Monthly Archives

September 2017

CB Insights Features Small Box Energy as Game Changing Startup!

By | Small Box Energy In the News | No Comments

Sweet, Sweet Data!

In a recent online article from data giant, CB Insights, topic up for discussion was a vibrant, information exploding infographic that depicted Small Box Energy as one of 89 startup’s that are “reinventing the restaurant”.  The article covered every area from good ole inventory management to newer restaurant tech like table-top devices and smart kitchens. Obviously, even with these innovations, there is still so much that goes into running and managing a restaurant.  But,  this is one of the sole reasons we entered this space, we saw an opportunity for assisting with a part of the restaurant that frankly you as an owner don’t have time to manage yourself… There is so much on an owner’s plate (pun intended 🙂 ) that the last thing they need to worry about is how much energy your locations are consuming and how large their carbon footprint is.

The Cold Hard Truth

The reality is that restaurants consume nearly three times the energy of the average commercial building according to the energy information administration. Some of the largest consumption culprits are refrigeration, heating, and lighting at roughly 16% percent each. Having solutions to help in these areas is the first step…taking action, that’s the second. All too often we, at Small Box Energy, hear that time is a constraint but every minute wasted not taking control of the once “uncontrollable” is slicing into your profits. The money saved on early equipment diagnostics, food spoilage prevention, and simple lighting control adds up in some cases to a savings of up to 30% reduction per month. That’s money that could be going toward the bottom line! On something you typically write off as an “uncontrollable”!

Input, Input, Input!

The infographic not only points out great systems and services but also reminds us of the large role that big data plays in every industry around today. Everything that is happening in your restaurant is valuable information to you, from the number of people waiting, to the number of times you take food temperatures during the day, right down to your lighting schedule. The more you know the better you can manage your operations and ultimately increase your profits. New tech like the ones listed in the infographic help to work together and bring that seemingly useless data to light to increase your productivity and profits. Knowing your area of opportunities is key to success, we are just lucky that in this day and age we have awesome infographics that help educate and provide perspective into the food service world. Now if there were only robots that could run the entire restaurant for us.

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Food Safety Month! Check Out These Tips and Hacks!

By | Food Safety, Restaurant Tips | No Comments

September is food safety month and with the recent hurricanes, what better time to educate people on the importance of food safety and how it not only affects the food serving industry but every single household in America. The USDA is giving food safety tips on its website on how to protect your food and water during Hurricanes and other storms.

Prepare for unpredictable weather emergencies. Have these supplies on hand:

  • Thermometers in the freezer and refrigerator.
  • Containers of ice to keep food cold or to melt if water supply is contaminated or unavailable.
  • Coolers, frozen gel packs, and dry ice to keep refrigerated food at or below 40 F and frozen food at or below zero F if power is out for more than 4 hours.
  • Bottled water.
  • Nonperishable food high on shelves, in case of flood.
  • Manual can opener.
  • Bleach for disinfecting.

Keep food at recommended temperatures. Keep in mind that perishable food such as meat, poultry, seafood, milk, and eggs not kept at recommended temperatures can make you sick—even if thoroughly cooked.

Do not eat or drink anything that has touched flood water, including food packed in non-metal containers.

How to sanitize cans of food:

  1. Remove labels from cans, which can harbor dirt and germs, wash the cans, and dip them in a solution of 1 cup (8 oz/250 mL) of unscented household (5.25% concentration) bleach in 5 gallons of water.
  2. Allow the cans to air dry.
  3. Re-label the cans with a marker. Include the expiration date.

How to sanitize containers, countertops, pots, pans, dishware and utensils:

  1. Thoroughly wash, rinse, and sanitize anything that may come in contact with food — for example, pans, dishes, utensils, and countertops. Throw away wooden cutting boards or bowls — these cannot be safely sanitized.
  2. Mix 1 tablespoon unscented household (5.25% concentration) liquid bleach with 1 gallon of water.
  3. Soak item in the solution for 15 minutes.
  4. Allow to air dry.

How to make tap water safe to drink:

After a natural disaster, water may not be safe to drink. Area Health Departments will determine whether the tap water can be used for drinking. If the water is not potable or is questionable, then follow these directions:

  1. Use bottled water that has not been exposed to flood waters if it is available.
  2. If you don’t have bottled water, you should boil water to make it safe. Boiling water will kill most types of disease-causing organisms that may be present. If the water is cloudy, filter it through clean cloths or allow it to settle, and draw off the clear water for boiling. Boil the water for one minute, let it cool, and store it in clean containers with covers.
  3. If you can’t boil water, you can disinfect it using household bleach. Bleach will kill some, but not all, types of disease-causing organisms that may be in the water. If the water is cloudy, filter it through clean cloths or allow it to settle, and draw off the clear water for disinfection. Add 1/8 teaspoon (or 8 drops) of unscented household (5.25% concentration) liquid bleach for each gallon of water, stir it well and let it stand for 30 minutes before you use it. Store disinfected water in clean containers with covers.
  4. If you have a well that has been flooded, the water should be tested and disinfected after flood waters recede. If you suspect that your well may be contaminated, contact your local or state health department or agriculture extension agent for specific advice.
  • If water supply is still unsafe, boil water or use bottled water.
  • Once power is restored, check the temperature inside your refrigerator and freezer. You can safely eat or refreeze food in the freezer if it is below 40 F.
  • If your freezer does not include a thermometer, then check the temperature of each food item. If the item still contains ice crystals or is at or below 40 F, you can safely refreeze it.
  • Discard any perishable food—for example, meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk—that has been in a refrigerator or freezer at or above 40 F 2 hours or more.

When in doubt, throw it out.

The last statement is truly one that I always abide by. I always think….,”How much was this chicken? Is saving 6 bucks and taking the chance of making my family sick worth it?” …every time no. We recently spoke with a client who was affected by Harvey and they had to throw away thousands and thousands worth of food that was spoiled due to power loss during the Hurricane. They were lucky enough to have only had to throw out the food, however, this just goes to show you the importance of food safety is never worth compromising your family or your brand.

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Helping Those Affected By Hurricane Harvey & Irma

By | Community | No Comments

In this great time of need we want to extend our thoughts and well wishes to those affected by Hurricane Harvey and Irma. In any natural disaster such as this, it is heartwarming to see American’s coming together to help the cause.

Although we come together in times of need, some prey on that and use fake charities to capitalize. Please visit Charity Navigator, they are dedicated to determining the validity of a charity. We have also listed some ways that you can help those affected by the hurricanes below.

Can’t Donate Cash?

That’s Ok! There is always a constant need for Blood. Please visit: http://www.redcrossblood.org/donating-blood to find a blood drive near you.

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10 Issues In Your Restaurant You May Be Overlooking

By | Food Safety, Restaurant Tips, Service, Uncategorized | No Comments

The Nitty Gritty

Running a restaurant is taxing and dont get me started on restaurant maintenance. There are so many things that you have to take care of but some of the largest, most costly problems are in your every day and you don’t even realize it. With 7 years of working in the restaurant industry, we have seen a thing or two when it comes to maintaining a restaurant’s critical systems. Some of these problems you may be aware of some…you may not. So keep reading and brace yourself for the creative things humans do.  

1. Walk-in’s and Coolers not reaching temperature

   This is something our technicians see way too often in the food industry. How do you know if your cooler is reaching its set point? Is it cooling? Typically you wouldn’t think anything was wrong with the unit until you walked it and noticed it wasn’t as cool as it normally is. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the cooler is functioning properly. The only way to tell is to have a regularly calibrated sensor inside the unit that reports temperatures back on a consistent basis. This also works for the reverse scenario, the cooler is too cold. This can cause food to become too cold and lead to freezer burn, bringing down the quality of your food dramatically.

       

2. A/C unit not cooling

   Summer months are a rude awakening for some restaurant owners/operators, but even then you may have so many units that you don’t realize when other units are functioning properly or at all. In some cases, we have run into the scenario when we are installing our system into a new client’s location and find that their units aren’t functioning correctly from the word go. Upon inspecting, most of the units suffered from clogged filters. The filters are so clogged it doesn’t allow air to pass through making the space feel hotter. So what does one do when they feel hotter? Turn the A/C down, which can cause a whole slew of new problems and severely decrease the life of your equipment….and all of that could’ve been prevented by a step that takes less than 3 minutes to fix.

Other common things we find upon looking into a location related to this issue are pinched duct-work, clogged A/C coils, compressor fans out, one stage compressor of two stage unit out, and low refrigerant.

3. HVAC compressor running 24/7

   This can happen for a number of different reasons. One of the most common is the clogged filters (as stated from above) or equipment failure. Often once we enter locations the employees are aware that the units may not be cooling correctly but rather than having a technician come out to repair the problem, the setpoint of the A/C is just turned down which can cause more, extensive problems in the end. Lowering the setpoint of the A/C doesn’t fix the problem, it just causes the A/C to run ALL of the time. This creates extended run times which lower the life of the equipment dramatically, freezing of the coils which can cause the unit to stop functioning altogether, and overall just decreasing the life of the equipment. In order to maximize efficiency and create a comfortable space, the unit needs to be serviced immediately…prolonging this will only create costly repairs later that could’ve been avoided.

4. A/C duct work not properly connected

   You would think that one would notice when ductwork is not connected to their A/C unit….because it would be hot right? Not always, we have seen instances where ductwork is not connected to an HVAC unit that should be pushing air into a designated space but employees are completely unaware. Many restaurants have more than one A/C unit so they typically wouldn’t notice this, the other units, however, are slowly decreasing their overall life expectancy. How? They are compensating for the one unit that isn’t working and working harder and more often than they should be to cool the area. With commercial grade A/C units ranging anywhere between $5,000 and $13,000, you don’t want to be paying for multiple units at one time if they decided to go out simultaneously due to extended run times.

5. Cooler doors being propped open

   This is a HUGE no-no, and sadly we see this all too often. What we see often in the field is the doors are propped open for deliveries but often they are forgotten about and left open to expose the food to higher temperatures as well as the cooler to run for extended times trying to cool the freezer/cooler and the kitchen.

6. Lights being left on during the day

   Not only does this point burn a TON of energy we find that it is more frustrating when the owners/managers show up and it’s daytime and the lights are on outside. Deterring the schedule that the lights are on is ok so long as you remember to turn them back off, most of the time we find that is not the case.

7. Ice buildup in coolers and freezers

   In walk-in coolers and freezers, the evaporator is responsible for defrosting the unit to melt frost and ice that builds up on the evaporator coils. Water from the defrost is drained from the freezer. We see evaporators in poor maintenance and the ice doesn’t properly melt or water isn’t properly draining which leads to the ice taking over the evaporator. This leads to ZERO defrosts and the ice continues to build. The compressor then works harder and longer to compensate until it cannot anymore and stops cooling.

8. IT Problems

   Often we go into locations and they don’t realize they even have an IT structuring issue until someone comes in from the outside to access their system. We find It racks not labeled or disorganized which leads to longer diagnosis time when a location suffers from internet connectivity problems. IT equipment hanging from cables is another sight we seen often which is just begging for internet connectivity problems.

9. Bad door seals and latches on Walk-in’s

   Poor seals or latches on doors are what seem like obvious problems but with everything else you have to deal with in a restaurant the last thing you do when you go into the walk-in is inspect the door seals. Old or bad door seals do not allow for proper suction and could be leaking cold air out into the kitchen space. This causes the unit to work harder to reach its setpoint. Same goes for the bad or old door latches.

10. Human Factors

   We have left the best for last!!! Touching on every one of the above issues, we have found that the human factor plays a large role in how and if the above scenarios happen in your restaurants. We often hear a variety of reasons why equipment is known to be broken but not fixed. “If it’s not broke don’t fix it” we hear this a lot. Often times this can cause more damage than $$$ savings. Employees are under the impression that a piece of equipment must be completely broken to warrant a technician to come look at it when calling a technician before the problem worsens can save thousands in repairs. “Not from my PL bonus”, yeppers! This happens all of the time. A lot of standard repair and maintenance is reduced to pad the area managers profit and loss statement (don’t fix it until it’s dead) which feeds into the above problem. It’s a vicious cycle that often continues and costs more than it saves.

    

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