Time to Buy a New Ice Machine? What to Look for

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

Two Different Ice MachinesIce machines are one of the ‘grunts’ of the kitchen, constantly in use and long-suffering. It is easy to just keeping using yours until it breaks down and you have to buy a new one. But how do you deal with the sudden lack of ice? Is there a better way to handle the switch?

Signs You Need a New Ice Machine

Ice machines seem simple enough on the surface – their main function after all is to make ice. But there are a surprising number of factors to consider when deciding whether or not to upgrade:

  • Energy efficiency gets better the newer your machine. In some cases, the cost of upgrading might be made up within a couple of years of energy savings, which makes it nearly a no-brainer.
  • Sheer volume might inspire you to upgrade if your old machine just can’t keep up with your customers’ needs.
  • Cubic footage is always at a premium in a commercial kitchen, and finding out that there’s a machine that makes the same amount of ice in half the space is huge.
  • Types of ice vary a surprising amount, and if you find that a new twist to your menu or prep process means suddenly you need more crushed than cubes or flake than blocks, a new machine can be the only answer.
  • Maintenance schedules are the final and most common reason why an ice machine gets replaced; when you reach a point where predicted maintenance costs outstrip new machine costs, the choice is obvious.

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National Food Safety Month: Tips for a Safe Commercial Kitchen

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

Restaurant Kitchen Chef Slicing VegetablesSeptember is National Food Safety Month, and we at Short Order want to honor that by putting up a short summary of the most basic food safety tips that we hope all of our clients and customers are following this month — and every month.

The Biggest Dangers in a Commercial Kitchen

There are two food-related dangers in a commercial kitchen that outweigh all others. The first is cross-contamination; getting one food into another in a way that leads to unsafe circumstances. The second is improper temperature control, which gives maleficent bacteria and viruses a chance to multiply and become quite dangerous.

What Foods Can Cross-Contaminate

There are two basic groups of foods that can cause problems with cross-contamination. The first group is the food that nasty viruses and bacteria grow on (or in). That means raw meat, raw fish, eggs, and pasteurized dairy products among others. The second group is the major allergens; milk, eggs, soy, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, and wheat. Any time you handle any of these foods, you need to follow strict protocols to keep them separated.

Keep Them Separated, Seriously.

This means cleaning surfaces and tools between each food — and possibly even having entirely different stations for processing ready-to-eat vs. cooked foods and allergenic vs. non-allergenic foods. It means storing your food in containers that seal without leaking, and putting the food most likely to contaminate in the event of a spill on the bottom shelves. It means packing contaminating foods in separate containers from others when transporting them.

Temperature Control

The most obvious element of temperature control in cooking is making certain that all of those aforementioned raw foods get cooked to a safe internal temperature before they’re consumed, but there’s a bit more to it than that. Temperature control also means keeping food out of the ‘danger zone’ between 40 degrees and 105 degrees Fahrenheit. That in and of itself is a complex task involving a myriad of protocols for transporting, storing, thawing, preparing, cooling, storing the leftovers, and reheating the leftovers (make sure everything reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 15 seconds before serving).

Food safety is a critically important element of every restaurant’s function. All it takes is some people getting sick from eating at your restaurant to have catastrophic effects on your business. Follow the rules, and keep you customers and your employees safe this September and all year long.

Get Ready for Kickoff: The Necessary Restaurant Equipment for Football Season

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

Tailgating Football FansFootball Season starts September 4th — is your restaurant ready? The football crowd has its own dynamic and its own wants and needs; if your restaurant equipment is not up to the demands they are going to place on it, you may be leaving money on the table. So what exactly do you need?

Fryers

There is nothing the football crowd loves more than deep-fried food. Hot wings, chicken fingers, onion rings, french fries, and mozzarella sticks; these should all be a snap for your kitchen to pump out when the guys arrive for their ritual of beer and carb-coated snacks dipped in boiling oil. Fryers should be easy to access and well-maintained, because they are going to be seeing a lot of use this season.

Kegerators

Did we mention beer? There’s a good reason for that; it’s always been popular among the football crowd. This season, it’s going to get cranked up another notch as craft beers become the standard in many places from the Pacific Northwest to the Alamo. Kegerators combine the fresh-from-the-fridge taste of a bottle with the direct-to-the-mug convenience of draught — be sure you’re equipped.  (more…)

5 Tips for Restaurant Catering Success: Supplies, Ideas, and More

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

Buffet Food by Catering ServiceIf you run a restaurant, it can be a very profitable (but very scary) notion to try to get into the catering business. On the one hand, you are already making a bunch of food every day and catering basically just increases your audience. On the other hand, catering offers its own unique set of challenges and potential pitfalls.

Want to up your foodservice game? Here are some tips for success moving from restaurateur to caterer.

1. Decide On Your Service

There are lots of different kinds of catering, and each comes with a unique set of operations. For example, catering a business luncheon, a wedding, and a kindergarten class field trip are three very different kinds of catering. Before you make any other decisions, decide what kinds of events you intend to cater, making sure they match the kinds of food you can produce. (more…)

Pros and Cons of Recycling at Your Restaurant

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

Garbage and Recycling BinsRecycling: we know it’s good for the Earth, and thus by extension for humankind, but is it the right move for your restaurant? The decision isn’t as easy as you might think.

About 3 of 5 American restaurants recycle at least some part of the waste they produce; most of it in the form of plastic and cardboard packaging, or compost. Very rarely are major items such as unusable restaurant equipment, tables and chairs, or other durable goods recycled, even if they could be.

Right now, the most significant predictor of whether or not a given restaurant recycles is the quality of their municipal recycling program. But even in places where the program is excellent, there are several reasons a restaurant may decide against it.

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How to Maximize Your Commercial Restaurant Equipment’s Layout

Monday, August 11th, 2014

Designing a Commercial Kitchen Layout with EquipmentArranging a commercial kitchen can feel like playing Tetris… but instead of directing falling blocks on a screen, you’re moving around giant pieces of restaurant equipment to create the perfect kitchen floorplan. That’s because commercial kitchens have to be laid out correctly, or even a couple of minor inefficiencies can compound to slow down service for every customer. For this reason, focusing on eliminating bottlenecks and creating a high-flow workspace is critical. So turn up that MIDI-generated theme song, take a good look at your kitchen, and maximize your layout with these tips.

“Behind You!”

If you have watched more than one episode of Top Chef, you have almost certainly heard someone crying out “Behind you!” as they pass behind other chefs with a dangerously hot tray of hors d’oeuvres. That’s because a professional kitchen requires people to move hot food, large equipment, sharp utensils, and other dangerous materials very quickly from one station to another; and a jostle at the wrong time can spell injury or disaster. Having a kitchen that allows enough space for that kind of transport is a must.

Ergonomics

Ergonomics, in short, is ‘the science of minimizing the number of steps needed to accomplish your work tasks.’ Designing your kitchen so that each employee needs to change stations as infrequently as possible is one key to keeping things efficient. That means that the arrangement of restaurant equipment should facilitate the order in which a string of tasks occur.

Energy Concerns

In the same way that restaurants need to be concerned about efficiency and ease of motion, they also need to think about keeping costs down. Part of that is keeping the refrigerator and freezer as far away from the ovens and cooking surfaces as possible, so cooling equipment doesn’t have to fight equipment that is giving off intense heat. Additionally, it’s best to keep all of the heat-producing items close together under the minimum number of vent hoods.

Adapt or Die

The last key to kitchen configuration is recognizing that your configuration will need to change as time goes by. Keeping your options open and not permanently locking things in place (for example, by sinking bench legs into the floor) is an important part of being able to adjust to circumstances.

 

Maximizing a kitchen’s layout is half science, half art, and all focused effort. Do it well and your bottom line (and chefs) will thank you.

The FDA Food Code and Your Restaurant: What You Need to Know

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

Chef Preparing a SaladThere are a lot of rules in the 2013 Updated Food Code published by the FDA. Most of them are commonsense rules, but there are some very important bits that every restaurateur should know for fostering a safe work environment, safe storage and handling, cleaning restaurant equipment and much more.

The HACCP

The FDA strongly encourages the creation of a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point. Essentially, this is a document printed out and available to all of your kitchen workers that details what how to correctly respond to any form of common kitchen emergency. The FDA offers a useful document called “Managing Food Safety” that explains precisely how to execute this process. Having an HACCP isn’t mandated nationwide yet, but a good number of municipalities require it within their borders. (more…)

How to Create a Zero-Waste Commercial Restaurant Kitchen

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

Short-Order_Compost-RecyclingRestaurant kitchens are notoriously wasteful. Not only does almost every piece of food come with some form of organic waste that you don’t actually want to cook with, but most of it also comes wrapped in plastic, which is wrapped in plastic again, and then in a cardboard box (which is itself sometimes wrapped in plastic!). All that plastic and cardboard can be recycled, but the organic waste has to be composted. So what do you do with everything else? Follow these steps to cut down on waste in your restaurant’s kitchen.

Step 1: Proper Prior Planning

The first step to a zero-waste kitchen is to consider what your kitchen does that produces waste in the first place. Trash and food waste are the two greatest culprits, and you should have a plan to deal with both on-site. Composting non-meat food waste is a no-brainer. Recycling what can be recycled is as well. However, what few people realize is that, in most metropolitan areas, there are recycling facilities that can handle 90% of post-consumer waste between them. Sit down and think about what you have that cannot be composted or recycled, and make a list. (more…)

How to Save Space in a Restaurant Kitchen

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

Restaurant Kitchen With Dishes Stacked Under CounterThink all professional kitchens looks like the spaces on Iron Chef? Think again. In reality, the fact is that professional kitchens are often small and cramped; hardly the conditions you see on TV. What’s more, there are two types of restaurant kitchens: those that run like well-oiled machines, and those that are chaotic and messy. Fortunately, by using space logically, following the rules of ergonomics, and leveraging some equipment that can perform several functions, you can create an efficient kitchen no matter how much restaurant equipment you have filling your space.

Less Is More

Finding items that can do more than they appear is the key to saving kitchen space. Don’t have room for a food processor, blender, coffee grinder, bread maker, and mortar and pestle? One good tool (be it a food processor or a Hamilton Beach blender) can do all of those things and more. And as much as chefs love knives, a kitchen only needs a serrated knife, a chef’s knife, a paring knife, and a slicing knife. And the right box grater can take the place of a mandolin, a spice grinder, and multiple different kinds of shredders at the same time. (more…)

5 Documents You Should Have in Your Restaurant’s Kitchen

Monday, July 7th, 2014

chef-kitchen-clipboardRestaurant kitchens are fast-paced work environments, which means things can get pretty hectic. Having all your restaurant’s essential documents readily available ensures that operations run smoothly and safely. So, which documents are most important to have in your kitchen?

1.    Licenses and Permits

The most important documents to keep accessible in your restaurant are your various licenses and permits. Many state governments mandate that a food service license and sellers permit remain visible in the restaurant. Additionally, most states require that employees have food handler permits, which should be kept on file in the restaurant. If you aren’t sure about what license and permits you need to have, check with your local or state health department.

2.    Employee Handbook

Employee handbooks shouldn’t just be distributed when you hire new employees. Having an employee handbook nearby can aid your employees with any questions they might have about standard operating procedures, job descriptions, or dress codes. This establishes clear expectations for both kitchen managers and employees.

3.    Daily Operations Checklists (more…)

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