Keeping Your Cool Refrigerated prep tables keep cold food ready for prep or cooking, but improper maintenance can cause them to lose their cool.
By: Mike Sherer
When it comes to refrigerated equipment, Scott Hester of Refrigerated Specialist in Mesquite, Texas, has seen just about every form of abuse.
Like the eager employee who hosed down the kitchen during cleaning and shorted out several undercounter refrigerators to the tune of several thousand dollars in repair costs. Or the operator who neglected to fix a broken gasket and wasted hundreds in electricity dollars while aging the unit’s compressor.
“The scariest thing,” Hester says, “is the operator who’s not focused on food temps. Employees aren’t monitoring the equipment or the food, so food temps are compromised, and people get sick.” This is where proper maintenance of refrigerated prep tables becomes essential.
Don’t Do This
Many of the problems that crop up with prep tables aren’t the fault of the equipment but rather poor training and lack of proper procedures or just plain common sense.
“We get a lot of false alarms,” Hester says. “A customer will call and say his units don’t work because they’re all above 50°F. Our service techs go out and discover that the operator’s air conditioning is broken and it’s 100°F outside. If it’s a refrigerated prep table or an undercounter unit, the ambient heat in the kitchen will likely be outside the unit’s operating parameters, and dirt and grease will contribute to the problem.”
The biggest misconception operators have, Hester says, is that this type of equipment will make food cold. Prep tables are designed to hold food that’s already cold at 40°F or below. They’re not designed to quick-chill hot food or even chill ambient temp food. With that in mind, here are a few tips for what not to do:
• Don’t load a prep table with product that isn’t already chilled to proper temperatures.
• Don’t use undercounter drawers to chill salad plates. If you put 60 lbs. of ambient-temp salad plates in a small refrigerator cabinet, it won’t recover quickly.
• Don’t jam units up against the wall or too close to other equipment, particularly cooking equipment. The condenser coil needs room to throw off heat.
• Don’t overload the unit. Too much product in the box or drawer will impede airflow and prevent food that isn’t properly chilled from cooling.
If the unit isn’t pulling temps down, Hester says, don’t call for a service tech until you try the following:
• Make sure the unit has space to breathe. Clear away boxes or carts that might be in the way.
• Take everything out and wait an hour. If the temperature doesn’t come down within the proper range, then call. (Be sure to store the items you removed in the walk-in cooler or some other refrigerator.)
• Check the vents inside the unit to make sure nothing is blocking airflow throughout the compartment.
• Check the evaporator coil for ice. If ice has built up on the coil, call for service.
Instead, Do This
Care for your equipment properly, and it will take care of you. Schedule the following cleaning and maintenance every 90 days:
• Check and clean the condenser coil. Use a brush and/or compressed air at 70 psi to remove dust and dirt. If necessary, clean with a solution of mild detergent and warm water. If it’s very dirty (because it’s located near a fryer and breading station, for example), use a 10% diffusion filter on the unit to help keep the coil cleaner between scheduled cleanings.
• Check and clean the evaporator drain pan. The drain pan can collect food debris, which can end up clogging drain lines and allowing mold, mildew and bacteria to grow. If there’s standing water in the drain pan, you likely have a clogged drain line. You can blow it out with 70-psi compressed air or call your service tech.
• Clean the interior. Clean shelves and walls to keep food from falling into the evaporator drain pan. Pay special attention to fan vents so you get plenty of air circulation over the evaporator and into the cabinet. Make sure vents aren’t blocked by food.
• Check and clean the door gaskets. Nothing wastes energy faster than a box without a tight seal. If the gaskets are worn, replace them. You can easily do it yourself on many models.
• Check for loose handles, screws, covers and wires. And while you’re at it, inspect power cords and replace any that are frayed or worn. And if you don’t have the in-house resources to do any of the above, contract with a service company to do it for you.
“Treat your equipment like you would your car,” Hester says. “If you don’t change the oil in your car, eventually you’ll have catastrophic engine failure.”
FER thanks the Commercial Food Equipment Service Association for its
help with this story.
NAFEM 2015 has come and gone. There were great conversations had, new contacts made and traffic that exceeded our expectations. The Show was once again, a success!
Our heartfelt thanks to all of you who stopped by and talked with Continental Refrigerator, you came and made us a success and we can’t thank you enough.
Click here to view our brochure highlighting the models we had on display in our booth. From a fast-casual Mighty Top Sandwich Unit with Hinged Glass Lid to our ever popular Slim Line model and Reach-In with custom lamination.
With over 2500 models in our product line, this brochure focuses on some of the unique features and options Continental Refrigerator has to offer and the flexibility we build into every unit. Refrigerated door/drawer over the condensing unit on our Pizza Prep and Base models, condensing unit either left or right on Griddle Stands, Bar Equipment, Pizza Prep and Base models, pan top placement on Sandwich Units, extended tops on our Griddle Stands, and door/drawer combinations on many of our units.
For more details on our flexible features and options or just to keep the conversation going, please call Continental Refrigerator’s Sales Department at (800) 523-7138, or your local factory representative.
Faith E. Osborn
Provides foodservice operators information and resources for reducing the size of their kitchens and labor costs through multi-function equipment.
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Continental Refrigerator is proud to announce our recognition as 2013 Supplier of the Year for Heavy Equipment
by ABC – Allied Buying Corporation
This award recognizes Continental Refrigerator as a 2013 Supplier of the Year
for Heavy Equipment.
We are very excited that we have been chosen for this award which salutes our commitment to quality, a strong dedication to customer service and an outstanding sales team!
As a team, in which you all play a key role, we are proud to display these awards so our customers know our #1 priority is and continues to be, customer satisfaction!
Thank you to everyone for their efforts…spread the word!
I want to send this note to you for the excellent service, warranty handling and especially quality workmanship. We recently ordered three items and received them in excellent condition and in all three cases; the customer was extremely pleased with the product.
We recently had a urgent need for an Glass Door Back Bar in Stainless Steel. You were able to find one on the shop floor and have it ready for pick up the next day. It literally was in place and cold 2 1/2 hours from the time it was picked up and delivered to Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa.
We had a new customer with an old Jordan refrigerator that needed replacement. Your vast catalog allowed us to supply a new Continental that fit the cut out in the wall perfectly. It arrived before it was promised and was perfect except for a small tear in the Anthony door. This was the most unusual refrigerator I have ever ordered: a 2RE-PT-GD-HD-SS-R with pan slides and it absolutely impressed the end user.
We ordered and installed a Continental CPA68R this week and the customer was also thrilled at the quality workmanship.
Please keep up the good work and we will continue to promote your equipment.
– Jeff Stauffer, Service manager