Autumn and winter are busy seasons for restaurants and food-service facilities. The last thing a restaurant needs is a refrigerator breakdown in the middle of a packed house or an urgent holiday gift order. Follow these four tips to keep your commercial fridges and freezers humming smoothly throughout the festive months.
1. Rely on Checks and Balances
You've established strict thermometer-checking policies for your walk-ins and side-by-sides. What else should you do to protect your refrigerators and freezers from potential failure?
Establish a system of checks and balances. Appoint one person each to double-check the status of back-of-house appliance at least once per shift. Choose front-of-house employees as checkers for extra accountability, but train the checkers well.
Appliance checkers should look for the following:
Kitchen staff can become overwhelmed during a busy shift and simply go through the motions of checking commercial refrigeration equipment. Appointing a backup checker can be the key to catching small refrigeration problems before they become nightmares.
2. Know Your Fridge and Freezer Facts
If you aren't knowledgeable about your cold- and frozen-food storage, your lack of knowledge could cost you. Your commercial refrigerator and freezer could become sources of trouble when the health inspector shows up to check out your food safety standards.
In Utah, your refrigerators should hold most perishable foods at a temperature of 41 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. This rule applies to raw ingredients and to foods being thawed in your commercial refrigerator.
Your refrigerator should be able to cool heated foods quickly. Potentially hazardous cooked foods measuring 140 degrees Fahrenheit should be cooled to a temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit within two hours. The same foods must cool from 70 to 41 degrees Fahrenheit within four hours.
Periodically monitor cooked, cooling foods to ensure that they're reaching the right temperatures within the legally specified time frame. If hot, potentially hazardous foods are allowed to cool too slowly, they can grow harmful microorganisms that spread foodborne illness.
Don't overload your refrigerators with hot, cooked foods. Stagger cooking and storage of large quantities of hot foods, or divide large portions of hot foods between several refrigerators.
3. Prioritize and Sanitize
One of the best ways to keep your commercial fridges and freezers humming along is to keep them tidy. If you don't have a daily, weekly, and monthly appliance checklist, create one now.
The insides of all units should be wiped out daily. Even full freezers can be swept clear of crumbs at the openings.
Daily refrigerator cleaning tasks should also include the following:
Once a week, each shelf in your refrigerator should be emptied and sanitized. The exterior of the refrigerator can be washed with a mild detergent and wiped with a damp cloth to remove dirt and grime during the weekly shelf cleaning.
Keep dirt, dust, and debris off your refrigerator's mechanical components by checking at least monthly for dust and lint on the back of the condenser coils. After unplugging the refrigerator, the fins in the coils should be vacuumed or brushed in a vertical direction from the top of the condenser to the bottom.
The fan and motor inside your refrigerator should also be inspected and cleaned once a month. Again, ensure that the appliance is unplugged from the power source before wiping the fan blades and other dusty components.
Wipe fan blades with a dampened cloth only, and don't drip cleaner on wires or other metal components of the refrigerator. Check the air return vents, honeycombs, and other areas for mold and mildew buildup. Remove any clogs in the drain hole, and clean the pan.
When cleaning fan blades or other internal components, use only mild cleaners. The smell of strong chemical cleaners can be transferred into the refrigerator and affect the smell of your cooking ingredients.
4. Have an Emergency Plan
Appliance breakdowns happen even when you're vigilant about maintaining your food-service equipment. Power outages can happen at any time and disrupt your kitchen. What are your plans if your commercial refrigeration fails?
Develop a protocol for refrigeration interruption. The first rule should be to open the fridge and freezer doors as seldom as possible. If kept closed, a full freezer can maintain a safe temperature for up to 4 hours without power.
Some future emergency refrigeration solutions to explore include:
Post the number of a qualified commercial refrigeration specialist in a prominent place in your kitchen or office. Your staff will know exactly whom to call when a refrigeration breakdown has occurred.
If your commercial refrigeration equipment in Northern Utah needs tuning up, maintenance, or repairs, contact Dick Kearsley Service Center today. Schedule our expert appliance services for your food-service business now before the holidays are in full swing.