One of the most devastating power outages affecting the food service sector occurred in New York City during August of 2003, wiping out hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales and food inventory. Although power outages are fairly common occurrences, they could damage a restaurant’s sales and inventory if not rectified.
Preparing For a Power Outage
Have an action plan. Have a plan in place for when a power outage does occur so staff members are prepared and calm.
Know the number for the utility company. Have the number for the local utility company handy so you can quickly find out about the status of the power outage.
Purchase extra thermometers. Purchase refrigerator/freezer thermometers to keep in your cooling equipment in case the power does go out. This serves as a back-up means of monitoring food temperatures and safety. The refrigerator should stay at 40°F or cooler, and the freezer should be at 0°F or below or keep food out of the Danger Zone.
Group frozen foods together. Group frozen foods closely together in the freezer as a typical practice. This helps the foods stay colder for a longer amount of time during a power outage or if the freezer stops working.
Plan to buy extra ice. Know where you can pick up dry ice or ice blocks to help keep food cold when the power is out.
In the Event of a Power Outage
Check for emergency lights. When the power goes out, there are often emergency lights that come on to light dark rooms and corridors. It is a good idea to keep emergency flashlights on hand.
Check the circuit breaker. A power outage may be a result of a tripped switch on the circuit breaker, so check to see if the problem is something you can fix yourself.
Call the utility company. If possible, call the utility company to find out how long the power will be out. It helps to keep the appropriate phone number near the circuit breaker or in another visible place.
Communicate with patrons. Have servers communicate with patrons by speaking to them at their tables or making an announcement in the restaurant. Usually, waiting just a few minutes is not a problem. When the power goes out, so do the computers and the registers. Be aware that you may have limited access Point of Sale (POS) systems.
Keep guests satisfied as much as possible. Have an action plan for keeping guests satisfied in less than ideal situations. You may provide guests with coupons or other incentives to return once the problem is fixed. Comping meals should be a last resort.
See that guests exit safely. If the power will be out for more than just a few minutes, patrons will probably want to leave. Usher guests out of the restaurant when you can no longer provide service due to the power situation. Help guests to exit the building safely.
Store all perishables. Put all perishable food in refrigerators and freezers and try to keep the doors closed as much as possible. Refrigerators will keep food at safe temperatures for about four hours, and freezers will maintain safe temperatures for 24 – 48 hours.
Important Documents: Restaurant Procedures in the Event of a Power Outage (pdf)