mass scale. We had to get 25 stores a night done to keep schedule, and for the most part did.
Our part in this supplied brass tubes and flanges, channels, glass and hardware. We drained the planet of every linear foot of brass channel tube and most the regular brass tube for months. We nearly bought out the entire planet of brass glass channels as well as brass dome caps. We were chrome plating 480 parts a day.
At the time we were shipping 75 to 200 restaurants a week for other chains. And now we were shipping 240 a week for this program alone in addition to our normal orders. In the end, we shipped 73,000 pieces of chrome parts and assemblies and 7,200 pieces of tempered glass. And we did so in 7 weeks from beginning to end. That was 27 54’ tractor trailer loads of KD sneeze guards in 7 weeks.
Why bring up a 17 year old story? We have been at this for 41 years, in some years serving 35% of the annual needs for sneeze guards. This pandemic is seeing the need for a global reset on public interface and the want, desire and need for an unprecedented amount of breath barriers for locations that no one ever thought before. Retail, health services, public offices, the list is extensive. These locations will not be like banks with a line of teller counters, when safety barriers were needed for robberies. Lexan barriers could simply be placed on the counters to the ceilings. The new lists of locations needing protection is diverse, many are cashier stands, desks and free standing counters. A highly versatile approach for customizable products to meet hundreds if not thousands of different needs will be needed.
American Custom has the background to meet the needs, the intuitive background to look at things from a multifaceted approach and to ramp up and respond in a massive way and to do so immediately. Also 98% of all our products are fabricated in our own shop. All material is sourced from North America. No foreign, specifically Chinese imports. This gives us control that many do not have, and that is we make everything under our roof with no reliance on imported parts or assemblies.
Do we want to get ‘’all’’ the work. No, it is too big, too much for anyone. We will provide our share up to our capabilities. But, I do warn against getting just anything from just anyone. Let’s get standards that align with the restaurant industry for food safety. Let’s pick companies with proven experience, knowledge and expertise in this field. There are not many, but there are a group of fine dedicated companies whose sole focus are sneeze guards and understand the technology and the needs to provide quality products, that are effective safety barriers. All of us have decades of experience and all of us can help in this, each bringing our own unique approach and expertise to help fill this need, and a need that needs immediate attention.
In my next blogs, I will deal with what makes a reliable breath barrier, and far more important a safe barrier, not just one that seems safe. They may look the same, but they are not. I will call on NSF International to rethink what can and cannot be used in food service and now the retail, government services and health services environments. There is a real safety issue with some sneeze guards, let’s correct them in food service and not let unsafe barriers be approved for the new locations that are now needed.