eTundra Categories

Archive | March, 2012

4 Strategies For Better Commercial Refrigeration Efficiency

4 Strategies For Better Commercial Refrigeration EfficiencyNow that we are entering the hottest time of the year, it’s a good time to examine the commercial refrigeration units in your restaurant and make sure they are operating as efficiently as possible.  No matter what you do, you’re going to end up spending more money on refrigeration this time of year than any other.  However, that doesn’t mean you should have to spend any more than absolutely necessary.

Have you optimized your commercial refrigeration efficiency?  Doing so can save you a LOT of money.  Here’s the main areas you should focus on:

Clean those coils! You’ve probably heard it before but if you haven’t gotten behind your refrigerators and freezers and cleaned off the coils, you need to hear it again.  The condenser and evaporator coils take the heat inside your refrigerator and disperse it outside the unit, and if air can’t pass over the coils, then they radiate heat much more slowly.  That makes your unit work harder to keep things cool and it consumes more electricity.

Replace worn or torn door gaskets. The door gasket forms a seal when the unit’s door is closed, preventing cold air from seeping out and warm air from seeping in.  If that gasket isn’t sealing properly, it’s costing you money.  Health inspectors also don’t like torn gaskets because food bits and grime gather in them and create a breeding ground for bacteria.  Luckily, replacing the gasket is an easy process.

Turn off door heaters. All this heater does is prevent frost from building up on the inside door of your refrigeration unit.  Most units don’t even have a frost problem, and so the heater just uses up energy.  If you do have a problem with frost buildup or have water pooling in front of the unit, then you absolutely must have the door heater on.  More often than not, however, it’s not an issue.4 Strategies For Better Commercial Refrigeration Efficiency

Outfit your walk-in. Strip curtains help drastically reduce the loss of cold air when the door to your walk-in is open, and when it’s closed, the curtain adds an extra layer of insulation.  Also make sure the door latch is working properly and actually catching when you close the door.  A worn or broken latch means the door gasket isn’t fully sealed, and you’re losing cold air.  Also use a door closer to automatically pull the walk-in door shut quickly after it’s opened.  The less cold air you lose, the better off you’ll be.

It’s amazing how much in energy savings you can realize from a few simple steps.  Of course, there will always be a point where you cannot optimize your refrigeration equipment any more, and natural degradation in performance will occur no matter what you do.  When the time comes to buy a new commercial refrigerator or freezer, buy an Energy Star rated model if at all possible.  Even if you can’t find an Energy Star unit that works for you, simply upgrading to a new unit will mean better efficiency because new technologies are being added to commercial refrigeration units all the time, and a new unit will perform better simply because it’s newer.

Before taking action from the content or resources published here, we request that you visit and review our terms of use.

Continue Reading

Should Your Restaurant Have A Website?

Should Your Restaurant Have A Website?The short answer is yes, definitely.  As long as you build a decent site, it can’t hurt your marketing efforts and has the potential to be a big help.  Some of the things you can do with an internet presence for your restaurant:

  1. Get to know your customers.  A website is a great way to learn more about your customers.  Take surveys of visitors to your site or ask them to sign up for an email list and then ask for some general information as they sign up.  You can also include email and phone contact numbers, making you much more accessible to your customers.
  2. Use the website as a promotion tool.  Collecting customer information means you have a database of prospects you can market to directly.  Tell your web visitors about promotions and deals and then measure response.  Focus on what generates the most response and recycle the most successful campaigns back through your website.
  3. Start a dialogue with your customers.  An internet presence allows your customers to communicate directly with you quickly and easily, and allows you to respond just as quickly to their concerns and questions.  Use this dialogue to make your customers feel engaged in your business and use it as a tool to improve your operation.

Build A Good Website

More and more restaurants are building websites to advertise their business online.  As customers use the internet to find the information they need, it has become an imperative for the food service industry to go where the customers are looking.  Building a website can vary in price and quality almost as much as restaurants vary in price and quality.

If you’re planning on building a website for your restaurant, or already have one up, make sure you follow a few basic best practices that will ensure those marketing dollars are being put to their best use.

Some tips:

  • Don’t try to do the whole thing by yourself.  Your restaurant’s website is the first and sometimes only impression potential customers have of your business.  People spend enough time online these days to know an amateur site when they see one.  While it might seem like you’re getting away with getting a site up without having to pay for it, in the end you will pay because customers will notice.
  • Writing the content for your business’ site will probably end up taking up much more time than you think, so you might as well let someone who knows what they’re doing handle the design and building of your site.
  • Follow best practices for design.  Even if you do hire a designer for your site, familiarize yourself with design best practices for a restaurant website:
  • Don’t get too flashy.  Design elements like Flash players look great, but from a practical perspective, they don’t help get customers to your restaurant at all.  When someone lands on your home page, they want information and they want it fast.  Flash takes a long time to download and while it is pretty to look at, is not very informational.
  • Start with information first.  Most customers who are looking up your restaurant on the internet want information, not to know how great you are.  They’re looking for driving directions, a reservation phone number, and a menu.  So give them what they want – in clear and concise format – at the top of the home page.
  • Make navigation easier than easy.  A common trap is to create a complicated web of navigation buttons linking to what seems like incredibly useful information.  The problem is, your customer usually just wants to know a few basic things about you before they head back to Facebook, so make navigating around your site so easy it seems almost stupid.
  • Update content regularly.  Not only does regularly updated content make your site more visible to search engines, but regular customers appreciate new content on your site.
  • Make information on your site as printable as possible.  Customers want to be able to print information about your restaurant like directions, phone numbers, and menus.  Design pages with this information on it easy to print.
  • Connect your website to other websites.  After all, the web is called the world wide web because it’s made up of a series of millions of sites like yours connected to each other.  Many metropolitan areas have restaurant directories online that are free to join.  Also start a reciprocal linking campaign with related websites and even other restaurants to help raise your site’s visibility.
  • Keep building your site.  The internet can be a powerful marketing tool for your site, and it doesn’t all need to be built in a day.  Different restaurants in different markets that cater to different customer demographics will have varying levels of success with a website.  Start small and add to your site as you start seeing results.  The possibilities are really endless with what you can to use your website as a marketing tool, and as time goes on that tool will only become more and more useful.

Continue Reading

6 Steps To Making The Guest Experience Perfect

6 Steps To Making The Guest Experience PerfectThere are several moments that are crucial to the guest’s perception of your restaurant. In order for service staff and managers to deliver a great guest experience, they must understand these important aspects of the guest experience. Specifically these are when the guest is entering the building, being greeted by the server, checked on during their meal, asked for feedback and thanked before they leave.

Every detail in the restaurant is important. That said these are the moments when you can win people over and generate rave reviews. Your service staff touches all of these points, with staff members in different roles starring at different points of the guest experience. By emphasizing these moments to your staff, you can improve your staff’s awareness of them. The result will be improved performance and increased restaurant sales.

Entering the Building, Before and During

The server is the most important point of contact for the guest, the face of the company, and the person with the most responsibility for whether the guest leaves with a good experience. That said the server is almost never the member on the service staff who first interacts with the guest. That person is the staff member who answers the phone or greets guests at the door. Your hosts and hostesses are vital to the guest experience, as they are the people who do.

After the guest has made a phone call to your restaurant and before they are greeted, their impression of your restaurant is forming. The appearance and condition of the building, either from driving by or walking up through the parking lot, can impact whether or not they want to eat at your restaurant. People hanging around outside can positively or negatively affect the guest experience, depending on whether it’s a lively crowd waiting to enter or employees off duty or on breaks.

Their impression continues to form as they enter the building. The first person on the service staff that greets them is usually a host or hostess. For this function, demeanor and appearance are the most crucial, as the door positions require a particular type of professionalism. There are some great servers and bartenders that might not be the best fit working up front. Managers and owners must be cognizant of this fact when hiring and selecting staff for these roles. The demeanor of the people working at the very front can greatly affect restaurant sales.

The Greet

Greeting guests at their table is a very important aspect of the guest experience, as well. The greet must take place in a timely manner. Equally important, it must be warm, friendly and hospitable. The server must smile, make eye contact, and use hospitable language. As they are doing this, they need to observe the makeup of the party, the tone of the guest and tailor the experience accordingly. In the initial greet, the server gets a lot of information.

As does the guest. While you are observing them and collecting information, this is when the guest decides whether or not they like you. This affects your tips and the future revenue for the restaurant.

If I had any advice for any server anywhere, it would be to be great at the greet. Pay attention to your details, because everything else you are doing is important, but be great at the greet.

Checking on Meal

Checking on the meal is equally crucial for the restaurant. At the end of the day, people are coming for the food. People buy the experience, but the food is a big, big part of that.

Of the several functions of the checkback, a key one is to show hospitality. You are checking to make sure everything is ok and most of the time it is. Still, while executing this step of service the server must be able to sincerely show empathy and concern.

After demonstrating hospitality, the next function of the checkback is quality control. The server must make sure that the orders are correct, complete, and satisfying. Orders usually arrive at the table correct, but sometimes the expediter in the kitchen may miss something. A correct order is also correctly prepared. If something is over or undercooked, you want to find out as soon as possible.

Sometimes orders arrive incomplete. Someone could be missing sides or one person at the table could be missing a meal. This is especially possible if a food runner or server assistant delivered the dinners and not the server. There is also the possibility that people may be missing condiments, napkins, or silverware. Should a guest need any of those, they must be delivered promptly. If someone waits four minutes for a soup spoon the soup will be cold. The same goes for mayo and mustard for a hamburger; the food gets cold and they are waiting that long to start their meal.

Along with demonstrating hospitality, checking also provides the opportunity to enhance the guest experience. For instance, if a guest labored over a choice, you want to take the time to specifically ask that person if they are happy with their choice. If they enjoy it, you can play up a great decision and celebrate a great product. Taking this action can impact future sales. By contrast, if the choice is unsatisfactory, you are allowed the opportunity to fix it.

Observing for Feedback

Asking for feedback is crucial. However that is not the only way for a server to collect information. The server’s observation skills are very important. They are used at the very beginning of the experience when they are greeted. They are also used throughout the experience. Keen servers can realize problems before the guest says anything and sometimes as they are happening. This can run the gamut from something missing from a plate, something that does not taste well, or a guest that is uncomfortable. Strong servers are strong observers.

Asking for Feedback

This is a crucial step for servers and managers. The server and the manager function differently in asking for feedback. The server asks and checks on the guest throughout. The manager will either come during the meal or before the guest leaves. Sometimes the managers have a better chance of getting candid feedback from a guest.

Getting the right feedback is important. To do this, the server and the manager have to actually stop and take the time to get feedback. Rushing through checkbacks and table visits does not work. If you are moving so quickly that it looks like you don’t care, they will assume that you do not care. There is also an intangible quality about getting the right feedback. I have noticed some managers are able to get better feedback than others.

Thanking the Guest

More than one person should thank the guest. Ideally, the server thanks them, sincerely. Then after that the people at the door should offer a warm thank you as well. These words are crucial. Otherwise the guest can leave without feeling appreciated.

Conclusion

All details in the restaurant must meet protocol. This article is about specific moments that can greatly impact sales. The success at these points of the guest experience is based on the service staff member’s soft skills. Your staff should be educated on how important these moments are and trained on best practices for these moments.

Erik Bullman is a Writer and a Waiter.  He has over six years experience in Hospitality and Sales.  His blog is Writer, Salesman, Waiter.

Continue Reading

Restaurant Cutlery Q & A: Finding And Maintaining The Best Blade

What’s the big deal with  santoku knives?Restaurant Cutlery Q & A: Finding And Maintaining The Best Blade

A santoku knife is a more versatile version of a cook’s knife, with a thinner blade that allows for finer slicing and mincing.  Some chefs swear by the santoku, claiming it has better balance.  In general, a cook’s knife is going to be better for larger, heavier chopping and cutting while a santoku blade is best used for thinner chopping and cutting tasks.  The “granton” or scalloped blade on a santoku knife makes the blade less sticky when cutting very thin slices, allowing them to peel off the blade more easily.

What does high carbon mean?

High carbon stainless steel, interestingly enough, has a higher carbon content than most other types of stainless steel.  This type of steel is used in professional cutlery because it allows the manufacturer to “temper” the blade.  Tempering is a heating and cooling process during forging that tapers the blade without making it brittle.  Higher carbon steel is more tolerant of this process.

Restaurant Cutlery Q & A: Finding And Maintaining The Best BladeWhat is a bird’s beak paring knife?

“Bird’s beak” refers to the downward slant at the tip of the spine of the blade on a paring knife.  This type of paring knife makes it easy to peel and cut round objects like fruits and vegetables, and is most often used for garnishes in commercial kitchens.

Is a serrated slicer knife better than a straight edge?

The short answer is that it depends.  Serrated edges stay sharp longer but are also more difficult to sharpen.  If you’re looking for a good, durable knife that doesn’t slice very thin, then a serrated edge slicer is a good bet.  Straight edge slicers are perfect for making paper-thin cuts on a consistent basis, like on a big hunk of roast beef.  They dull more quickly and are maybe a little less durable, but when you need thin, straight is the answer.

Why would I want an offset bread knife?

The offset handle on a bread knife means you don’t whack your knuckles on the counter every time you slice a piece of bread.  It’s a very nice feature if you’re cutting a lot of bread in a hurry.

How often should I sharpen my knives?Restaurant Cutlery Q & A: Finding And Maintaining The Best Blade

To maintain a perfect cutting edge, use a manual sharpener daily to remove burrs and restore a sharper edge.  Over time, however, the blade angle will need to be reset periodically, something an electric knife sharpener is far more effective at accomplishing.  As the blade wears down from daily use and daily sharpening, the angle gets larger, which makes it harder to get an edge out of a cursory daily sharpening.  A two or three stage electric sharpener restores this blade angle by regrinding the blade.  It depends on how much you use your cutlery, but in general the angle should be reset about once a month.

Is a diamond coated grinder better for sharpening?

In a word: yes.  A diamond coated grinder shaves away steel at a much cooler temperature than a normal grinder.  This is important because heat will “detemper” the steel of a knife blade, making it more brittle and more prone to nicking and dulling.

Continue Reading

Chef Lon Symensma Nominated For Food & Wine’s People’s Choice Award

Chef Lon Symensma Nominated For Food & Wines Peoples Choice Award

Vote For Chef Lon here!

Chef Lon Symensma has a serious culinary pedigree.  That’s why Denver foodies were extremely excited when he decided to partner with Culinary Institute of America classmate Alicia Deters to create ChoLon, his first restaurant, ChoLon, in the LoDo area of downtown Denver.

After stints at Buddakan & Spice Market in New York, and time in Michelin starred restaurants in France and Spain, Chef Lon came to Denver with a lot of top shelf culinary experience under his belt.

But it was his experiences traveling through Southeast Asia that have influenced ChoLon’s menu the most definitively.  The menu is packed with finely crafted versions of the street food that defines the culinary culture in places like Vietnam – pot stickers, spring rolls, dumplings, and more all have a place here.

These simple food items shine when given the royal treatment in Chef Lon’s skilled culinary hands.  5280 Magazine gave the ChoLon menu 3.5 stars out of 4 and Yelp is full of lengthy, raving reviews of Chef Lon’s simple yet powerful creations.

Taking the fundamental building blocks of Southeast Asian cuisine and fusing them with the mature culinary tactics of top European restaurants has earned Chef Lon a nomination for Food & Wine magazine’s People’s Choice Awards.

Tundra Restaurant Supply is a proud partner of ChoLon Bistro and Chef Lon is one of our favorite customers.  We’re extremely excited to see him nominated for this award and we’d like to encourage everyone to cast a vote for Chef Lon before March 11th!

Cast your vote here!

Continue Reading

Commercial Fryers: A Buying & Maintenance Guide

Commercial Fryers: A Buying & Maintenance GuideA commercial fryer cooks certain foods extremely efficiently and quickly, and are often used in restaurants and commercial kitchens for appetizers and specific entrees.  Fryers use a heating element to superheat an oil medium to around 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  When food product is dipped into the oil, the moisture inside boils, but because oil and water don’t mix, the product doesn’t lose moisture, and it’s steamed from the inside out.

The two most common types of commercial fryers are countertop and floor models.  The main difference between the two is capacity, and when buying a new fryer, this should be the first factor you consider.  Capacity is determined by how many pounds of french fries a fryer can cook in one hour.  Typically this is calculated by roughly doubling the oil tank capacity of a fryer. Therefore a 40 gallon fryer should produce between 75 and 80 pounds of french fries per hour.

It’s important to calculate the cooking capacity you’ll need for your commercial kitchen before purchasing a new fryer.  Countertop models have much less capacity than floor models and are typically used for very small volume applications.  Larger volume kitchens purchase multiple tank floor fryer units or put several smaller floor units in series next to each other.  This is especially useful for frying different food types simultaneously.  Avoid flavor transfer from one type of food to another by using the same heating oil.

Gas vs. Electric Fryers

Gas fryers use a natural gas flame either inside a series of tubes that run through the oil or through heating elements located towards the bottom of the oil tank.  Gas fryers heat up more quickly than an electric fryer.  Gas fryers are also more efficient, though rising natural gas prices has narrowed that gap in recent years.

Electric fryers use an electrical heating element that drops directly into the oil to heat.  The primary difference between a gas and an electric fryer is capacity.  Electric fryers are small capacity countertop and drop-in models that operate very well when dealing with a small amount of oil (up to about 25 gallons).  In this situation, electric fryers are more efficient and recover more quickly.

However, larger capacity fryers, with 40 gallons of heating oil or more, are almost exclusively gas heated units.  In a larger capacity context, gas heat is the only way to go in terms of efficiency and heat recovery time.

Types of Fryers

There are three common fryer designs: tube style, open pot, and flat bottom.  Almost all fryers are constructed out of heavy gauge stainless steel and include an accurate thermostat for temperature control.

1. Tube style fryers have a series of tubes that run through the bottom of the heating tank.  Gas burners run through these tubes and heat the oil.  Tube style fryers also have a cooler sediment area below the tubes.  This allows crumbs and food particles to settle out of the super heated oil above the tube burners into the cooler oil below the burners, preventing the carbonization of those particles, which can leave a burned taste on fried foods.

2. Open pot fryers are heated with either a gas burner or an electric heating element that wraps around the base on the outside of the oil tank.  The oil is heated as these elements heat the metal base.  Open pot fryers also have a sediment zone below the point where the gas or electric element is heating the oil to allow food particles to escape the super hot oil.

Open pot fryers are typically easier to clean than tube style fryers because the bottom sediment zone is open and reachable.  The heating tubes on tube style fryers make cleaning the bottom of the tank more difficult because they sit in the tank above the sediment zone, blocking easy access.

Both open pot and tube style fryers can handle most food products in significant quantities, depending upon the tank capacity of the fryer as discussed above.

3. Flat bottom fryers do not have a sediment zone that allows food particles to settle out of hot oil.  This type of fryer is therefore best for lighter foods that can be bulk fried like tortilla chips and taco shells.

Commercial Fryers: A Buying & Maintenance Guide

Fryer Maintenance

The heating oil you use in your fryer degrades in quality over time and should be replaced.  The frequency with which you need to replace heating oil depends upon what you cook, how much of it you cook and how regularly.

To improve oil quality and lifespan, use a heating oil filtration system to filter out food bits and debris from the fryer.  A fryer filter works by draining heating oil from the fryer tank, circulating it through a filter that strains out unwanted particles, and returning the cleaned oil to the fryer tank.

It is also important to boil out fryers regularly to burn fat and carbon buildup off the heating elements and the tank.  These deposits can become corrosive and cause severe damage to the fryer.  Be sure to clean the inside of the fryer regularly as well, the most logical opportunity for this being when you replace the heating oil.

Make sure you have the proper equipment to handle spent heating oil.  Used oil should be stored in stainless steel drums and transported in a spill-proof container with wheels for easy movement.  A local biodiesel company will dispose of your used oil for free or even pay you for used heating oil.

Continue Reading

The Leading Source for Restaurant Parts, Equipment & Supplies

The Leading Source for Restaurant Parts, Equipment & Supplies

eTundra.com – Restaurant Supplies, Equipment, & Parts

eTundra.com is the force behind The Back Burner blog.  The employees of eTundra.com write this blog using the food service expertise they have accumulated over many years in the industry.

eTundra.com is a comprehensive resource of products, including restaurant equipment, supplies, and equipment parts.  Our online catalog has over 50,000 items and our website is recognized as one of the best in the business.

Even better, eTundra.com has an incredible team of customer service representatives whose expert knowledge of the industry and the products we sell makes them an indispensable resource to our customers.

But most of all eTundra.com is a great partner for you, no matter what portion of the food service industry you inhabit.  We work hard to make sure our customers succeed because we know that through our customer’s success we will find our own.

So what are you waiting for?  Partner with us today and we’ll show you what having a true partner in the food service industry is really like.

Continue Reading

Dirty Restaurant Restrooms Say Dirty Kitchen To Many Customers

Dirty Restaurant Restrooms Say Dirty Kitchen To Many Customers

88% of people said they thought a dirty restroom reflected poorly on the entire restaurant’s cleanliness.

A recent poll conducted by Harris Interactive reveals that 88% of people who encounter a dirty restroom at a restaurant think this reflects poorly on the sanitation of the rest of the establishment, including the kitchen and food preparation areas.  Of those, a full 29% said they would never come back to a restaurant whose restroom they found to be very dirty.

In many ways the restrooms in your restaurant provide the public a window into the overall management and cleanliness of your establishment, at least from their perspective.  Think about it.  How many times have you walked into someone else’s bathroom and taken a quick look around to get a better feel for what that person is like?  The same goes for customers in your restaurant.  Impressing your customers with your restrooms takes some time and investment, but when you stand to lose 30% of your customers because of your bathrooms, it’s an investment you can’t afford to avoid.

The first, and most critical element, is to make sure the bathrooms you have are always clean, fresh, and well supplied. Your servers probably won’t appreciate this, but designate someone’s side work every day to making sure the restrooms are clean.  Draw up some guidelines to make sure everything gets cleaned properly, and take the time for some quality control.  And at least once a week, have a professional janitorial service do a top-to-bottom cleaning of your restrooms.

Of course, old, broken, and dingy equipment in your restaurant restroom is going to look bad, no matter how much it’s cleaned.  It probably pains you to do so, but it’s vitally important to budget some money to invest in new equipment and hardware for your restroom.

Dirty Restaurant Restrooms Say Dirty Kitchen To Many CustomersSome examples:

Hand dryers and paper towel dispensers. Nothing is as frustrating as sitting there with freshly washed hands trying to deal with a dispenser that doesn’t work.  If you are looking to replace your dispenser, seriously consider getting a hand dryer.  The up-front cost is more, but over the lifetime of the dryer, the savings on paper towels, not to mention the amount of paper waste you’ll reduce, will recoup your initial investment.

Toilet tissue dispensers. Again, having a functional dispenser is key to a good customer experience in your restroom.  Also make sure your cleaning guidelines include refilling these dispensers on a regular basis.

Baby changing stations. These are becoming more and more common in both men’s and women’s restrooms.  If you haven’t yet invested in baby changing stations in your restrooms, you should seriously consider it.  Being family friendly is great PR for your restaurant, and accommodating the needs of young families will breed customer loyalty.

Air fresheners. You could implement a strict cleaning regimen, invest in all new dispensers and other restroom hardware, and still watch your customers come out of your restrooms disgusted if it smells like a sewer in there.  I personally was in a restaurant restroom not too long ago where everything was tidy and neat but the smell was so overpowering in there I vowed never to return to that particular establishment (of course, slow service, an overpriced menu, and so-so food didn’t help either).

Partition hardware. The stalls in your restroom are going to break down over time.  Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to repair common things like door latches and locks, grab bars, door hinges, and brackets without having to rebuild everything.

Restroom faucets. Nice, new looking faucets can go a long way towards making your customer feel clean and ready to eat when they leave the restroom.  Installing new faucets isn’t too expensive and will add an extra shine to your whole restroom.

The best part about remodeling your restroom is that most of this hardware is relatively easy to install yourself, and taking the time to do so can really improve your restaurant’s image, especially with first time customers.

Continue Reading