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Archive | 2012

4 Tips To Keep Inventory Shrink From Making Profits Smaller

Is Your Food Inventory Shrinking?Every month your restaurant spends thousands of dollars buying food.  More than likely, it’s the second largest expense on your balance sheet after labor.  And every month, that inventory of food products might be “shrinking,” meaning a percentage of it is disappearing due to either unintentional waste or very intentional theft.

When you’ve got thousands of dollars worth of inventory, even a tiny percentage of shrink can mean big money off the bottom line.  Unfortunately, simply trusting employees, especially when turnover rates are so high, is not an acceptable option.  A much more effective strategy for minimizing shrink is “trust, but verify.”

Some tips to minimize shrinking:

  1. Use clear trash bags.  A common tactic used by employees who steal is to stash inventory in trash bags and recover it later after their shift is over.  Other employees may simply be throwing perfectly usable product away without realizing its value.  Either way, you’re losing money.  Clear trash bags make it easy for you to spot product that should be in the walk-in instead of the dumpster.
  2. Audit the trash.  Even though this doesn’t sound like a particularly appealing strategy, regularly going through trash and auditing the contents will help you catch and prevent both intentional (deliberately taking food product) and unintentional (mistakenly tossing usable food product) theft.  Using the clear trash bags will make this task much easier.
  3. Ban backpacks and other personal bags from the kitchen.  Ideally, set up an employee changing room with shelving or lockers where your staff can leave their personal belongings while they are working.  If you don’t have such a room, ban backpacks anyway.  Otherwise you’ll have no way of knowing what’s coming out of your inventory and landing in the bags of your staff.  And not knowing simply isn’t good enough when you’re a restaurateur trying to survive this economy.
  4. Break down cardboard boxes.  The old boxes that food product comes in is another popular way for thieves to move your inventory out of your kitchen.  Luckily, the solution is easy: have staff break boxes down before taking them outside.  That way there’s no chance that product is leaving in boxes.

If you do encounter intentional employee theft, make sure you have some strategies in place to deal with it.  In the case of unintentional waste, make sure you use examples of waste to educate your entire staff on how you want food product used and disposed.  Taking the time to train staff and emphasizing the importance of completely using product rather than discarding it can translate into some significant savings for your restaurant.

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Tundra Goes Full Service

In an effort to communicate more effectively to our readers about the company that makes all this possible here at The Back Burner, we are launching a new series of posts here highlighting Tundra and the things this company does very well.  We hope you enjoy learning more about Tundra!

Tundra acquired the Katz Design company recently and brought owner Jeff Katz on board here in Boulder, CO to manage a new restaurant design department.

Woo-hoo! Right?  Wait, what does that mean?  Well, Tundra is now a full service client for businesses in the food service industry.  That means we can get you equipment – any kind of equipment, no matter how weird or exotic (trust us, we’ve seen some pretty crazy requests before!).  We can get you supplies – you name it, we’ve got it, from floor drains to forks to furniture.  In fact, we’ve got a whole department that specializes in getting you exactly what you need for a new restaurant opening or a remodel.

So wait, where does this Jeff guy come in?  Jeff is an expert in restaurant design with over 30 years experience in the industry, a degree from Cornell’s prestigious School of Hotel Administration, and a well-known book, “Restaurant Planning, Design, & Construction – A Survival Manual for Owners, Operators, & Developers.

These credentials means he can offer something that up until this point Tundra has not been able to: top quality design help for new and remodeling restaurants.
Combining Tundra’s unique ability to supply a comprehensive package of products needed by a new restaurant with the Katz Company’s ability to design and build beautiful restaurant spaces means Tundra can now offer food service entrepreneurs a full service, start-to-finish opening or remodeling package all in one place.

Add in Tundra’s ability to replenish supplies, provide replacement equipment parts, and sell new equipment after a restaurant opens its doors, and now you’ve got a full service company in every stage of the life cycle of restaurant.

Learn more about Tundra in this Boulder Daily Camera article.

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Replacing Refrigeration Door Latches & Hinges

There are many different styles of hinges and latches for refrigeration equipment.Walk-in hinge

Both the hinges and latches have a number on the back.  In addition, they may say “flush” or have the offset size, e.g. 1 1/8, 1 ½, etc.  It is important to have that number on the back to ensure you get the proper replacement.

Let’s talk hinges!

Walk in cooler or freezer hinges are either flush or offset.  The easiest way to determine which style you have is to place your hand on the outside wall of the walk-in and slide it towards the door.  If the door stops your hand from moving across the door then you have an offset door.  If your hand slides across the door it is flush.

Determine the offset measure by measuring from the wall surface to the door surface.  The offset measure combined with the number on the back will ensure you receive the correct hinge.

Also, some walk-in hinges are reversible.  If you receive a hinge and it is the reverse of what you need, you can reverse the new hinge.

Reach-in LatchLet’s talk latches!

Walk-in latches, like hinges, are for either offset or flush doors.  Use the same procedure as you would for a hinge to determine if it is an offset or flush latch.  Also make sure you find the number on the back of the latch.

Edgemount latches and hinges are most commonly found on reach-in type refrigerators and freezers.  Edgemount means they mount on the edge of the door.  The hinges and latches can mount on either side of the door.

Some hinges are spring assisted and some are self-closing:

  • Self-closing hinges use a cam system to close the door
  • Some of the edgemount hinges have spring assist kits available.  As with all latches and hinges, there’s a number on the back for identifying the correct replacement

There are two types of edgemount latches: Magnetic type or those that have a strike that the latch locks into.  These latches also have a number on them.

The best way to get the correct hinge or latch is to get that number off the back!

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Electrolux-Dito: Mix, Cut, Slice, & Cook

If your restaurant is short on food prep equipment, Electrolux-Dito can definitely help.  From the popular Bermixer stick mixer series to vegetable cutters, slicers, and big floor mixers, there’s a Dito for whatever food prep task you have in your kitchen.

A Dito Bermixer

Use Dito Bermixers to power mix whatever you’re making: sauces, soups, etc.  For bigger jobs, Dito’s line of planetary mixers might be more your speed:

A Dito Planetary Mixer

And when you need to prep vegetables fast, nothing beats Dito’s Mighty Green veggie cutter and other models:

The Mighty Green Vegetable Cutter

When you’re ready to cook, Dito has some killer pannini grills that can really spice up your lunch menu:

A Libero Pannini Grill

And don’t forget about the Libero line of cutting edge, top quality cooking appliances, ideal for catering and concessions:

A Dito Electric Countertop Griddle

From induction woks to electric griddles to slicers, mixers, and cutters, depend on Dito for a job well done in your kitchen.

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Replacing Refrigeration Fan Motors & Blades

Refrigerators are the backbone of your kitchen.  They are usually durable and long-lasting, but when they go down, you have to have them fixed right away.  Some tips on replacing the fan motor in your commercial refrigeration unit:Refrigeration Fan Motor Blade

There are two types of motors for refrigeration.

1. Condenser fan motor.
2. Evaporator fan motor.

First, we will discuss the condenser fan motor:

The condenser fan motor is mounted on the condensing unit located outside the refrigeration interior.  The size of the refrigerator unit will determine the motor size.  Motors vary in size, voltage and rotation.  All of this information is found on the motor, and is very important to have when ordering.  Rotation is vital to the operation of the unit.  Rotation will either be clockwise (CW) or counter-clockwise (CCW).

The fan blade is also a critical part of the motor.  The blade is similar to the motor in that it is either CW or CCW.   Normally the rotation of a fan blade is stamped into the blade assembly.  When replacing either the motor or the fan blade be sure to use the same rotation type.

A General Use Fan Motor

Next, we will discuss the evaporator fan motor:

The evaporator is located inside the refrigeration interior, and will always be located on the ceiling or top of the unit.  There are two types of evaporative motors:

1. Open winding type.
2. Closed type.

On the open winding motor the copper wires are exposed and visible to the eye.  The open winding motors are usually reversible.  This is done by removing the bearing housing and pulling out the armature.  The armature is the part that has the fan blade attached to it.  Simply turn it around and put the shaft through the other direction and reassemble.  Now you have gone from CW to CCW motor or a CCW to a CW.  Each manufacturer will vary in what direction their motors rotate.

The closed winding motor has an encasement around it.  The rotation will be stamped on the back of the motor.  Mounting holes will be either on the side or rear of the motor.  If the motor fails, the motor will need to be replaced and cannot be repaired.

Buy general use fan motors or search by manufacturer here.

As with every piece of equipment the most important thing is the model and serial number on the equipment itself.  Generally, the model and serial numbers are found in the interior of an upright cooler/freezer, prep table or under counter cooler/freezer.  If the condensing unit is attached to one side or the other of the unit, the model and serial numbers may be found inside that area.

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How to Recruit, Train, and Keep Top-Notch Restaurant Staff

High turnover rates are a perennial challenge in the restaurant industry, with many contributing factors. But while many restaurant owners and managers shrug their shoulders and dismiss the problem as something they can do nothing about, there are in fact several practical things you can do to recruit, train and keep top-notch restaurant staff. In a business where people are your only true sustainable competitive advantage, it’s a wonder why more restaurants don’t make the effort.

Hire the Right People

If you want top-notch, high performing staff, that are engaged and loyal to your restaurant, you need to start by hiring the right people, right from the start. Here are some practices you should adopt to make your hiring more effective:

Track the effectiveness of your “Sources of Hire”
It’s important to keep track of each employee’s source of hire (i.e. where did you get their resume from – job board ad, agency, referral, walk-in, school, etc.), then map that to their performance in the first year. Watch for trends. Do your best employees tend to come from one or more particular sources? Do problematic employee tend to come from the same source? Trends in employee performance related to source of hire can help guide future recruiting efforts and make them more effective.

Assess Key Competencies in the Interview ProcessHiring Restaurant Staff
Figure out what the key competencies are for both your restaurant and the role. (Competencies are also referred to as skills or behaviors.) Then make sure you ask questions in the interview that help reveal the candidate’s abilities in those areas. For example, if your establishment is more formal, you might want to assess potential customer facing staff on their manners and etiquette. If you cater to families, you’ll want to make sure staff are child-focused. By identifying your key competencies up-front, and assessing candidates’ demonstration of them, you increase the quality of your hires.

Consider “Cultural” Fit
Every workplace has a culture. Is yours formal, friendly, trendy, casual? Think about the work atmosphere you want to create. Now when you interview, ask yourself if the candidate will be a good cultural fit for your workplace. If they fit in, and get along with your existing team, they’ll likely stay and be more effective in their role. If they don’t, you’ll likely run into problems.

Use Employee Referrals
Your existing employees are sometimes your best sources for new candidates. Afte all, they have a vested interested in getting someone good in the new role. Ask them for referrals or recommendations for new hires.

Make Employee Development a Priority

Provide Ongoing Development
Often restaurant owners and managers think of employee training as something you do when you hire a new person. The goal is simply to get them up and running as quickly as possible. But good employers make employee development an ongoing priority. Train to refresh skills. Train to expand skills. Train to develop abilities or expand career potential. Train to keep abreast of innovations or trends. And make use of all the development media/vehicles available to you: webinars, seminars, courses, job-sharing, job-shadowing, mentoring, reading, podcasts, etc. Being given the opportunity to develop on the job is one of the key enablers of employee engagement and retention.

Support or Subsidize Ongoing Career Development
As long as the employee wants to advance their career in the restaurant or hospitality industry, you really can’t go wrong by fostering their career development. Where possible, financial support or subsidies are a great help. But you can also support career development by allowing time off, accommodating shifts, temporarily reducing workloads, offering work practicums, etc. Think of it as an investment in both your restaurant’s, and your employee’s future.

Crosstraining develops your workforce in two powerful ways. First, it broadens your available talent pool, enabling you to use your existing staff to fill in quickly when someone is sick, someone is on vacation, someone leaves, or the workload shifts. Second, and perhaps more importantly, it helps to build a more cooperative and appreciative workforce. When you know and understand someone else’s role, constraints and pressures, you can work better and more effectively with them, because you understand the impact your work has on the other.

Address Engagement Needs
A quick web search on “employee engagement” reveals a number of studies on the contributors to employee engagement and satisfaction. Among these factors are: getting feedback on performance, having a context for your work, having opportunities for development (as stated earlier) and being fairly rewarded or recognized for good performance.

Give Ongoing Feedback on PerformanceGive Restaurant Staff Feedback
Make sure your employees know what they’re doing well, so they can continue to do it, where and how they can improve, and what they need to stop doing. We all need performance feedback on a weekly, if not daily, basis so we know if we are on track and meeting expectations. This kind of ongoing feedback is the best way to foster high-performance.

Engage Employees in Achieving the Restaurant’s Goals
Research repeatedly tells us that employees need a context for their work, so they feel they are “making a difference”. So share your restaurant goals with your employees. And make sure they each have individual goals that link to your higher level restaurant goals. This kind of goal alignment has been shown to increase both employee performance and engagement.

Recognize and Reward Great Performance
While this certainly includes your compensation program, which should correlate to employee performance, not just seniority, inflation or other external factors, it really needs to go beyond this. A simple thank you, some paid time off, a complimentary meal, acknowledgement in front of peers – all these are ways to recognize and reward great performance and encourage more of it. Be creative and find consistent, effective ways to reward your staff.

These basic “people management” practices can go a long way to helping any restaurant hire, develop and retain a high performing staff. And isn’t that really what we’re all after?

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Simplify Your Life: Reduce Your Restaurant Menu Items

Best End Of English Spring Lamb with Rosemary Roasted New PotatoIn these times of economic uncertainty, it is easy to get lost in trying to do many things all at once. A good example is restaurateurs trying to manage their inventories, their staff, their operations, their books, their sales, their marketing… do you know anybody like that? I thought so.  You need to simplify your life and focus on just a few basic core competences to make your restaurant the best it can be to stand out from your competitors.

So let’s start with your menu: do you have many menu items? If so, perhaps you should think about reducing the number of dishes that you offer.

Frequently restaurateurs think that having many choices is better for their customers, when the opposite is often true. The best restaurants in the world have limited selections with all around excellent offerings.

With large menu choices, the quality is often uneven since it is almost impossible to equally master all the dishes. It also becomes a nightmare to manage the inventory, probably your servers struggle to remember all the dishes (and components), and your customers get often confused with so many choices.

Perhaps you should take a hard look at your menu and reduce the items to just your basic signature dishes. Not only you will avoid that your clients order menu items that are less than exceptional, but fewer dishes mean that they will be easier to remember (making them; thus, memorable) the next time that your clients come over for lunch or dinner.

Having a short and exquisite menu allows your kitchen to focus on providing exceptional quality, reduces your inventory (and perhaps you can even get a volume discount since you will be ordering more of the same items), and makes it easier for your servers and your clients to remember.

There are other secondary advantages such as less programming in your computer or point of sale, better track of what items are selling the best, easier to create the paper menus (with larger font), etc., but the essential point is that your restaurant will be associated in your customer’s mind to a few exceptional dishes. And this is what you want.

If you agree with me, I would suggest that you meet with your Chef (or cook) and go over your menu, eliminating dishes that are less than great until you focus on a few appetizers, salads, entrees, and desserts. Cut down everything else.

Believe me when I tell you that people, your customers, will love to go to your restaurant to eat just a few great dishes. The best restaurants in the wold are famous for one or two dishes that they cook to perfection. No need to reinvent the wheel and try to please everybody.

It is better to have faithful clients that come to your place continually looking for your signature dishes, than trying to please everybody by increasing the number of dishes that you offer, just to have everybody leaving your place with just an OK experience. The world is full of mediocre restaurants; you don’t want to belong to this category. You want to make yours exceptional.

This is the only way to stand out from your competitors.

Jose L. Riesco is a restaurant marketing and consulting expert who has just published a book: Restaurant Marketing Strategies (available at and Barnes &  His site, contains lots of free restaurant marketing information and ideas to help you improve your restaurant marketing.

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The Quick Guide to Commercial Refrigeration Problems

Commercial refrigeration is key to the success of any restaurant and keeping your units properly running can save you both time and money. Whether your commercial refrigerator won’t stop running when you want it to or simply won’t run at all, this quick guide will help you to troubleshoot all of your refrigeration problems and find the right solution.

If your commercial refrigerator won’t run at all or won’t stop running, you’re probably looking at a defective thermostat.  You can test this easily. First, unplug the unit and open the evaporator housing. Locate the wires attached to the thermostat, remove and connect together with electrical tape. If the unit runs properly when turned back on, simply replace the thermostat.

Encountering difficulty with rising temperatures? The first step towards a solution is identifying what type of refrigeration thermostat your refrigeration unit uses.  If you’re dealing with either an air-sensing thermostat or evaporator-sensing thermostat, you can replace the part yourself. But be aware that the two are not interchangeable, so be sure to correctly identify which you’re working with first. If your commercial refrigerator uses a low pressure control, you’re going to have to call a service technician to get the part repaired.

Commercial Refrigeration

Problems with a broken or malfunctioning fan motor need to be dealt with immediately, because without proper refrigeration your food is at risk of going bad quickly.  First off, you need to identify whether your unit uses a condenser fan motor or evaporator fan motor. A condenser fan motor will be found outside the refrigeration interior while an evaporator fan motor is found within the interior. Replace the motor fan by identifying the specific model of motor and blade (both are usually stamped into the back of the product and are easily accessible) and ordering a new one. Installation is usually brand-specific and can be found in your unit’s accompanying guidebook.

If the door to your commercial refrigeration unit is improperly closing, you could potentially be throwing away energy and money. The quick fix to this problem is simple: you need to update your gaskets. This do-it-yourself fix merely requires you to ascertain the dimension, brand and style of the existing gasket and order a new one. Replacing old gaskets is as easy as popping them off and snapping the new ones on.

Commercial RefrigerationIf you need to replace faulty hinges or latches in your commercial refrigerator, start with simple identification. With both hinges and latches, you must determine whether you’re working with flush or offset parts, which is determined simply by running your hand over the part, looking to see if it is smooth, or flush, or not. If you’re working with offset hinges and the offset size is not available on the back of the part, you’ll need to measure the distance from the wall surface to the door surface to find the correct size. In terms of latches, there are two different types: magnetic  and those with a strike-and-latch lock. These latches will have an easy to identify number on them. With both latches and hinges, the easiest method is always to look for their ID number to order the right part the first time around.

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