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Archive | April, 2011

Improve Restaurant Sales And Brand Recognition At Food Festivals

The Taste Of Chicago Food FestivalSummer food festivals have been a fixture in American culture for years.  From the Taste of Chicago to the Alabama Crawfish Festival , food festivals large and small have kept growing and expanding, even through recent economic turbulence.

Tens of thousands of restaurants participate in these festivals across the country.  Participation often means closing down their establishment and spending a significant amount of money setting up and serving food at the festival.  But the general attitude is that the cost and loss of revenue is definitely worth it.

That’s because you simply cannot beat the exposure and customer engagement any restaurant gets at a food festival.  Potential customers are much more likely to experiment with new types of cuisine and new restaurant brand names in the festive atmosphere, making a local food festival an important avenue to gaining new customers for young establishments.  For the more experienced restaurants at a festival, reinforcing your brand in the community is a priceless commodity, and nothing communicates stability than customers seeing you year after year at the local food festival.

Restaurants in large metropolitan areas should choose the food festivals they attend more carefully than those in smaller communities.  Obviously, they’ll have more choices, and a big city restaurant should look for the festival that is most likely to cater to the type of person you want in your restaurant.  In small cities and rural areas, it’s much less about market segmentation and a lot more about making an appearance.  Just showing up at the local food festival communicates your involvement in the community.

In an age when it seems like all marketing gurus talk about is engaging customers through social media on the internet, food festivals provide a unique opportunity to engage customers face-to-face in a positive and friendly atmosphere.  Don’t expect to make any money at your local food festival.  But do expect to recognize the same smiling faces you see there in your restaurant in the months afterwards.

For a complete list of food festivals in your area, check out this food festival guide.

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How To Become A LEED Certified Restaurant and Why You Should

Every year, your restaurant’s green credentials on the street gets more important.  According to the National Restaurant Association (NRA), it’s one of the hottest trends this year.  Companies across the board, in and out of the food service industry, have scrambled in recent years to label their brands as green, with varying degrees of success.

Some companies have taken advantage of the green mood consumers are in by “greenwashing” their business – trumping up a bunch of nominally “green” practices and selling it to customers as a genuine commitment to sustainability.  The problem with greenwashing is that as consumers place more importance on sustainability, they’re also becoming more savvy about how effective the strategies companies tell them about really are.

This has led to a growing effort by companies that are genuine about their sustainability commitment to seek official credentials to back up their claims.  In the food service industry, national chains like Chipotle have built flagship locations to showcase their efforts and build green cred.

One of the most respected programs out there is run by the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) and is a well recognized name among consumers: LEED.  The Leadership in Energy Efficient Design (LEED) certification process can be long and arduous, but it also carries an official respect that will completely wipe out any lingering customer suspicions about the true purpose of your intentions.

What is LEED and how do you become a LEED certified restaurant?  Good question.
The name of the game is to earn points when you build or remodel.  Out of a possible 110 points, there are 5 categories and 2 bonus categories in which you can earn points for sustainable building and design practices:

Sustainable sites. If you’re building a new location, you can earn points by selecting a site based upon sensitivity to several environmental factors including plants, wildlife, water, and air quality.  (21 points)

Water efficiency.
Technology and strategies that cut your restaurant’s water use by 20% over the baseline amount earn you points.  Earn even more points for cutting water use even further.  (11 points)

Energy and atmosphere. Maximizing your restaurant’s energy efficiency, managing ozone-depleting CFCs (usually found in refrigerants), and utilizing renewable energy are the three main areas that will earn you points in this category.  (37 points)

Materials and resources. Selecting sustainable resources for your building or remodel project (i.e. no redwood countertops) and developing an effective waste management strategy earn you points in this category. (14 points)
Indoor environmental quality.  Using sensors and controls to manage indoor temperature, humidity, and ventilation earn you points in this category.  (17 points)

Bonus points. These can be earned if you’re building or remodeling in a region that has been deemed a priority by the GBCI, or if your project shows exceptional innovation and leadership in design.  (10 points)

40 points are required for LEED certification; there are also three levels beyond a basic certification: Silver (50+), Gold (60+), and Platinum (80+).

Obviously, LEED certification isn’t for everyone.  That’s why it’s called a Leadership program.  But for those brave enough to try for certification, the payoff can be incalculable.

If you’re not quite ready to take the plunge into a LEED program, check out these going green tips.

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Restaurant Food Safety Tips: Be Your Own Health Inspector

Health inspections are a regular part of life in any food service business, but too often it’s easy for a restaurant or commercial kitchen to fall into the trap of just passing the inspection rather than regularly practicing good food safety procedures. This series is intended to help your business improve food safety practices, because it’s about more than passing an inspection.  It’s about protecting yourself, your employees, and your customer.

The FDA estimates that 81,000 people suffer from a food borne illness every year, and that 9,000 deaths are a direct result of a preventable food borne illness.  Food borne illnesses are still the leading cause of emergency room visits in the United States. With those sobering statistics in mind, here are some tips to help you make safe food handling an integral part of your day-to-day routine:

Be Your Own Health Inspector

If you make food safety a priority in your restaurant or commercial kitchen, then the day the health inspector does show up shouldn’t be anything to worry about. If anything, a health inspector can be a great resource for helping you improve your food safety practices and you should take advantage of his or her expertise to make your operation better. However, in the meantime before your next inspection, it’s a good idea to conduct your own examination of food safety practices and identify trouble areas that need improvement.

Some tips on being your own health inspector:

  • Arrive unannounced. Surprise your employees and enter your business from the outside, giving you a more accurate perspective of what the real health inspector sees when they come for an inspection.
  • Use a copy of the local health inspection form. This will help you understand exactly what the health inspector is looking for and familiarize you with the process so that you know what the inspector is looking for.
  • Conduct a thorough walk through. Take out the white glove and be as objective as possible in identifying problems with food safety procedures.  Ensure that guidelines for food storage, labeling, handwashing, and food preparation are being followed.
  • Take the time to speak to employees. Make these mock walkthroughs a training exercise for your employees so they can stay fresh on food safety procedures.  Point out errors and take the time to teach employees about how to improve food safety.  This will only help them perform better when the real inspector arrives.
  • Identify problems and define strategies to address them. If you find potential violations, develop a strategy for addressing the problem. Don’t just lecture your staff about transgressions and consider the problem taken care of.  Re-check for violations more frequently until the problem has been addressed, and reward employees who quickly correct mistakes. Providing your employess with the proper training is also a good idea!
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Who Owns Your Kitchen’s Recipes?

A popular topic lately, in a couple different restaurant discussion forums I participate in, is the question of who owns the recipes your restaurant uses? Let’s look at a couple possible scenarios that could affect your restaurant:Restaurant Recipes

  • Your executive chef or kitchen manager quits. Maybe one or two members of the kitchen staff leave with her/him. Your chef keeps extensive recipes written down in a book they’ve had since long before they worked for you.
  • You fired your executive chef and there are no written recipes. Everything comes from the head of the executive chef or the cooks he/she trains.
  • Your chef leaves your restaurant for a bigger, better opportunity. It’s a benevolent departure. No animosity.

What happens next in any of these scenarios?

Do the recipes the chef has written down belong to the restaurant? Does the restaurant get them when the chef leaves? If there are no recipes, can the restaurant make the chef create them before the chef leaves so the restaurant can continue to produce the same food? Are any of the cooks trained enough to recreate the recipes the chef used to make? Is this cook even going to stay when the chef is gone?

No matter the answers to any of these questions, it is very important for the continued success of your restaurant that you are able to consistently produce the same quality of product, tasting the same as before, if you want to keep the loyal customers you have. If the food was horrible, maybe you want to change all the recipes, but you’ll still want to pay attention to the rest of this article to avoid potential pitfalls with the next chef.

All this begs the question, “Can your restaurant survive the departure of your head chef or kitchen manager?”

In addition to helping you evaluate your current situation and the risk you already have if your head chef leaves, I’m also going to help you take the steps to lower your risk and remove the impending doom of losing your top chef.

What are the risks if my chef leaves?

If you are unfortunate enough to lose your executive chef, whether it be a termination, the chef quitting, or the chef moving on to a better opportunity, there are several potential problems they could leave you with and several considerations you may have never made.

  • Recipes can be copyrighted, but copyrighting doesn’t keep someone else from using the same formula or recreating the same food. It may only protect any unique methods or systems of creating the food. In effect, you may not be able to keep a chef from reusing the recipes you use at a restaurant down the street just by copyrighting the recipes.
  • The chef may consider the recipes they create as their own intellectual property. If they were created while working for you, doesn’t that make them your property? Does a researcher for Pfizer get to keep the cure for cancer if they create it while working for Pfizer? “Who owns my recipes?”
  • A chef you have fired or who quits, even one who leaves under good terms, may not feel compelled to leave you with the recipes created while they were working for you.
  • A chef you have fired or who quits may think it’s a good idea to go to work for one of your competitors and make the same food you serve to hurt your business.
  • A chef or cook who leaves your restaurant may think it’s a good idea to start their own restaurant using the recipes they learned at your restaurant.
  • The chef takes half your kitchen staff with her/him, including everyone who knows how to make your recipes.
  • The chef takes their recipe book with them which are the only written copies of the recipes to your food.
  • You’re left without a chef and without recipes. You are in a state of desperation while having to negotiate employment with the next chef you hire.

Any one of these problems could do some serious damage to your restaurant. It’s best to consider these issues before hiring your chef and create an employment contract that protects the quality and consistency of the food you serve. Without that quality and consistency, your restaurant is at great risk to fail.

Chef ContractNow that you know it’s very important to protect yourself from these potential problems, and I’ve told you that an employment contract can help, you’re lead to your next question, “What should be included in a good chef employment contract?”

Here are what I consider to be “must haves” in any chef employment contract. Many of these you will want to include in an employment contract for all your cooks, your General Manager and any other key management staff that have access to your proprietary secrets.

  • A statement of duties, as in a job description. Usually an addendum to an employment contract, a job description helps you define in writing what is expected of the chef or other employee. The job description should be acknowledged and signed by the employee so you have proof the employee was aware of their duties.
  • The job description MUST include “creating and recording recipes in a recipe book owned exclusively by the restaurant” as one of the duties.
  • Intellectual property. This statement declares that any work done by the chef or other employee, recipes or operational tools created, procedures, etc. are the property of the restaurant and remain the property of the restaurant upon termination of employment. The employee is being paid by you to create for you. The creation remains your property just as it would if you commissioned a piece of art or hired a researcher to find a cure for cancer.
  • Conflict of interest statement. For full time, key employees, you will want a statement in their contract saying that while under your employment, they cannot hold another job or engage in any business or activity that conflicts with the interests of your restaurant. This is not a reasonable expectation for part time employees in my opinion though. If you are not providing enough hours so that the employee does not need another job, you should not try to prevent them from having one. Your employees have to eat too.
  • Confidentiality agreement. This statement in your employment contract forbids the employee from divulging any of your proprietary secrets to anyone else. These secrets include recipes, financial information, operations tools and manuals, policies, vendor agreements, training practices, technology, food and service methods, techniques, processes, studies and any and all records kept by the restaurant or any of it’s employees. This statement specifically helps you prevent your chef or cooks from taking your recipes or procedures down the street to your competitor.
  • Surrender of company documents. Upon separation of employment, this statement requires that the employee surrender any and all documents and property belonging to the restaurant, including recipes, checklists, operating tools, manuals, agreements, and any document whether printed or digital that was created on the clock while working for the company or was provided by the company to the employee.
  • New employer notification. This states that you reserve the right to contact the employee’s new employer to divulge to them the terms of the employee’s employment contract with you. This is meant to help you let the new employer know that their new hire is under contract not to divulge your proprietary secrets, procedures and recipes.
  • Non-compete agreement. The greatest risk of a good employee leaving is that they will go to a direct competitor and try to compete with you. A non-compete agreement helps you prevent them from doing just that. A non-compete should state that an employee can not work for, consult with or own interest in a similar business in your market. Basically that they can’t compete with you. A non-compete cannot keep an employee from making a living however. If you create a non-compete that tries to prevent an employee from performing any job even remotely similar to the one they held with you, you may have trouble enforcing it. Laws regarding non-competes vary from state to state and your ability to enforce yours may vary greatly from a restaurant in another state. In reality though, you are not trying to prevent your chef from finding a job somewhere else. You are trying to prevent them from taking your trade secrets and competing against you with them. A non-compete normally contains a time limit. 24 months is customary for most non-competes.
  • Employee solicitation statement. This statement forbids an existing employee from soliciting your other employees to work for them. This includes not only a direct job offer, but any sort of enticement, encouragement or pressure of any sort.

There are several other statements you should include to create a good contract. Make sure to use a qualified lawyer experienced with labor law and restaurants when creating any contract of any sort. I am not a lawyer and you shouldn’t consider this article legal advice. What this is however, is a good place to start when trying to protect proprietary information like recipes.

Until you have an employment contract in place, and a job description letting a chef know they are creating recipes for you that you will own, you are at the mercy of their ethics. A great chef knows that they are only as good as they left their last kitchen. They should have the moral drive to set any kitchen they run up for success long after they are gone. They shouldn’t try to steal employees or hide recipes.

After all, a great chef can recreate a recipe anytime they wish, and there’s a never ending supply of recipes inside a Chef Contractgreat chef’s brain. You can’t depend on every chef you hire being a great chef however. You need to protect yourself and create an atmosphere that benefits not only your chef, but every employee in the kitchen.

Use employment contracts. Use job descriptions. Create and maintain up-to-date recipes on all your menu items, including the specials. Make sure you have copies too. Don’t be held hostage by any one employee. Create an atmosphere where chefs will be beating down your door to work in your organized, well run operation, just for the opportunity to express their own creativity. For the opportunity to work for a successful brand, and to have the freedom of creating to their hearts content because you’re not holding them back from insecurity that they may some day move on to bigger and better things. After all, if you hired a great chef, they will eventually move on to bigger and better things.

For help writing an employment contract for your chef or cooks, visit our webstore and look for our Employment Contract for Chefs and Cooks. This same contract can be amended to use for any employee.

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Food Safety Tips: HACCP

astronautThe HACCP, or Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point, is a set of guidelines and procedures for food safety originally developed by NASA for astronaut food 30 years ago.  NASA needed a food safety program with “zero tolerance” to protect astronauts from foodborne illnesses while in space.  One can imagine the consequences of a bad sandwich in a spacesuit….

Anyway, these guidelines have been adopted by most restaurants to ensure the safety of the food product and ingredients used and prepared in their kitchens.

HACCP is unique because it focuses on analyzing problem points in the production of food and develops ways to address those hazards rather than testing final products for food borne illnesses.

As a restaurateur, you are probably already familiar with HACCP guidelines.  This information is meant to be a quick refresher course on all the aspects of an effective HACCP program.  Of course, different local health standards in different areas of the country will have their own guidelines for food service, and you should always follow those guidelines over anything said here.

The HACCP system is internationally used and recognized.  The principles of a HACCP are:

1) Conduct an analysis of food safety hazards in the preparation and production of food products in a commercial kitchen.  The three hazard categories include biological (pathogens like bacteria or viruses), chemical (toxins or poisonous agents), and physical (foreign objects).

2) Identify critical control points for managing these three types of risks.  The most common control points in the commercial kitchen include heating, cooling, preparing, and serving food product.  Use NSF certified restaurant equipment and restaurant supplies to make sure the tools in your kitchen are designed with food safety in mind.

Also keep in mind the HACCP system is designed to cover all the steps in the process for food, from harvesting to consumption, so even though your restaurant may not become involved until the end of that process, you should still attempt to indentify problem points that occur before product ever comes through your door.  Make sure you know your food suppliers and their food safety procedures.

3) Establish critical limits for food passing through a critical control point.  For instance, cooked food must reach 140 degrees Fahrenheit, etc.

4) Develop a system that monitors critical limits and ensures they are Data Loggerbeing met.  Thermometers are key to making sure food reaches the 140 degree critical limit.  Data loggers can monitor temperature fluctuations over time in walk-in refrigerators or freezers.  No matter what, the critical limits need to be logged and quantified in order for you to understand if the critical points you addressed in the hazard analysis phase are being met.

5) Have procedures to address problems when critical limits are not met.  The whole point of establishing a critical limit at critical points in the food preparation process is to spot potential problems immediately.  Once that system functions properly and actually finds a problem, you need to have procedures to address them.

6) Establish an effective documentation system for any HACCP program that records problems and data like time and temperature.  Without such documentation, you have no way of identifying problems in your food safety program and documenting for health inspectors the good practices of your HACCP program.

Modern food safety equipment like data loggers can be connected directly into a computer and temperatures automatically loaded into a database.  Taking advantage of such technology not only saves you time but makes your safety program more effective.

Controlling the critical food safety points in your restaurant is key to anybody’s success in the food service industry.  Having an effective HACCP program is good business practice, and will keep your customers safe and the health inspector happy.

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Data Management: 3 Spots Where Your Restaurant Is At Risk

Restaurant Data ManagementTechnology has made data easier to store, manage, and collect than at any other time in human history.  That power has resulted in amazing improvements in the efficiency of business, and restaurants have benefited just as much as any other – few restaurateurs can imagine running their business today without a comprehensive POS system to store ordering, inventory, and payment information.

The power of technology has a dark side however. The ability to store massive amounts of data in one place means anyone who gains access to that data can use it for criminal purposes.

Unfortunately for restaurant owners, identity thieves have started focusing more and more on the food service industry lately.  The high turnover, fast-paced environment, and minimal experience with data security typical in restaurants has created a perfect storm of opportunity for theft.

According to a USA Today article, identity thieves began targeting restaurants after hotels beefed up their data security in response to increased theft in the hospitality industry.  The problem with most restaurants is that they may not even know how vulnerable they are to data theft until it’s already too late.

Here’s the 3 spots where your restaurant may be at risk (and how to fix them):

1.  Employee records.

The first place everyone thinks of when it comes to identity theft is credit card information.  We’ll get to protecting your customers next, but employee records come first because few small business owners even think about the information they keep on file for employees as something anyone would want to steal.

Those W-2s, I-9s, social security numbers, and addresses are a potential gold mine to an identity thief, and most of those records are usually on paper behind one or maybe two locks – making them pretty easy pickings.

What to do: Some restaurants have started contracting a third party to digitally image all of their paper employee records and store them in a secure off-site location.  These contractors will also usually provide secure shredding and disposal services for sensitive paper documents.

If cost or size (you don’t employ enough people to make it worth it) eliminates a third party option, then take the following steps to beef up the security around your employee records:

Limit access. However you store employee records, put them in a place where only one or two people have access.  This means something more secure than a filing cabinet in the back office.

Digitize records.
Electronic information is easier to protect and takes up less physical space in a cramped back of the house, so if you can convert old paper documents to digital and collect new employee information digitally, this is by far the most efficient option.

Conduct background checks on new employees. Fellow employees are by far the most likely to commit identity theft, so when you hire, use a background check to help filter out potential thieves.  This is easier said than done in the restaurant business, but if you take the time it can really save your butt later on.

2.  Customer records.

More than likely if you’ve taken steps to protect data in your restaurant this is the place you’ve focused you’re efforts.  However, the guidelines and standards for credit card security are very fluid and change often.  These standards are called Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standards (DSS).

These standards are not mandatory, but if your business experiences credit card theft you won’t be protected by the major credit card companies if you are out of compliance.

What to do: Visit the PCI Security Standards Council for a complete guide to PCI compliance.

3.  Employee eligibility records.

As Chipotle is discovering, keeping your I-9 records in order is a critical part of data management that will help protect your business from litigation later.  Naturally, you would never knowingly hire an illegal immigrant, but if they provide you with false information then it will be up to you to provide that information if there is an investigation later.

That’s why it’s imperative, especially as the federal government cracks down on the hiring of illegal immigrants, to make sure you have all of the proper identification information for every one of your employees, past and present.
What to do: Collect and store I-9 information meticulously for each of your employees, including former employees.  Also check this information for red flags like suspicious looking social security numbers, shoddy looking identification, and duplicate information.

One Chipotle employee alleges she was able to get a job by using a friend’s identification information who was already a Chipotle employee.  Don’t let that happen to you.
Dirty Harry
Good data management is an imperative in modern business, and owners who remain complacent about their management practices roll the dice every day they open their doors for business.  Some may go for years without a single problem.  Others will discover just how damaging identity theft and improper hiring can be to their business.

The question is: do you feel lucky or do you prefer to minimize your risk?

Well, do ya?

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The Pre-Shift Meeting (Part Two)

Restaurant Pre-Shift MeetingIn part one of my discussion of pre-shift meetings, I discussed the things a manager can do to harm the effect of a pre-shift meeting.

It was by no means a comprehensive list.

There are many other mistakes managers can and do make that harm their pre-shift meetings.  It does however beg a very important question; how do you hold a successful pre-shift meeting?  Today, I hope to answer that by providing a template for these meetings.

One of the simplest actions managers can take to create effective pre-shift meetings is to follow a structure.

Having a template to follow in your pre-shift meetings allows you to develop a routine.  This routine will make planning your meetings far easier by enabling you to simply pick topics instead of trying to map out the meeting from scratch.  It also enables your staff to know what to expect and creates a structured beginning to their shifts.  This allows for more time to be spent by managers to plan the content and the servers to absorb it.

The timing of this meeting is an important factor to keep in mind.  Most restaurants stagger the arrival time of their servers to optimize labor dollars.  This can make the scheduling of your pre-shift meeting more difficult.  Holding this meeting while many of your servers have tables will often break up the momentum of the shift for them.  It is often wise to hold these meetings earlier to prevent this from happening, even if it means your final servers to arrive miss the meeting.

There are four general areas you should cover in every pre-shift meeting:

Housekeeping: These are the topics that affect the overall operations of the restaurant.  Be sure to cover any items that are out of stock or have limited availability.  Information from the corporate offices should be addressed in this portion of the meeting.  New items on the menu can be discussed for the staff to become familiar with.  Any upcoming events or holes in your schedule should also be mentioned.

In discussing these things it is important to remain upbeat and positive.  If you have bad news to address, take the time in advance to determine how to discuss it in the most positive light.

Forecast: This is your opportunity to talk about the shift that lies ahead.  Any special events in the area or factors that could drive sales should be addressed.  This also gives you a chance to discuss your thoughts on the evening.  No one expects you to be a psychic about the shift.  It is simply your predictions.

Much like watching the weather forecast, you do not have to be perfect, but knowing your thoughts can allow your staff to be prepared.

Teaching: This should be the primary focus of your meeting.  The time you have available is put to best use with topics that will benefit the restaurant beyond the impending shift.  Take time to discuss a specific skill that you feel can be improved on by the staff.  Even if it is just a review of skills your servers already have, it can be valuable to bring it into focus.  Five minutes a shift spent reinforcing skills can create an atmosphere of mastery that will radically improve your staff.

One of the best ways to do this is to have a weekly skills focus.  Rather than selecting a different topic every day, maintain the same topic throughout the week.  This repetition is the first step in creating positive habits amongst your staff.

For the first few days of the week, teach the skill to your staff and discuss it.  Midweek, let those who heard the teaching in the first few days share their success stories or best practices.  By the end of the week, let a member of your staff teach this part of the meeting.  Learning to teach the topic is far more effective in creating a long-term habit than simply repeating the information alone.

Inspiration: It is vital to end your meeting on a high note.  Do not let it dissipate into chatter as it ends.  Instead, find a way to end it on a high note.  This is your change to reaffirm the sense of shared purpose.  I am a big advocate of keeping a book of quotes in the manager’s office.  Having some other sources of inspiration will help keep you motivated.  It will also provide you with the content necessary to end these meetings on a high note.

Another way to end these meetings is to recognize a member of your staff for something they had done that week.  Any letters or compliments a server received should be recognized at this part of the meeting.  If you do not have any recent remarks to share, ask you staff if they have seen anything worth commending.

Follow this up by challenging them to create a story during that shift to be shared at the next meeting.  Creating this routine will cause your servers to start looking at the skills of others and how they can adopt them as well.  This also builds into the sense of purpose that motivates your staff.

These areas should all be addressed in less than 10 minutes.  The effectiveness of your meeting ends when your audience’s attention span expires.  Following this routine will extend the time they will pay attention by letting them know what is left to expect.  Taking the time to hold an effective pre-shift meeting can be the most effective form of continuing education you can offer.  When you take advantage of this time and the opportunity it provides to improve your staff, your bottom line will reflect it.

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Replace Commercial Refrigeration Thermostats Yourself

There are two types of temperature controls used in commercial refrigeration:

1. Thermostatic (either an air sensing type or evaporator coil sensing type)
2. Low pressure controlAn Air Sensing Refigeration Thermostat

Let’s start with thermostatic type controls.  An air-sensing thermostat does just that: it senses air temperature.  The control sensor tube is usually mounted in the evaporator housing.  The evaporator is located inside the unit, usually at the top where the fan motor is mounted.  The thermostat has a straight capillary or sensor.  The capillary tube is mounted on the outside of the evaporator coil usually pushed into a tube that is mounted in the front of the evaporator.

An Evaporator Coil Sensing ThermostatAn evaporator-sensing thermostat has a coiled capillary tube attached to it, which you can see pictured as a tight spiral to the left.  The evaporative sensing capillary or coiled tube end push into a hole that is in the evaporator.  It senses the temperature of the evaporator coil rather than air temperature.

These two controls are not interchangeable. If you put an air sensing control in place of an evaporative sensing control, the evaporator unit will shut off permanently, causing the temperature to rise.  If you put an evaporative sensing control in place of an air sensing control the unit will continue to run, causing the evaporator to freeze up.  If this happens there will be very little airflow, causing the temperature to rise.

How to spot a defective thermostat:

A commercial refrigeration thermostat can fail in two ways: in an open position or a closed position.

If the thermostat fails in the open position, the unit will not run at all.  To check this, remove the screws from the evaporator housing (make sure the unit is unplugged or the breaker is off) and pull the housing down.  Locate the wires attached to the thermostat and remove them.  Connect the two wires together and tape with electrical tape.  Turn on the breaker or plug the unit back in.  If the unit runs, replace the thermostat.

If the thermostat fails in the closed position, the unit will run all the time.  Running constantly will cause the evaporator to freeze up, restricting the airflow and causing the temperature to rise.  Use the same procedure described above to test the unit and replace the thermostat if necessary.  Also be sure to defrost the evaporator before turning the unit back on.

If the evaporator continues to freeze up after the thermostat replacement, call a service company as you may have other problems requiring a trained technician.

The other type of control is a low-pressure control.  These are usually located in the compressor compartment.

A low-pressure control is connected into the refrigeration lines and controls the temperature by using the pressure of refrigerant flowing through the line.  This type of control requires a service technician to replace.

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How To Make Your Restaurant A “Third Place”

Restaurant Third PlaceThe concept of the “third place” was first developed by Starbucks, and anyone who has been in a Starbucks immediately understands the principle: make your business feel like a home-away-from-home. Unfortunately for Starbucks they made way too many homes just as the economy turned south – tripling the number of locations in just three years before closing 600 stores at the height of the recession.

Now other fast casual chains are cashing in on the third place concept, most notably Panera, which has weathered the economy with strong profits and steady growth.  Panera has a lot of things going for it – customers view the brand as healthy, comfortable, and welcoming – the perfect place to eat, socialize, and work when you’re not at the office or at home – the quintessential third place. These companies have proven that the concept of third place works.  No other approach has been as successful in the past decade in terms of creating customer loyalty and word-of-mouth marketing.

So how can your restaurant cash in on the third place concept? 

Set the mood. Booths and tables with four chairs around them is standard restaurant furniture – and that’s exactly why your customer doesn’t quite feel at home in your establishment.  Comfortable, spacious seating is the first thing that jumps out at customers who walk into a Starbucks or a Panera. Of course, that kind of seating is expensive to buy and expensive to house because it eats up so much space.  That doesn’t mean you can’t convert one section of your restaurant into a homey retreat and keep the rest of your restaurant an efficient table-turning machine.Restaurant Third Place

Provide entertainment. Interactive digital signage, high def TVs, and super fast WiFi are all great ways to make your customers feel right at home.  With all the technological amenities they need at their fingertips your guests will settle in and stay awhile.

Take the long view on table turnover. “Turning and burning” – getting customers in and out of your establishment as quickly as possible – has long been the way most restaurants make their money.  When you convert part or all of your restaurant into a third place concept, you have to take a much longer view on the table turnover question. When you let customers lounge around for hours on end you may not be turning over a lot of customers but the ones who do stay tend to invite their friends, and when those friends discover your comfortable, homey atmosphere they’ll come back with their friends… and so on.

Don’t drop everything to become a third place. For most restaurants the most effective way to leverage the third place concept is going to be a hybrid approach.  Take a cozy corner in your restaurant, convert it into a comfortable lounge, and watch your lunch/afternoon shift grow in business.  During the dinner rush, go back to doing what you do best and let customers waiting for a seat or happy hour spillovers fill up your little third place – to the envy of your customers in regular seating.

Creating a home within your restaurant will take some investment, to be sure.  That investment can also pay off in a big way by taking those long hours between lunch and dinner and turning them into a solid moneymaker.  More indirectly, customer loyalty and word-of-mouth buzz will almost certainly make your cozy little investment one of the most effective marketing tools in your arsenal.

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Lincoln Smallwares: A Little Cookware For Everyone

Lincoln/Redco is a well recognized company within the food service industry.  In case you haven’t heard of them, they produce a variety of food prep equipment and commercial cookware.  Lincoln cookware has been in production in one form or another since the early 1900s.  Every chef is pretty particular about his or her cookware, which is understandable since these are the tools you use in the kitchen every day to ply your trade.

The nice thing about Lincoln is that the variety of their cookware lines has something for every taste and preference.  At the risk of sounding like a salesman (probably too late…), I’d like to take a minute to outline the different cookware products offered by Lincoln.  Again, there’s something for everyone here, from practical, durable standard cookware all the way up to high end, high performance stainless steel for the discerning perfectionist.

Arkadia Aluminum Cookware

Arkadia®: This aluminum cookware is good, standard cookware without the frills and without the expense of other lines.  If you’re on a budget and looking for a good value, Arkadia® is the line for you.

Lincoln Wear Ever Cookware

Lincoln Wear-Ever®: The Wear-Ever® line was registered in 1904 and has been a well-known name in aluminum cookware for over a century.  There are also four variations on the Wear-Ever line for specialized cooking needs:

  • Natural Finish® – The name says it all: natural aluminum cookware.
  • EverSmooth® – Rivetless cookware that eliminates those annoying buttons on the inside of any pot or pan that are hard to clean.
  • CeramiGuard® – Ceramic non-stick cookware that is much more scratch and wear resistant than traditional non-stick cookware.
  • HardCoat® – Anodized black surface for high heat and heavy use applications.

These Wear-Ever® features are also combined on a lot of Lincoln’s cookware, like EverSmooth® CeramiGuard® fry pans, etc.

Lincoln also has two lines of stainless steel cookware:

Lincoln Optio

Optio™ cookware is bottom-clad with aluminum for quick heat distribution.  This line is more affordable than most stainless cookware but still durable enough for any commercial application.

Lincoln Centurion Cookware

Centurion® stainless steel cookware is top-of-the-line, 18/10 stainless cookware with bottom-clad aluminum for quick heating.

So that’s what’s available from Lincoln Smallwares.  All in all, most people in the industry agree this is pretty good cookware, and you’ve got quite a few choices to fit the specific requirements of your commercial kitchen.

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