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Archive | 2009

Fixing Commercial Ovens: Pilot Light Won’t Stay Lit

80% of the time the thermocouple causes this problem.  When lighting the pilot, if the thermocouple is not directly in the flame it doesn’t get hot enough to allow it to open the safety valve.  If it is directly in the flame and it won’t stay lit then the thermocouple is probably defective and needs to be replaced,  Keep in mind that some safety valves have the thermocouple permanently attached so the entire valve must be replaced. Fixing Commercial Ovens: Pilot Light Wont Stay Lit

If you’ve replaced the thermocouple and attempt to light the pilot and it still will not stay lit then the safety valve is defective.  Remember to check the type of safety valve you have to get the correct replacement.  For correct identification  procedures check out this Tech Talk post.

When working on any type of gas equipment always remember to shut off the gas!

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Replacing Top Burner Gas Valves On A Commercial Range

Top burner gas valves are fairly easy to replace.  With the top plate (bull nose) removed you can access them easily (part of the frame runs across the top of them).  If you are replacing all or just one, the burners must be removed if they have a slip type orifice.  If there is a tube type burner valve they need not be removed because you can disconnect the tube from the burner valve and move it out of the way.  Replacing Top Burner Gas Valves On A Commercial Range

In either case when the burners or the tube is disconnected take a wrench and screw out the valve being replaced (in some cases you may have to remove a pilot adjustment valve to be able to turn the burner valve by it).

Once the old valve is removed, put some gas thread sealer on the treads of the new valve and screw it back into position, being careful not to over tighten.  Reassemble the unit except for the top plate.  Turn the gas back on and light the pilots (this may take a few minutes because the gas must first force out the air in the manifold).

Once the pilots are lit, turn on the first burner.  There may be no gas flow because the orifice on the new valve may be closed.  Using two wrenches, one to hold the valve the other to turn the orifice, open the orifice to allow gas flow (this may take a couple of turns).

Once the burner lights, continue to adjust the orifice until there is a nice blue flame.  Adjust until you have as little of a yellow flame as possible. If you feel there is still too much yellow flame you may need to adjust the air shutter located on the end of the venturi.  Once you have produced the bluest flame you can get, you are done.  You can reassemble your range and cook to your heart’s content.

Make sure you have the right orifice for the type of gas you are using!  Natural gas and LP gas require a different sized orifice.  If you are having problems with the flame on the burner, check the number on the orifice.  The larger the number, the smaller the hole.  Large number orifices are for LP gas.  Smaller numbers are for natural gas.

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Replacing Commercial Range Top Burner Pilots

Top burner pilots need to be replaced if they become clogged.  They are very difficult to unclog, and generally need to be replaced. There are three types of pilots:

  1. Those with the tube pre-welded to the pilot head.
  2. Those that have a nut and ferral to slide over the tube and be tightened onto the tube.
  3. Pre-formed pilot assemblies specific to a particular range.  Replacing Commercial Range Top Burner Pilots

Finally, there are new “flex tube” pilot burners that have a flexible pilot tube, making them very easy to install.

When replacing the pilots you will have to remove the front top plate (bull nose) from the range to access the pilot adjustment valves.  This will also have to be removed to replace the burner valve described below.

The pre-welded type is fairly easy to install.  To replace, disconnect the pilot tube from the pilot adjustment valve and remove.  Place the new pilot head and tube next to an existing one and follow the contour while slowly bending to form the same shape.  When you get to the end you may need to cut the tube off, using a tubing cutter.  A nut then needs to be put on, and then a ferral and screw back onto the pilot adjustment valve.

The type with the nut and ferral is very easy.  Simply use a tubing cutter and cut if off just below the old pilot head.  Remove the nut and ferral from the new replacement pilot head and slide them over the tube, nut first and then the ferral.  Slide the pilot head onto the tube and tighten the nut up to the pilot head.

The pre-formed pilot assemblies are far easier because they are all bent and ready for installation, the only draw back is they are a little more expensive than the others.

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Replacing Commercial Range Burner Heads

Burner heads usually become plugged over time.  There are two screws that connect the head to the venturi.  It is a good idea to use some kind of rust dissolver on the screws to loosen them.  Once the screws are out you can install the new head, and always remember to replace the gasket as well.

Some burner heads, most notably Southbend, are one piece and do not have a separate venturi.  In these cases the whole piece needs to be replaced.

One alternative to replacing the head is to get a drill bit the same size as the holes in the head and drill out the grease build up in them.  However, this can sometimes alter the flame pattern.

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Replacing Burner Grates For Commercial Gas Ranges

The top burner grates only need replacing if they have cracked due to metal fatigue or if they have been dropped and broken.  To replace, simply pull the broken grate off the top of the range and then place the new grate over the burner.

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These Guys Boosted Sales 400% With Creative Marketing

These Guys Boosted Sales 400% With Creative Marketing

Photo by Dean Rutz, Seattle Times

Ivar’s Seafood Restaurant in Seattle, Washington pulled off a brilliant piece of restaurant marketing recently, resulting in a 400% increase in clam chowder sales.

How did they do it?

Well, it’s a funny story actually.  Ivar’s dreamed up this scheme to get a kooky story going in the local media and virally on the web.  The tall tale went like this: the restaurant’s founder, Ivar Haglund, long since dead, had arranged for billboards advertising his restaurant to be planted on the bottom of Puget Sound in the 1950s.  Apparently Haglund fervently believed that people of the future would travel the depths of the Sound via submarine, and his billboards would one day be perfectly located.

Ivar’s let the story steep in the media for a couple weeks, then staged a recovery of the billboards, which got a lot of attention.  Unbeknownst to the media or the masses, the billboards had been planted a few short weeks before the “recovery.”

The restaurant then announced they would roll back the price of a bowl of clam chowder to 1950s prices to celebrate the discovery of the long lost billboards.  The story blew up all over the internet, and soon Ivar’s had a lot of new business on their hands, leading to the 400% increase in clam chowder sales.

The story reveals how effective a well-designed marketing campaign aimed at social media can be.  The food service industry in general are slow adopters when it comes to technology, and as I’ve discussed here on The Back Burner before, it remains unclear how much restaurants are even using social media, despite the steady stream of articles and experts saying how great this new kind of marketing is.

Ivar’s has proven that innovative thinking and a willingness to go all in can bring astounding results if it’s properly executed.  This example also makes it clear just how effective “new” marketing can be.

So how do you plan to use social media to boost your restaurant’s sales 400%?  If you’re like most restaurateurs, you haven’t even thought about it.  As Ivar’s has proven, it’s clearly time to start.

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Is There Money To Be Made After Hours?

Is There Money To Be Made After Hours?The 24/7 lifestyle has been creeping further and further into American cities over the course of this decade.  People are out later more frequently, and many restaurants, especially in urban centers, are responding by catering to late night diners.  If done right, the late night scene can energize your restaurant and your bottom line.

To be sure, late night dining isn’t right for every restaurant.  Several factors must converge for an after-hours strategy to work for your establishment.  First on the list, as usual, is location.  Areas with high concentrations of young people (hip neighborhoods, college towns, etc.) are an obvious choice, but don’t discount proximity to entertainment venues for older couples as well.

If you decide your restaurant is well suited to start cashing in on the late night crowd, some additional work is going to be needed to ensure your success.  Here’s three tips to help you get your late night shift started on the right foot:

Adjust menus. Obviously, you don’t need or want your kitchen running on full dinner rush steam.  More importantly, the late night crowd isn’t going to want filets and big entrees.  Experiment with fun finger foods and other creative items that are easily prepared, high margin, and easy to share.

Adjust atmosphere. You don’t have to make a big production out of it, but it is important to create an atmosphere that communicates “late night” rather than “dinnertime.”  Some simple adjustments include rocking out the music a little more, brightening the lighting, and opening up the dining area to allow more of a party style gathering rather than secluded dining.

Adjust staff attitudes. Serving on the late night shift isn’t for everyone.  Finding the right kind of person to complete your restaurant’s party vibe is essential to making the whole thing work.  Getting that person is much easier if you relax dress codes and encourage a more laid-back atmosphere.  You want to do that anyway to cater to the crowd you’ll be expecting, so it may make sense to change your expectations for late night servers.

Many restaurants who have recognized that their location affords them the unique opportunity to catch an after-hours crowd have taken advantage of this underserved segment, and the results have been very positive.  If your location fits the bill, you’ve also got an opportunity to expand your customer base and the number of hours in a day your business makes money.  And that’s never a bad thing.

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Is This A Drill? How A Missouri Sonic Manager Trains For Robberies

Is This A Drill?  How A Missouri Sonic Manager Trains For RobberiesWe’ve all had one of those managers who’s just a little bit more hardcore than everybody else.  Usually they’re pretty harmless, if not a little annoying.  You just have to roll your eyes and get through the extra training seminar they scheduled.

A St. Joseph, Missouri Sonic manager probably takes the cake when it comes to overzealous middle management taking things a little too far, however.  This guy decided to test his Sonic team’s (read: two bored teenagers and a fat guy who still lives with his mom) readiness in case of an attempted robbery at the restaurant.

The solution: have a friend walk into the Sonic, pull a fake gun, and start taking people hostage.

Seriously, that was this guy’s solution.

Frantic Sonic patrons immediately called 911, and soon the place was surrounded by patrol cars and cops ready for a full-blown hostage situation.  The scene was probably reminiscent of the classic movie Dog Day Afternoon, except at least Al Pacino had a real gun in that flick.

Needless to say, the cops were not happy to learn the whole thing was meant to be a training exercise.  And I doubt those customers will be enjoying a Sonic Coney hot dog again anytime soon.

No word on whether Sonic corporate has upped their robbery preparedness rating for St. Joseph Sonic locations.

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A Complete Guide To HACCP Food Safety

If you’re looking to implement a HACCP food safety program, this series of Back Burner posts will help you get started.  If you’re looking for ways to improve your existing food safety program, this is also a great place to start.  Food safety is a critical part of your food service business, and over the years, HACCP has proven itself to be one of the most effective ways to ensure your customers eat good food in your restaurant every single time.

This guide will walk you through the 7 HACCP principles one by one and will also cover supplemental information like Prerequisite Programs.  Get started on your HACCP program today:

1.  HACCP Principle 1 - An introduction and understanding the hazards and risk factors present in your restaurant.

2.  HACCP Principle 2 - The Difference Between CCP & SOP - Some things in your food safety program will be covered by your HACCP, while other things need to be established as Standard Operating Procedure.  Learn how to organize food safety tasks here.

3.  HACCP Principle 3 - Set Critical Limits - A critical limit is the minimum or maximum temperature food product must reach to stay out of the temperature danger zone where bacteria and pathogens can grow.

4.  HACCP Principle 4Establish Monitoring Procedures - Critical limits don’t do you a bit of good if you don’t monitor your operation and determine they are actually being met in practice, not just in theory.

5.  HACCP Principle 5Develop Corrective Actions - Critical limits are worthless without monitoring, and monitoring is worthless without a plan to take corrective action when monitoring finds problems in your HACCP program.

6.  HACCP Principle 6 - Ongoing Verification - The secret to a successful HACCP program is developing multiple layers of quality control that ensure the standards you set in Principle 3 are met on a consistent basis.  Ongoing verification is another layer in the monitoring process.

7.  HACCP Principle 7Keep Good Records - All that monitoring won’t help you if someone accuses your business of sickening them and you don’t have records of what you’ve been doing with your HACCP program.  Good records also help you every time the healt inspector arrives, so make sure you record the information you collect while monitoring your HACCP program.

8.  Prerequisite ProgramsThe essential partner to any HACCP food safety program is the Standard Operating Procedures that promote a clean and sanitary kitchen, like handwashing.  Get some prerequisite tips here.

Check out more articles on Tundra’s Resource Center for Food Safety

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11 Hot Restaurant Trends

11 Hot Restaurant TrendsKeeping up with the latest and hottest trends in food service could be a full time job in itself.  Luckily for you, The Back Burner is here to keep track and distill things down into manageable chunks.  This is a quick rundown of the trends we’ve been tracking over the past couple months, covering everything from weird new menu offerings to radical new approaches to management:

1.  The Conflict Between Local Food and Local Government – As I have noted on The Back Burner before, more and more restaurants are sourcing their food locally.  The trend has taken off quickly, and, at least in Culver City, CA, the municipal government is grappling with how to regulate urban gardens.

2.  For All The Hype, Are Restaurants Really Using Social Media? – For all the buzz around using social media like Twitter and Facebook as marketing tools for restaurants, a recent study by Chalkboard.com indicates the majority of restaurants aren’t catching on.

3.  Extreme Mixology: Inhaling Vaportinis- Mixology is a hot trend in food service.   The Red Kiva Lounge in Chicago has apparently taken mixology to a new level with VaporTinis: a shot of alcohol that’s heated, and, instead of being drunk, is inhaled as it evaporates from the heat.

4.  Healthy Menu?  Don’t Tell Your Customers – Ask anyone sitting on their couch around dinnertime if they want a healthy pizza, and you’ll probably get a lukewarm response.  Not that people don’t want to eat healthier.  As I have discussed in the past, that doesn’t always translate well to the moment of truth when a patron actually makes their decision.

5.  No Training Budget? Spend Nothing But Time And Succeed – According to a new study by the Council of Hotel And Restaurant Trainers (CHART), 53% of the restaurants surveyed had cut back on their employee training budgets.  Only 19% increased their budget, with the rest remaining the same.

6.  Menu Trends: Hibiscus Flavors - Hibiscus, the beautiful tropical flower, is now making its way into cocktails, teas, and desserts in some of the trendiest urban restaurants.  The taste is described as both fruity and floral, with a tartness not unlike lemon.

7.  California & Vermont Restaurants: Are You Compliant? - If you’re in the food service industry in either California or Vermont, then this blog post is for you.  New legislation in these two states changes the kind of faucets and pipe fittings that can be installed in restaurants and commercial kitchens starting early next year.

8.  Restaurant Management: Use Creative Compensation Strategies - Some restaurants have begun to rethink their compensation plans.  The best kind of compensation is the kind that motivates the employee to bring their priorities in line with the priorities and goals of the restaurant.  These strategies are different depending on whether you’re talking about Front of House or Back of House employees.

9.  Are You Ready For Flu Season? – Unfortunately, the grim reality is everyone is going to have to take steps to combat the spread of flu this winter, and restaurants are no exception.  Organizations like the National Restaurant Association are already educating restaurants about ways to inhibit the spread of viruses, and the food service industry as a whole is taking this flu season very seriously.

10.  Restaurants Cooking With A South American Super Crop – This is a story about how an Incan super crop is starting to take over health food stores and trendy restaurants in the U.S.  The rest of the world is already on board with this mysterious super plant; we’re just now catching up.

11.  New York City Health Department Finds Menu Labeling Affects Consumer Behavior - Nutrition information on menus is a trend in food service that doesn’t seem to be going away.  Legislation is still working its way through Congress that would require menu labeling.  In the meantime, New York City has had its own menu labeling law for fast food chains in place for some time now.  The question has been, as critics love to point out, exactly how effective is a list of nutrition information on helping consumers make better decisions?

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