The Pitfalls Of Buying Pre-Owned Catering Equipment

When you are opening a new restaurant, one of the largest bills you will face is for new catering equipment. The size and complexity of the units that you need, from refrigerators to ovens and deep fat fryers, means that a large chunk of your start up costs will be eaten up almost immediately. It is not surprising, then, that many new restaurateurs will be tempted to buy second hand catering equipment, hoping to save money. Whilst this is acceptable for some items, there are pitfalls which should be considered before deciding on a second hand catering equipment purchase.

Wear And Tear

There is no doubt that some catering equipment will be useable for many years, and if you are on a tight budget it is sensible to buy these items second hand. Prep tables are one example of this. Anything without moving parts and not showing signs of rust or missing parts should be acceptable. The real problems arise when you are buying second hand electrical appliances.

Expired Warranties

One of the major pitfalls in buying second hand appliances is that you have no warranty with them. Either the warranties have expired, or details of them have been lost. Without a warranty, if a problem develops you are on your own. This can be extremely frustrating, as the likelihood of faults occurring increases the older the item is. You could find yourself spending more on repairs and replacement parts than you would have done on a new appliance. It is an issue that many restaurant start ups face and it is a gamble you need to consider carefully. Buying brand new items may appear to be an expense too far, but remember that these items hold their value well. If your restaurant did fail, you will be able to recoup more of the cost of newer items than a second or third hand ones.

Think Carefully You should think carefully before buying second hand appliances for your kitchen. By all means, save money on items that can’t break down. Even smaller electrical items, which would not break the bank to replace if they broke, can be a good saving if bought second hand. But larger items, such as ovens and refrigeration units might be an investment worth making. Having the peace of mind that comes with a reputable manufacturer warranty is priceless. Sometimes there is damage to second hand equipment that may not be immediately apparent. Do you know that it has not been dropped, or had multiple previous repairs and problems? You should consider all these pitfalls before making a decision.

Is There an Optimum Temperature for Keeping Food Fresher for Longer?

The primary function of any catering refrigeration unit is to keep temperatures constantly low in order to slow down the rate at which mould and bacteria proliferate, and thereby increase the length of time that food is edible. Getting this right can mean the difference between a business thriving or going under, due food spoilage. So just what is the optimum temperature at which to store your food items, to best prolong their shelf life?

Perfect Temperature

The ideal temperature at which to prolong the life of fresh food is widely agreed to be 3°C. Between 0°C and 4°C is acceptable, but ensure temperatures don’t fall above or below this point. However, some foodstuffs can be damaged if they are stored at these lower temperatures. Lettuce is a good example of this. Because of the high water content of lettuce, they are fragile and freeze easily. The best way to ensure your refrigerator is working at the optimum temperature is to use a good quality fridge thermometer, and check it regularly.

Fridge Exceptions

Refrigeration at 3°C is not the key to all fresh food longevity. Cucumber is a perfect example of a foodstuff that cannot be stored at a normal fridge temperature, if you want to optimise its shelf life. The perfect temperature to keep a cucumber is at 12-13°C, so to keep yours from going mushy, store it wrapped in a tea towel or cloth. Tomatoes should not be refrigerated at all, as they will deteriorate quickly. Onions and garlic should not be refrigerated, because they need plenty of air circulating around them. Keep onions in their mesh bag. Potatoes will have their flavour impaired by refrigeration. Store in the pantry in low light. Bread and coffee should also be left out of the fridge.

Special Storage Needs

Keeping foods fresher longer is not always a question of temperature. Lettuce will last longer if it is kept moist, whereas mushrooms will quickly go slimy if they are in a moist environment. Store mushrooms in the refrigerator, but wrap them in a paper towel to keep them dry. Lettuce is best stored in a plastic bag, with air holes in order to keep it fresher for longer.

Remember, the best temperature to keep a majority of food fresh and safe for the longest time is 3°C. If your food is spoiling after less than three day in the fridge, check the temperature with a thermometer. Don’t take risks with food safety. Salmonella and Listeria can be fatal.

Catering Refrigeration Is So Much More Than Keeping Food Chilled

Those who know nothing of the catering industry might assume that catering refrigeration is simply a question of having a fridge in the kitchen and using it as you might at home. But there is more to catering refrigeration than simply keeping food chilled. Fridges can actually be extremely dangerous if not used correctly.

Fridge Discipline

Keeping food chilled is not only essential, but it is a legal safety requirement. If you have a catering fridge that works as it should, the story doesn’t end there. One of the major causes of food poisoning in restaurants comes from cross-contamination in fridges. This is when bacteria migrate from raw food onto cooked food. If raw meat juices drip onto food in a lower part of the fridge, those foods are contaminated, and potentially hazardous. If a kitchen finds that they are having to compromise food safety when storing food, it is a sign that they need a new refrigerator. Ideally, a kitchen should have more than one refrigerator, so that raw meat and poultry, and ready-to-eat food can be stored separately. A meat and poultry fridge is often used for eggs, fish and unwashed vegetables and fruit, so that the space is fully utilized.

Fridge Safety

Lassana Bathily recently saved 15 people’s lives by locking them in the walk in chiller room of a Paris grocery, when it came under terrorist attack. By switching off the unit and locking them in, he became an overnight hero. So much for chiller units as a place of safety. But whilst a catering fridge may not immediately strike you as a piece of equipment that could pose a risk to life, they can and do. Walk in cooler rooms, which provide large areas of storage space, are often found in supermarkets, large institutions and factories. It is essential that proper safety measures be used with these units, in order to minimise the risk of people becoming trapped inside them. Some catering companies now fit an alarm to their chiller rooms so that the alarm can be raised. Deaths of those trapped in chiller rooms from hypothermia are not unknown.

Regular Maintenance Maintaining a catering refrigeration unit is a key part of fridge safety. Accurate thermostats are essential, since without an accurate reading food safety is compromised. It is important to check seals and doors regularly, and replace damaged parts, as cold air escaping through damaged seals can lead to a rise in internal temperature. Even a few degrees increase in temperature can affect food safety, so accurate readings are essential.

New ‘F Gas’ Rules, Commercial Refrigeration and the Impact

As you may know, there have recently been changes made to the rules governing EU fluorinated greenhouse (F gas) regulations, which include the phasing out of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and bans on some products. This EU regulation represents a change brought in during 2014, in an effort to minimize the impact of greenhouse gases on the environment, and replaces the 2006 regulations.

Clearly, this has major repercussions for the refrigeration industry. But it affects not just manufacturers, but end users too. So, if you own a business that uses refrigeration units, what will the impact be on you? What Is the Impact On Me?

You must comply with these regulations if you operate a refrigeration unit. Even if the unit does not belong to you, you are responsible if you are using it in your business. To find out if your refrigeration unit is affected, you should check the manual that came with it, look for labels or speak to your supplier. Look at the list of the fluorinated greenhouse gases (F gases) covered by the new EU regulations here.

HFC 404A and HFC 134a are common in refrigeration systems, so look to see if your refrigeration units contain them.

Only Use Trained Technicians

The 2014 regulations state that:

“Only trained technicians can carry out work on equipment containing F gases, including:

1. installation 2. testing for leaks 3. general maintenance 4. disposal or decommissioning when you no longer need the product” As a business, it is your responsibility to check that the person maintaining, repairing or disposing of your refrigeration units is properly qualified. Label Your Refrigeration Unit

You must label to your refrigeration unit if your service operator has had to add F gas during the course of maintenance. The label must state that the equipment has F gas in it, and the industry name for the F Gas.

Check For Leaks

As the operator, it is your responsibility to keep your refrigeration units within the regulations. Therefore you must check that no gas is leaking from your unit. Those who ‘install, maintain or dispose of equipment’ bear joint responsibility for F gas leakages. This is another reason to be sure that you only use qualified technicians to service your equipment.

Keep Records

You must keep record about any refrigerator unit that has been checked for leaks, if it contains F Gas ‘equivalent to more than 5 tonnes of CO2.

For full instructions on how to comply with the 2014 EU Regulations on F Gas units, refer to the Government information page here: EU F gas regulation: guidance for users, producers and traders.