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Working in a restaurant? Then these articles are probably perfect for you! From server issues to recipes for the cook, these are some of our favorite In The Restaurant finds.

Who Uses Soap On Cast Iron?

Who Uses Soap On Cast Iron?

In the residential kitchen, we’re all quite aware of the 3 forbidden rules when it comes to cast iron:

  1. Never, ever use soap!
  2. Never, ever soak it in water!
  3. Never, ever let water rest on it after being cleaned!

Depending on who you talk to, and how big their love for cast iron is, there could definitely be some rules added to this list – never use metal utensils, throw out rusted pans (this one hurts my heart a little bit), always season new pans, etc.  However, whether it be a frying pan, oven to table ware, or griddles, almost all of these rules are different when it comes to using cast iron in a restaurant.

Restaurant Use of Cast Iron

If you scour the web for help with taking care of cast iron in a restaurant, resources are very limited, and almost all of the information you find is for home cooks.  However, all of these forbidden rules aren’t the same in the commercial kitchen, because there are health code regulations that don’t allow for a pan to be simply wiped clean and re-used.

If you’re one of those home cooks, prepare to be blown away by what we’re about to tell you.

Wiping a pan clean or using salt to scrub the left-over bits away is not the way to properly clean cast iron after being used in a restaurant.  In fact, as far as the health inspector is concerned, the same holds true for cast iron as with any other pan: it has to be ran through a 3-sink basin with detergent/rinse/sanitizer in order to be properly cleaned for re-use.  As in most commercial kitchens, the detergent that is required to be used is specifically for what’s being cleaned; e.g. pots and pans has their own detergent, just as flatware has a particular pre-rinse formula.  If you think about it, it makes sense to clean cast iron like this, to ensure the seasoning of the pan doesn’t turn rancid – risky and scary.

So, want to know how restaurants get away with not following all of those forbidden cast iron rules?  They use those pans so many more times than that same pan would ever be used in the residential kitchen and they’re stored in a very hot environment, which basically helps them season themselves.

Now, that’s not to say that in the commercial kitchen other rules aren’t followed to help maintain a nice seasoning, which includes doing the first initial seasoning and wiping the pan down with vegetable oil or lard before storing (which a lot of residential users do as well).

With that said, because there is health code obstacles in the way of using cast iron in the food service industry, many cooks have started using hi-carbon or black steel pans to get a close substitute without having to worry about violating health code.

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The Cost of Cash Only

The Cost of Cash Only Sticking to a “cash only” system may seem like the simplest way to run your business and ensure consistent cash flow, but when you don’t offer customers the opportunity to use other forms of payment, including credit and debit cards, you miss significant opportunities to build your business. Here’s a look at the cost of operating a “cash only” food service operation, and why opening your mind to additional forms of payment can lead to more revenue and profitability.

Your customers spend less when they pay with cash

You may not like the idea of payment processing fees that are required in order to accept debit or credit cards, but such costs are minimal compared to the potential improvement in your average order sizes. As cognitive scientist Art Markman, Ph.D., explains in a Psychology Today article, people tend to be less price-sensitive when they pay with credit, compared to parting with tangible cash. He also cites a study specifically conducted for the restaurant industry indicating that when customers see a major credit card logo when paying for their order, they tip more than they would in the absence of a card logo.

You’ll lose most of your potential audience

Javelin Strategy & Research estimates that just 23 percent of transactions will involve cash by the year 2017; The Huffington Post reports that 81 percent of money spent in full-service restaurants is now done by way of credit, debit or prepaid card. In response to customer demand around payment options, it’s estimated that 92 percent of restaurants now accept credit cards. Operating with a “cash is king” mentality presents a barrier to reaching the majority of your potential market and is an inherent competitive disadvantage in the eyes of the customer — despite your best efforts to provide exceptional service, food and prices.

It’s not as tough to accept credit as you think

If the perceived cost of accepting credit and debit cards is the reason you’ve maintained a “cash only” position, many options tailored to suit the needs of small businesses and startups now exist in the payment processing space. Accepting credit cards no longer requires bulky equipment or long-term contracts. In fact, accepting credit cards may allow you to transition to a less cumbersome point-of-sale alternative than you currently use for cash, such as a “dongle” — a small device that plugs into the jack of a smartphone or tablet. Though merchants who accept credit cards do incur payment processing fees ranging anywhere between 0.95 percent to more than 2 percent per credit card transaction, those rates are significantly less costly than the lost opportunity a cash only model presents. If you’re truly concerned about your ability to absorb the costs of accepting credit cards, you can also mandate policies around minimum purchases required to pay with a credit or debit card, and/or raising menu prices slightly to make up for the additional processing costs.

You take on unnecessary operational burdens and risk

A cash-only model may seem like the easiest way to handle income, but it presents operational inefficiencies with inherent costs, including the time and fuel expenses associated with driving to the bank to make manual deposits, the risk of human error in giving customers the wrong amount of change for a purchase, and possible theft. Many payment processors now deliver electronic payment for credit card purchases directly to the merchant’s bank account in as little as 24 hours.

You can’t give customers convenience

When you only accept cash, transaction processing tends to be longer, adding to wait times, and inconveniencing customers to the point that they may choose your competitor out of convenience. Additionally, there’s a cost associated with that customer who places an order, only to discover that he or she can’t pay for the order once it’s ready because he or she didn’t realize you’re a cash only restaurant.

Cash is no longer king in the collective consumer mind, even for small purchases like coffee and snacks. Though accepting credit and debit cards does present a cost you may not bear with a cash-only business, the fees are minimal compared to the lost opportunity you face today, and will continue to battle, as cash becomes a less and less popular form of payment over the next few years.

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Kitchen Tricks: How to Cut Iceberg Lettuce [Video]

Iceberg lettuce is a salad staple and whether you’re prepping large salads for a buffet or just trying to get the kids to start eating vegetables, there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself cutting a lot of it. Use this trick to save yourself some time in the process!

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Transcript:

Hi, I’m Chris Tavano for Tundra Restaurant Supply, and in today’s episode, I’m going to show you how to cut through Iceberg Lettuce in a much more efficient manner. Here’s the old fashioned traditional way we would just cut through a head of Iceberg Lettuce. Probably cut in half of some sort, split the halves, try to identify where the core’s at. That way we can rip out this core whether you cut it out or you rip it out with your hand. There’s obviously a lot of manual work right here. Then you can finally start cutting your lettuce for your salad.

However, I’ll show you a quick and easy step to get that core out of this Iceberg head. See the core right there? Slides it right out. Now you can start chopping away on your lettuce. I’m Chris Tavano for Tundra Restaurant Supply. Here’s to a better mise en place!

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What’s in the Water?

What’s in the Water?

We are lucky here in the United States: our drinking water is some of the cleanest and safest in the world.

However, water quality isn’t something that should be graded on a curve. Despite having better tap water than most, our water supply isn’t perfect. Far from it.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which sets drinking water standards, regulators are constantly on the lookout for the following contaminants:

  • Microorganisms: e.g. human and animal fecal matter
  • Disinfectants: e.g. chlorine
  • Inorganic chemicals: e.g. lead, nitrates, arsenic
  • Organic chemicals: e.g. benzene, dioxin, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)
  • Radionuclides: e.g. uranium

Most of the time, concentrations of these contaminants are small enough to be harmless, and regulatory compliance among utilities and municipalities is quite high. Which is encouraging. But …

Research from the nonprofit Environmental Working Group nonetheless paints an unflattering portrait—that’s putting it mildly—of our nation’s water supply. The most unsettling aspect of their analysis? Most of the 300+ chemicals detected in our drinking water are unregulated, which means that public health officials have not set safety standards for them.

Some of these unregulated chemicals include:

  • Perchlorate, a rocket fuel ingredient known to be harmful to the thyroid gland
  • MTBE, a gasoline additive associated with liver and kidney damage and nervous system
  • Di-n-butylphthalate, a chemical from a group of industrial plasticizers linked to birth defects

Yikes.

A study commissioned by Everpure, a maker of water filtration systems for the food service industry, found that U.S. consumers care deeply about water quality.

Over 65 percent of consumers said that restaurants that filter their water are likely to have better quality food and beverages, and 74 percent said it is somewhat to extremely important for restaurants to filter their drinking water.

A Gallup poll had similar results, reporting that Americans rank water pollution as the number one environmental concern facing the country, with 84 percent saying they worried a “great deal” or a “fair amount” about pollution of drinking water.

Despite these widespread worries, progress still seems slow. For whatever reason, legislators don’t seem as interested in water quality as the rest of us, their constituents. But no one can argue that we’ve come a long way since the summer of 1969, when the Cuyahoga River caught fire and spurred the passage of the Clean Water Act.

Today, we don’t have the image of a burning river to get our attention. Our challenges are, in some ways, more difficult because they’re harder to see and easier to ignore.

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Spotlight: Tundra Restaurant Design Services

Spotlight: Tundra Restaurant Design Services

Did you know Tundra provides a full menu of restaurant design and renovation services?

It’s true! Led by seasoned designers Jeff B. Katz and Bob E. McLaren, our team has over 70 years of combined experience and a gorgeous and diverse portfolio to show for it. (As a matter of fact, Jeff literally wrote the book on restaurant design.)

Working with your architect and interior designer, Tundra can design your restaurant—front and back of the house—with a perfect blend of form and function.

Our Restaurant Design Process

Whether you are planning a quaint neighborhood bistro or an expansive hotel dining room, every design project rests on the principles of clear communication, close attention to detail, and a spirit of collaboration.

In the initial discovery process, we work with our clients to assemble a clearly written document outlining demographic data, key objectives they want to deliver, the menu they want to showcase, and the facility they want to bring it altogether in. This document guides the design process and ensures that key concepts are integrated and goals met.

Next, in the development stage, our designers complete their comprehensive design program based on your operational plan. This can be used by all members of your design team and helps to define the required spaces, relationships, and design elements for the successful construction and operation of your restaurant.

Lastly, in the delivery stage, we address any unexpected conditions or challenges that might arise throughout the construction process. This is where our experience in construction and our understanding of operational constraints comes in handy. We are able to resolve issues quickly and maintain forward momentum to keep the project on time and on budget.

Looking for a Restaurant Design Quote?

Tell us about your design needs and overall objectives and we’ll get right to work! Our proposals are known for being detailed, accurate and thorough, accounting for taxes and freight.

And since our design team has direct access to the Tundra inventory, as well as long-standing relationships in the industry, we are able to prepare very competitive bids—without sacrificing quality.

To get started, call 888-388-6372, then press 3, or submit a design-quote request online. We’re excited to learn more about your restaurant’s objectives, and offer you a custom quote that matches your goals, concepts and operational needs.

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Fryer Safety Checklist

Fryer Safety Checklist

Fortunately, most modern fryers are simple and easy to use. But whenever you add 400°F oil to the mix, extreme caution is essential. What follows is a list of things to consider (please see our disclaimer at the end) if your commercial kitchen prepares deep-fried food.

Non-Slip Footwear

Slip- and Grease-Resistant Floor Mats

Personal Safety Equipment

Ladders and Footstools

Kitchen Layout and Storage

  • Set up work areas to reduce the need for reaching and climbing near exposed oil. Store frequently used items on accessible shelves away from fryers.
  • Keep fryer area free of clutter, electrical cords, etc.
  • Lay out kitchen without tight or blind corners to avoid collisions; provide enough work space to avoid collisions near fryer.

Education and Training

  • Fryer training: develop strict staff training/mentoring procedures to ensure safe operation and maintenance of your fryers.
  • First aid training: first aid is the best way to minimize the damage caused by a fryer-related burns and carbon monoxide exposure. Ensure there is at least one first-aid trained staff member on duty at all times.
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning awareness: educate staff about the specific procedures needed to prevent and respond to the symptoms of CO poisoning.

Quality Equipment and Oil

Safe Cleaning and Grease Transport

  • Clean fryers in the morning, when fryer oils have cooled.
  • Establish clear safety procedures for the transport of used fryer oil.

Note: this fryer safety checklist is NOT exhaustive. Be sure to understand and comply with all relevant occupational safety regulations, and read our Terms of Use before acting on any of the recommendations listed here.

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A Lesson in Cooking Oil

A Lesson in Cooking Oil

Ancient artifacts from Babylonia, 5,000 years old, suggest that “frying” was used as a cooking method in those times. In addition, artifacts from ancient Egypt suggest “deep frying” was popular 4,000 years ago. Considering how long frying has been part of our history, it’s surprising how little people in the cooking industry (and the public at large) actually know about how frying works, and how to extend the life of cooking oil in their fryer.

Cooking Oil

While cooking in oil is nothing new per se, it’s only in the last hundred or so years that major changes have been made. Traditionally, cooking was done in animal fat, tallow or “lard”. Near the turn of the twentieth century, people recognized that animal fat had a short shelf life and was becoming expensive. In 1903, hydrogenation was introduced as a way to improve vegetable oils. By hydrogenating the vegetable oil, the cooking temperature, melt point and shelf life were increased. However, the hydrogenation process created trans fats, which over the last several decades has been shown to pose a health risk. Today’s oil selections include “High Oleic Acid” oils (derived from canola, sunflower, or soybean), which offer many benefits, including:

  1. A healthier choice
  2. Easier to clean
  3. A pleasing flavor profile
  4. A more desired appearance and texture

Breaking Down & Extending Cooking Oil Life

To better understand methods to extend cooking oil life, let’s take a look at the chemical and physical changes that occur during the cooking process.

  • First, heat is applied to the oil to bring it to the proper frying temperature. Whether the oil is being used for cooking or not, it’s also certain that the oil will be exposed to air and light, and heat, air, and light are three of the many components that break down oil.
  • After reaching the desired temperature, a food product (protein, starch or vegetable) is added to the oil where almost immediately a “crust” begins to form on the food product via the excellent heat conduction properties of cooking oil.
  • As the heat penetrates the product, the water inside the product converts to steam and expands approximately 1,600 times in volume, creating a pressurized “steam envelope” around the product, pushing the oil away from the product.

To the operator, it appears the product is “boiling in the oil,” however, the temperature inside the product never exceeds 212⁰F  at normal atmospheric pressure.

The steam released from the product reacts with the oil in a process called hydrolysis, further breaking down the oil. If the product is over cooked, the steam envelope will collapse (no more water) and the oil will directly contact the food, overcooking the surface, and penetrating deeply into the product, leaving it both dry and greasy to the palate. Any “cracklings” that fall off the food during this process, fall to the bottom of the fryer, and further degrade the oil as those bits overcook. Also, if the fryer temperature is set to low, the oil begins to penetrate the product before the steam envelope forms, resulting in a greasy texture.

During oil’s cooking life, there are several stages from fresh (new) to fully oxidized:

  1. When new oil is nearly clear to white, it has a higher viscosity (or “thickness”) and surface tension so it resists penetrating the food. Typically, the final product is not browned enough and lacks the fried flavor profile.
  2. During “breaking in”, the viscosity and surface temperature reduce and the oil starts to become a brown color, imparting slight coloring of the food and some flavor profile.
  3. At the “optimum” stage, the product gets a good browning and optimal flavor profile from oil penetration (or absorption).
  4. The final stages to full oxidation, include degradation and runaway; the viscosity and surface tension are very low (thin versus thick) and too much oil is absorbed in the food, food color is generally too brown, and the flavor and odor are undesirable.

Optimum Cooking Stage of Oil Life

So, from the cooking process, we know that heat, water, light, air, and debris all contribute to reducing oil life. Knowing that, operators should take the following steps to stay in the optimum cooking stage of oil life:

  1. Turn the temperature down to a “ready” state (below 300⁰F) when the fryer won’t be used for long periods.
  2. Shake excess water (or ice) and debris off the product away from the fryer before frying.
  3. Keep the cover over the frying kettle when not in use to minimize exposure to air, light, water and debris.
  4. Filter frequently to remove debris (or cracklings). “Active” filtration with a powdered reagent (or impregnated pad) is far more effective. The reagent neutralizes undesirable, free fatty acids and other polar compounds that oxidize oil. With or without active filtration, filtering improves the color of the oil.
  5. Use a filtering method that minimizes exposure to air.
  6. Oil exposed to soft metals (bronze, brass, sodium, etc.) or detergents will breakdown extremely rapidly. It’s, therefore, important to insure the fryer, filtering mechanism, and accessories do not use brass or bronze.
  7. Avoid exposure to sodium (or salt) by seasoning fried products away from the fryer, never over the oil.
  8. If soap must be used to clean the frying kettle, ensure the fryer is properly neutralized, rinsed, and dried before refilling with oil.

While extending the life of cooking oil saves money and time, more importantly, it also makes the finished product look and taste better.

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Why Restaurants (and Diners) Hate Kids Dining Out

Why Restaurants (and Diners) Hate Kids Dining Out

Last year, we started to see an influx in restaurants starting to ban children from dining at their restaurants.  There were people on either side of the fence on this issue, and we spoke to why catering to the yougins’ could help boost revenue, but we also understand that sometimes little ones just aren’t welcome in restaurants, and here’s why.

In a long awaited closing to this 3 part blog post, here are a few reasons why restaurants hate to see kids in their establishment.

1. Kids are messy.  Yes, a spaghetti smeared face may be cute to you, but to others around you that are trying to enjoy their meal (without losing their appetite), well, it’s just gross.  Oh, and not to mention that spaghetti being flung around the room and left for the server to pick up is just rude.

2. Kids are loud. Trying to get away from an exhaustive day, just to be met by a neighboring table with a screaming, shouting child is one of the last things any diner wants to be met with.

3. Parents don’t tip enough.  This, like a few more on this list, could be seen as stereotyped, but if you’ve ever been a server, you know that the likelihood of getting a decent tip with tables that have kids is slim to none.  The servers are likely in the back of the house throwing rock-paper-scissors to see who gets stuck with your table.

4. Kids can’t stay seated.  Well, they can, but you let them run amok.  It’s already busy in a restaurant, and to have to step over rowdy children makes it even harder to get the job done.  Besides, the patrons trying to enjoy their meal as little Johnny runs around screaming, aren’t going to enjoy their experience either.

5. Kids don’t like fine dining.  To be honest, some of them do, but why would you pay for a filet mignon, when the kid would be completely happy with chicken nuggets?  And to that point, bringing your child to a fine dining restaurant and asking for grilled cheese is rude too, especially when it’s not on the menu.

6. Kids like snacks.  Servers understand that you brought in snacks to keep your little one calm until the food arrives, but if you’re going to be okay with smashed crackers and Cheerios winding up everywhere, you should at least offer to help clean it up.

7. Kids don’t like clothes.  Not sure what it is about keeping pants and shoes on, but when dining out, the “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Service” applies to children as well.

8. Kids love to be social.  Again, it may be cute to you that your child has learned to explore his/her boundaries and likes to make friends with everyone, but other patrons are trying to enjoy their meal, not make friends with a tot.

9. Kids need babysitters.  And your server is not a babysitter.

10. Kids like to let everyone else know what’s going on.  Which includes when it’s potty time… food and an abrupt announcement of potty time never mixes well. Never.

Need some more (anti) kid love in the restaurant?  Here are a few of our favorite sites that share the passion of what it’s like to work in a restaurant around kids…

If you need help learning what you should do when your child misbehaves in a restaurant, take a hint from this dad:

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Grease Traps: Everything You Always Wanted to Know (and More!)

Remember the London fatberg story?

Sorry if you were trying to put it out of your mind.

As you might recall, in August 2013 sewer workers in London discovered a double-decker-bus-sized mass of grease and wet naps, which was immortalized in the tabloids as “fatberg.” The berg had nearly blocked the entire 7-foot diameter pipe. Had it fully blocked the pipe, residents of the London borough of Kingston would’ve been in for a MOST UNPLEASANT surprise.

“The sewer was almost completely clogged,” sewer worker Gordon Hailwood told the Guardian. “If we hadn’t discovered it in time, raw sewage could have started spurting out of manholes across the whole of Kingston.”

The 15-ton London fatberg incident is a great illustration of the unheralded importance—to our infrastructure and to our public health—of grease traps: those toolbox-sized containers that commercial kitchens put below their sinks. The purpose of grease traps, also known as grease interceptors, is to reduce the amount of fats, oils and greases (FOGs) that enter our sewer systems.

As anyone who has cooked bacon knows, grease congeals when it cools, and can cling to and eventually clog your pipes if you pour it down the drain. The London fatberg incident shows what happens, on a macro level, when too much grease oozes into the public sewer system. Because when too much grease accumulates in the sewer, raw sewage has nowhere else to go but … everywhere.

According to data from the Environmental Protection Agency, sewers back up an estimated 400,000 times each year due to pipe blockages, and and grease is the primary culprit, resulting in over 10 billion gallons of raw sewage spills each year.

So, the moral of the story? Grease traps are a VERY good thing that EVERYONE benefits from, and that’s why virtually every municipality requires their use in commercial kitchens to prevent FOGs from clogging public sewer lines.

That said, not all grease traps are created equal! To ensure that your device not only does the job but proves durable over the long run, head over to eTundra.com and shop of wide selection of top-of-the-line grease traps!

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Why Flatware Matters to the Success of Your Restaurant

At first blush, choosing forks, spoons and knives for your new restaurant might seem like a relatively insignificant task, just one among many decisions you have to make before opening day.

But make no mistake, flatware is incredibly important to get right.

Ask any restaurant designer worth her salt, and she’ll readily affirm the importance of flatware and how it can help—or hurt—the overall aesthetics of a restaurant’s design.

As a recent New York Times article notes, the three restaurateurs behind the re-opening of the historic Tavern on the Green spent hours debating and testing—with food—over 300 kinds of flatware for their new establishment.

“Flatware is the hardest thing to choose, because people have such strong visceral reactions to it,” Katy Sparks, Tavern on the Green’s executive chef, told the Times. “I want something that speaks to being part of a tavern, but updated.”

Flatware, as Sparks indicates, wields enormous power: it can complement your restaurant’s decor or distract from it. It can help you tell your story or be a glaring contradiction to everything you’re trying to communicate to your patrons. For example, a fork might say “bistro” when you’re trying to say “diner.” It might say “prim” when you’re trying to say “down-home.” Or “old-fashioned” instead of “elegant.”

Your choice of tableware can even alter the taste or your food!

Don’t believe me? Get this: Researchers from the University of Oxford found that a utensil’s color, kind and material can all impact how food tastes or feels in our mouths.

“Subtly changing eating implements and tableware can affect how pleasurable, or filling, food appears,” said study researcher Dr. Vanessa Harrar.

If you don’t believe me, take it from Science: flatware is important.

There’s more to consider than aesthetics, of course. For restaurateurs, durability is another important piece of the puzzle. Lower-grade steel might seem like a bargain in the beginning, but if it can’t stand up to the daily abuse of restaurant life, “cheap” can end up costing more money in the long haul.

With a long tradition of melding durability, precise workmanship and aesthetic appeal, Walco flatware, based in Utica, New York, has become a popular choice for restaurant designers and food service professionals. Walco is a perennial favorite at Etundra.com, offering a wide variety of flatware to complement your decor and earn compliments from your patrons.

So if you need new utensils for your restaurant or hotel, be picky! It’s an important decision! And be sure to check out or selection of Walco flatware.

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