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DIY Restaurant Equipment Repair

DIY Restaurant Equipment Repair

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.

DIY Restaurant Equipment Repair DIY Restaurant Equipment Repair

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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Buying Guide: Commercial Ice Machine Types

Picking the correct ice type for your establishment is very important when shopping for a commercial ice machine. The shape of the ice has everything to do with its intended purpose.  Whether used in beverages, food presentation or health care services, Tundra Restaurant Supply offers many different types of ice machines in order to satisfy the widest variety of uses.

Full cube: Also known as “full dice cube”, measures 7/8” on all sides and looks very much like a cube. This ice type is the most recognizable by consumers and offers maximum cooling with nearly 100% ice to water ratio. Furthermore, it melts slowly and can be produced quickly which is perfect for high-volume operations.

Ideal uses include:Buying Guide: Commercial Ice Machine Types

  • Mixed drinks
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Bagged ice/ice retailing
  • Ice dispensers
  • Banquet services
  • Ice displays

Full Cube Ice Machines

Half Cube: Also known as “half dice cube”, measures 3/8” x 7/8” x 7/8” and can be used for a wide variety of applications. Like full cube ice, half cube offers maximum cooling with nearly 100% ice to water ratio. The small, easy-to-handle shape is perfect for blended drinks because if breaks down easily and creates a smoother finish.

Ideal uses include:Buying Guide: Commercial Ice Machine Types

  • Blended drinks
  • Mixed drinks
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Ice dispensers
  • Ice displays
  • Banquet services

Half Cube Ice Machines

Nugget Ice: Also known as “pearl ice” or “cubelet ice”, measures 3/8” – ½” in diameter and encompasses a soft, chewable texture. This ice type is very versatile and slow melting. It cools drinks rapidly due to its high liquid displacement resulting in increased profits.

Ideal uses include:Buying Guide: Commercial Ice Machine Types

  • Blended cocktails
  • Smoothies
  • Fountain drinks
  • Salad bars
  • Therapeutic uses/patient care
  • Produce displays

Nugget Ice Machines

Flake Ice: Also known as “Shaved ice” is small, soft pieces of ice with a 73% ice to water ratio. Flake ice maintains food hydration, which extends the shelf life and appearance of seafood, produce, meat displays and helps increase sales. Flake ice is also great for use in bakeries, catering and health care applications.

Ideal used include:Buying Guide: Commercial Ice Machine Types

  • Produce, seafood and meat displays
  • Blended cocktails
  • Therapeutic uses/patient care
  • Salad bars

Flake Ice Machines

Hopefully this ice machine buying guide exposes all of the options you have when it comes to choosing the right commercial ice machine for your needs. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask them in a comment below!

 

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Creating A Sexy Back Bar

Having an attractive and organized back bar is important for several reasons. A presentable bar will show your customers that you care about your business, property, product and furthermore, them. You want to do everything you can to trigger a spark in your customer’s mind that tells them your establishment has great drinks, food and atmosphere. Presentation is often half the battle of retaining repeat business and happy customers. Another reason to keep your back bar organized is for your bar staff. The easier it is for your bartenders to find what they need and get to it quickly will significantly reduce customer waiting time which, in turn, will boost customer loyalty. Here are a few tips on how to make your back bar “sexy”.

Bar Refrigeration

Your bar refrigeration has a tremendous impact on your customers. People like their drinks cold when served. Even a chilled glass can make a world of difference. It is important to keep your back bar refrigeration orderly, clean and visible to your patrons.

Back bar coolers are a must behind the bar. These coolers either have a glass door or solid door. Glass door bar coolers are great for bars with a wide selection of bottled beer or wine. People will generally not have to ask “What do you have in bottles?” if they can see your selection. Just remember that you must stay on top of your coolers organization and cleanliness because everyone can see what is inside. A solid door bar cooler is great for storing refrigerated garnishes, cocktail mixers or anything else that may not be as visually appealing to your guests.

If you have ever had beer in a frosty mug you know how exquisite the cool liquid feels and tastes as it hits your taste buds. Glass and plate chillers allow you to chill beer mugs as well as small plates in a hurry. Chilled plates are great if you serve cold appetizers or desserts.

Draft beer dispensers are another great addition to your back bar. They allow customers to easily see what beers you currently have on tap. Kegs are easily stored in the cabinet under the taps where they are refrigerated to ensure a cold brew with every pour.

Bar Glassware

Make sure your restaurant glassware is accessible and displayed in an appealing way. First decide the types of glassware your establishment needs and then how to display it. Glass hangers work Creating A Sexy Back Barwell and keep glassware out of your bartender’s way while still making it easy to grab when needed. Just make sure to have enough storage for all the glassware your bar needs. Hand drying glasses is a great habit to take on in order to avoid water marks. You do not want your glasses on display to look dirty or smudged.

Bar Organization

Liquor displays are not only eye catching but helpful for your patrons. Make it easy to differentiate top shelf bottles (more expensive liquors) from well bottles (less expensive liquors). Often restaurants put their most used liquors on speed racks below the counter and display top shelf bottles on tiered displays or shelves that are easily visible. It is common practice to put your less expensive bottles on the bottom of the display and more expensive at the top. Many bars will actually display empty bottles and keep back stock under the bar in liquor storage cabinets for easy-to-reach access.

The last products I would like to encourage are garnish centers and bar caddies. Making garnish centers available to your customers is okay but not encouraged. You do not want your customers periodically sticking their dirty hands in your garnishes. What I do recommend is making them visible to remind customers about your citrus selection and Bloody Mary toppings. Bar caddies should be in your drink mixing stations as well as on your counter top. Your bar staff can then easily grab what they need in a hurry and customers can grab extra napkins, straws or a toothpick without interrupting your staffs’ workflow.

An organized and clean back bar will result in a sexy back bar. You must always remember that what your customers see will make a lasting impression on your establishment.

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Energy Management Systems, Restaurants, and ROI – Part 2

Energy Management Systems, Restaurants, and ROI – Part 2By Jay Fiske, VP of Business Development & Jason Roeder, Director of Energy Products & Services, Powerhouse Dynamics

In last week’s post, we introduced some of the benefits for deploying an energy management system across a restaurant’s operations.  We also described three critical questions that need to be addressed in order for a business to extract the maximum value from an energy management system:

•    Who should be involved in the use of these systems?
•    Where are the opportunities for saving money?
•    When should the customer expect to reap savings?

In last week’s post, we focused on the first question.  In this week’s post, we will focus on the second question:

Where are the opportunities for saving money?

An energy management system can be a very effective tool for identifying and eliminating areas of excessive energy spending, and there are a number of different categories of wasteful consumption where the platform can make a significant impact.

Off-hours consumption

In a typical restaurant operation, the “off-hours” period can be an opportunity for cutting back on excessive energy spending.  It is not uncommon for expensive loads, such as make-up air and exhaust fans, to frequently be left running all night when the restaurant is closed.  Some of the staff may be new or have not yet had proper training on all aspects of restaurant operations.  Managers have multiple competing demands for their attention.  People forget.  Ineffective off-hours management of even a modest number of devices in a restaurant can result in thousands of dollars in lost profits every year per store.

A modern energy management system can provide insight into energy consumption patterns, can calculate the costs of running equipment in the off-hours to highlight the magnitude of the waste, and can send alerts to management when equipment has been left running too late or is turned on too early.  By bringing this level of visibility into off-hours consumption, a modern energy management system can greatly facilitate implementation of robust operational practices that ensure equipment is only running when it needs to be.

Management of equipment use versus business volumes

As with off-hours energy consumption, there are many pieces of energy-intensive equipment in the restaurant’s kitchen, such as heat lamps, toasters, and Panini presses that can be turned down or turned off during quiet periods.  An energy management system can help evaluate consumption patterns and target the most cost-effective pieces of equipment to manage during lulls over the course of the day.

Inefficient HVAC and Refrigeration Equipment

A recent survey of commercial HVAC equipment revealed that more often than not, HVAC equipment is not operating as efficiently as it could be, due to faults in a variety of components, including:Energy Management Systems, Restaurants, and ROI – Part 2

•    Refrigerant circuit
•    Economizer
•    Air flow
•    Thermostat
•    Sensors

An energy management system can reveal problems with HVAC and refrigeration systems by identifying problematic operating patterns, such as compressor short-cycling, continuous operation of compressors, compressor failure, and by finding aberrations in expected supply and return duct air temperatures.

Inefficient Programming of Thermostats

Installing programmable thermostats and keeping on top of the different heating and cooling set points across each day and between seasons is the single most cost-effective way to automate energy savings.  Heating and cooling costs are typically a restaurant’s largest energy cost, and programmable thermostats are substantially less expensive than any other kind of energy automation.

Unfortunately, many restaurants use their programmable thermostats the same way many people use them at home: they don’t program them.  Programming the thermostat can be cumbersome, so it can be difficult to implement schedule changes or seasonal changes.  Set points are constantly over-ridden, with a tug-of-war between the staff’s desired temperature settings and the customers’ desired settings.    The result is HVAC equipment typically running harder and longer than necessary, wasting precious profits.

Having a staff trained on the use of the programmable thermostats and having a thermostat that is convenient (e.g., internet connected for remote control) and intuitive to can go a long way to optimizing the use of heating and cooling systems, balancing comfort and energy savings.

Early warnings of equipment problems

Equipment can reveal much about its performance through its energy consumption patterns.  If there are problems – e.g., a broken belt on a fan or a clogged vent in an exhaust system – equipment may use substantially more or substantially less energy than it was designed to consume.  An energy management system can be configured to automatically recognize aberrations in consumption patterns and proactively send out text and email alerts to management.  Because of this, an energy management system’s on-going analysis can help prevent “black swan” events — catastrophic failure of critical equipment.

Management of energy demand spikes

Most commercial properties, including restaurants, incur so-called “demand charges” from their electric utilities.  Demand charges are established when electricity consumption spikes, usually for 15 to 30 minutes.  The utility will charge based on the magnitude of the customers’ demand spikes, as measured in kilowatts, not kilowatt-hours.  The greater the spike, the greater the demand charge. (See here for a more detailed explanation.)

An energy management system can detect spikes in electricity consumption and either send out warnings with enough time for restaurant managers to do something to reduce the magnitude of the spike or, more likely, reveal overtime what changes could be made on a daily basis to systematically reduce the likelihood of higher demand charges.  For example, managers may set the thermostat back by 2 degrees or turn off their ice machine from 3pm to 4pm during the summer to reduce the total demand from the restaurant for the duration of the spike.

Modeling the savings

How do these different opportunities break-down in terms of savings potential?  Below is a model of a typical restaurant with a range of typical expected savings for each category of savings opportunity:

Energy Management Systems, Restaurants, and ROI – Part 2

These savings can range by +/- 50%, meaning the savings range is 8-18% in direct energy savings. These savings do not reflect potential savings in gas consumption due to more effective use of thermostats and more efficient operation of HVAC equipment.

There are other savings opportunities as well.  Savings from maintenance calls that are avoided due to the remote diagnostics and equipment performance monitoring could add another $1,000 a year in direct savings (benchmarks for service calls are about $350 per call). While the HVAC/R faults require an HVAC technician to resolve,  we find that those issues can be addressed with minimal incremental cost to the existing R&M contract that is already “bought and paid for”  in year 1 of the program. Other cost reduction modifications to that contract are possible in future years as well.

In summary, when deploying an energy management system, it is important to focus on the areas where the system can deliver substantial cost savings:

•    Off-hours energy consumption
•    Management of equipment use versus business volumes
•    Inefficient HVAC and refrigeration equipment
•    Inefficient programming of thermostats
•    Early warnings of equipment problems
•    Management of energy demand spikes

With the proper focus, an energy management system can deliver real, measurable, and impactful energy savings.

In next week’s blog posting, we will focus on the final critical question: When should the customer expect to achieve savings?

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POS Systems & Scheduling Software: Where Do I Start?

POS Systems & Scheduling Software: Where Do I Start?Employee scheduling software, in its most ideal form, is meant to save you time while making schedules easy to implement and even easier to access and understand. The most intuitive software gives its user the ability to streamline scheduling, quickly summarize information in reports, and integrate with POS systems to correlate payroll data. When searching for the holy grail of scheduling systems it’s not uncommon to trip over those that are lacking in this respect or that, finding a handful of features you like in a system coupled with a handful more that are missing.

Well we’ve done the research for you and have found two quality scheduling software providers that we guarantee can make your life less complicated.

ShiftPlanning Easy to use, extremely versatile, and jam-packed with features that make the process not only intuitive, but fun, ShiftPlanning brings a little bit of everything to the employee scheduling table. From its cloud-based operation and free desktop platform to the extensive reporting and exporting capabilities this affordable software is the complete package. The combination of free 1-on-1 training and schedule integration make using the service and troubleshooting problems a breeze.

For a reasonable monthly fee (or an adjusted annual rate) you can create and manage schedules, print or analyze reports and trends, and process staff payroll from the comfort and convenience of a tablet device or desktop computer. No additional downloads or software required.

The mobile components of ShiftPlanning come at no additional cost and add value to the overall offering. From any mobile device employees can access a number of staff-centric features including viewing upcoming shifts and clocking in and out (time clock feature is IP-based to avoid employees clocking in and out while not on location). From the employer seat, and with the use of a tablet, all ShiftPlanning features are available which means you can be out of town or home sick and still manage your schedule on the fly.

When it comes to clocking in and out ShiftPlanning gives you the ability to get creative and have some fun with your employees. The biometric time clock feature, paired with any webcam, takes a picture each time someone clocks in or out. This not only helps employees enjoy clocking in with a funny face but also gives you proof that no one’s clocking in or out for anyone else. Plus, the time clock function of ShiftPlanning is completely online so there’s no need for expensive equipment.

One feature that helps ShiftPlanning stand out in the sea of scheduling software is the fact that the service is offered for free to non-profit business with volunteer employees (and 50% off annually for non-profits with paid employees) – just one way ShiftPlanning goes above and beyond when it comes to service and satisfaction.

Noteworthy Specs:
–   14 day free trial (full version)
–    Full mobile access
–    SMS text schedule reminders
–    Unlimited employees
–    Calendar sink
–    POS system integration

TimeForge Another contender for the title of strongest scheduling software on the market, TimeForge Scheduling secures its position by offering comprehensive setup and scheduling integration on top of around-the-clock help desk support.  With a $1 per employee pricing structure and the ability to customize which features you need and which you don’t this scheduling solution is perfect for restaurant’s small and large.

As co-founder Anthony Presley puts it, “TimeForge is awesome!” The company works with owners and managers to help solve and avoid real world issues that face restaurants all over the country. Ranging from human resources to scheduling, attendance, and daily logs, TimeForge has a specific product offering that easily takes care of the essentials. Not certain one of the products is right for you? The software’s free trial lasts 10 days and gives you full access to everything (TimeForge Max) so you can test drive some features and make a confident decision.

Keeping focus on TimeForge Scheduling, the service is ideal for the fast-paced, no-room-for-error world of the commercial restaurant. The service is fully hosted, meaning you don’t have to download a thing, and cloud-based data storage ensures you never lose your information.  Once you’ve got things set up and running smoothly, SMS text message reminders as well as e-mailed schedules let employees know about upcoming shifts and shift changes. The mobility of the application gives your staff the ability to log in from any computer or mobile device, which means no more “I didn’t know I was scheduled” excuses.

An outstanding feature that benefits smaller restaurants and businesses is that TimeForge Lite is completely free for up to 24 employees. That means as long as you’re staff consists of under 25 people you can use the Lite version of the service and it won’t cost you a penny. Granted, TimeForge Lite does not include the autoscheduler or text message notifications, but for many small eateries already struggling to find quality restaurant equipment and supplies for less the missing features aren’t necessary.

The system’s ability to integrate with web and POS systems, paired with a 24/7 help desk and free set up support, makes TimeForge easy to implement and even easier to manage.

Noteworthy Specs:
–    Fully hosted
–    Cloud based data storage
–    Video tutorials
–    Customizable pricing structure
–    TimeForge Max includes Scheduling, Attendance, HR, and Sales

Quality scheduling software goes hand in hand with a reliable point of sale (POS) system. Scheduling and managing your employees is one step in the escalator ride that is a successful restaurant, and another essential step is being able to confidently track your daily, monthly, and yearly sales. Investing in an excellent POS system is investing in the future of your eatery so it’s crucial to shop around and find the system that does what you need it to.

Here’s a quick look at some of the better systems on the market today:POS Systems & Scheduling Software: Where Do I Start?

Gotmerchant Easily the most impressive system with an extremely attractive pricing structure, Gotmerchant POS hardware is backed by lifetime technical support and is completely free. Yep, you read that right. From the touch screen monitor and micro computer to a cash drawer, barcode scanner, receipt printer, all the necessary software and a few extras you get everything for free. Where other companies charge upwards of a few thousand dollars for just the hardware, not to mention operation and transaction fees, Gotmerchant gives you the system and only charges you for the service.

At an exceptionally reasonable $59 a month, plus $59 a quarter, you get a complete POS station with a lifetime replacement warranty, professional on-site installation, and 24/7 technical support. Need two, five, or even ten full systems? Not a problem. Each complete system is 100% free, and all you need to pay is the separate operation fees each month and quarter. You simply can’t beat the value for the price.

On top of the standard features like debit and credit card processing and receipt printing you get a handful of additional features that enhance the system’s functionality. With your package Gotmerchant provides 50 free custom gift cards and lets you sample the gift card service for 60 days (after which it’s $9.95/month and $0.15 a swipe). Additionally, free menu programming, an internet-based back office component, and more than 75 built-in reporting options give you full control of your POS operations.

Keeping up with the times, Gotmerchant has also recently updated their system to include tableside ordering via iPads. For a monthly wireless charge and small fee for operation of each device (you supply the iPad) your servers can impress customers and streamline the ordering process.

Noteworthy Specs:
–    Free hardware & software
–    Lifetime replacement warranty
–    Overnight shipping of replacement parts
–    Live software demos

POS Nation The variety of individual components added to an easy-to-use “Build a System” website feature makes POS Nation like a buffet of quality equipment and software. Whether you’re looking to equip a salon, grocery store, quick service eatery, or a restaurant POS Nation has an assortment of system essentials that you can choose from.

Pole displays, fingerprint scanners, and mobile POS all bring an extra element of professionalism and sophistication to a bare-bones POS system. Ensure your system works for you rather than against you by combining the components you need while excluding the ones you don’t. Not looking to put your system together from scratch? POS Nation offers all-in-one options that are customized and streamlined for individual industries.

On the software side of things, POS Nation has a number of different packages, ranging from Quickbooks to Aldelo, Microsoft RMS, and much more, for you to choose from. Also easily shoppable by industry, the software options available have their own beneficial payroll and reporting functions. Just like your hardware, picking and choosing what software your system needs is essential.

Simply put, shopping POS Nation is like shopping a number of different POS suppliers in one place. The hardware offering alone is comparison shopping from the comfort of one website. A POS system is an investment, and it’s wise to not buy the first system you see. Luckily, POS Nation has a little something for everyone and makes the shopping process almost effortless.

Noteworthy Specs:
–    Custom programming
–    2 year manufacturer warranty
–    Comprehensive Build a System feature

The General Store If POS Nation were the large chain store of POS systems on the block then The General Store would be the tried-and-true Mom and Pop place on the corner that’s still going strong. With over 20 years of experience in retail software and POS evolution The General Store has been building and regularly perfecting their own system. Cost effective and reliable, the system that The General Store continues to improve, according to their website, “rivals major retail chains in its power and flexibility.”

Inventory management is simple and intuitive with The General Store software. An unlimited number of items can be entered into the system, and up to 10 price levels, multi-unit pricing, barcode printing capabilities, and stock status reporting all help make supervising your stock easy. Additionally, sales tracking for both cash and charge customers, as well as total system integration and a detailed ledger balance sheet let you map your finances from start to finish.

The General Store’s hardware is built to last and designed to perform. Barcode scanners and printers, cash drawers, the computer and monitor, data collectors, pole displays, and receipt printers have all been perfected to benefit the overall package of their POS system.

More than half of the extra features The General Store has incorporated into its system were based on suggestions from existing users. Plain and simple, The General Store listens to the needs of their customers. It’s this commitment to perfecting their product that makes the company one to consider when picking your POS system.

Noteworthy Specs:
–    Online demos
–    Affordable, competitive pricing
–    Industry flexibility
–    Full accounts receivable support (The General Store Plus)
–    Online knowledge base

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A Really Easy Way To Make Commercial Steam Tables Energy Efficient

A Really Easy Way To Make Commercial Steam Tables Energy EfficientIf your restaurant or commercial food service operation uses steam tables to keep food hot before you serve the customer, then this post is for you.  If this post is for you, then you already know how integral steam tables can be in your day-to-day operations.  You also know they can eat up a lot of energy on a daily basis.

Making commercial steam tables more energy efficient is easier than you might think.  If you’ve got an older unit, the first thing to consider is buying a new steam table.  Newer models are more efficient, more reliable, and create a better impression with your customer.

I know, you thought I said this would be easy.  In the likely case you’re planning on keeping your current steam tables and just want to make them more efficient, read on for the really easy part.

Steam table pans are the essential moving part that keeps a steam table going.  Those pans also act as a lid that helps trap the heat the table is creating to keep food warm.  And as anyone who has worked with those steam table pans knows, over time the corners and edges become bent and wavy.  In fact, my personal experience is that it only takes a trip or two through the dishwashing station in a busy kitchen for those corners and edges to start bending upward.

The problem with bent corners and edges on steam table pans is that their role as the lid on the heat generated by the table is compromised.  The gaps between the edges of the well and the edges of the table allow steam to escape, and anyone watching a pot of water come to a boil knows that one without a tightly sealed lid is going to take longer.

It may not seem like a big deal to have a little steam escaping from a couple gaps where the pan meets the well, and by itself for an hour or two it isn’t.  The problem is that if you’re using commercial steam tables to keep food warm, you’ve probably got it running for several hours at a time many days in a row.  Over time, those little gaps end up costing you significant amounts of money – as much as $30 per well per year!

This is where the easy part comes in.  A pair of pliers and some time should be enough for you to straighten out the curled and bent edges of your existing steam table pans.  A Really Easy Way To Make Commercial Steam Tables Energy Efficient

When you go to buy new pans, I would highly recommend The Edge steam table pans by Polarware.  These pans are made from 300 series stainless steel and have a reinforced edge and corners that resists bending or curling.  The edges are also specially designed for easy gripping, making the constant chore of replacing steam table pans much easier on your staff.

Sometimes the simplest solution, like making sure all the edges on your steam table pans are straight, can make a huge difference, especially in a business with historically thin profit margins like the food service industry.  And sometimes, when all new steam table pans look the same, one has features that make it stand out from the crowd.  Polarware’s The Edge steam table pans are definitely a standout.

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Food Service Product Watch: 10 Products For Your Restaurant

Food Service Product Watch: 10 Products For Your Restaurant

Every restaurant kitchen is full of tools of the trade, from heavy duty gas ranges to the lowliest spatula, it takes a lot of equipment to serve your customers right – day in and day out.  Keeping track of all the equipment and products that can help make your operation run more smoothly could be a full time job in itself, and I know you don’t have the time for another full time job.

These Back Burner posts cover some products that might be of use in your commercial kitchen.  Feel free to browse through and see if you find something you like:

  1. Crocs Shoes For Food Service Professionals - These Crocs are designed specifically for the food service industry and have proven to be a hit with the chefs and waitstaff that have tried them.
  2. Two Levels Of Oven Mitt – There’s your standard, garden variety oven mitt and then there’s Tucker, which takes the commercial oven mitt to a whole new level of safety and convenience.  Learn the difference in this post.
  3. Floor Matting - If your kitchen doesn’t have floor matting, or if you need to replace the worn stuff you’ve got now, this post will help you understand why you need new matting for the sake of safety and which type will work best.
  4. The Poseidon: The New God Of Digital Portion Scales - If you haven’t heard about The Poseidon digital portion scale from Edlund, you’ve been missing out on one of the hottest new products in food service.
  5. How Ice Machine Water Filters Can Help With More Than Just Ice - If you’re not filtering the water coming out of your glass filler, you should be.  Luckily, you can easily add a water filter just like the one you use for your ice machine to produce clean, fresh, great tasting water for your customers.
  6. Restaurant Equipment Casters: Buy Smart – If you need to replace the casters on your restaurant equipment, or if you need to add casters to new equipment, read this post first to make sure you don’t pay too much and that you get the right casters the first time.
  7. The EndoTherm Thermometer: Does It Really Help You Save Energy and Improve Food Safety? – The EndoTherm is a thermometer inside a liquid gel that mimics food product in your walk-in.  This allows you to check the actual temperature of your product rather than the ambient air temperature in the walk-in giving you a more accurate sense of food temperatures.
  8. Lincoln Smallwares: A Little Cookware For Everyone – Lincoln has four lines of cookware and each one is designed for a different chef.  No matter what, you’re going to find the line that’s right for you.
  9. Hoshizaki Ice Machines: The Preferred Choice – Hoshi ice machines are a great choice if you’re in the market for ice machines.  Learn more about their products here.
  10. Krowne Underbar Equipment – You already know about Krowne’s great restaurant plumbing, but if you haven’t seen their modular underbar equipment, you’re in for a pleasant surprise.

BONUS PRODUCT: Handle Bulk Vegetable Oil The Smart Spout Way – The Smart Spout makes pouring bulk vegetable oil safer and easier.  It’s one of those simple product innovations that really makes you wonder why you didin’t have one before this.

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Star Manufacturing: Whatever You Need In Countertop Cooking Equipment

Star Manufacturing has been in the commercial cooking equipment business for a long time.  And their equipment has proven itself in the tough working conditions of commercial kitchens time and time again.  Star is probably best known for its countertop cooking equipment, and accessories like griddles, charbroilers, hot plates and hot dog cooking equipment…

Star Manufacturing: Whatever You Need In Countertop Cooking Equipment

Star hot dog cookers are some of the best in the business

Star Manufacturing: Whatever You Need In Countertop Cooking Equipment

Star charbroilers – radiant, lava rock, electric, and outdoor available

Star Manufacturing: Whatever You Need In Countertop Cooking Equipment

 

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Fryer Oil Maintenance: Tips To Make Oil Taste Better & Last Longer

Fryer Oil Maintenance: Tips To Make Oil Taste Better & Last LongerThe fryer is one of the central cooking appliances in many restaurants and commercial kitchens.  And central to every commercial fryer is the shortening or oil in the vat.  Maintaining that oil is key to producing great-tasting product every time.  Oil maintenance is more involved than you might think, and if done properly, can add significant time to the productive life of your fryer oil and improve the taste of your product.

Fryer oil is an organic compound.  That means it breaks down naturally over time, just like any of the food product in your walk-in.  At over 300 degrees Fahrenheit, that degradation process is accelerated.  As if that weren’t enough, three things contribute to the even more rapid deterioration of fryer oil:

  • Oxidation – contact with air makes the oil “stale” over time, just like a bag of chips.
  • Hydrolysis – the presence of water in fryer oil is unavoidable when frying food product, but as water interacts with the hot oil, acidic compounds form that can really affect taste.
  • Polymerization – As oil breaks down, compounds form and bond together, which leads to surface foaming and the further breakdown of oil quality and taste.  This process is made even worse by food particles, which will inevitably collect in the oil as product is cooked.

There are several things you can do to combat the three enemies of oil quality.  Here’s some tips that address each one specifically:

Fighting oxidation: minimize fryer oil contact with the air whenever possible.  The most common method for doing this is to cover the fryer vat when the unit is shut down.  Also regulate oil temperature so that it doesn’t exceed 360 degrees Fahrenheit.  During lulls, reduce heat to 280 degrees.

Fighting hydrolysis: don’t fill fryer baskets directly over the fryer vat.  This is especially true for frozen product, because ice crystals will end up in the oil.  Of the three, hydrolysis is the hardest to fight, because there is going to be water in everything you cook.

Fighting polymerization: again, don’t fill fryer baskets over the vat.  Food particles speed polymerization, so a good technique is to load the fryer basket away from the vat and give it a few good shakes to allow any free particles to fall away before the product takes the plunge.  Another polymerization agent are seasonings, especially salt.  Add any seasoning away from the vat to keep them out of the oil as much as possible.

Of course, no matter how hard you fight, eventually it’s going to be a losing battle.  Water, air, and particulates are going to end up in your fryer oil no matter what you do.  Your only choice is to take them back out before the oil breaks down.  You can do this effectively with a good filtration system.

How much you filter your fryer oil depends on what you’re cooking, in what volume, and how often.  In general, breaded foods like fried chicken or fish mean you should filter more often, because of all the food particles that are going to end up in the oil.  French fries are much cleaner and therefore the oil can handle a lot more rounds before filtering.

Fryer Oil Maintenance: Tips To Make Oil Taste Better & Last LongerNo matter what, you should develop a filtering schedule.  Fryer oil test strips are the best way to keep track of oil quality, and they’ll give you a starting point for your filter schedule.  Filtering fryer oil greatly extends the life of the oil, and smart restaurant operators filter the same oils several times to get the maximum life out of it before having to refill.

Portable fryer filters provide an easy way to filter fryer oil without slowing your busy kitchen down too much.  And when you’ve squeezed every last minute of cooking capability out of that vat of oil, dispose of it safely with an oil transporter.  Finally, use a Smart Spout for pouring new oil into the vat without spilling.Fryer Oil Maintenance: Tips To Make Oil Taste Better & Last Longer

Before you refill with a new batch of oil, however, you’ve got to clean that fryer vat out.  It’s a thankless job, but someone’s got to get in there and remove as much of that great friends of polymerization, food particulates, as possible.  Especially focus on cleaning the “cool zone,” the area underneath the burners in the vat where particles are intentionally concentrated in order to prevent them from heating up too much during cooking.  A water/vinegar mix is a great way to make sure detergents are neutralized after you’ve thoroughly cleaned the vat.

Maintaining fryer oil quality takes a lot of work.  But in the end, it’s worth the extra effort because you get a lot more mileage out of each vat of oil.  And if saving money isn’t enough of an incentive for you, then the prospect of serving great tasting fried foods to your customers every time should do the trick.

If you’re in the market for a new fryer, check out this commercial fryer buying guide.

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Converting Gas Restaurant Equipment In 5 Simple Steps

Converting any piece of gas equipment from natural gas to propane or from propane to natural gas is fairly simple and can be accomplished in 5 easy steps.

Parts needed to convert the equipment:

  • Burner Orifices
  • Pilot Orifice
  • Regulator
  • Combination Safety Valve conversion kit
  • Nomenclature (tag on unit that has model and serial number on it).

ALWAYS REMEMBER TO TURN OFF ALL GAS TO THE UNIT!!

Converting Gas Restaurant Equipment In 5 Simple Steps

1.  Replacing burner orifices. First, the most important thing you need to know is the brand name, model and serial numbers of your unit.  Next thing you will need to know is what altitude the unit you are converting is at.  This will determine what orifice size you will need.  You will also need to know the number of top burners as well as any other burners such as oven burners and the number of oven pilots (if you are converting a range).  The conversion can be done one of two ways: either by using the manufacturer’s conversion kit or with individual parts.  The conversion kits can be more expensive than using individual parts.

The conversion can take some time because whatever piece of equipment you are converting has to be dismantled and then reassembled.  Begin by removing all the burners and then remove what is needed to be removed in order to access the burner valves.  The burner valves do not need to be removed.  Remove the old orifices and install the new orifices (orifices are screwed to the end of the valve).

2.  Replace pilot orifices. If you are converting an oven, you also need to change the pilot orifice.  The pilot tube is attached to the pilot with a nut.  Unscrew the nut and pull the tube out of the pilot assembly.  When the tube is pulled out, the orifice should fall out; if it does not, tap the pilot assembly.  Replace the pilot orifice and reassemble.  Reassemble the unit the same way you took it apart (you are almost done!)

Converting Gas Restaurant Equipment In 5 Simple Steps

3.  Replace the gas regulator. You must change the gas regulator usually found at the back of the equipment.  Remove the old regulator and install the new regulator, making sure that the gas flow direction is accurate.  The regulator has an arrow on the bottom of it and it must point toward the piece of equipment.

Reconnect the gas hose, turn on the gas and check all connections for leaks.  This can be done with soap bubbles – wipe soapy water onto the connections and look for places where it bubbles up, indicating a leak.  Light all your pilots (it may take a little time to purge out all the air).  Adjust the pilots to the correct flame height by turning the adjustment screw on the pilot valve.  Now turn on one burner at a time (you want a nice blue tip flame).  If there is yellow or orange in the flame you will need to adjust the air shutter on the burner to  correct the flame.   This goes for top burners as well as the oven burners.regulator, making sure that the gas flow direction is accurate.  The regulator has an arrow on the bottom of it and it must point toward the piece of equipment.

Converting Gas Restaurant Equipment In 5 Simple Steps4.  Converting combination safety valves. Some pieces of equipment have combination safety valves, most notably fryers.  There are conversion kits for them (there is no choice on this).  The kit contains a plate and gaskets.  There are instructions with each kit, and it is very simple to change.  Remove the old plate from the top of the safety valve and follow the instructions to install the new plate and gaskets.  The conversion is complete!

You can special order a conversion kit easily by calling 1-888-388-6372.

5.  Replace the unit’s nomenclature. By law, the nomenclature must also be replaced.  This is only available through the manufacturer of the piece of equipment being converted.  Sometimes it takes awhile to get them, so until you get the replacement, you should remove the word “natural” from the tag with a magic marker and write in large letters, “LP”.  When you receive the new tag, simply stick it over the old one.

You have now converted your equipment from natural gas to propane or vice versa.

Congratulations!

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