Donna is an award-winning chef, having been twice named Chef of the Year by the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington and receiving the James Beard Award as Best Chef/Mid-Atlantic Region in 1996. He also competed and won on the Iron Chef TV series and has made numerous appearances on other cooking and news shows.
Working with ICI Systems, a technology integrator and IT services provider in the nation's capital, Donna and ICI Consultant Nabih Bedewi deployed a solution that covered the three key areas in Donna's vision: security, table management and cooking demonstrations.
"When he was talking about plans for the restaurant, and was bringing up these ideas, we said we could do all of this in Milestone," said Bedewi, who added he hasn't seen a situation before where a client wanted such diverse options within a system. ICI has been working with Milestone products since 2008.
The backbone of the solution is Milestone XProtect Professional surveillance software used for advanced video management, flexible scheduling, fast searching and video analysis, and XProtect Smart Client, which is used for remote access. "In order to do all the things Roberto wanted, you usually need different platforms," explained Bedewi. "But using Milestone, we are able to provide a single platform for all forms of camera management."
Within and on the restaurant property there are 25 POE (Power Over Ethernet) IP network cameras: Panasonic WV-NS202A PTZ iPro and the Panasonic BB-HCM715 indoor PTZ. Five cameras are used for traditional security, focused on the front and back entrances, the wine room and the offices.
Another three are for use within the kitchen; the rest are spread throughout the 80-seat restaurant and the two private rooms that serve another 45 patrons.
With a wine inventory estimated at $300,000, Donna wanted a solution that would ensure the safety of this valuable asset. Through Milestone, a camera in the room tracks and records based on motion detection. The home position is the door, so when the door is opened and someone enters the room, the system begins to track the person and records the entire time they are in the room, then automatically cuts off 20 seconds after the motion stops. On the other five doors being monitored, contact sensors are tied into Milestone.
More than just security
While the security functions provided by the system are a necessary part of doing business, both Donna and Bedewi were more excited about the non-traditional opportunities afforded by the Milestone platform.
"Fine cuisine is all about timing and food preparation," said Donna. By having cameras in the dining room that can be viewed via a flat screen monitor within the kitchen, featuring up to 16 views at one time, the chef is better able to time when to begin the next course so customers neither feel rushed nor neglected.
The cameras are not hidden from view, said Donna, so most customers are aware of their presence. But there is no audio associated with the system, nor is the video recorded within the dining room when it is occupied. The cameras are aimed at the tables, not the people themselves.
Via the touch screen monitor in the kitchen, explains Bedewi, the chef can call up an individual table on the screen and make decisions on timing, service and meal preparation. Just tapping an image on the monitor brings it to full screen for the kitchen staff to view.
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The table management system uses the Milestone Smart Client Live View to monitor the tables. There is no recording or scheduling with this function, although Milestone is configured to use scheduling and motion detection for all cameras during non-service hours (midnight to 10 a.m.). Even the table management cameras are recording for surveillance purposes during the off hours for the restaurant.
To the best of his knowledge, Donna said there was no off-the-shelf solution available to the restaurant industry that did all the things he wanted to achieve, which is why he sought the customization available through Milestone.
Donna, who doesn't cook at the restaurant every day, said he also uses the Milestone system via his laptop and office computer to monitor all the video: security surveillance, dining room and kitchen. From home, he is able to view activity within the kitchen, check on deliveries and when the staff arrive. With 22x optical zoom, Donna is able to observe cutting techniques and other fine details. From a practical standpoint, Donna said he's used the system remotely to look for the keys that he thought he had left on his desk. And yes, they were there!
A class act
In addition to monitoring dining room activity, Donna is eager to deploy the kitchen cameras for his cooking classes and special meals. He has been doing classes for about 11 years, he said, and in February 2011 was planning to start again at his new restaurant.
Three kitchen cameras will provide live feeds as Donna prepares the eight to 10-course meals in the Laboratorio, which is open on certain evenings for these special tasting meals. They will provide access codes in advance to people at home who want to view the meal preparation so they can then log in to see Donna at work. "It's a great tool to use," he said.
The video from the cooking classes will be recorded and archived, added Bedewi, again using Milestone. There are no DVRs used, just a a high-end PC for the Milestone server.
Donna conceded his busy schedule has kept him from exploring all the options that the Milestone platform can provide. "I'm not a computer scientist," he said, "but the people from ICI explained everything well, provided training and were responsive to my needs."
Other chefs visiting Donna in Washington have already checked out his system and have been impressed by what it can achieve. "I recommend it to all my friends," said Donna.
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