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Archive | Restaurant Management and Operations

Find great resources and tips on restaurant management and operations topics like human resources, food safety, going green, and more.

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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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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Tundra’s Toolbox: Putting the ROI in DIY

Tundra’s Toolbox: Putting the ROI in DIY

Here’s a lesson we’ve learned about the restaurant and food service business:

The more stuff you can fix on your own, without having to hire pricey contractors, the more money you can save. And when you save money, you feel good. Fix stuff, feel good. Rinse and repeat.

Fortunately, food service professionals are already a handy lot. We’re used to solving problems and getting things done. What’s more, we use “tools” to ply our trade every day.

But if you’re going to roll up your sleeves and do it yourself, you’re going to need the right tools for the job, and that’s where we can help you. (You didn’t know Tundra carried tools? Yes, yes we do!)

Tundra’s toolbox features high-quality wares from brands like Alfa, Commercial, CHG, Winco and others. Whether you need a basic item like an adjustable wrench or a specialty piece like a cutting board refinishing tool, we’ve got you covered.

And for those of you just getting started, our tool collections, such as this 27-piece kit, will help you tackle all but the most challenging DIY projects.

If you’re brave enough to troubleshoot electrical and gas issues, we even have a couple of helpful books to guide your efforts.

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How Much Should Restaurant Workers Be Paid?

Pay for restaurant workers. It’s an issue that manages to unite us and divide us at the same time.

According to the National Restaurant Association, half of all American adults have worked in the restaurant industry at some point during their lives, and a third got their first job in a restaurant.

Most of us, in other words, can sympathize with the plight of low-paid restaurant workers because we’ve been there ourselves at some point, or have a friend or relative who struggles to cover basic needs while working full-time in a food-service position.

Divisions emerge when we stop to consider what, if anything, to do about it. Should we raise the minimum wage? Should we abolish tipping altogether? Should we pressure owners to pay their employees a living wage? Or should we let “the market” sort itself out and avoid potentially messy policy intervention?

Traditionally, many restaurateurs at our country’s 980,000 food-service establishments argue that forcing proprietors to pay their workers more will simply result in either less hiring or worse: layoffs. Further, they say that paying workers more would result in higher prices for patrons, who might decide to stay home and cook.

The counter-argument, one that I agree with, is that modestly raising pay standards to keep pace with inflation and other cost of living metrics is not only the right thing to do from an ethical standpoint, but will have the added benefit of stimulating more economic activity overall, because compensation isn’t’t a zero-sum game.

After all, folks who work in restaurants like to eat out as much as everyone else! If they’re paid a decent wage, they’ll have the means to patronize local restaurants once in a while.

What’s more, there’s the issue of fairness. Consider the situation in New York City, where nearly two-thirds of restaurant servers live at or below the poverty line. How is this situation OK? This strikes me as a classic example of a market failure ripe for correction.

In the meantime, whether you support change or the status quo, we as patrons can make sure our servers are tipped well, because tips aren’t simply bonuses paid on top of good wages. Without tips—heck, even with them—the far majority of restaurant workers wouldn’t be able to make ends meet.

And if you’re not convinced that your tip makes a difference, check out this powerful video.

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How to Cook Food for the Masses without Losing Your Mind

How to Cook Food for the Masses without Losing Your Mind

What’s the key to cooking for large groups without losing your mind? Sanity lies in a simple French phase

Remember: mise en place

Mise en place—pronounced meez ahn plas—means to put things in place, to prepare. Every food service pro understands the importance of having everything in its right place. Without proper attention to mis en place, things can get chaotic very quickly—and chaos in the kitchen results in hangry (hungry + angry) guests.

Measure twice

You know the old woodworking adage “measure twice, cut once”? That applies to food prep as well, so be sure to double check the conversion rates of your ingredients. This conversion and measurement infographic we made might help!

Have landing zones ready

Tundra’s Chris Tavano, who was a chef in a prior life, suggests having “landing zones” prepared for everything. “It may feel redundant, as you may unnecessarily dirty a bowl for just holding ingredients, but organization is key,” says Chris. “For example, you might have an ice-bath landing zone for chilled items such as blanched asparagus or hard-boiled eggs, or a warming zone for hot items.”

Have the end result in mind

Otherwise, you can get hung up one task while other ingredients continue to cook. This is important but easy to forget.

Divide and conquer

Take a page from Henry Ford’s playbook: build processes, divvy up tasks, and refine them until you’re a model of efficiency. Balthazar, a bistro in New York City that serves hot, perfectly cooked steak frites to 1500 guests on a typical day, employs two full-time potato peelers! They approach french fry production with an industrial mindset that Ford would admire.

Clean as you go

A clean work zone is a healthy and efficient work zone. This is good to do in between each major task or prep work.

Make sure they’re some padding in your timeline

The last thing you want is your roast to be two hours late. For hot food items, be sure you cook them with plenty of time to spare. Put them in the oven a little earlier, and prepare a landing zone to keep it warm until serving.

Braising is great because it allows you to slow roast the night before without any time constraint pressures, and refrigerate overnight to seal in flavors as it cools,” says Chris. “Then, the brasie can be reheated perfectly for service, with much less stress to the pressures of time.”

Take good notes

When the dust finally settles and your guests have gone home, take stock. What worked? What caused problems? What steps can you skip in the future? Don’t assume you’ll remember the next time you’re tasked with cooking for a large group. We suggest taking good notes so you don’t have to keep learning the same lessons over and over.

“Anything to save you a step in the future is good practice and thinking,” says Chris.

Hat tip to Chris Tavano for helping me write this post!

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How to Get Customers in the Door on Thanksgiving and Christmas

How to Get Customers in the Door on Thanksgiving and Christmas

Historically, the holiday season is a very profitable time for restaurants, and this year promises to be no exception. As a matter of fact, Experian predicts 2013 holiday spending will increase by 11 percent over last year.

So how can your restaurant really take advantage of this season of spending? Let’s run though some smart holiday promotion strategies …

Communicate with your current patrons

Time to put that email list to good use! Email is an easy way—and quite cost effective—to spread the word and bring in customers over the holidays. If you don’t have an email marketing provider, MailChimp is a great option, and they have a free plan that will accommodate the needs of most small establishments.

Table displays (tents, postcards, etc.) are another good option because they take advantage of your captive audience. Also: train hosts and hostesses to mention your holiday hours, promotions, menu items, etc., when answering the phone.

All the work you’ve put into building your social media presence and attracting a following? That effort is going to pay huge dividends during the holidays! Be sure to beat the drum over Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, et. al, to get folks excited about your seasonal offerings.

Another idea: a direct mail campaign, while somewhat pricey, can be an effective way to reach potential customers over the holidays.

Connect with folks who haven’t dined with you yet

Have you considered running a promotion on a daily deal site? Sites like Groupon and Living Social have gotten a bad rap lately, and there some truth to the notion that these deals can be great for customers but terrible for small-business owners. However, there’s still a time and place for this marketing tool, particularly if you don’t have a large email list or social media following and you want to reach a big audience quickly. What’s more, if you design the right offer you can certainly make the financials work!

Do something special

It’s the holidays, so business as usual won’t cut it. (Nor will simply changing the satellite/Pandora radio station to Christmas tunes.) If you want to attract customers this November and December, we suggest tapping your creative imagination. Maybe new table displays, a cozy cocktail list, or even a totally revamped holiday menu.

Make sure hungry holiday shoppers can find you

These days everyone carries a smartphone, and they’re using them to find nearby bars and restaurants. According to one study from Nielsen, 64 percent of mobile restaurant searchers convert immediately or within an hour!

Does your restaurant show up when customers search online? Improve your visibility and ensure accuracy by updating your important local directory profiles on Google+, Yelp, etc.

Ideally you have a website that looks decent and displays quickly on a 4-inch smartphone screen, but if you don’t … at least try to position the key info that customers need—your address, phone number, hours, menu link—front and center. It’s hard to hunt for information on a tiny screen! Smartphone users are famously impatient, so don’t make them work/wait for it—because they’ll just tap away to competitor’s site.

Another method you might try is slightly “Minority Report”-ish but could be really effective this year: reach nearby shoppers with geo-targeted ads. Google, Twitter and Foursquare currently offer this service. Why not give it a shot?

Last-minute catering services?

In most cases, larger companies have already made holiday-party plans, but if you’re late to the catering party (so to speak), you might still have a chance to pick up some catering business, because this time of year there are always contingencies—companies that forgot to book a venue (small firms are notorious procrastinators) or catering companies that accidentally double booked themselves. You never know!

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Are You Ready to Go Lead Free in 2014?

Are You Ready to Go Lead Free in 2014?

The Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act takes effect Jan. 4, 2014. Are you ready?

Under the act, signed by Congress three years ago, “lead free” will be redefined as “not more than a weighted average of 0.25 percent lead when used with respect to the wetted surfaces of pipes, pipe fittings, plumbing fittings, and fixtures.”

This is a significant change, folks! The maximum lead content of plumbing products used to be 8.0 percent. When the law takes effect on Jan. 4, it will be illegal to sell or install products that exceed 0.25 percent lead.

If you live in California, Vermont, Louisiana or Maryland, you’re ahead of the curve. These states have already implemented tougher safe drinking water standards with respect to plumbing materials. The new federal requirements play catch up to these states’ regulations.

The Good News

The act does NOT require existing infrastructure to be proactively replaced. But when you eventually need to repair or replace a pipe, fixture or fitting, you’re probably going to have to find a compliant replacement that has less than 0.25 percent lead.

Also, just to clarify, we’re talking about drinking water here. The act doesn’t apply to non-potable-water plumbing systems, such as industrial processing, irrigation or outdoor watering. The law also excludes toilets, urinals, fill valves, flushometer valves, tub fillers, or shower valves.

What to Look for When Buying New Plumbing Supplies

NSF International and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) have responded to the updated definition with NSF/ANSI 372, which will go into effect in October 2013 as certification for the 2014 lead-content restrictions.

Are You Ready to Go Lead Free in 2014?

Helpful Resources

Want more information about the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act and how it might impact your business? These sites can answer your questions.

This post is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice.

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20 Ways You Can Support National Preparedness Month

20 Ways You Can Support National Preparedness Month

September is National Preparedness Month. Established by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and supported by thousands of organizations nation-wide, the campaign for awareness focuses on safety and emergency preparedness. While the effort is geared more toward disaster preparedness, it’s also a great reminder regarding safety in general. That means there’s no better time than now to audit your personal or commercial kitchen, and we here at The Back Burner want to make doing just that as easy as possible.

We’ve compiled a list of articles, excerpts, and instructions regarding identifying trouble areas in the kitchen, keeping and properly caring for food and customers, understanding commercial safety certifications, being restaurant-ready for a natural disaster, and so much more. Click around below, share your safety thoughts in the articles you find interesting, and help Tundra Restaurant Supply support National Preparedness Month this September!

Have a Food Safety Program

A Complete Guide To HACCP Food Safety – You’re one-stop-shop for understanding the seven principles of the HACCP (Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points). If you’re looking to start or modify your own food safety program this is a great place to begin.

Scrutinize Your Restaurant: Avoiding Health Inspector Issues – A visit from the health inspector has the potential to make or break a restaurant, and getting ahead of the inspector by giving your establishment a constructive scrutinizing is the best way to avoid those health inspector woes.

Color Code Your Food Safety Program – Cross contamination is a quick way to cause an allergic reaction or spoil certain foods, and color coding your food prep station helps keep the kitchen in line.

Making the Grade: Should Restaurants Post Food Safety Info? – Join the conversation surrounding making health inspection grades public. Is it good or bad for business?

Food Safety: Controlling Insects and Pests – Keeping your kitchen and customer’s legs free of insects and pests is a must. Here we take a look at a few ways to keep those crawly critters out of your commercial kitchen.

Restaurant Food Safety Tips: Managing Temperatures – Temperature may be the most important factor affecting your food. Luckily, it’s also the one you have the most control over. Learn a little about proper temperature management by understanding the basics.

Is Your Food Safety Program This Hardcore? It Should Be – Take a quick peek behind the curtain at how some of the big boys manage their food safety. While being a large corporate entity, McDonald’s made news for its food safety by focusing on the little things.

Focus on the Little Things

Food Service Gloves: Pros and Cons – Food service gloves, while often essential, can create a false sense of security. We take a look at some common materials used in your go-to gloves, the pitfalls of putting on a pair, and the pros of keeping your digits clean.

Restaurant Food Safety Tips: Proper Hand Washing – Speaking of keeping your digits clean, taking some time to train employees or remind yourself how to properly wash your hands in the kitchen can help keep contaminants and other undesirables away from a customer’s plate.

How to Calibrate a Thermometer – It was mentioned above that monitoring temperature is extremely important, but it’s impossible to properly monitor temperatures with an incorrectly calibrated thermometer. Learn how you can, and why you should, keep your thermometers calibrated.

Contaminated Ice: Key Tips to Keep Your Customers Safe – Surprisingly, ice is often overlooked when it comes to cleanliness. From machine to glass, the ice your serve can easily become contaminated.

Food Safety Tips: Safe Seafood – Keeping seafood safe means different things to different people. In the kitchen it means avoiding sickness and serving up quality product, and it’s easy if you know how.

Dirty Restaurant Restrooms Say Dirty Kitchens to Many Customers – Another often-overlooked area in the restaurant, the restroom says a lot about your commitment to cleanliness, and customers take notice when yours aren’t up to snuff.

Taste & Food Safety: 2 Reasons to Clean Your Beer Taps – Letting those sud super soakers (our fancy name for beer taps) ferment in their own way by attracting bacteria is terrible.  Learn how to properly clean your taps to preserve taste and customer health.

Restaurant Floor Matting: Safety First, Comfort Second – Floor matting may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you’re thinking restaurant essentials, but dropping a few mat squares in high traffic or heavy standing areas can help in terms of safety and comfort.

Be Prepared

Is Mayhem Knocking at Your Door? – Being restaurant-ready for a natural disaster can mean the difference between a destroyed dream and manageable mayhem. Be prepared for weather disasters by following a few simple steps.

Are You Ready For Flu Season? – Cooler temperatures, clogged noses, and general dreariness caused by the flu are just around the corner. Are you and your restaurant ready to combat the cold?

Why Employee Benefits are a Food Safety Issue – When it comes to cold and colds, employees are bound to succumb to the former and get the latter. Being prepared with proper employee benefits could help both management and employees alleviate the stress caused by coming in sick.

Restaurant Food Safety Tips: Shop for Suppliers – Before food even reaches the kitchen you need to be in control. That means not settling for a supplier or cutting corners and sacrificing quality for price. Know and trust your food suppliers.

Understanding Common Safety Certifications – The equipment in which you cook comes in different shapes, accommodates different sizes, and comes stickered with various certifications. Knowing what those certifications mean, and looking for the right ones when purchasing your equipment, can save you time and trouble.

This compilation article is only scratching the surface. Keeping your establishment, employees, and reputation clean and safe requires full commitment to a food safety program and accompanying practices. That said, September is the perfect time to start. Support National Preparedness Month with Tundra Restaurant Supply!

 

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Servers & Customers Unite: Your Biggest Restaurant Frustrations

It’s inevitable, people love to complain. They love to complain about the weather, their hair, their weight, etc. Well, let me be your punching bag! In fact, I would love to hear your complaints.

  • If you work in a restaurant, what makes you unhappy?
  • If you’re a restaurant customer, what didn’t you like about your dining experience?

I am going to do my best to inform restaurateurs how to create a better atmosphere for everyone in the FOH.

Servers’ Top Workplace Frustrations

  1. Crappy TippersServers & Customers Unite: Your Biggest Restaurant Frustrations
  2. Side Work (e.g. Roll flatware, set tables, etc. – pre/post shift while getting paid $4.76/hour to avoid hiring an employee who gets paid minimum wage)
  3. When customers lay out their cell phone, iPod, sunglasses, etc., on the table and don’t move them when the server is trying to deliver food
  4. “Please wait to be seated” (e.g. Don’t walk into a restaurant and sit wherever you please unless there’s a sign that says “Please seat yourself”. The workload needs to be balanced among all servers and tables are often reserved.)
  5. Lazy Managers (Note to all managers – when you see your staff is busy, lend them a hand! Help run food, deliver drinks, bus tables and show your support!)
  6. “The customer is always right” – B.S. (Here’s a video to show that the customer is, in fact, not always right http://youtu.be/KMGWnKfGsDM)
  7. Double Standards (e.g. Servers don’t get a free meal but bussers and kitchen workers do… What the heck!)
  8. Paying for walkout customers (It’s not always the server’s fault when a customer walks out on an unpaid bill. What if the server was going above and beyond by bussing or running food to another server’s table?)
  9. Campers AKA the diners who never leave
  10. Coworkers (e.g. Suck-ups, brown-nosers, lazy workers, those who don’t return favors – not working for you when you picked up a shift for them)

Customers’ Top Server Frustrations

  1. Introduce themselves by name/nicknameServers & Customers Unite: Your Biggest Restaurant Frustrations
  2. Touch you and think they are doing a friendly gesture
  3. Say everything that you ask about on the menu is “really amazing!”
  4. Talk about specials without mentioning the price
  5. Take your plate or drink away before you’re finished
  6. Tell you to wait for “your waiter” when you need something
  7. Squat, take a knee or sit down at your table
  8. Try to upsell you on everything
  9. Make you feel like a criminal because you just ordered drinks, or just dinner, instead of seven courses and four bottles of wine
  10. Ask if you need change

Now that I’ve highlighted each audiences frustrations, lets see what they agree on

  1. Cleanliness of the establishment (sitting area, dining room, bar and bathrooms)
  2. Food cooked to perfection (customers don’t like telling the wait staff to bring back a meal because it’s under cooked as much as servers don’t like bringing food back to the kitchen staff)
  3. Chip-free dinnerware and glassware
  4. Politeness (smile, be thankful and create a positive atmosphere)
  5. Food and drink presentation (food should make servers proud and customers excited)
  6. Determining if the bill needs to be split before ordering menu items
  7. Comfortable room temperature
  8. Mood lighting and music
  9. Readily available children’s seating
  10. Boucebacks (Allow servers to offer customers an incentive to come back again to create repeat business)

Let the vent session begin!  What’s your biggest restaurant gripe?

Also see: The 20 most annoying things servers do at restaurants

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