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Archive | April, 2013

DIY Restaurant Equipment Repair

Chef in Front of Oven

In General

There are many maintenance tasks that can safely be performed by restaurant owners that would save a substantial amount of money on service calls. Here are some of the things restaurant owners can do to keep service calls to a minimum.

Knowledge of a Technician

You might be surprised to find that many service technicians that routinely charge well over $100 a hour, have only a high school education… or less.  I don’t say this to displace anyone’s profession, but yet to inform the general public.

It’s not formal education that helps most technicians stand out from others, but years of experience that makes them experts.  The vast majority of technicians learned from other technicians or attended a community college program to attain enough knowledge to work as a technician on restaurant equipment.  Some have also attended a specialty course to be able to work with refrigerant (freon), but nonetheless, most learn by doing, and the longer they have been working in the field, the more they know.

Maybe you can do it yourself.

I have no way of knowing how “mechanically inclined” you or your staff may be, but I can tell you from experience that not everyone is.  With that said, most of the information you need you already have (or should have) in the form of the manual that came with the equipment. I know it’s a boring read, but you should read through these manuals when you receive any new piece of equipment. Some are just installation guides that will offer almost none of the information you need, but the user’s guide, on the other hand, can have a lot of very useful information – especially when it comes to equipment repair.

Most companies offer an additional manual that may (or may not) come with the equipment, and are full of good information that is useful in maintaining equipment – they are often called a “service manual” or “parts and service manual.” Most of the time you can download a copy free of charge from the manufacturer’s website. This is the most useful manual you can own for the repair of a piece of equipment. It will have a parts breakdown that will show you drawings of every part and how those parts fit together. Often it will have a troubleshooting section that will identify a specific problem and give you possible remedies to fix it.

I know of only two books available on restaurant equipment. These books were written years ago by a guy named Don Walker and are dated, but I still keep a copy of both.  He gives great general information that is timeless and does it in a somewhat humorous way.  One book covers gas equipment repair and the other one is about electric equipment.  If you are going to work on restaurant equipment, I suggest you buy one or both of these books.

Gas Equipment Repair Book Electric Repair Book

The last way to become informed on your specific equipment is by the use of the technical service line almost all manufacturers offer. I list this last because these lines are set up for service personnel, but I can tell you from experience that as an owner or manager you will not be turned away if you call. If it is a good company, the person you speak with will have worked on that piece of equipment before, and will know enough about it to understand what you are trying to explain, even if you don’t know the technical terms to use.

If you call, you will need the model number and serial number along with any other information you can get off the equipment. It is helpful to have a parts breakdown (drawing) of the equipment in front of you, so you can see what the various parts look like and be able to call a part by name. You should also be able to explain to the technician on the other end of the line what the machine is doing (or not doing). You can usually find an 800 number for tech service on the manual or by using the contact us section of the company’s website.

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Taking Your Restaurant Online

If you’ve ever asked yourself whether or not your restaurant should have an online presence the short and straightforward answer is yes. In today’s digitally inclined age of smart phones, tablets, and consumer focus on the new and impressive, you can absolutely benefit from building a website for your eatery. Doing so has enormous potential as a marketing vehicle and gives you a number of great ways to promote your restaurant from the outside.

Restaurant Website

Get acquainted and start chatting with your customers.

Learning more about your customers is the key to providing them with fantastic service and an all around exceptional dining experience. A simple yet effective way to get to know your customers is to use your website as a hub for customer interaction. Draft a survey asking those who frequent your restaurant what brings them back and what they think could be improved. Provide a spot for customers to join your e-mail list and in doing so provide a little information about their dining habits and expectations. Let your customers know that you’re accessible and open to feedback.

Promote from the outside.

It’s common practice to have your restaurant’s name or logo decorating the outside of your building, or on printed fliers for mailing purposes, but building an accessible website and gathering just a few customer details can open up a whole new world of online promotion just waiting to be utilized. Has that 2-for-1 special been a little disappointing on return? Turn it around with an online advertisement supported through your website and accompanying e-mail list. Offer advertisement coupon codes and meal-specific deals through your website and gauge customer response. Pretty soon you’ll be able to determine which promotions are working for you and which aren’t.

So we’ve focused a little on the value of a good website, but what does a good website look like? Honestly, everyone has their own ideas of what design, image combination, and general atmosphere jives best for them in regards to navigating a website. It would be impossible, and highly ineffective, to try to jam-pack your website with a little something for everyone. Instead, keep a few simple concepts in mind while you’re in the design phase and realize that less can be more.

Here are a few helpful tips:

Get help. Building a website from the ground up, with or without prior experience and know-how, is not only a daunting task but can be seen as a disaster if not done with a degree of professionalism. The amount of time consumers spend online makes it easy for them to spot an amateur site, and if that’s how they view your site chances are high that they’ll view your restaurant in the same light. Additionally, writing and positioning content online takes time. Most small business owners just don’t have the extra time needed to effectively create and maintain a top-notch website.

Unfortunately, as we’ve discussed, where you save in money you’ll end up paying in un-impressed customers and precious time if you decide to tackle this task on your own. Just like you’d have a professional install important restaurant equipment to ensure it works properly, having a professional designer “install” your website can mean the difference between smooth sailing and endless complications. Just because you’re not the one painting the picture doesn’t mean you can’t make decisions on what’s being painted, and even if you do hire a web designer you’ll want to make sure they focus on the following:

  • Flashy can be bad in large doses. Flash elements and players can look good and serve their purpose if used moderately and effectively. Facing the facts, when a customer comes to a restaurant’s website looking to satisfy that grumble in their stomach they want quick, concise information on how they can do just that. If your site is bogged down by page after page of Flash players loading vivid images customers can easily get turned off and look to find food elsewhere.
  • Give customers the goods. Bypassing the flash and providing potential customers with valuable information right when they hit your homepage can do wonders. Make sure you’ve got the appropriate, correct information in all the right spots. Do you have your phone number conveniently positioned on each page? Are detailed driving directions readily available? And above all else, can customers clearly see what food you offer?
  • Guide the way. You want customers to be able to navigate from page to page effortlessly, with as little resistance or sidetracking as possible. A common mistake in trying to provide a lot of extra “valuable” information is building a complex roadway to navigate to get to this information and losing your customers. Make it almost stupid in its simplicity when it comes to navigation and you’ll be happy you did.
  • Don’t stop. It’s not uncommon to come across a website that has obviously not been touched since its creation many years ago. As times change so to should your website, and letting your site get stale can be as bad as letting food do the same. Customers appreciate new content on a regular basis, and believe it or not updated and evolving content increases your visibility to search engines like Google and Bing.

Let’s be honest, if you don’t currently have a website you may already be behind the curve and not know it. With mobile couponing, ways to pay with your phone, and tablet menus well on their way in you can’t afford to not have an online presence. Start small to get your foot in the door, but make sure that first step is building an efficient, money-making website that works for you and your customers.

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It’s Time to Revamp Your Cocktail Menu!

In with the new, out with the old. 

Spring is the perfect time to freshen up your cocktail menu. New produce is in season, flowers are in bloom and patio pounders are on the mind. Give your guests something to gawk about with a revamped cocktail list that includes refreshing classics, new concoctions and tropical flavor blasts.

Classic Mojito Cocktail

IngredientsMojito cocktail on white background

  • 1 oz. fresh lime juice
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 8 fresh mint leaves 
  • 2 oz white rum
  • 1 oz. club soda
  • Lime wedge and mint for garnish
  • 1 cup ice


Add lime juice, sugar and eight mint leaves to a cocktail shaker. Use the end of a wooden spoon or cocktail muddler to bash (or muddle) the mint into the lime juice and sugar. This releases oils from the mint and helps the sugar dissolve into the lime juice.

Add rum, stir well then pour into a glass filled with ice, leaving about an inch of room then top with club soda. Garnish with extra mint leaves and a lime slice.

Recipe courtesy of Inspired Taste

Feeling ambitious? Try this trendy combination:

Rhubarb Mojito

  • 1 oz. white rum
  • 2 oz. rhubarb syrup (recipe below)
  • 8 mint leaves
  • 1/2 oz. fresh lime juice
  • Lime zest
  • Nutmeg
  • 1 cup ice


In the bottom of a glass add a bit of nutmeg, lime zest, mint leaves and the lime juice. Using a muddler or the end of a wooden spoon muddle the ingredients. You want to really bruise and break up the mint leaves. Add the rum and syrup, give a light stir then top with ice. Garnish with mint and a thin slice of rhubarb.

Rhubarb syrup:

  • 8 oz. chopped rhubarb (2-3 small stalks)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cup water
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 vanilla bean (optional)


Combine all the ingredients in a small pot. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 5-7 minutes. Let cool completely.
Strain the ingredients. The syrup will keep covered in the fridge for two weeks.

Recipe & Image courtesy of not without salt

 Tequila SunriseTequila Sunrise


  • 1 1/2 oz. tequila
  • 1/4 c. freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 1/2 oz. grenadine syrup
  • Orange slice and maraschino cherry for granish
  • 1 cup ice


Stir or shake together tequila and orange juice. Fill a chilled 12 ounce glass with ice cubes; pour in orange juice mixture. Slowly pour in the grenadine, and allow it to settle to the bottom of the glass (be patient). Garnish with a slice of orange, and a maraschino cherry.

Recipe courtesy of All Recipes

Have you ever heard of a Tequila Sunset?

Tequila Sunset


  • 1 oz. tequila
  • 4 oz. freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1/2 oz. blackberry brandy
  • Maraschino cherry for garnish
  • 1 cup ice


Fill a collins glass with ice and stir in the tequila and orange juice. Top with blackberry brandy and garnish with a cherry.

Recipe courtesy of Drink Nation



  • 1 oz. gin
  • 1 oz. Campari
  • 1 oz. sweet vermouth
  • Orange twist for garnish
  • 1 cup ice


Place a cocktail or Old Fashioned glass in the freezer to chill.

Combine the gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth in a cocktail shaker and fill it halfway with ice. Stir until the outside of the shaker is frosted. If you’re using an Old Fashioned glass, add ice cubes to it. Strain the drink into the chilled cocktail or Old Fashioned glass. Garnish with the orange twist.

Recipe courtesy of Chow

Make it white

White Negroni


  • 1 1/2 oz. gin
  • 3/4 oz. gentian liqeur, such as Suze, Salers or Aveze
  • 3/4 oz. Lillet Blanc
  • Lemon twist for garnish
  • 1 cup ice


Fill a mixing glass halfway with ice. Add the gin, gentian liqueur and Lillet Blanc. Stir vigorously, then strain into a chillled cocktail martini glass. Garnish with the twist of lemon peel.

Recipe courtesy of the Washington Post

Pina ColadaPina Colada – Frozen


  • 6 oz pineapple juice
  • 2 oz white rum
  • 1 1/2 oz coconut cream
  • 1 oz heavy cream
  • Pineapple wedge and maraschino cherry for garnish
  • 2 cups ice


Blend all ingredients with approximately 2 cups of ice until nice and smooth. Pour into a hurricane glass. Garnish with the cherry and pineapple wedge.

Recipe courtesy of

Pina Colada – On the Rocks

  • 2 oz pineapple juice
  • 2 oz white rum
  • 1 1/2 oz coconut cream
  • Pineapple wedge and maraschino cherry for garnish
  • 1 cup ice


Pour the ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake well. Pour into a chilled cocktail or collins glass. Garnish with the pineapple wedge and maraschino cherry.

Recipe courtesy of

Tom CollinsTom Collins


  • 2 oz. gin
  • 1 oz. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. simple syrup
  • 3 oz. club soda
  • Lemon twist and maraschino cherry for garnish
  • 1 cup ice


Fill a cocktail glass with ice and place all of the ingredients in the glass. Give it a stir and enjoy!

Recipe courtesy of Over the Hill and on a Roll

Meet Collin’s cousin John

John Collins

  • 2 oz bourban
  • 1 oz. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. simple syrup
  • 3 oz. club soda
  • Lemon twist and maraschino cherry for garnish
  • 1 cup ice


Add simple syrup and lemon juice into iced highball glass. Add bourbon and fill with soda water. Stir and garnish with lemon wedge and Maraschino cherry.

Recipe courtesy of The Pour Pro

Also see our Garnish Pinterest board for ways to spruce up your existing cocktails.

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10 Things That Make Restaurant Websites Great

If you thought that throwing up a picture of the front of your restaurant and contact information made for a great website, then you should take a look at what other restaurants around the country are doing to encourage diners to eat at their establishment.  Here’s a list of 10 things we’ve seen restaurants doing that keep guests coming back for more.

1. Food Photography

Give me pictures that make me say yum!  If I’m hungry, I don’t want to see pictures of the outside of your building, or the employees at your restaurant, I want to see tasty dishes that persuade me to come on in and dine, or at least check out what else is on the menu.

Sushi Den Food Porn

 2. Menus

I don’t know why this is such a big deal for restaurants, but there are two big things that restaurants do wrong when it comes to their menu: it’s not posted at all or it’s in PDF format.  If I can’t find the menu on your website, my first thought is that you have something to hide… why would I want to even venture in your establishment if you’re too embarrassed to share your menu?  And PDFs are bad news for your site.  Mobile users hate downloading anything – it takes too much time – and that downloadable PDF is killing your restaurant’s style.  And remember those search engines that you’re trying to compete in?  Yeah, they can’t see PDFs, so you’re wasting your time.

Vista Dipping Grill Online Menu

Vesta Dipping Grill also has their menu in PDF format, just in case their guests want to download it.

3. Special Menus

If you haven’t noticed yet, more and more restaurants are paying attention to their guests that have allergies, which, of course, is a good thing.  My son has tree nut allergies and can go into anaphylactic shock if he even touches a cashew or pistachio to his lips.  Are you willing to risk his life and your business because you don’t think it’s important to have an allergy menu?  I hope the answer is no, because you never know who’s going to walk through your door with allergies.  Make sure you have special menus set aside and online for allergy guests – help people make a choice on where they should eat before they even walk in your door.

And don’t forget about our vegan and vegetarian friends, they also like to know that they have different options when visiting your restaurant – Chipotle got it right with this one page menu.

Chipolte Special Diet Menu

4. Calories & Diets

Speaking of menus, giving calorie count and other dietary information can help your health conscious guests learn more about the foods they choose.  And don’t worry, showing big numbers doesn’t always have to be bad, people just want to know what it is they’re eating.  Make sure to include an online calorie menu so that guests that are counting calories, fat grams, or sodium can find the dish that works best for them.

Subway Calories Diet

5. Reservations

The majority of the things already mentioned can be figured out with online reservations.  Let me clarify.  If there are online reservations, perfect, I don’t have to call you and I can get everything done from my phone.  I can also enter in any special information (that is, if you have a comment box available for me), like that we have someone in our party with food allergies, or someone that may need help finding suggestions for lower sodium meals.  What if you knew that information before the party every arrived, and the server came to the table with the right choices without the party ever asking – I’d say you’re one step closer to creating evangelists for your restaurant!

Mezuna Reservations Online

6. Groups

Guests need to know your rules for groups of people.  How many people are considered a group?  Do you take reservations?  Should I call ahead of time?  Make it easy for groups to know what they should expect when visiting your website.  Linger, a restaurant in Denver, makes it nice an easy with an inquiry form – of course the group could always call, but who has time for that anymore?

Linger Restaurant Group Reservations

7. Happy Hour

Bring on the deals!  One of the easiest ways to encourage people to come in during happy hour is to show them the deals.  Don’t be shy, share it all, including food and drink specials, times, and any bonuses – like getting special promotions on social media.  And believe me, your guests are smart enough to sniff out the deals, even if it means they’re standing at your front door and notice your competitors online happy hour menu is better than the one you don’t even have posted.

Tahona Happy Hour Menu

8. Social Media & Email Marketing

Speaking of social media, it seems these days everyone is dabbling in social media.  But the true winners in the restaurant industry are the ones that keep us coming back for more.  I’m a huge fan of Noodles & Company simply because they take care of their audience.  I don’t mind listening to what you have to say if I get freebies once in a while, and you mix up that sales-speak with some fun content (hint, sign up for the Noodlegram to get some great deals throughout the year).

Noodles & Company Social & Email Marketing

One of our Tundrites said they checked-in at Foursquare at a local restaurant here in Boulder called Harpo’s and ended up getting 15% of the table’s entire meal – do you think that they’re going to get return business out of her?  You betcha, and she probably inspired new customers to head in as well!

9. Directions, Contact Information & Hours of Operation

For the love of the Internet, please don’t forget to put up your directions, contact information, and hours of operation.  And please don’t make it an image where it’s next to impossible for me to do anything from my phone.  Your contact information should be in plain HTML so that I can push your phone number and call with just one touch of my smartphone.  And the directions should be linked to Google maps so that I can tell my smartphone to go straight to your location.  This one sounds easy, but I’ve seen so many of you get it wrong.

The Bitter Bar Direction, Contact & Hours

10. Content

Okay, I mentioned in the first post that when your guests are hungry they want to see good food pictures, but those that are really interested in who you are will want to be able to learn more about your story.  How did you get to where you are today?  Who are your Chefs?  Do you source your food locally?  Is your building historical?   Do you have any special events that you put on?  Do you give back to the community?

There are tons of great examples of content you can put on your site or in a blog, just remember who your audience is and make the content relevant for them.

Fruition Farm Content

Fruition Restaurant does a great job of sharing their farm to table story over at Fruition Farms, which is linked to in their main navigation.

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Eating Utensils From Around The World

kitchen utensils. fork, knife and spoon

Hungry Planet, What the World Eats from award winning author, Peter Menzel profiles 30 families from 24 countries and the food they eat during the course of one week. I came across this book on Time and the pictures revealed amazing stories that got me thinking: beyond forks, spoons and even chopsticks, does everyone in the world use what we Americans consider normal eating utensils?

United States

Like many countries food is a big part of the American culture. The major utensils of an American place setting include a spoon, fork and knife. And modern, hybrid versions have been introduced to the market –  the most popular being the combination of the spoon and fork, the spork. And how about the sporf?  It’s a combination of the spoon, fork and knife. Or the spife, a combination of the spoon and knife.


Asian Chopsticks

Chopsticks are used as traditional eating utensils in China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. Chopsticks are most commonly made of wood, bamboo or plastic; however, in the United States, most are made out of wood. Chopsticks are held in the dominant hand, between the thumb and fingers, and used to pick up pieces of food.  You probably knew that part, but did you know there are different styles of chopsticks in different cultures?

  • Chinese: Chopsticks are longer (at about 25 cm), thicker (with squared or rounded sides), and end in either tips that are wide, blunt, flat or tapered.
  • Japanese: Shorter length chopsticks that taper to a finely pointed end. Japanese chopsticks are traditionally made of wood or bamboo and are lacquered. It is common for Japanese sticks to be of shorter length for women.
  • Korean: Chopsticks are medium-length with a small, flat rectangular shape. Traditionally, they were made of brass or silver, and ornately decorated at the grip.
  • Vietnamese: Long chopsticks that taper to a blunt point, quite like the Chinese style, and are traditionally lacquered wood or bamboo.
  • Nepali: Shorter and more blunt chopsticks that are usually made of bamboo.


India Hand Eating

Would it disgust you or fascinate you to find out in India most meals are eaten with hands?

Hands are the main utensil in India, but there’s still some manners set aside for proper eating etiquette. Traditionally, the right hand is used for scooping, eating and mixing, as the left is used for cleaning (wiping the right hand, the mouth, picking up crumbs, etc.) and is considered dirty.  A form of flat bread can also be used to scoop and soak up food.


Ethiopia Injera Flatbread

During a traditional Ethiopian meal, the food is served on a large piece of injera: a piece of flat-bread made from the grain teff. The injera itself serves as the plate and is used to scoop pieces of food up to the mouth. Ethiopian dining includes several rituals, like washing of hands before a formal meal and drink coffee at the table when the meal has ended.

Depending on what part of the world you’re visiting you may find yourself using forks, knives, spoons, fingers, chopsticks or injera to enjoy a meal. Dining etiquette will differ as much as the culture you may be visiting, so checking for cultural differences prior to vising a foreign country can save you the embarrassment of asking for the wrong utensil before it’s too late.

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Thermostatic vs. Manual Griddles: How to Choose

Not sure what the difference is between a manual and thermostatic commercial griddle? Well you’re not alone, we get asked all the time! Let me break it down for you…


Manual Griddles

Manual Griddle

A manual griddle has controls similar to a commercial range with adjustable dials (low, medium, and high settings with a  few notches in-between) to control the size of the flame or heating element temperature under the griddle plate. As soon as you drop cold food onto a hot manual griddle, the surface temperature of the griddle plate drops which could require a manual adjustment to keep the temperature consistent.

Thermostatic Griddles

Thermostatic Griddle

A thermostatic griddle has controls similar to a commercial oven with adjustable dials that read exact temperature settings (rather than low, medium and high). For example, if you want to cook something at 375°F you set the thermostat to the desired temperature and the griddle plate will maintain that temperature within a couple degrees. The griddle automatically adjusts to hold the desired temperature.

How to Choose

If you are using a griddle to cook a variety of foods requiring a wide range of temperatures, a manual griddle is the way to go. The flexibility will be in your best interest and you can then control the amount of electricity/ gas that is fed to the elements/burners.

If you’re a breakfast joint using a griddle to dominate flapjack orders or a burger bar ripping through hamburger requests like they’re going out of style, I recommend a thermostatic griddle. In those instances you will want a consistent surface temperature so you can set it and forget it. Plus, if you’re serving pancakes and burgers “all day” you need to focus on the toppings – not the griddle temperature.

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Tax Day Word Search

Fun Fact: The IRS reported receiving 131,543,000 individual income tax returns in 2009. If each return were processed at the rate of one per minute (and that’s fast!), it would take more than 250 years for one person to do the job.

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Dreamstaurant: Wandering Table Part 2

It’s been almost a month and I can’t stop thinking about Dreamstaurant winner, Chef Adam Hegsted’s Wandering Table and how awesome it was to experience. From the location to the people to the food, it was spectacular!

In my last post about the dinner I shared an image of the 12 course menu for the evening. What I didn’t share were mouth watering pictures of each dish. Well, I am a photo geek and of course took a ridiculous number of pictures at the dinner. Below are snapshots of each course to get your taste buds a little riled up. Enjoy!

Dish 1:

Wandering Table Lardo

Uni. grilled bread. homemade butter.

Dish 2:

Wandering Table Uni

Uni tartar sauce.
beer batter. cod. pommes.

Dish 3:

Wandering Table Chips

Pardon pepper chips.
cream cheese. honey. pickled peppers.

Dish 4:

Wandering Table Pickled Peppers

Pickled peppers.
octopus. pork croutons. chorizon. almonds.

Dish 5:

Wandering Table Pork Terrine

Pork terrine.
chicharone. hazelnuts. proscuitto. apple.

Dish 6:

Wandering Table Apple Salad

Apple salad.
raw squash. reggiano. greens. chestnut.

Dish 7:

Wandering Table Blood Orange Sorbet

Blood orange sorbet.

Dish 8:

Wandering Table Braised Short Rib

Braised short rib.
onion. soft egg. rice. hoisin.

Dish 9:

Wandering Table Popped Corn

Popped corn.
goat cheese. sea salt. smoked pepper.

Dish 10:

Wandering Table Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookie

Sea salt chocolate chip cookie.
milk sorbet. warm.

Dish 11:

Wandering Table Sweet Potato Sorbet

Sweat potato sorbet.
dirty candy. carrot. parsnip. yam ice cream.

Dish 12:

Wandering Table Dirty Truffles

Dirty truffles.
cocoa. coffee.

Are you drooling yet?

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