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Restaurant Tips

10 Reasons Why Your Food Shouldn’t be the Only Thing That’s Sustainable

By | Community, Efficiency, Energy Management, IoT, Restaurant Tips, Uncategorized | No Comments

Sustainable is an all to familiar buzz word in the restaurant and several other industries as of late. It seems to have become more prominent the more we learn about our environment, our food, and how the two are connected. We deep dive into the industry every time we perform a new install, according to trends for restaurants and EMS systems as of late here are some reasons why your food shouldn’t be the only thing that is sustainable…

1

Because it’s good for our environment: Getting food from the farm to our fork eats up 10 percent of the total U.S. energy budget, uses 50 percent of U.S. land, and swallows 80 percent of all freshwater consumed in the United States

2

Restaurants use 2x more energy per square foot than any other industry: Producing energy contributes to the breakdown of our environment. Power plants must produce more power to keep up with the demand, which emits more co2 emission into the air. Americans emit about 9 tons of co2 emissions per person per year, this is only accounting for the power sector!

3

LEED the Restaurant industry: Prove to your customers you are going the extra mile to help the environment in every way you possibly can. Get a LEED certification to initiate change and do your part in the restaurant community. Check out the requirements to become a green building here. Not to mention all the awesome PR you’ll get because you love the environment and are doing your part to help!

4

Millennials love the environment: Young adults age 25-34 and families are more apt to be influenced by a range of sustainability and sourcing menu terms. This only increases your business when millennials comprise about ¼ of the U.S. population!

5

unEaten food at retailers, restaurants, and homes costs about $161 billion annually: Uneaten food by patrons does not always get taken home…diners leave 17% of meals uneaten and 55% of that 17%  are not taken home and just thrown out. That’s money that could have been in your pocket and lessen food waste. Options to help reduce food waste include offering smaller portion sizes, identifying what options are being wasted, and a restaurant in London even charges a fee for unfinished food and donates those proceeds to the charity Oxfam.

Restaurant Energy Consumption

6

Refrigeration accounts for 32% of a restaurants total energy consumption: Simple inspections of refrigerator equipment is all it takes to ensure you are as efficient as you can be. Regular cleaning and inspection of refrigeration coils and door seals can save you a headache later. Controllers that mitigate defrosts are also ideal to cut down on defrosts and conserve energy.

7

19% of a restaurants energy goes directly to lighting: Making the switch to LED or installing an EMS that controls and puts all lighting on schedules can significantly cut your costs where you may have thought that there was nothing left to be done. In a specific Small Box Energy case study we decreased lighting consumption by 8%. 

8

As of 2016 10% of the total U.S energy consumption came from renewable energy sources: That means that 90% of the energy consumption came from non-renewable sources. There is a limited amount of fossil fuels and it takes millions of years to produce, it is estimated that the world. not just the U.S., will run out of fossil fuels within 100-200 years.

9

Food waste that goes into landfills generates methane. Methane is 21 times more harmful than CO2: Another reason to offer carryout containers that are environmentally friendly or add that smaller portion section to your menu like you have been thinking.

10

Installing an EMS (energy management system) can reduce your energy consumption by up to 25% and in some cases $8000 annually: An energy management system can help your business cut where it makes sense and a difference. Simple automated controls and sensors installed in all your critical systems (HVAC, refrigeration, lighting..etc) helps you monitor, control, and reduce your kwh consumption. Reducing your energy consumption by 25% will significantly help in efforts to reduce your carbon footprint. It’s a win win win!

All of these suggestions are merely that, suggestions. They are just words and will remain that until you take action. That’s the challenge. Take action, lead others, inspire and show your customers and peers your motives are not just driven by just making money, but by how what you do has a lasting impact on the environment.

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3 Reasons Why Your Standard Thermostat Isn’t Cutting It!

By | Efficiency, Energy Management, Restaurant Tips, restaurants | No Comments

Restaurants are busy places filled with customers, employees, food, and lets not forget the hot kitchen equipment. We have installed several systems all across the United States in all different types of restaurant builds. In our travels we have seen lots of different types of thermostats installed in locations, from a standard basic thermostat, to high tech programmable thermostats, or the thermostat that came with the building when it was built 40 years ago. We have also come across hacks that employees create and use to get around restrictions for thermostat setpoints.  We all have seen those plastic thermostat guards…but there are even ways to get around those; We’ve seen it all! Here are our top 3 reasons why your standard thermostat isn’t cutting it in your restaurant.

1.Your employees will always set the temperatures to what feels good to them, this temperature may not feel good to the customers.

Time and time again we see this, the balance between the staff and the customers. A good starting point is researching what local business keep their thermostats at around you, or you can simply peek at the thermostat next time you go out to eat. Once you get that baseline you can change it based on your customer’s comments. We often see the employees will turn temperatures way down because they are hot. Of course, they are hot, they are up and moving around and if its a lunch rush forget about it they are sweating. The problem with this is your customers aren’t moving around as fast and frequently as they are so they will most likely be freezing in the temps that feel good to the staff. Find a good balance and stick to it.

2. Employees, and anyone else who can see your thermostat can change set points causing extended run times for A/C units.

You may not have had a problem with your typical, run of the mill thermostat but your energy bill and your A/C units are seeing the repercussions. Having an open thermostat can cause several problems like employees and the general public changing the setpoints which can result in equipment failure if they are tampered with too often or set too low. In this instance, if you think you are covered because you have the plastic thermostat guard…think again. We have seen employees sitting with a hairdryer or setting freezing foods on top of the box in order to get it to turn on. We have even seen implements used to stick through the open spaces to change the temperature. In this case, the best option is thermostats that come as part of an EMS system. In addition to being fully customizable, you get data and alarms that show you when temperatures were changed. These nifty thermostats also give you the option to be locked out completely at a local level, so even if the buttons are pressed or menus are tampered with they will not be able to be unlocked at a local level.

3. Schedules can’t be set or can be set and are tampered with

Scheduling is super important in the restaurant industry, there are rushes and there are times when it’s really dead. During the rushes you will want the temperature to be lower than normal to compensate for all of those bodies in one place at the same time, but who would remember to turn this back up after the lunch rush is over? No one, we see it often where the setpoint is left super low and just continues to run. This causes your customers to be uncomfortable and not to mention all of the wasted energy and money. Having a thermostat capable of schedules is best for the restaurant environment simply because you are subtracting the human error out of the equation. You no longer have to rely on someone to change the setpoint after a lunch rush and back down again because most likely, they won’t remember. Not only will these save you a headache, they will save you the money on your HVAC consumption.

There are several solutions out there to alleviate some of the pain that comes along with each one of these, deciding which is best for your business is the tough part. With the chameleon platform, we utilize schedules that fit to your specific business needs and give access to who you deem necessary. We have the capability to lock out thermostats completely or have an adjustment range of 2 degrees up or down so your staff still feels empowered but you don’t pay for it. We also alert and alarm you to changes if you opt to keep the system open. Providing data on override times, temperatures, and alarms is what helps you pinpoint what your customers want while simultaneously providing you with equipment diagnostics on units and their likelihood to fail.

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Safe Quality Food (SQF) Changes in Store for 2018

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

Changes Are A Comin'

Food safety magazine reported that 2018 will be the year of food safety advances. The food safety system certification 22000 will go to version 4.1 and the third party, safe quality food (SQF) will advance to edition 8.0. The 8th edition will go into effect January 2, 2018, what that means is that all recertifications and unannounced recertification audits will use the edition 8 code as a guideline. There have been many changes but we will go through the major changes to the code and list out appropriate modules here. The modules and new codes can be found at www.sqfi.com under document downloads.

  • The “levels” of the code have been replaced with Food Safety Fundamentals, Food Safety Code, and Quality code.
    • Food Safety Fundamentals, which was formerly level 1 in SQF edition 7, is the entry-level food safety code for small or developing food and pet food manufacturers. HACCP reporting is not required at this level and the applicable modules are 7,11,12 and 13.
  • Food Safety Code, which was formerly level 2 in SQF edition 7, is applicable to primary production, manufacturing, storage and distribution, manufacturers of packaging materials and retail. Primary production is held to food safety codes 1,3,5,6 and modules 5,6,7,7h, and 8. Manufacturing is held to food safety codes 4,7-22,25, 31-34 and modules 3,4,9,10,11. Storage and distribution are held to food safety code 26 and module 12. Manufacturers of packaging materials are held to food safety code 27 and module 13. Lastly, retail is held to food safety code 24 and module 15 which is a new module in edition 8.
  • The Quality Code, which was formerly level 3 in SQF edition 7, is applicable to system elements to specify quality. Can be conducted with or without the food safety audit and the results will not affect the score of the food safety audit. This is not available for food retail.

There are also some new additions to edition 8 that edition 7 did not have before. There is an SQF food safety code for manufacturing, one for storage distribution, and one each for packaging and primary agriculture which there was not before. There is also a new food safety code for retail locations. Some notable changes were made to SQF 8.0 regarding food packaging lines and food labeling, quality code, food sector changes and implementation of a communications program by senior management.

This new code will be more stringent on those who will have to abide but was much needed since the Food Safety MOdernization Act (FSMA) that was signed into law in 2011 by President Obama and the most recently used code, SQF 7.0, which was published in 2012.

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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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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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Summer Heat and Your Restaurant Energy

By | Energy Management, Restaurant Tips | No Comments

The month of July is upon us, that means celebrating our independence, fireworks, BBQ’s, and let’s not forget the HEAT! July of 2016 according to NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the mean temperatures were the warmest on record for any month dating back to the 1800’s. We can only hope that temperatures this July don’t supersede that of last years.

Not only is it hot outside but your customers are looking to escape the heat, so no more setting that thermostat to 78 degrees. To keep customers happy and spending more time & money in your establishment your going to want to turn that AC down. The problem with that: your employees will want to turn it down as well but much lower than your billfold would allow. Energy costs in summer months rise…gotta love that whole supply and demand scenario. Lock those thermostats and keep them locked, ensure your customers are happy and employees too with a scheduling system for your air conditioning. Click here if you don’t have a scheduling system set up for your current thermostats. 

Some would argue that since the heat is so unbearable their business is affected because no one wants to venture outside in the heat. Here are some tips to help drive business to your restaurant during these summer months from restaurantengine.com.

     1.Post colorful, refreshing drinks online

          Take advantage of Facebook and those Instagram hashtags! There is no better way to lure people in than with the refreshing drinks they don’t have at home!

     2. Update your Website with summer dishes

          Don’t just update the dishes….but add photos. People are visual and love to see what they are getting. You can also add a dish of the day to your Instagram if you don’t already do so.

     3. Offer online ordering to increase business. 

We live in the age of now and convenience. Rarely do people want to call in to place a to go order if they first don’t seek out the option to place it online. This may lessen the amount of phone calls you receive, it also helps that online order tickets are 5-25% larger than phone-in orders. SHOW ME THE $$$!

      4.   Distribute “Order Online!” cards to customers

             This will help spread the word of your new online ordering feature to people who already clearly love your food! Hand them out to current customers, have them on tables, even distribute to nearby business to place in their break room.

      5.   Upgrade your restaurant decor for summer.

Switch up your decor and do something fun and new that screams summer. New outdoor lighting strands or plants that say….you are not in Phoenix’s 120 heat but a balmy 70 in Oahu!

      6.   Set a blogging schedule and stick to it.

             Creating a buzz about your restaurant and the food offered will help only to bring people in. Pick something different everyday, your blog doesn’t have to look like the prologue to “War and Peace” but just enough to satisfy and leave them wanting more. Don’t forget to post pictures and updates on Facebook whenever you do a blog post. Spread the word and let social media help!

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