Is It Time to Replace Your Refrigerator or Freezer?

Refrigerators and freezers are essential for ensuring food safety in any commercial kitchen. While they're typically built to last, the time will come when you have to replace your trusty cold storage equipment. Keep reading to learn more about when it's time to purchase a new unit and how to extend your replacement fridge or freezer's lifespan.

1. Is Your Equipment Making Unusual Noises?

Stephanie

If your refrigerator or freezer is producing more noise than usual or making loud rattling sounds, it's probably time to replace it. To avoid excessive noise, be sure to clean your unit's compressor and coils regularly, along with the area around the equipment itself. Another way to keep your unit quiet is to ensure the compressor fan has good airflow. Partially blocked or dirty compressor fans have to work harder to cool the refrigerant in the unit, which shortens its life.

Not sure whether you should choose a model with a top-mounted compressor or a bottom-mounted compressor when you purchase a replacement unit? Here are the main benefits and drawbacks of each type:

Bottom-Mounted Compressors

  • Pull in cooler air, making them ideal for hot environments.
  • Take up some storage space, but make the unit's bottom shelves easier to reach.
  • Can become clogged with dirt, grease, and other contaminants on the floor.

Top-Mounted Compressors

  • Pull in warmer air, making them ideal for cool environments.
  • Are less accessible for cleaning and service, but don't take up storage space.
  • Are less likely to clog than bottom-mounted models because they're farther from the floor.

2. Is Your Unit Not Keeping Food Cold?

Stephanie

Have you noticed that your unit isn't keeping its contents cold? Refrigerators should hold temperatures between 36 and 38 degrees Fahrenheit, while freezers are designed to hold between -10 and 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperature fluctuations can result in lost product - which in turn costs your business money - so you should be sure to purchase a new unit if you're encountering this issue.

Be sure to install your replacement fridge or freezer on a level surface that's far from heat-generating appliances, as operating in high temperatures can cause the coil to malfunction. In turn, the temperature within the unit increases, leading to spoiled food. Additionally, avoid installing refrigerators in humid or dusty areas, which are just as damaging to compressors as placing refrigerators in excessively hot environments.

3. Does Your Equipment Look Beat-Up on the Outside?

When it comes to refrigeration equipment, appearance is important. If your unit looks extremely beat-up, it's probably time to replace it. Here are a few telltale signs:

  • The hinges are pulling away from the cabinet.
  • There are cracked seams or welds.
  • You can see exposed insulation.
  • The gaskets are worn.

In addition to the issues listed above, you should determine whether the unit's door is closing and sealing correctly. Having air leaking out of your refrigerator or freezer forces the compressor to work harder, which usually leads to excess noise, spoiled food, and higher energy costs.

4. Is Your Unit's Floor Rotting?

It sounds gross, but the floors in refrigerators and freezers can rot over time. While it's normal for things to spill in your unit as employees take things out and put things in, you should also be sure your workers are cleaning the floor of your refrigerator or freezer regularly. However, some spills are harder to notice, especially if they seep into cracks or corners. If you notice the floor of your refrigerator or freezer is warped or soft, it's a sure sign of rotting - and time to purchase a new unit.

5. Is Your Equipment Old and Out of Warranty?

Stephanie

Even though your 10-year-old refrigerator or freezer may seem to be working perfectly, chances are it's not as energy efficient as it could be. It's also probably out of warranty, which means you're most likely spending more money on repairs than you would if you just purchased a new unit. So, buying an up-to-date model will not only save you money on electricity costs, but will also cut costs in the long run because it's far less likely to malfunction.

6. Do You Just Need a Change?

Sometimes, it's just time for something new, even if your existing unit isn't having any problems. You may need something larger as your business expands, or you may need to swap out your bottom-mounted fridge for a top-mounted model if your kitchen layout changes. When you purchase that shiny new unit, consider selling your existing refrigerator or freezer to another business to get your money's worth.


From rotten floors and noisy condensers to worn-out gaskets and beat-up doors, there are plenty of signs that it's time to replace your refrigerator or freezer. Although purchasing a new unit will obviously cost you money up front, it will also cut down on expenses in the long run because these pieces of equipment are more energy efficient than their predecessors. With a little research and some due diligence, you can make an informed purchasing decision and select a high-quality model that will last for years.

Posted in: Management & Operation | By Nora Fulmer

Myths and Benefits of Cooking with Cast Iron

When you think of cast iron cookware, you probably picture a campfire. Maybe some cowboys out on the range, sizzling up some steaks while swapping tall tales of legendary heroes and lost loves. But while it’s true this material has very humble beginnings, there’s actually a lot of ways you can use cast iron – in a lot of places. You can even use cast iron in restaurants!

Now you’re probably thinking, “That can’t be true. It’s impractical to use a cast iron skillet in a restaurant.” But the truth is that this age-old material is becoming more and more popular for commercial settings. Let’s explore some of the benefits cast iron has to offer and some of the myths that prevent it from being used as widely as it could be.

Myths About Cast Iron

Can you use soap to clean cast iron?

Yes! This is probably one of the most common misconceptions about cast iron. While it’s true that cast iron pans do need to build up a coating in order to stay non-stick, using a little bit of dish soap won’t hurt anything. The more important thing to remember is to always dry your cast iron immediately after washing it. Otherwise, you run the risk of rust.

Another thing to keep in mind here is that routine re-seasoning is recommended. You should coat your pan with a thin layer of melted vegetable oil or shortening and bake it between 350-400 degrees Fahrenheit. That level of heat should kill any bacteria just as effectively as soap, if not more so. So while you can use soap to wash your cast iron pans, you don’t necessarily need to.

Cast Iron Serveware

Can you use cast iron cookware for restaurants?

Yes. In fact, many restaurants love using cast iron cookware because (in most cases) you can both cook and serve in the same pan. One of the most common restaurant uses you might see are “sizzle platters” where fajita fillings (like steak and peppers) are brought out on sizzling hot cast iron platters, usually on top of a heat-resistant underliner made of wood or silicone.

Is cast iron expensive?

Because the process of creating cast iron cookware is relatively simple, it tends to be very affordable. And when you think of the cost of cast iron in relation to a comparable non-stick pan, you’ll find that cast iron is a very cost-effective option. That’s because while most non-stick surfaces cannot be repaired after they’ve been scratched, cast iron can be re-seasoned again and again to repair any damage. If a cast iron skillet is seasoned routinely, its lifespan will far exceed that of a typical non-stick pan.

Advantage of Cast Iron Skillet

My cast iron pan is rusty. Is it ruined?

No. If your cast iron cookware is showing signs of rust, simply remove the rusty layer with steel wool. Even a paste made of coarsely ground salt and water on a paper towel will do the trick. You can use anything that’s abrasive enough to scrape the rust off. Just make sure it’s non-toxic because you don’t want to risk any harmful chemicals leeching into the surface of your pan.

Does cast iron heat evenly?

Unfortunately, no. While it may seem like the thickness of cast iron would distribute heat well, this material is notorious for cold spots. The best way to ensure even cooking while using a cast iron pan is to heat it really well either on the stovetop or in the oven prior to use.

Can traces of iron get into my food?

Cooking acidic foods (like tomato sauce) in a cast iron pan is not recommended because acid can wear down the seasoned coating and is more likely to absorb iron into the food itself. Although it's nontoxic, these traces of iron can leave a metallic taste in your sauce. So if you find that a particular recipe comes out tasting like iron, consider the acid levels of the ingredients and try making that dish in a different pan.

Why Use Cast Iron?

Cast iron lasts forever

As mentioned above, one of the best things about cast iron cookware is that it’s extremely durable and can usually be repaired if scratched or damaged. So as long as your pan doesn’t chip or crack, you can remove any rust and re-season it again and again.

How

Cast iron is oven safe

Probably the best thing about cooking with cast iron is its versatility. This material can be used with pretty much any heat source—from open flame to induction. This, of course, includes use in commercial ovens.

Not only will you be able to enjoy the effect cast iron can provide for your baked mac and cheese and fruit cobblers, but you can also experience the convenience of a naturally non-stick surface for making eggs and more.

Cast iron is natural

Unlike some non-stick pan coatings, cast iron pans are generally made of 100% natural materials—namely iron and oil. This is a fantastic benefit for farm-to-table restaurants or any establishment that focuses on clean cooking and natural ingredients.

New features for cast iron are being developed

Companies like Lodge have been developing new techniques of manufacturing and treating cast iron that are healthier for factory workers and provide convenient qualities, like dishwasher-safe finishes. By combining ancient casting techniques with cutting-edge technology, Lodge has developed a heat-treated line of rust-resistant cast iron cookware. They cast these products using the same process they’ve been practicing for over 100 years. Then, they expose the items to a heating process that penetrates the outer layer of the pan, which deoxidizes the iron, making it resistant to rust. This means that, for the first time ever, you can actually clean your cast iron in the dishwasher! And even better yet, there are no harmful chemicals used to coat the surface of these products—just oil, and heat.

Since this technique is still so new, the number of rust-resistant products available is mostly limited to small, oven-to-table serving pieces. However, Lodge plans to expand their selection of heat-treated products in the near future.

Serve

Cast iron is a visually appealing presentation piece

Let’s not forget that the classic look of these products can contribute to an eye-catching presentation in a variety of settings. From country-themed restaurants to modern rustic establishments, customers love serving pieces made of natural materials that are designed with a classic appearance.


While you may have thought you knew everything there was to know about cast iron, keep in mind that this centuries-old material is still being developed in new ways to make it more practical for commercial environments. It’s durable enough to withstand scratches and other wear and tear, and versatile enough to be used with any heat source. And the introduction of rust-resistant products has opened even more doors for new possibilities at restaurants and in other commercial settings. So if you’re thinking of replacing your existing cookware (or stocking your restaurant for the very first time), consider incorporating cast iron into the mix.

Posted in: Kitchen & Cooking Tips | By Jessica Wieser

What is Restaurant Week? (and Why Should Your Business Participate?)

Over the past few decades, an event known as restaurant week has grown into a nationwide phenomenon. But, what is restaurant week and how did it start? Many foodservice establishments may also wonder if it's worth it for their business to join the event. We'll discuss how restaurant week got started, how it can benefit your business, and how your restaurant can get the most out of the event.

What is Restaurant Week?

Restaurant week is an event where restaurants offer reduced or fixed price menus, so customers can try many different types of food that may normally be out of their price range. Typically, it is mid- and upper-range establishments that join restaurant week, but any restaurant can take part in the event. Restaurant week appeals to locals and tourists alike, and most operations that participate see increased traffic during the occasion.

The History of Restaurant Week

A steak dinner with wine

Restaurant week was created in New York City in 1992 by Tim Zagat, the creator of the Zagat Survey, and Joe Baum, a famous New York restaurateur. The promotional event was originally lunch-only and was set to coincide with the Democratic National Convention to draw visitors, reporters, and politicians attending the event to local restaurants. The first restaurant week saw huge success, and it has since spread to cities large and small all over the country.

How Does Restaurant Week Work?

Restaurant week can take place any time of year, and timing varies by location. Typically, restaurant week is held in either early winter or sometime in spring, which are periods that are usually slower for restaurants. Additionally, while the original event was only one week long, nowadays most restaurant week events last anywhere from two weeks to a month. Many large cities will also hold multiple restaurant weeks per year. The event is typically organized by the chamber of commerce or local tourist organizations, so check out those resources to find out when your restaurant week is.

During restaurant week, many operations choose to offer several package meals at different price points. Providing several meal options is important because it makes guests with varying budgets feel welcome in your restaurant. A common practice is to have a menu that highlights three price packages. The most expensive option may include a better cut of meat, one cocktail per person, or a bottle of wine for the table. The cheapest option may be as simple as a signature soup or salad complemented by a dessert.

How Does Restaurant Week Benefit My Business?

Man on a computer

Restaurant week is a great way for businesses to draw in new customers, while also keeping existing customers satisfied and interested. However, many owners question if giving out a week of deals will actually help their operation or if the specials will eat up any potential profits. Here are a few reasons why joining your city's or region's restaurant week is a good idea:

  • Although you are offering your meals for reduced prices, restaurant week brings in more traffic than usual, which will make up for the lower dollar amount.
  • Restaurant week gives you a chance to impress customers with your food and service, and the experience may persuade some guests to come back and become repeat customers.
  • Taking part in restaurant week can boost your reputation as a high-quality and fashionable restaurant in your community.
  • Participating in your city's restaurant week can also help improve the local economy and build your city's reputation as a foodie destination, which will improve tourism.

How to Get the Most Out of Restaurant Week

Friends sitting around a table eating

Once you've joined your city's restaurant week, you want to make the most of the opportunity. During the event, guests are going to visit a lot of different restaurants, so you want to be the one that everyone remembers and comes back to after the occasion has ended. Here are a few tips for taking full advantage of your city's restaurant week to benefit your establishment:

1. Create a menu that helps you reach your goal. If your goal is to stand out from the crowd for your creativity, use the event as an occasion to serve experimental and unique dishes. If you're looking to appeal to new audiences and bring in new diners, you can fill your menu with your most popular dishes to wow guests.

2. Give customers more than they expect. Make sure that guests feel like VIPs from the moment they enter your operation. Additionally, creating an attractive table setting and having a clear menu can make the experience that much better.

3. Appeal to different target audiences. People of all ages, demographics, and walks of life take part in restaurant week, which gives you a chance to appeal to a wide audience. When you are creating your menu, you should also be considerate of dietary restrictions and offer at least one option for vegetarians and people with food allergies.

4. Partner with a local business. Consider teaming up with a local winery, brewery, or distillery and offer a complete food and drink package. You can also use fresh produce from local farms and markets. This is a great way to help another business increase its branding, and it will show that your restaurant is a true part of the community, which is what restaurant week is all about.


Starting out as a week-long event in New York City, restaurant week has grown into a nationwide phenomenon that draws millions of visitors to restaurants in cities all over the country. Restaurant week is an exciting, fun, stressful, and beneficial event all wrapped up in one. And whether you're a veteran to the tradition or this is your restaurant's first year participating in the event, there is something to gain from joining restaurant week.

Posted in: Advertising & Marketing | Management & Operation | By Richard Traylor

Making Honey Lavender Cupcakes with Sugar Whipped Bakery

When it comes to summer desserts, most people think of ice cream or snow cones. Little do they know that there’s a flavor of cupcake that’s as light and fun as summer itself. And that flavor is honey lavender.

We met with Stephanie Samuel, owner of Sugar Whipped Bakery, to get an inside look at what it’s like to run an independent bakery and to find out how to make her signature honey lavender cupcakes. Her bakery and cupcake shop is located on a quiet street in Lititz, PA—a small, historic town in Lancaster County.



The Start of Sugar Whipped Bakery

Stephanie

After pursuing a career as an event coordinator, Stephanie decided to seek a different path in order to spend more time with her three kids. She had always enjoyed baking with her mother, so in 2010, she decided to join a local community kitchen and find out if running a bakery was something she’d like to do professionally.

When her work at the community kitchen really started to pick up, she decided to invest in a food truck to make it easier to transport her product and promote her brand. The food truck also helped her get a sense of the market and find out if a cupcake business was something the area needed. The response was wonderful, and she eventually realized it was time to find a permanent location all her own.

With an artsy vibe and small-town charm, Lititz was the perfect place for Stephanie to set up shop. While her current facility comes with its challenges (like limited electricity that can’t support a double oven), she has enough space to prepare for large events, and she even has a separate room for making gluten free desserts. But probably the best part of her current location on Main Street in Lititz is that she gets a decent amount of foot traffic and knows the mail carrier by name.

The Inspiration Behind Honey Lavender Cupcakes

Storefront

Stephanie first got the idea for a honey lavender cupcake while she was on vacation with her family. They went to an ice cream shop that made honey lavender ice cream and she thought it would be a great flavor combination for a cupcake! And thus, the honey lavender cupcake was born.

She always tries to use local ingredients in her recipes whenever possible, so for this recipe, she sources locally made honey and locally grown lavender to give her cupcakes that extra special flavor element.

How to Make Honey Lavender Cupcakes

We don't want to give away all of Stephanie's secrets, so this recipe is a tad different from the cupcakes you'll find at Sugar Whipped. But, just like with any recipe, it's best to experiment with your own techniques until you come up with a recipe that you love.

Yield: 18 (2 1/2 inch) cupcakes

Finished Cupcakes

Ingredients

1/2 cup butter

2 eggs

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons dried lavender

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup honey

2/3 cup milk

Directions

    1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

    2. Line your muffin tin with cupcake liners.

    3. Beat butter with electric mixer on medium speed for about 30 seconds. Add the sugar and honey and mix until creamy.

    4. Add eggs one at a time, mixing between each one.

    5. Alternate adding milk and flour a little bit at a time while mixing on low speed.

    6. Once all the ingredients are combined, use an ice cream scoop to portion your batter into the muffin tin.

    7. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

    8. Once the cupcakes are cool, use a piping bag to apply your honey buttercream frosting.

    Frosting

    9. Sprinkle with dried lavender.


So next time you’re looking for a sweet summertime treat, think beyond the ice cream cones and popsicles. Sugar Whipped’s signature honey lavender cupcakes have a delicate flavor that’s perfect for the warmer months. The honey cake isn’t overwhelmingly sweet and the buttercream frosting has a smooth texture that’s light as air. Add a sprinkle of lavender, and this dessert has all the whimsy of flowers and bees.

Posted in: Recipes | Interviews | By Jessica Wieser
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