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Archive | Food Service

There are thousands of topics to discuss around food service, these are just a few that our authors have written about.

Fixing Commercial Ovens: Trouble Maintaining Temperature

This is usually a thermostat problem.  When you set the thermostat at a set temperature and it does not reach that point it may be one of two problems: Fixing Commercial Ovens: Trouble Maintaining Temperature

1. The thermostat may be defective.
2. The thermostat may be out of calibration.  To check the calibration get a thermometer that you know is accurate.  Put it in the oven and set the thermostat to 250º.  Open the kick plate below the oven door and watch the burner flame, if it goes off before the oven reaches 250º you may be able to calibrate it.

To calibrate a thermostat remove the knob and check to see what type of thermostat you have.  The thermostat is either a type with a round disk that has two screws holding it in place or it will have a D shaft with a small screw in the center of it.  In either case only turn the disc or screw a fraction of a turn at a time and no more than a quarter turn either direction.

Continue to turn the disc or screw a fraction of a turn each time until you see the burner come back on.   If you reach that quarter of a turn point and the burner does not come back on, the thermostat is defective and must be replaced.  If the burner comes back on, watch the temperature of the oven and if it gets to within 5 or 10° of the preset temperature, you are good to go.  It may take several tries to get it properly calibrated.

If you still can not get it calibrated within the temperature range, you need to replace the thermostat.  All thermostats are preset from the factory and should not require calibration when installed.  If you find that the new thermostat does require calibrating, follow the previous instructions.

When replacing your thermostat, remember: all the thermostats have a capillary tube with a bulb attached to the end of it.  This is the part that senses the temperature in the oven.  The bulb is attached to clips inside the oven.  If the bulb is not put back in the same place, i.e. it’s just stuck in the oven cavity and left hanging, then the thermostat will run “wild,” meaning the oven cooks unevenly.

Remember to get that bulb back into those clips no matter how hard it may be. 

There are two types of gas thermostats: BJWA and FDO type thermostats.  BJWA thermostats are the most common type and older ones can be identified by the nickel sized hole on the front where the knob attaches.  However, newer BJWA thermostats may not have that hole.  FDO thermostats are usually found on pizza ovens and can be identified by the disc with numbers on it that sits behind the knob stem.

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Fixing Commercial Ovens: Pilot Light Won’t Stay Lit

80% of the time the thermocouple causes this problem.  When lighting the pilot, if the thermocouple is not directly in the flame it doesn’t get hot enough to allow it to open the safety valve.  If it is directly in the flame and it won’t stay lit then the thermocouple is probably defective and needs to be replaced,  Keep in mind that some safety valves have the thermocouple permanently attached so the entire valve must be replaced. Fixing Commercial Ovens: Pilot Light Wont Stay Lit

If you’ve replaced the thermocouple and attempt to light the pilot and it still will not stay lit then the safety valve is defective.  Remember to check the type of safety valve you have to get the correct replacement.  For correct identification  procedures check out this Tech Talk post.

When working on any type of gas equipment always remember to shut off the gas!

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Replacing Top Burner Gas Valves On A Commercial Range

Top burner gas valves are fairly easy to replace.  With the top plate (bull nose) removed you can access them easily (part of the frame runs across the top of them).  If you are replacing all or just one, the burners must be removed if they have a slip type orifice.  If there is a tube type burner valve they need not be removed because you can disconnect the tube from the burner valve and move it out of the way.  Replacing Top Burner Gas Valves On A Commercial Range

In either case when the burners or the tube is disconnected take a wrench and screw out the valve being replaced (in some cases you may have to remove a pilot adjustment valve to be able to turn the burner valve by it).

Once the old valve is removed, put some gas thread sealer on the treads of the new valve and screw it back into position, being careful not to over tighten.  Reassemble the unit except for the top plate.  Turn the gas back on and light the pilots (this may take a few minutes because the gas must first force out the air in the manifold).

Once the pilots are lit, turn on the first burner.  There may be no gas flow because the orifice on the new valve may be closed.  Using two wrenches, one to hold the valve the other to turn the orifice, open the orifice to allow gas flow (this may take a couple of turns).

Once the burner lights, continue to adjust the orifice until there is a nice blue flame.  Adjust until you have as little of a yellow flame as possible. If you feel there is still too much yellow flame you may need to adjust the air shutter located on the end of the venturi.  Once you have produced the bluest flame you can get, you are done.  You can reassemble your range and cook to your heart’s content.

Make sure you have the right orifice for the type of gas you are using!  Natural gas and LP gas require a different sized orifice.  If you are having problems with the flame on the burner, check the number on the orifice.  The larger the number, the smaller the hole.  Large number orifices are for LP gas.  Smaller numbers are for natural gas.

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Replacing Commercial Range Top Burner Pilots

Top burner pilots need to be replaced if they become clogged.  They are very difficult to unclog, and generally need to be replaced. There are three types of pilots:

  1. Those with the tube pre-welded to the pilot head.
  2. Those that have a nut and ferral to slide over the tube and be tightened onto the tube.
  3. Pre-formed pilot assemblies specific to a particular range.  Replacing Commercial Range Top Burner Pilots

Finally, there are new “flex tube” pilot burners that have a flexible pilot tube, making them very easy to install.

When replacing the pilots you will have to remove the front top plate (bull nose) from the range to access the pilot adjustment valves.  This will also have to be removed to replace the burner valve described below.

The pre-welded type is fairly easy to install.  To replace, disconnect the pilot tube from the pilot adjustment valve and remove.  Place the new pilot head and tube next to an existing one and follow the contour while slowly bending to form the same shape.  When you get to the end you may need to cut the tube off, using a tubing cutter.  A nut then needs to be put on, and then a ferral and screw back onto the pilot adjustment valve.

The type with the nut and ferral is very easy.  Simply use a tubing cutter and cut if off just below the old pilot head.  Remove the nut and ferral from the new replacement pilot head and slide them over the tube, nut first and then the ferral.  Slide the pilot head onto the tube and tighten the nut up to the pilot head.

The pre-formed pilot assemblies are far easier because they are all bent and ready for installation, the only draw back is they are a little more expensive than the others.

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Replacing Commercial Range Burner Heads

Burner heads usually become plugged over time.  There are two screws that connect the head to the venturi.  It is a good idea to use some kind of rust dissolver on the screws to loosen them.  Once the screws are out you can install the new head, and always remember to replace the gasket as well.

Some burner heads, most notably Southbend, are one piece and do not have a separate venturi.  In these cases the whole piece needs to be replaced.

One alternative to replacing the head is to get a drill bit the same size as the holes in the head and drill out the grease build up in them.  However, this can sometimes alter the flame pattern.

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Replacing Burner Grates For Commercial Gas Ranges

The top burner grates only need replacing if they have cracked due to metal fatigue or if they have been dropped and broken.  To replace, simply pull the broken grate off the top of the range and then place the new grate over the burner.

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A Complete Guide To HACCP Food Safety

If you’re looking to implement a HACCP food safety program, this series of Back Burner posts will help you get started.  If you’re looking for ways to improve your existing food safety program, this is also a great place to start.  Food safety is a critical part of your food service business, and over the years, HACCP has proven itself to be one of the most effective ways to ensure your customers eat good food in your restaurant every single time.

This guide will walk you through the 7 HACCP principles one by one and will also cover supplemental information like Prerequisite Programs.  Get started on your HACCP program today:

1.  HACCP Principle 1 – An introduction and understanding the hazards and risk factors present in your restaurant.

2.  HACCP Principle 2 – The Difference Between CCP & SOP – Some things in your food safety program will be covered by your HACCP, while other things need to be established as Standard Operating Procedure.  Learn how to organize food safety tasks here.

3.  HACCP Principle 3 – Set Critical Limits – A critical limit is the minimum or maximum temperature food product must reach to stay out of the temperature danger zone where bacteria and pathogens can grow.

4.  HACCP Principle 4Establish Monitoring Procedures – Critical limits don’t do you a bit of good if you don’t monitor your operation and determine they are actually being met in practice, not just in theory.

5.  HACCP Principle 5Develop Corrective Actions – Critical limits are worthless without monitoring, and monitoring is worthless without a plan to take corrective action when monitoring finds problems in your HACCP program.

6.  HACCP Principle 6 – Ongoing Verification – The secret to a successful HACCP program is developing multiple layers of quality control that ensure the standards you set in Principle 3 are met on a consistent basis.  Ongoing verification is another layer in the monitoring process.

7.  HACCP Principle 7Keep Good Records – All that monitoring won’t help you if someone accuses your business of sickening them and you don’t have records of what you’ve been doing with your HACCP program.  Good records also help you every time the healt inspector arrives, so make sure you record the information you collect while monitoring your HACCP program.

8.  Prerequisite ProgramsThe essential partner to any HACCP food safety program is the Standard Operating Procedures that promote a clean and sanitary kitchen, like handwashing.  Get some prerequisite tips here.

Check out more articles on Tundra’s Resource Center for Food Safety

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22 Restaurant Management Tips

One area of the restaurant industry we have continually focused on here at The Back Burner is management.  I don’t have to tell you that restaurant managers are often overworked and under appreciated  and that’s on top of the stress involved with trying to manage a business in one of the largest and most competitive industries out there.

These restaurant management tips are meant to be useful tidbits that will make you a more effective manager, and maybe entertain/inform you at some point in your busy day.  Check them out when you have an extra three seconds of time and leave comments on your favorite posts!  Let us know what you think!

1.  How To Sell Your Restaurant – The time to sell your restaurant may come for many reasons.  Whatever the motives are behind this difficult decision, the process of selling your establishment needs to be handled carefully to make sure you get the right price at the right time.

2.  Why Buying Scales Will Save You Money- I’m not telling you anything new when I tell you that inventory control is very important in any restaurant.  But I think it’s surprising just how few restaurants view the use of scales as a way to manage shrink and really control how food product is used.

3.  How To Get A Restaurant Management Job Fast- In the beginning stages of a job search, most restaurant managers are often frustrated by the lack of response they receive from blindly sending resumes to the published markets, amazed and confused that a professional with their impressive background and qualifications could be consistently ignored or overlooked.

4.  Menu Pricing’s Theory Of Relativity – In a previous oldie-but-goodie Back Burner post I talked about menu engineering – how to put together a menu that effectively markets your dishes and makes customers want to spend more and buy high margin menu items.  One thing that post did not touch upon, however, was how to price and organize those prices on the menu.

5.  Restaurant Management: No Training Budget?  Spend Nothing But Time And Succeed – According to a new study by the Council of Hotel And Restaurant Trainers (CHART), 53% of the restaurants surveyed had cut back on their employee training budgets.  Only 19% increased their budget, with the rest remaining the same.

6.  California & Vermont Restaurants: Are You Compliant? – If you’re in the food service industry in either California or Vermont, then this blog post is for you.  New legislation in these two states changes the kind of faucets and pipe fittings that can be installed in restaurants and commercial kitchens starting early next year.

7.  How To Grow Your Restaurant – Without Going Broke – Restaurants are a business like any other, and as an entrepreneur, you’ve already taken the plunge into the risky but potentially rewarding world of business ownership.  Growing a business is never easy, and trying to grow that business in the current economic climate is even harder, which is why a few key principles for small business ring more true today than ever.

8.  Is Your Restaurant Truly Family Friendly?- According to a recent survey by the National Restaurant Association (NRA), 75% of restaurants offer a children’s menu and another 6.25% are considering offering one.  Most restaurants understand the need to cater to young families and accommodate them in every way possible.

9.  Restaurant Management: Use Creative Compensation Strategies – The traditional model has been to pay your kitchen by the hour depending on what they do, let waitstaff earn their living on tips, and maybe pay a hostess by the hour as well if you get too busy.

10.  Are You Ready For Flu Season? – Personally, if I never hear another story about H1N1 (swine) flu again, I’ll die a happy man.  Unfortunately, the grim reality is everyone is going to have to take steps to combat the spread of flu this winter, and restaurants are no exception.

11.  A Free Inventory Management Tool???  Where Do I Sign Up? – Count-n-Control is the brainchild of long-time industry pro Paul Clarke, and it’s a tool that is going to revolutionize how you track inventory in your restaurant.  No, Count-n-Control doesn’t have some crazy new way to track your stock so that shrink is 100% eliminated, and no, it’s not going to help you find the cure for cancer.

12.  Use Edible Scraps To Create Restaurant Family Meals – The “restaurant family meal” is a central event in many well-run restaurants.  Just before the dinner rush front of house and back of house staff gather to enjoy a well-cooked meal prepared by the chef.

13.  Management Styles – Micro Manager or Laissez Faire? – Your management style can have a lot to do with your success in running a restaurant, or any other business. While people can debate all day long about which is the best management style to use in different situations, one thing people will agree on, if you get it right (or wrong) it can have a big affect on the success of your business.

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20 Restaurant Marketing Tips

Here at The Back Burner we try to provide as many resources as possible for your success.  Over the past six months we have published a treasure trove of restaurant marketing tips that can help you get more butts in seats.  I don’t have to tell you that it’s been a tough year.  The good news is, if you’re still here, you’re obviously doing something right.

This is also the time to grab more customers.  Their favorite eatery might have recently gone out of business, or they’re looking for a place with good eats, good service, and above all, good value.  Now is your chance to shine.  And here are 20 marketing tips that will help you get more customers and remind your existing ones to come back and visit:

1.  Should Your Restaurant Have A Website? – In a word, YES!  Learn how to get your website up and running here.

2.  Use Twitter To Marker Your Restaurant (4 Strategies For Success) – Yeah, yeah, I’m sure you’re tired of hearing about Twitter, and if you haven’t signed up already, chances are pretty slim you will now.  But give this a read and make sure you really do want to pass this opportunity up.

3.  Email Marketing: 7 Tips For Restaurants – Email is one of the most effective marketing tools out there, and if you’re not using it to reach your customers, you’re missing out on one of the best Return On Investment (ROI) marketing strategies out there.

4.  Improve Restaurant Sales At Food Festivals – even though the summer food festival season is mostly over, it’s never too early to start planning for next year.  Learn the why and the how here.

5.  4 Steps To Managing Your Reputation Online – With the advent of social media and user generated content on the internet, people are talking about your restaurant somewhere.  While most of this chatter is probably positive, it only takes a couple disgruntled customers to ruin your online reputation.  Learn how to manage that reputation here.

6.  Restaurant Marketing Goes Hyperlocal - New apps for mobile devices break down restaurants and bars by the block.  Some urban eateries are taking advantage of this “hyperlocal” trend to advertise very specifically to customers in their neighborhood.

7.  Restaurant Promotion Gone Afoul: The Most expensive Free I’ve Ever Seen – In this guest post by Jaime Oikle, learn how a coupon scheme run by restaurant.com can actually hurt your bottom line.

8.  For All The Hype, Are Restaurants Really Using Social Media? – Everyone, including me, is telling restaurants to get into the social media game.  Are restaurants listening?  A new study suggests they aren’t.

9.  The Casa Bonita Secret To Being A Successful Restaurant – Good food, good service, and good prices all play a role in a restaurant’s success.  But being unique is probably the single most important factor in a restaurant’s success.

10.  Menu Pricing’s Theory Of Relativity – Every customer looks at price when selecting their meal.  Behavioral psychology also shows that value is decided based upon the prices around the item they select.  Learn how to set up your menu to make your customers believe they’re getting a great deal every time.

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Extreme Mixology: Inhaling Vaportinis

Extreme Mixology: Inhaling VaportinisMixology is a hot trend in food service.  More and more bars and restaurants are investing in exotic flavors and unique blends to make cocktails that draw customers in and tantalize their taste buds.  There are even professional “mixologists” who dedicate their time to the art of developing the next trendy cocktail.

The Red Kiva Lounge in Chicago has apparently taken mixology to a new level with Vaportinis: a shot of alcohol that’s heated, and, instead of being drunk, is inhaled as it evaporates from the heat.  The result is a head rush akin to smoking a cigarette as the alcohol is absorbed through the lungs.

The owner of The Red Kiva got the idea for Vaportinis after a trip to Finland, where vodka is poured over hot coals and then inhaled during an annual winter festival.  After developing a special container that heats the alcohol and then allows the customer to inhale through a straw, The Red Kiva started offering several different types of alcohol in their Vaportinis.

The more exotic mixology gets, the more interesting the ways people will find to ingest alcohol.  The quest for the next trendy drink continues to yield innovations like the Vaportini.  The biggest hurdle to this drink is reminding people that inhaling alcohol still gets you drunk.  No word on how a breathalyzer reacts to someone whose been “smoking” alcohol.

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