Restaurant Education

Commercial Beverage Dispensers: Cleaning and Maintenance

beverage dispenserAs much as I loathe saying it, summer is winding down. The weather in the Midwest is already chilling. Soon we’ll see the shutters on our little lakeside snack shops coming down in preparation for the coming fall and winter months.

As summer fades into fall, it’s the perfect time to take a look at your refrigerated beverage dispenser. Whether you’re packing up and closing shop for the season, weaning your patrons from frosty mixed drinks, or breaking out the concession equipment for the upcoming school year, the demand on your beverage dispensers has decreased…for a moment.  Now is the time to take a look at your current dispenser’s state and look for the indications listed below that it’s time to go shopping.

Beverage dispensers typically offer a service life of between seven and 10 years on average. The following are signs that indicate your beverage dispenser may need replacing:

Water Leaks: If water leaks through the bin seal or manufactured chassis, this may indicate a leak in the line or rupture in the corner seal. This could be an indication that the unit has reached the end of its service life.

Aging Unit: Many beverage dispenser components, such as valves, can be replaced. It also is possible to upgrade and refurbish these units. But if the equipment had been in operation for 10 years or more in a high-volume application, it’s more than likely time to replace the unit as a whole.

Appearance: Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. If they notice an older, self-serve unit at the front of the house, how will that affect your sales? In this case, it’s important to keep up appearances.

Changing Menu: A common issue when purchasing beverage dispensers is buying too small or too large a dispenser for the necessary volume. When the beverage menu changes or expands, foodservice operators should re-evaluate whether the dispenser can meet the restaurant’s needs. If the operation requires more capacity consider whether a larger unit or additional dispenser would be most appropriate.

Once you’ve checked these items off your list, keep your beverage dispenser in tip-top shape by regularly following cleaning procedures. This will help ensure the quality and taste of beverages isn’t compromised.

Beverage dispensers can be merchandising tools especially when used in the front of house for self-service applications. For this reason, it’s important that these units are properly cleaned and maintained. Foodservice operators can perform daily, weekly, and monthly tasks that will help keep your beverage dispensers operating at an optimal level, while ensuring a long service life. Keep in mind that unit needs may vary, and manufacturer’s recommendations should be followed.

On a daily basis, staff should remove the nozzles and diffusers and soak them in warm, soapy water. At the end of the day wipe down exterior surfaces with soap and water to remove any build-up and/or spills. Refrain from using cleaners with high chlorine content on stainless steel, as they may cause rust. Regularly flush and clean water lines. And finally, each month, clean and wash ice bins.

When to Replace your Commercial Warewasher

WarewasherAre you making repeated service calls for your commercial warewasher? Are you debating between another service call versus replacing the whole unit? Although these are cleaning machines, proper maintenance and cleaning are important to keep warewashers operating efficiently and effectively. Typically, a warewasher is replaced for one of three reasons: technical problems, inefficiency, or inadequacy for operational needs.  Technical problems can mean the machine is out of warranty and past its prime. Older generation warewashers are expensive to keep running from a service point of view. Most high-quality commercial warewashers are expected to have a useful service life of 10 years on average.

As your foodservice establishment continually grows or expands overtime, you may find that your warewasher isn’t capable of handling the growing demands efficiently. If your machine is requiring you to rewash items or extending operating times, it is probably time to consider replacing the unit. The good news is that today’s warewasher models consume significantly less water and energy than models of only five years ago. This reduces the time necessary to recoup the investment of a new machine significantly. So how can you tell when it’s time to replace your warewasher? Look for the following:

When to Replace

  1. Increased service calls and high repair costs: When a unit requires an increasing number of service calls or multiple component replacements, it may be nearing the end of its service life.
  2. Signs of wear and tear: Tank leaks may signify that the welds are giving out. Also, problems can be caused by water leaking from the boosters.
  3. Loss of controls: If the warewasher’s controls are not operating properly or pump pressure is lost, replacement is most likely appropriate.
  4. Inconsistent results: The results of the unit are a key indicator that the warewasher is not operating at 100 percent.
  5. Older models: Operators may want to replace older warewashers that are utilizing excessive amounts of energy and/or water with a more efficient unit.

Once you have that new machine installed, it’s important to get the most out of your purchase. Remember these steps for extending the life of your new warewasher:

Maintenance Musts

  1. Clean dish machines after every shift, since flushing out the water removes accumulated soil from the machine, improving washing performance.
  2. Regularly wash and clean scrap screens or filters.
  3. Depending on usage and water quality, wash and rinse arms should be cleaned weekly or as required.

How To Sell Your Used Restaurant Equipment

Are you in the market to sell your restaurant equipment but aren’t sure where to go? Burkett Restaurant Equipment’s partner, Mojam Liquidations, offers inventory buyout opportunities. Burkett and Mojam can help you in two ways:

1. If you are able to personally deliver your restaurant equipment to our Toledo, Ohio warehouse, we encourage you to submit the following information via email to Mike@mojamliquidations.com  and then make an appointment with Mike, our Used Equipment Purchaser for an immediate evaluation.

  • Information to Include:Used Mixer
  • Brand Name
  • Model Number
  • Serial Number
  • Equipment Condition
  • Picture of equipment
  •  Asking Price

2. For foodservice establishments located outside Toledo:

Please email Mike@mojamliquidations.com with the information requested above. You will be contacted for an evaluation of your inventory based on the information submitted. Please note, we request that you be able to ship your items to our Toledo, Ohio warehouse.

Please feel free to utilize your email to describe your inventory in detail or submit additional photographs.

Restaurant Education: 8 Essentials to Stock your Bar

Bar BlenderSchool is out, summer is here. It’s time to celebrate the season by stocking your bar! Summer is synonymous with drinks on the patio after a long day of work…or golf.  A bar that has all the right supplies will make it easier to make the drinks that your customers want, when they want them. Whether you’ve just realized you’re missing a key piece of bar equipment, or you’ve finally decided to install that old tiki bar in your basement, here is a list of what you really need to celebrate summer the right way.

Cocktail or Martini Glasses: Depending on the size of drinks you’re looking to serve, martini glasses range in size from 6 ounces to 10.5 ounces. Most drinks are measured at 3-5 ounces, but who doesn’t love those giant 10oz margaritas? Decide which size is best for you by reviewing your drink menu. Do some research on popular cocktails (ahem, see previous blog Four Hot Cocktail Trends for 2013) to determine if you have need for a specific glass size.

Rocks Glasses: Generally, most drinks are poured over ice. You’ll also have many guests that will just want a whiskey on the rocks. These short tumblers are a must have addition to any bar. Keep in mind; it’s important to store these upside down to prevent dust from settling inside.

Hi-Ball (tall) Glasses:  You’ll find tons of drinks that call for tall, rocks glasses. Typically hi-ball glasses are between 8 and 12 ounces. Popular hi-ball drinks include: greyhound, screwdriver, madras, vodka & tonic, and Bloody Mary. These are usually sweet, highly drinkable cocktails that everyone will want, so stock up.

Wine Buckets: Two words: Bottle Service. Aside from the obvious benefits of selling liquor or wine by the bottle, the latest generations of drinkers love the notoriety of bottle service. While bottle service typically goes hand in hand with reserved tables and a bevy of mixers of the customer’s choice, the “piece de resistance” is often the premium bottle of liquor, champagne or wine. Serve it in style with one of Burkett’s stainless steel or clear polycarbonate buckets.

Shaking your head and thinking this is the exact reason you’re building a bar in your basement? No problem, they make awesome ice buckets too.  Even at home bartenders know that cold is key.

Cocktail Shakers + Strainers:  From martinis to margaritas, you just have to have one. Cocktail shakers do more than mix drink ingredients together. Their main purpose is making the drink as cold as can be, as quickly as possible. A good stainless steel cocktail shaker will be the star of the bar on a busy night. Shopping for shakers can be overwhelming. The most important feature to look for is a tight seal to eliminate the problem of the two pieces getting stuck together.

Measured Liquor Pourers:  A fail proof method of serving the right amount of liquor for your drink recipe. Measured pourers will give your bartenders precise shot measurements without the need of shot glasses or jiggers (although, all bars should have shot glasses too…I mean, shots are fun).  To appeal to your business side, pourers save money by avoiding over-pouring and potential spills. Burkett Restaurant Equipment offers a variety of colors and sizes to accommodate any of your beverage needs.

Bar Mats: Busy bars will truly the necessity of a bar mat, perfect for securing wet glasses and preventing alcohol from spilling on countertop surfaces or establishment floors. They protect your bar top with their no-slip service and ensure a safer work area for your employees.

Blenders: Last, but certainly not least you will need a bar blender. Bar blenders provide the easiest and most convenient way to make any sticky sweet frozen drink. Whip up your famous daiquiri or pina coladas quickly. Bar blenders are all stars when it comes to ice, alcohol, fruit, and anything else you want to throw in there!

5 Tips for Preventing Cross Contamination in Your Kitchen

When disease causing microorganisms are transferred from one food or surface to another, cross-contamination has occurred. In restaurants and other foodservice establishments, pathogens can be spread from food or unwashed hands to prep areas, equipment, utensils or other food. Fortunately there are things you can do to prevent cross contamination. Here are five tips for preventing it in your restaurant’s kitchen.

handwashingPractice good hygiene.

Incorporate a hand hygiene program into your employee training that teaches employees how and when to wash their hands. This can go a long way in preventing the spread of pathogens. Put hand hygiene posters and guidelines in high traffic employee areas.

Store food in designated storage areas.

To prevent possible contamination, it’s important to keep food away from dishwashing areas and rooms that may contain garbage, heating and cooling equipment such as a furnace, and the restroom. Never store food near chemicals or cleaning supplies and keep it out from under stairways and pipes.

Store food in proper containers.

If food is removed from its original package, put it in a clean, sanitized container and cover it, such as these food storage containers. The new container must be labeled with the name of the food and the original use-by or expiration date. Make sure you’re wrapping the food properly as well. Leaving food uncovered can lead to cross contamination. Cover food with tight fitting plastic wrap or aluminum foil.

Store raw meat, poultry, and fish separately from prepared food.

When storing raw meat, poultry and fish follow this storage order: whole fish, whole cuts of beef and pork, ground meats and fish and whole and ground poultry. Keep these items separate from prepared and ready to eat foods. If storing raw meats separately is unavoidable, make sure they are placed below prepared foods.  Burkett Restaurant Equipment offers a variety of restaurant shelving to make this possible.

Keep your cleaning supplies color-coded.color coded containers

Color coded towels and cleaning supplies can be used to assist in the prevention of cross contamination by assigning different colors for front and back of the house tasks. As an example towels can be color-coded as: red for raw meat, blue for countertops, and white for dining room tables.

How to Clean and Maintain your Commercial Ice Cream Machine

There are two things I love: England and ice cream. They fairly go hand in hand considering former British Prime Minister, Margret Thatcher, helped create soft serve ice cream during her time as a food scientist.  I like my ice cream smooth and creamy, no hard frozen chunks of toppings for me to crack a tooth on. Enter the underdog of summer treats – soft serve ice cream.

I know most people prefer hand-dipped ice cream because it offers a larger selection of flavors. However, I’ll argue that when done right, a cone filled with sweet creamy vanilla beats any fancy flavor you can think of. Plus, I think you get more ice cream with soft serve.

Enough about me; how do you guarantee you’re doing the soft serve thing right? Regular cleaning and maintenance of your commercial ice cream machines, that’s how!  Regular cleaning and sanitization of ice cream machines helps ensure food safety. One drop of that heavenly mix will create a haven for bacterial growth. Before you start, research local health codes for cleaning commercial ice cream machines. Most will require a daily or twice weekly disassemble and clean. After that, follow these four simple steps for cleaning and maintaining your machine. The result? Sweet, smooth ice cream worth of The Iron Lady.

Completely empty the machine: Start by emptying any unused mix from the freezing chamber. Wipe out any impacted ice cream that has hardened out of reach of the scraping blades. Ensure that there is a clear pathway for water to pass through the machine completely.  Flush it a few times until the water comes out clear.

Take it apart: Get out your owner’s manual and locate all of the parts that are suggested for removal when cleaning. Completely disassemble the ice cream maker, removing any detachable parts that come in contact with the ice cream. Commercial machines have dispensing handles and tips that come in contact with fingers and ice cream regularly. These tips and handles should also be disassembled and removed during every cleaning session.

Soak + Scrub: Pour a mixture of hot soapy water into the freezing chamber of your machine. Many ice cream makers now come with a wash cycle setting; run this if your ice cream maker includes this feature. If it does not, a kitchen scrub brush with a handle is recommended to clean all of the inner moving parts. Once finished, drain your machine of all soapy water and flush it again with clean hot water to remove all traces of soap. Next, place all of the parts into a tub of more hot soapy water. Add a tablespoon or so of bleach to kill any remaining bacteria and allow the parts to soak for 30 minutes, or until the water has cooled. Rinse all parts in clean water and allow them to dry on clean towels.

Reassemble : Finally, wipe down your machine and parts with a clean, dry towel and reassemble your machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Additional best practices for ice cream machine maintenance include keeping the condenser coil clean. If the coil has a buildup of grease and dirt, you’ll need to use a degreaser and then wash the coil off. When you wash the coils of your commercial ice cream machine, be sure to cover the condenser fan motor and any other electrical components that might get sprayed. Note if the coil has a build-up of dry dust and lint. The best way to clean that is to wash it thoroughly with water. Also, open the side and back panels of your commercial ice cream machine and inspect the inside for debris.

Finally, check the drive belts and make sure they’re in good condition and adjusted to the correct tension, and make sure the drive pulleys are aligned correctly. You might want to keep spare tune up parts like o rings, seals, gaskets, food-safe lubricant, sleeves, bushings, and beater blades. These things will wear out and will need to be changed every three to six months.

Restaurant Education: Preparing Your Restaurant for High Voltage Appliances

High_VoltageWith the exception of a clothes dryer or oven, most household appliances only require 120 electrical volts, whereas commercial restaurant equipment and appliances run at higher voltages (208 volts to 240 volts).  If you’re opening a new foodservice establishment, or remodeling your existing restaurant, coffee shop, or bar, you will be buying equipment and acting as a middle man between your electrician and your equipment dealer. Read on to understand the basics you’ll need to understand to be comfortable talking directly to your electrician and ensuring your establishment is properly wired.

Standard 120 Volt household appliances generally have the same standard plugs on the ends of their power cords, and those plugs can be plugged into any standard household outlet. This is not true of high voltage commercial appliances. There are different kinds of plugs and different kinds of outlets for high voltage appliances.

Most people realize the plug on the end of your appliance’s power cord needs to fit the outlet. For this reason, many commercial appliances are shipped without a plug at the end of the power cord. The person doing the installation first looks at the outlet, and then provides a compatible plug which they put on the end of the power cord as part of the installation procedure.

The main reason for having different plugs is to ensure that the appliance does not exceed the current limit of the wiring in the wall. For high voltage outlets, you will typically see 20 Ampere sockets, 30 Ampere sockets.

Make sure that the circuit that your electrician installs will comfortably handle the current that your appliance will pull. Consider putting in a 30 Ampere circuit for a 20 Ampere appliance to ensure you’re not regularly tripping the circuit breaker. If you intend to plug more than one appliance into the same circuit, make sure you add up the currents from all of the appliances (this should be available on the equipment’s spec sheet). Ask your electrician to install a circuit that can handle the total current.

Finally, look for plugs that lock into the socket. This will prevent the plug from being dislodged accidentally. Some zoning boards will require this as a “safety feature.” They are concerned that if someone trips over the cord, the plug will get pulled out, and there could be a small spark that would cause any nearby volatile gasses to explode.

Restaurant Ed: Avoid a Bad Health Inspection

Here’s something I realized this weekend, some people will go to the ends of the earth to avoid a restaurant that has received a poor health inspection rating. Regardless if the restaurant has improved the situation that has caused the poor rating in the first place, they want no part of it. That seems unfair to me, but not everyone has restaurant industry experience to soften them. In fact, a friend recently argued to me that we should expect “A” ratings from every restaurant.

That says a lot about how important it is to strive for the best rating during a health inspection. With that in mind, I compiled a list of the most common violations and how to avoid them. Keep these in mind when you’re preparing for a health inspection or doing a self-inspection of your establishment.A rating

Follow the steps below to practice A-grade food safety and keep your customers safe from food-borne illness.

Be sure employees are trained in basic food safety and supervised by someone who has a food protection certificate.

  1. Arrange work schedules so that a supervisor with a food protection certificate is on duty whenever your restaurant is receiving or preparing food, or is open to the public.
  2. Train supervisors to use the Self-Inspection Worksheet to regularly evaluate and improve the restaurant’s condition and employees’ food safety practices.
  3. Provide food safety training for all employees who handle food .

Hold food at the proper temperature.

  1. Review Health Department rules for temperature- holding requirements.
  2. Be sure equipment used to hold hot and cold food is working properly.
  3. Use thermometers to monitor the temperature of foods in hot or cold storage.
  4. Track food taken from hot or cold storage, and record how long it is out.

Control conditions that promote pests.

  1. Seal all cracks, crevices and holes in walls, cabinets and doors to prevent rodents, cockroaches and flies from entering.
  2. Install rodent-proof door sweeps on outside doors.
  3. Store food and garbage in pest-proof containers.
  4. Clean grease, oil and food particles from all surfaces and equipment, including the floor underneath.
  5. Keep range hoods clean and grease-free.
  6. Contract with a pest control professional licensed to work in restaurants.

Protect food from contamination during storage, preparation, transportation and display.

  1. Keep food covered until served.
  2. Keep food separated by temperature and type. Avoid cross-contamination by separating potentially hazardous foods (like raw poultry) from ready-to-eat items (like salad mix).

Maintain all food surfaces.

  1. Clean and sanitize all food-preparation surfaces after each use; remove caked-on food.
  2. Repair or replace deeply-grooved cutting boards and chipped or broken surfaces so they can be properly sanitized.

Maintain all non-food surfaces.

  1. Review Health Department rules on acceptable materials; surfaces should be smooth and cleanable.
  2. Keep all surfaces clean.

Maintain all plumbing and check it frequently.

  1. Monitor all plumbing fixtures and make needed repairs immediately.
  2. Be sure plumbing is fitted with approved devices (valves, anti-siphonage pieces, vacuum breakers) to prevent backflow.
  3. Clean and maintain grease traps.

We recommend consulting with your entire kitchen staff about these issues, and make sure to highlight the importance of a sanitary (and safe!) working environment. 

Buying Guide: How to Know When It Is Time to Replace Your Walk-In

Summertime is approaching quickly and your refrigerators and freezers will be working overtime. While walk-in refrigerators and Norlake walk-infreezers can have very long service lives, there are a few telltale signs that a unit needs replacing.

With new and more energy efficient technologies continuously being developed (see my previous post detailing ENERGY STAR products here), experts recommend that walk-ins be replaced after 15 years of service.

If panel skins are deteriorating or separating from the foam, the walk-in most likely needs to be retired. Frost accumulates when warm air is allowed to enter the walk-in. If your walk-in is a new installation and the frost is forming along seam lines, you may have an air leak at the seam. Interior panel seams that have condensation or frost build up typically signify that the seal is allowing air to leak through. This can compromise holding temperatures and leave you needing a new unit.

If the frost is around the door you likely have a leaking door gasket or wiper gasket on the bottom of the door. To determine this, go inside the freezer, have someone turn off the lights. If you see light, you have a leak at the gaskets that will need to be repaired. Door seals and sweep gaskets can be replaced. However, sagging doors that allow outside air into the walk-in can cause ice buildup on the evaporator coil, compromising efficiency and eventually requiring the purchase of a new unit

Finally, if the frost is on the ceiling, particularly near the unit cooler (coil), you may have a failed fan delay relay. The fan delay relay functions to delay the coil fans from restarting after a defrost cycle until the coil refreezes. If there is no delay the water on the fins of the coil will evaporate and turn to frost on the ceiling of the walk-in freezer. You’ll need a refrigeration tech to confirm the problem and replace the fan delay relay.

How To: Clean Your Commercial Ice Machine

The show Kitchen Nightmares has made me hyper-aware of the risks of dirty ice machines. Ice machines are considered food equipment and must be maintained and cleaned to promote healthy, sanitary conditions. Proper maintenance and cleaning of your ice machine increases performance and reduces the need for repairs. If you’re not cleaning your ice machine regularly, you’re allowing it to accumulate mold and slime that reduces the function of your ice machine and, more importantly, the health and safety of your ice.

Ice MachineCleaning and sanitizing your bin is a two-part process. First, you need to remove lime scale from your machine. Secondly, you need to sanitize the interior and exterior of the bin. It’s recommended that you use the manufacturer suggested solution when following the steps below:

To clean the interior:

  1. Mix a solution of water and descaler together following the recommendations from the bottle (Usually 5-6 ounces per gallon).
  2. Use a spray bottle to apply this cleaner to the inside of the bin. Remove the baffle from the inside of the bin by removing the thumbscrews first.
  3. Using a nylon brush, scrub the interior in its entirety as well as the baffle.
  4. Soak your scoop until all of the scale deposits are removed.
  5. Flush the bin, baffle and scoop thoroughly with fresh water ensuring all traces of the descaler has been removed.

Sanitizing your Ice Machine:

After cleaning the interior the unit should be sanitized. This is done following the same method as used above however, this time you will use a sanitizing solution.

  1. Apply sanitizing solution with a spray bottle.
  2. With a clean rag wipe down the entire interior surface of the bin as well as the baffle, thumb screws and scoop.
  3. Thoroughly flush the interior of the bin as well as the other parts that were sanitized with fresh water until all traces of the sanitizer is removed.

You’re not done yet!

The outside of your bin should be wiped down at least weekly. While this part of the bin won’t touch the ice, it’s important to keep it clean. Simply apply a mild soap solution and wipe the entire exterior surface.

Cleaning commercial ice machine condenser coils is essential preventive maintenance also. Dirty coils shorten the life of the compressor and reduce ice production. Eventually a safety will cut the machine off to prevent further damage. The coils can be vacuumed, blown out with C02 or compressed air or brushed. Remember that ice machine condenser coils are usually more fragile than other refrigeration equipment coils.

Finally, for maximum filtration efficiency, replace the primary filter cartridge every six months.

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