It’s the weekend rush, the busiest time of day for your business and customers are coming and going at a fast clip. Your kitchen is working at full steam as the comforting sound of “order up!” calls through the pick-up window. A smile spreads across your face. Despite the stress of the working conditions, you are satisfied with your food service operation. Everything is going great and satisfaction settles in.
Then, a worried voice shouts from the back of the kitchen. It’s coming from somewhere near the walk-in cooler. Your mind vaguely registers the words as they call into the air: “The walk-in isn’t cold.”
Quickly, you walk towards the voice and step into the walk-in. Indeed the familiar blast of cold is gone. A flood of panicked thoughts overcrowd your former sense of satisfaction. You wonder, now what? How much will a repair guy cost at this hour and on the weekend? How did this happen?
This scenario is a familiar tale often passed down from seasoned restaurant owners to newbies. The moral of the story is if something is going to break, it’s going to bust on the weekend, during the breakfast, lunch or dinner rush.
So how do you prevent such a nightmare from occurring in your commercial kitchen? Follow these simple tips to protect your commercial refrigerator and keep it running in top form for years to come.
It all comes down to dust, corrosion, drainage and gaskets.
Rid Your Condenser of Dust
When dust or any other matter accumulates on the compressor coils, it clouds the compressor’s ability to work efficiently. This not only creates spikes in the utility bill, but it also forces the compressor to work harder than necessary. When the compressor works too hard for too long, the result is burn out. In short, your compressor is kaput.
Keep Acidic Foods Covered
Covering the inventory in your refrigerator is a food safety standard. However, stopping the spread of cross contamination is only one good reason to do so. The high levels of acidity in many foods can also contribute to corrosion in your commercial refrigeration unit. Foods such as tomatoes and pickles will emit acids that eat through refrigerant lines over time. To avoid this, store your entire refrigerated inventory in plastic non-corrosive food storage containers and use lids that seal well.
Keep Drains Clear
At the base of a commercial refrigerator is a drain. This drain serves as a pathway for all interior condensation to escape. Once the excess liquid leaves the drain, it travels to a drip pan where the water is heated and evaporated. If the drain is blocked in anyway, the condensation builds up and has nowhere to go. This creates flooded interior spaces in refrigerators and frozen build-up in freezers. Both instances will create a harsher environment for the condenser to work properly, causing it to run harder than normal and risking burn out.
Prevent unnecessary repairs and flooding and clean the drain of your refrigeration unit every day. This is especially critical for prep tables. Keep all crumbs, oils and storage containers free from the drain opening. Mop down the interiors of walk-in coolers daily and take special care to assure the drain area is free of obstructing materials.
Check Gaskets Weekly
A small rubber seal can mean all the difference in your utility bill and the overall performance of your commercial refrigerator or freezer. Precious and expensive chilled air will escape through tiny cracks. When air escapes, the compressor and condenser have to constantly work at an above average pace to maintain a constant temperature. This can easily lead to over-taxing the unit, resulting in the coils burning out. In plain English, it raises the utility bill and can break your fridge or freezer. Clean and check your gaskets weekly. If you notice that any part of the gasket is peeling away from the door, cracking or not sealing flush when the door is closed, then it is time to have the gasket replaced.
Keep your refrigeration units working in tip-top order and prevent costly repairs by implementing these easy steps into your daily, weekly or monthly routine.