Security From Scratch
High-profile, Michelin-star awarded Agern restaurant and high-traffic, adjacent Great Northern Food Hall deploy integrated IP video security and services network, solving unique installation requirements
- By Courtney Pedersen
- Jul 01, 2017
The summer of 2016 saw the opening of the fine-dining
restaurant Agern, and Great Northern Food Hall,
both in the landmark Vanderbilt Hall of Grand Central
Terminal, New York. Agern, which means “Acorn”
in Danish, is on a mission to share the culinary flavors
and ambiance deep-rooted in the culture of the Nordic countries.
Great Northern Food Hall consists of eight pavilions presenting casual
food styles based on fresh local goods and influences.
Agern’s beautifully designed spaces incorporate elements of
Scandinavian aesthetics with a mix of organic shapes and natural
elements from sleek, mid-century furniture to mosaic tile work and
natural wood in warm, earthy colors. In mid-November, Agern received
a Michelin star, recognizing the restaurant’s quality, mastery
of technique, personality and consistency of the food and the dining
“Both the restaurant and Great Northern Food Hall have been
well received by New Yorkers and tourists alike; there’s nothing esoteric
in our approach,” said Claus Meyer, CEO of MeyersUSA. “We
serve great coffee, we bake stunning breads and pastries just behind
the walls of Vanderbilt Hall, and we work hard to offer selections
that pay respect to the local market.”
Meyer points out that this is not just a commercial business to
make money. There is also a focus on sharing knowledge and building
expertise, innovation and exploring the depths of local and regional
flora and fauna. For example, they grow Nordic heirloom grains and
offer baking classes and foraging tours.
Bustling Historic Building:
More than 750,000 people pass through Grand Central Terminal every
day. In addition to operating 24/7, and being one of the most
visited tourist attractions in the United States, the terminal is a historic
landmark with much of its structure more than 150 years old.
These factors presented challenges for the installation of a new video
monitoring and services network.
“The terminal presented unique challenges with all the different
security requirements and the historic nature of the landmark,” said
Chris Kossifos, managing member of CK Technology Group, the
integrator and installer for the system. “We were not allowed to install
wires permanently anywhere. Everything in the hall had to be completely moveable.”
The team could not drill any holes or touch the walls. Even more
challenging was the stipulation that anything installed had to be able
to be removed with one week’s notice, leaving the space looking exactly
as it has for the last 100 years.
Top Systems Equals Healthy Business
“In our operations, we serve 4,000 to 5,000 guests a day,” said Jens
Baake, head of operations, MeyersUSA. “For our business to stay
profitable in a space like this, we must have very good systems in place.”
Baake explained that when it came to the video surveillance system
for his operations, the key functional requirements include coverage
for liability, theft control, and the ability to monitor daily operations
with Point of Sale (PoS) system integration. He emphasized the
importance of being able to capture and store video data from the
many areas in the restaurant and food hall and to have local as well
as remote access to viewing the video.
“I wanted the ability to overlay video with our POS system so I
can see data in real time as bartenders, servers, and cashiers ring up
transactions,” Baake said. “We can compare system transactions with
video of what’s being handed to the guests. If we feel there’s an issue,
we can use the easy search commands to review the video, narrow it
down to a certain area at a certain time, so we don’t waste time looking
at tons of raw footage.”
Baake added that another critical use of the video system is to
monitor the safety of employees. If they see something wrong, managers
can coach and train staff before an injury occurs. From lifting
heavy objects properly, to cleaning up grease or water on the floor,
the preventive actions from proactive monitoring is very beneficial.
IP Network Runs Cameras,
Video Platform and POS
To combine resources and minimize the physical footprint of the
installation, Chris Kossifos and the CK Technology team deployed
a single IP network to integrate and transport six distinct systems:
Milestone XProtect Corporate video surveillance software managing
Axis network cameras, MICROS Retail Systems POS terminals
and printers, computers that access the internet, Wi-Fi for guests and
staff, digital signage and audio. Each service shares the bandwidth of
a single network cable to each station, which was important because
there was no space to run more.
“People often talk about how IP cameras are great because they
have better image clarity, but that’s just one of their strengths,” Kossifos
said. “The real strength is in ease of use and ease of installing on
an existing network, and most importantly, you can run power, video,
and data—everything—over a single cable, through a single switch.”
Using this unified network approach, the system also incorporates
wireless Axis cameras with access points through a Ruckus wireless
system and their wireless LAN management server, the ZoneDirector.
With ZoneDirector, Kossifos was able to set up hidden wireless
networks (protected service set identifiers, or SSIDs) exclusively for
the wireless cameras.
“The wireless cameras operate like the wired cameras with zero
impact on the system performance for guests, staff or other networks.
It all runs simultaneously and is an elegant solution,” Kossifos said.
“Having 80 or so ultra-high-definition Axis cameras in the system
creates a lot of network traffic. Knowing that we had to run five other
systems together with the video, it was important to make sure that
the systems don’t trample on each other.”
Video surveillance is one of the most bandwidth-intensive services
on a network. At Great Northern Food Hall, the system uses ultrahigh-
megapixel, 360-degree cameras, so bandwidth was a big concern.
By using various Axis cameras with their Zipstream technology,
the data is compressed and efficiently sent over the network.
Customizable Software Options
The Milestone XProtect VMS also provides a robust set of options
for setting frame rates, video quality, and recording parameters. For
example, perhaps managers only need to record three frames per second
until an event happens, when the frame rate can be set to increase.
This ensures the activity needing to be captured is prioritized
with regard to image quality and frame rate.
“There’s a lot of flexibility in the Milestone software for bandwidth
customization based on activity, motion, and time of day,”
Kossifos said. “XProtect is by far the easiest software to use and most
reliable video management platform we have ever come across in our
20 years of deploying digital surveillance solutions.”
The team installed a variety of Axis cameras, including Axis
micro cameras in the PoS areas and 360-degree cameras hung from
overhead trusses constructed to avoid wall installation, also providing
space for marketing signage. Each 360-degree camera can cover a
lot of area with a small footprint.
“Milestone has an amazing feature to support this technology
which is a kind of virtual fisheye lens that breaks down the video
data into 12 distinct views, and this brings excellent value. We can
use a lot fewer cameras to see more angles, and do less wiring, too,”
Technology Served to Order
In the food service industry, a lot of events and seasonal business make
it necessary for a restaurant to scale staff to meet the need. Logins and
permissions can be a struggle when dealing with changing users.
“A majority of tech support calls have to do with passwords,”
Kossifos said. “So rather than having to laboriously set up individual
employees with new credentials all the time, administrators can
assign them into pre-existing groups that are managed through the
Microsoft Active Directory server, which assigns roles and access
without having to modify each user. It’s so beneficial that Milestone
Since management takes place across the organization, this means
that a single directory change updates not only their access to the
Milestone VMS, but access to the PBX System, their computer logins,
their email, etc.
“Once we set up an Active Directory link, we can add people
directly to our domain and then easily go right into Milestone XProtect
and select the user who is already part of the domain,” Kossifos
said. “When it comes to managing a large client base with hundreds
of different users, this is worth its weight in gold. It’s one of the most
important features—ease of setup, ease of management. Milestone
meets all these needs for us.”
With the historic nature of the facility, the high-bandwidth multisystem
requirements, and large user-base demands, this has been a
challenging installation for many reasons. With the proper tools in
place, they look forward to expanding the system to other facilities
within the Claus Meyer enterprise.
“As we add new retail locations, bakeries, and commissaries, we’ll
be able to add cameras without having to build a larger VMS. We’ll
just add cameras and have them record over our private network,
back to our main server storage in New Jersey,” Kossifos said.
In April of 2017, MeyersUSA opened its newest venture, Restaurant
Norman. Located in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, Norman is a contemporary
restaurant and café, with an in-house bakery and bar. Norman
currently has seven IP video security cameras
installed, all managed with the Milestone VMS, and
connected to the MeyersUSA shared IP network
through a secure VPN.
This article originally appeared in the July 2017 issue of Security Today.