eTundra Categories

Archive | May, 2012

Restaurant Replenishment: Don’t Get Caught With Your Pants Down

Restaurant Replenishment: Don’t Get Caught With Your Pants DownEver noticed the paper towel dispenser spinning uselessly in your restaurant’s bathroom, ventured into some dark back storage area to retrieve a new roll, and discovered – to your horror – that replacements were nowhere to be found?

Stuff runs out. Stuff needs replacing. And there are much, much worse things that can (and probably have) happened in your restaurant than forcing customers to return to their table with wet hands.

Ever fired up a fryer a few hours before the dinner rush and watched the pilot poof out time after time?

An even more enjoyable scenario is the fryer burner that refuses to cut out when the oil reaches temperature – making for an oil bomb just waiting to go off.

Common parts and components in all kinds of restaurant equipment will die on you at some point. The worst part is, you can’t just run out to the store and get a replacement. Parts are a whole different animal, and that’s why you should really think about keeping some common parts on hand so your equipment doesn’t leave you hanging out to dry.

Some common parts that are really, really nice to have around:

You can also learn how to troubleshoot and fix common problems with common restaurant equipment by reading these Back Burner articles.

Ever completely forget to change out the water filter cartridge for your ice machine, steamer, or beverage equipment? Nothing beats white scaly mineral deposits building up in your equipment and making beverages taste funny.

Water filters need their cartridges replaced every six months. If they don’t get replaced then minerals in the water don’t get filtered out, and when those don’t get filtered out those minerals don’t get filtered out they leave scale in the water lines of any piece of equipment that uses water, and after awhile that water starts tasting bad.

Even better, that scale can cause breakdowns and void warranties. So don’t get caught with your pants down: replace those water filter cartridges when you’re supposed to.
Ever been in the depths of a busy dinner rush and walked in back to grab a couple water glasses and found a stack of empty glass racks? Have you then proceeded back to the dishwashing area and been forced to grab a couple steamy hot glasses right out of the washer?

Glasses, dishes, flatware, and bar supplies all break, disappear, and just simply wear out. Being short a few glasses is maybe not as bad as an overheating fryer, but believe you me it’s also not a problem you want to have on a consistent basis. Replacing common supply losses is just one more area where you have to be on the ball or you will get caught with your pants down.

Tundra knows how busy you are.
That’s why we’ve developed a simple way for you to make sure simple products are always available. If you buy common replenishment and replacement products from us, we’ll send you a simple reminder a few months down the road, letting you know it’s probably time to stock up again on whatever it is you bought last time.

We’re not trying to be pushy – just helpful. A note in your inbox with a quick link to the products we’re pretty sure you need might be just the thing that saves you from a pants down moment later on.

So keep an eye out for your friendly reminders from Tundra. And definitely don’t get caught with your pants down.

Continue Reading

Green Initiatives: A Rise In Cost Or A Part Of Your Marketing Budget?

QSR magazine published an article recently about new take out packaging for restaurants made from recycled plastic water bottles.  Dubbed The Bottle Box, the restaurants that have used it say it performs just as well or better than normal plastic take out packaging, and that it can be customized with your establishment’s name and logo very easily.  The biggest pitfall of The Bottle Box is the 2% – 5% increase in cost over regular packaging.

Recycled packaging and compostable disposables like corn cups are one of those things that always sounds good in theory, but can translate into some real costs in practice that affect your bottom line.  The Bottle Box is a good example of this.  The standard reaction by any businessman would be: why spend more for something that does the same job as the thing I’m using now?

Well, that’s one way to look at it.

Another approach is to take the relatively nominal increase in cost and view it as an expense in your marketing budget.  How does that work?  Well, instead of just labeling The Bottle Box with your restaurant’s logo, why not advertise the fact that you’re using recycled packaging?

Studies have consistently shown that consumers place a high value on food service operations that take green initiatives, and are even willing to pay a little more for those restaurant’s products.  Just look at the success of Chipotle in the last five years if you need a good example of this.

However, you don’t need to pass all costs on to your customer, and really you shouldn’t unless you have to.  There are measurable benefits to adding something like recycled packaging to your operation.  The key is making sure your customer knows about the initiatives you are taking.

Some tips on how to make sure you’re communicating properly:

Train servers to work green initiative plugs into their spiels.
There’s no better way to communicate with your customer than through your servers.  Have them remind guests about the green things you’re doing in a gentle, non-pushy way that nonetheless firmly implants your initiative in their head.

Post reminders throughout your restaurant. Do you have a recycling program?  Put up a sign that says “We Recycle” above a blue garbage can, if no one ever uses it.  The same goes for composting programs.  Do you use Energy Star rated equipment?  Put up an Energy Star logo where customers can see it.  Do you use The Bottle Box instead of straight plastic packaging?  Tell your customers right on the bag!

Work your green initiatives into your marketing materials. Whether it’s an ad in the paper, a flyer, or a website, don’t be afraid to announce that you’re taking action to make your restaurant greener.  If you’re particularly proud of your greening accomplishments, you may even want to launch an advertising campaign that specifically touts your efforts.

Don’t be afraid to take baby steps!
You don’t have to implement a comprehensive green program for your restaurant all at once to gain some real appreciation from your customers.  Start with simple stuff like a recycling program and green take out packaging.  Tell your customers about it.  Then take on something more involved like composting or sourcing vegetables locally.  No matter how small or incremental your efforts, your customers will appreciate it, and they can’t appreciate it if you don’t tell them.

Taking steps to improve your restaurant’s green image don’t have to be all about raising your costs either.  Many changes can have the dual benefit of making your restaurant more green and more efficient, which really is a win-win.  No matter how you green your restaurant, just make sure to announce it loud and clear to customers.  They’ll appreciate it.  And they’ll eat in your restaurant more often.

Check out a trove of going green tips here.

Continue Reading

Green Restaurant Tips: Use Efficiency Rebates!

Upgrading restaurant equipment to energy efficient models, maximizing water heater efficiency, and  installing Energy Star rated ceiling fans and ventilation, just to name a few green strategies, all mean spending some money before you save some.

For years the obstacle of spending money up front to save money down the road has been one of the major impediments preventing business owners from maximizing energy efficiency.

As energy costs continue to rise, the benefits of investing in energy efficiency has become a more and more appealing venture.

Green Restaurant Tips: Use Efficiency Rebates!

Show me the money! Get rebates for green restaurant practices.

Local and state governments have also recognized the environmental and social benefits of encouraging energy efficiency, and have responded with rebate rewards for businesses that adopt energy efficient practices.

So when you are considering implementing some energy efficient upgrades in your restaurant or commercial kitchen, keep in mind that significant cost can be offset by rebates.

To find rebates available in your area, check out Energy Star’s Rebate Finder.  This is a great tool, however, this rebate finder will only search for available rebates when purchasing new Energy Star rated restaurant equipment.

Federal tax credits are also available for commercial buildings for money spent to make heating and cooling more efficient.  State and local tax credits may also be available, depending on where you live.

Even utility companies have gotten into the act, and many reward energy efficient practices with a rebate on your energy bill.

More and more utility companies are offering rebates for purchasing Energy Star rated equipment and adopting energy efficient practices.  Check with your local utility company and get a full list of rebates available.

Continue Reading

Fryer Oil Maintenance: Tips To Make Oil Taste Better & Last Longer

Fryer Oil Maintenance: Tips To Make Oil Taste Better & Last LongerThe fryer is one of the central cooking appliances in many restaurants and commercial kitchens.  And central to every commercial fryer is the shortening or oil in the vat.  Maintaining that oil is key to producing great-tasting product every time.  Oil maintenance is more involved than you might think, and if done properly, can add significant time to the productive life of your fryer oil and improve the taste of your product.

Fryer oil is an organic compound.  That means it breaks down naturally over time, just like any of the food product in your walk-in.  At over 300 degrees Fahrenheit, that degradation process is accelerated.  As if that weren’t enough, three things contribute to the even more rapid deterioration of fryer oil:

  • Oxidation – contact with air makes the oil “stale” over time, just like a bag of chips.
  • Hydrolysis – the presence of water in fryer oil is unavoidable when frying food product, but as water interacts with the hot oil, acidic compounds form that can really affect taste.
  • Polymerization – As oil breaks down, compounds form and bond together, which leads to surface foaming and the further breakdown of oil quality and taste.  This process is made even worse by food particles, which will inevitably collect in the oil as product is cooked.

There are several things you can do to combat the three enemies of oil quality.  Here’s some tips that address each one specifically:

Fighting oxidation: minimize fryer oil contact with the air whenever possible.  The most common method for doing this is to cover the fryer vat when the unit is shut down.  Also regulate oil temperature so that it doesn’t exceed 360 degrees Fahrenheit.  During lulls, reduce heat to 280 degrees.

Fighting hydrolysis: don’t fill fryer baskets directly over the fryer vat.  This is especially true for frozen product, because ice crystals will end up in the oil.  Of the three, hydrolysis is the hardest to fight, because there is going to be water in everything you cook.

Fighting polymerization: again, don’t fill fryer baskets over the vat.  Food particles speed polymerization, so a good technique is to load the fryer basket away from the vat and give it a few good shakes to allow any free particles to fall away before the product takes the plunge.  Another polymerization agent are seasonings, especially salt.  Add any seasoning away from the vat to keep them out of the oil as much as possible.

Of course, no matter how hard you fight, eventually it’s going to be a losing battle.  Water, air, and particulates are going to end up in your fryer oil no matter what you do.  Your only choice is to take them back out before the oil breaks down.  You can do this effectively with a good filtration system.

How much you filter your fryer oil depends on what you’re cooking, in what volume, and how often.  In general, breaded foods like fried chicken or fish mean you should filter more often, because of all the food particles that are going to end up in the oil.  French fries are much cleaner and therefore the oil can handle a lot more rounds before filtering.

Fryer Oil Maintenance: Tips To Make Oil Taste Better & Last LongerNo matter what, you should develop a filtering schedule.  Fryer oil test strips are the best way to keep track of oil quality, and they’ll give you a starting point for your filter schedule.  Filtering fryer oil greatly extends the life of the oil, and smart restaurant operators filter the same oils several times to get the maximum life out of it before having to refill.

Portable fryer filters provide an easy way to filter fryer oil without slowing your busy kitchen down too much.  And when you’ve squeezed every last minute of cooking capability out of that vat of oil, dispose of it safely with an oil transporter.  Finally, use a Smart Spout for pouring new oil into the vat without spilling.Fryer Oil Maintenance: Tips To Make Oil Taste Better & Last Longer

Before you refill with a new batch of oil, however, you’ve got to clean that fryer vat out.  It’s a thankless job, but someone’s got to get in there and remove as much of that great friends of polymerization, food particulates, as possible.  Especially focus on cleaning the “cool zone,” the area underneath the burners in the vat where particles are intentionally concentrated in order to prevent them from heating up too much during cooking.  A water/vinegar mix is a great way to make sure detergents are neutralized after you’ve thoroughly cleaned the vat.

Maintaining fryer oil quality takes a lot of work.  But in the end, it’s worth the extra effort because you get a lot more mileage out of each vat of oil.  And if saving money isn’t enough of an incentive for you, then the prospect of serving great tasting fried foods to your customers every time should do the trick.

If you’re in the market for a new fryer, check out this commercial fryer buying guide.

Continue Reading

Starting A Restaurant? Avoid Epic Fail

Starting A Restaurant?  Avoid Epic FailBringing a restaurant concept from dream to reality is one of the most stressful, mind-boggling projects any restaurateur will attempt in their career.  There are literally thousands of things, dozens of people, and weeks of work that must fall into place to make a restaurant opening successful – and that’s not even thinking about the money.

If you’re thinking about opening a restaurant or even remodeling your existing establishment, here are the top 5 things you should consider in order to avoid EPIC FAIL:

1)  Get The Business Plan & The Money Out Of The Way First – Don’t start looking at spaces, lining up contractors, and getting yourself deeper into the rabbit hole of preparing for opening day until you absolutely have your ducks in a row when it comes to the money.  You know what they say – money talks and you-know-what walks so don’t start talking until you’ve honed that business plan until it’s razor sharp and convinced some smart people (preferably of the banking variety) to put some real money down.  Learn more about writing a good restaurant business plan here.

2) Assemble Your Team & Define Roles - It’s never too early to start assembling the team of people who will run your restaurant.  Getting them lined up early means they’re involved from the start and able to help you down the road when the going gets rough.  This is also the time to determine the role your investors will play – and this is important because you’ll be surprised how much people have to say when their money is on the line.  Make sure you understand how much they will be involved before you start getting too many cooks in the proverbial kitchen.

3) Don’t Skimp On Design – Putting together a clear schematic of the entire floor plan of your restaurant before you start is crucial to a proper build-out.  Most aspiring restaurateurs hire an architect to help them convert a commercial space into their dream concept – but even more important is to find a restaurant designer who can either work with your architect or design the space from scratch for you.  A designer with food service experience is essential to your success because there are many considerations that come into play when designing a restaurant space that are not part of a typical commercial space (food safety, anyone?) design.  See how Tundra can help you with professional design services.

4) Don’t Buy Equipment & Supplies Piecemeal – It’s entirely possible that you’ll be able to save a little cash here and there by shopping around for the equipment and supplies you need for opening day and buying up what you need when you find the absolutely lowest price.  The downside to piecemeal is that you’re going to be very, very, very busy in those few months leading up to opening day, and if there isn’t someone paying attention to the big picture when comes to buying exactly what you need, then you’re going to find yourself scrambling to fill gaps when you start firing up the kitchen for test runs.  See how Tundra can help you with equipment & smallwares packages.

Then what happens is you expedite stuff you need yesterday and all your savings go to overnight shipping.  Don’t do it piecemeal.  Get a complete opening package and let someone else worry about making sure you have every single tool you need, from an 8 burner range to color coded tongs.

5) Don’t Start Marketing On Opening Day – There’s nothing quite as exciting for customers as walking buy a new restaurant space before it opens.  What will they serve?  How will the atmosphere be?  When you’re the new kid in town you have a unique opportunity to win over a lot of customers fast.  Don’t forget that while you’re trying to take care of everything else that comes with opening a new restaurant.  Get active on social media, contact the local press, and share your restaurant opening story with potential customers to build buzz.  Get more marketing tips here.

Okay!  Ready To Get Started?  Tundra Can Help!

Tundra has a long history of supporting entrepreneurs in the food service industry.  For years we have handled complete smallwares & equipment opening packages for restaurants large and small.

Starting in January, however, our suite of restaurant opening and remodel services just got a whole lot better.

That’s because Tundra brought Jeff Katz – a restaurant designer with 30 years of experience – on board to head up our new Tundra Design Group.  Jeff has worked with restaurants all over Colorado and across the U.S., including internationally known establishments like Matsuhisa and local gems like The Kitchen Cafe.

Here’s what the Tundra Design Group can do for you:

  • Refine your concept and clarify operating procedures
  • Develop schematics so you can see design options visually
  • Help you select the right equipment and smallwares that fit your operation
  • Collaborate with your architect or use our own resources to develop construction documents
  • Manage your equipment package, from purchase to installation
  • Provide a complete smallwares and table top package

From start to finish, we’re here to help you make your restaurant concept a reality!

More about Jeff Katz

More about Tundra equipment & smallwares packages

With over 50,000 products, a dedicated equipment and smallwares package team, and long-standing relationships with the top vendors and manufacturers in the food service industry, Tundra has all of the resources you need to start a new restaurant, from concept to reality!

Continue Reading

Restaurant Hood Filters: A Buying And Maintenance Guide

Restaurant Hood Filters: A Buying And Maintenance GuideMaintaining and replacing the hood filter in your commercial ventilation system is more important than you might think.  The hood filter is a metal square or rectangle that fits into the opening on your hood ventilation system.  Its purpose is to filter out grease from the smoke rising off your cooking equipment.  If this smoke were left unfiltered, it would build up over time in the ventilation system and become a major fire risk.

Therefore maintaining and replacing these filters is an important task.  Some things you should know about commercial hood filters:

Types of Hood Filters

Unless your cooking equipment is burning mesquite or some other sort of solid fuel, your hood ventilation system is using a baffle filter.  Baffle filters are most commonly made out of one of three types of metal:

  • Galvanized – these filters are the least expensive option.  They are rarely used in open kitchens where customers can see them because they have a dull appearance
  • Aluminum – these hood filters have an appealing sheen to them, making them usable in open kitchens, but they are prone to corrosion after repeated cleanings
  • Stainless Steel – these filters are by far the most durable.  They are also appealing to look at and can be used in an open kitchen.  They are less prone to corrosion than aluminum as long as they are not cleaned using bleach or other chemicals

Cleaning Hood Filters

Hood filters should be cleaned every day to keep them free of grease and maximize their filtering capability.  If you have a high temp dishwasher, run your hood filters through the dishwasher.  Make sure you don’t use any bleach when you clean hood filters as this will cause rapid corrosion!

If your dishwasher uses any kind of chemical, do not use it to clean hood filters.  Instead, clean the grease out of your hood filters with hot soapy water and dry them immediately after.

If grease is allowed to build up in hood filters, the risk of fire in your kitchen becomes very high.  The more packed with grease filters become, the less they filter from the smoke passing through your ventilation system.  That means the unfiltered grease ends up in the ducting, and if enough builds up, it could catch fire, potentially causing thousands of dollars worth of damage.

When To Replace Your Hood Filter

Conduct regular visual inspections of your restaurant’s hood filters.  If corrosion, dents, or wear has created holes or disfiguration in the baffles, then it’s time to replace them.  It’s important to replace worn hood filters as quickly as possible.  Otherwise, grease will build up in the ducting of your ventilation system, and this can pose a very serious fire risk.

Sizing And Replacing Your Hood Filter

Properly sizing your hood filter is the most important thing you’ll do before ordering a new one.  Hood filters are typically sized ½ inch smaller in vertical and horizontal dimensions than the nominal sizes listed for your hood ventilation system.  In other words, if the hood opening is 20” x 20”, the correct sized hood filter for that system is 19 ½ “ tall by 19 ½ “ wide.

To determine the vertical height of the filter, measure parallel to the baffles from edge to edge.  The horizontal width is the distance from edge to edge perpendicular to the direction of the baffles.

To replace your hood filter, lift the old filter out of the slot rail in which it rests and slide it out.  Slide the new filter all the way into the slot opening and then drop the end into the rail.  Make sure you insert the hood filter with the baffles in a vertical position!  This means the lines in the filter are running up and down and not side to side.  Installing hood filters the wrong way means the grease will not drain properly and cause clogging.

Continue Reading

Casual Dishonesty: Any of These Need Your Attention?

Casual Dishonesty: Any of These Need Your Attention?Ever seen staff help themselves to food, drink or cash, and they seem to think it’s OK?

You call it shrinkage, waste, ‘unders’, discrepancies or theft. What do they call it?

It’s the grey areas that cause problems: drinks or food for friends and family, sloppy work that results in waste, or taking home left-overs. Grey has to become black or white. Does the culture you’ve created reward honesty, or overlook those who break the rules? Do the consequences encourage the behaviour you desire?

Don’t beat around the bush – make it clear what’s not acceptable. And let’s tell the truth – sometimes it’s the boss’ shortcuts or bad example that encourages staff to make the wrong choice.

What would your ruling be on these situations?

* Free drinks or meals for friends or family who come to visit.
* Special prices for staff visiting from other hotels, cafes or clubs.
* Staff drinks at the end of the night that go one more than the rules allow.
* Sloppy writing up of the Stock-transfer Book so the stocktake makes no sense and is disregarded – again.
* Cook allows something to burn because she won’t get properly organised.
* Beer lines contaminated and keg wasted because cleaning procedures not properly followed.
* Using the computer at work to write up your resume to apply for another job.
* Using the ‘Open Key’ on the Cash Register because it’s quicker and easier. As a result sales count figures at the end of the week are invalid and stock usage can’t be checked.
* ‘I’m just putting the money in the till while we’re so busy – I’ll ring it all up later’.
* A staff member says ‘I won’t charge you for that because I know the service you got wasn’t very good’. A better tip follows…
* Kitchen worker asks the bar ‘can I have some beer for my buddies in the kitchen?
* The Till is ‘over’ – so it must have been a tip that we forgot to take out.
* Employee overstates hours or changes times because the hard work she’s been doing is going unrecognised.
* Signing for lesser quality meat or produce and ‘we’ll fix it up on the invoice next time’ – which we forget to do.
* Personal phone calls received or made in work time.
* Keeping free samples from vendors eg food samples, bottles of wine or liquor.
* Serving adults at junior or senior prices ‘because they can’t afford it’.
* Chefs or bar managers expecting personal gifts from suppliers to secure an account.

Code of Conduct – it’s one of the important sections of the Staff Manual you can download from the Staff Management Forms and Downloads. In Word format, you can modify it as much as you like – it’s a solid start to prepare this essential policy document.

Continue Reading