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  • 15 Jan 2015 11:05 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Source: National Restaurant Association 

    Like many people in the industry, Linda Koch snagged her first paid job at a restaurant as a teenager. For her, it was a gig at Chuck E. Cheese’s. Like a lot of people, she followed family into the business, helping her dad prep in the kitchen (in between sneaking cheese cubes and pickles).

    When she headed off to the University of Wisconsin–Stout, she planned to study interior design while working at restaurants in her downtime. But fate intervened. One opportunity led to the next and kept Koch advancing in the restaurant industry.

    After a summer internship at one of eight Big Bowl restaurants owned by Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, she secured an entry-level manager post and worked up to assistant manager. Now 29, Koch is general manager of the Big Bowl in Minnetonka, Minn.

    “Linda is a great example of how we nurture talent, and how passion and determination pay off,” says Dan McGowan, Chicago-based president and partner of several LEYE concepts, including Big Bowl and L. Woods Tap & Pine Lodge.

    For industry newbies, trying to figure out how to get ahead can seem daunting. But if they stick around, they’ll likely move up the ladder. Ninety-seven percent of restaurant managers and 94 percent of shift or crew supervisors no longer in their first restaurant job have advanced to higher-paying positions in the restaurant industry, according to National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation research.

    More than 70 percent of current restaurant employees believe they have the opportunity for career advancement in the restaurant industry, the research show. A majority says the restaurant industry is a place where hard work leads to success. Operators can help employees advance by showing them the paths available within the company.

    “It is vital to instill in employees that they can accomplish their goals and dreams in the restaurant industry,” says Steven Carb, president and founder of SERG Restaurant Group, a multi-concept operator with restaurants in South Carolina.

    Here are tips to help entry-level employees move up the ladder:

    • Help employees understand their roles and responsibilities, whether they’re at a big chain or a small independent restaurant, says Chris Hein, vice president of food and beverage for the Old Spaghetti Factory, a Portland, Ore.-based Italian concept.
    • Set expectations during the hiring process to weed out less serious candidates and nurture promising new recruits, he says. “The hardest part was getting on board when I first started — to understand what I needed to do to become successful in the restaurant business,” he says. He credits a manager who served as a mentor to help him understand what it took to advance.
    • Give promising employees the opportunity to experience all hours of operations to see how things work during different shifts. “When you get promoted, this is what you’ll see,” McGowan recommends.
    • Emphasize that employees must do their part. Carb got into real estate to raise funding for his first restaurant. He learned about the business by attending trade shows and reading books. And he hasn’t stopped. “I am always reading and traveling, looking for ideas to bring back to my restaurants,” he says.
    • Acknowledge achievements. Carb’s restaurants, such as Marleys Isalnd Grille and Frankie Bones, instituted award and recognition initiatives through an employee-of-the-month program for the back of the house. More often than not, people singled out in such programs often are targeted for promotion and advancement. And when restaurants promote from within, it signals to staff how employees can get ahead.
    • Be upfront if you have more talented people than positions, McGowan says. “I would never stop someone’s growth,” he says. If you have multiple concepts, reach out to other restaurants if one location can’t accommodate a promising employee.
  • 08 Jan 2015 2:59 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Source: National Restaurant Association 

    Recent legislation and regulatory changes make it more important than ever to keep payroll top of mind. Although payroll is complex, it doesn’t have to be a source of constant stress. Take these steps to stay on top of your payroll program and keep payroll headaches at bay.

    1. Note important payroll deadlines. Timeliness is vital for employee relations, as well as deadlines for depositing payroll taxes to federal, state and local agencies. Late tax deposits can result in penalties and interest charges.
    2. Classify employees appropriately. Classify your employees into categories such as temporary employees, consultants and independent contractors to ensure your payroll reporting is accurate for tax purposes. That will help you avoid common pitfalls if your business undergoes a payroll audit.
    3. Report and calculate overtime pay. An incorrect classification could be costly if your restaurant be audited. According to the Department of Labor, litigation is increasing over “non-exempt” employees treated as “exempt” who didn’t receive overtime pay. Take time to review employees exempt and non-exempt status to save money in the long run.
    4. Double check data entries. An incorrectly entered hourly wage and the wrong number of employee hours per pay period can cost operators millions of dollars annually. To avoid these mistakes, ask your processor if a “double check” is part of its process for payroll completion. If it’s not, ask to add it.
    5. Save payroll records. Your business must maintain a comprehensive record for each employee, including time sheets, cancelled checks and W-4 forms. Keep them in a safe and accessible location for four to six years. Failure to do so could lead to criminal penalties and/or civil actions. Remember , the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor must be able to inspect your records within 72 hours of notifying you.
    If you ensure your in-house or outsourced payroll processor follows efficient, accurate processing procedures, you can improve government compliance and employee relations.

    This content was provided by Heartland Payment Systems, the National Restaurant Association’s endorsed provider of secure payment processing, payroll solutions and marketing solutions. It is the developer of Freshtxt, a front-of-the house management system for restaurants.
  • 19 Dec 2014 10:46 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    By Philip Alenne, President, Contract Design Concepts, Inc., CDCI

    Interested in opening a restaurant? There are a few items that you should consider when looking at a tenant space or a building.

    Is the space/building a former restaurant? If yes, consider the following:
    1. Is the existing hood system operational and in good working order?
    2. Is the exhaust fan on the roof operational and in good working order?
    3. Is there a grease trap? If so, is it interior in-kitchen or exterior in-ground? What is the size of the grease trap and when was it cleaned out last? Note: If the existing grease trap is an interior trap, this may not meet current local codes.
    4. What size is the electrical panel and service size to the space?
    5. What is the gas meter size and what does it service now?
    6. Is there a mop sink?
    7. Is there a hot water heater? If so, what is the size? Is it gas or electrical?
    8. How much HVAC does this location have (tons) and are the units operational and in good working order?
    9. Does this location have a sprinkler system?
    10. Do the existing restrooms meet current Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) code compliance for size? Note: ADA requirements are not typically grandfathered in.
    Note: The landlord should be able to answer and/or get you the answers to the above items.

    If the space/building is NOT a former restaurant (retail, office, first-time use), consider the following:
    1. You will need to add a grease trap (more than likely a 1,500 gallon in-ground exterior trap). The location needs to be coordinated with the site utilities and landlord permission is needed of the selected location.
    2. Any roof penetrations for hood ventilations should be made by the landlord’s roofer per your plans so as to not void the existing roof warranty for the entire building.
    3. You will more than likely need to increase the electrical panel/service size. Most retail spaces are designed with a 200 amp service and you may require a 400 or 600 amp service.
    4. You may need to increase the size of the gas line/meter and/or add gas service to this space for your cooking equipment and roof top HVAC units.
    5. You more than likely will need to add HVAC to the existing space. Most retail spaces are designed with 1 ton of AC per every 300/400 square foot of space. A restaurant should have 1 ton of AC for every 125/150 square foot of space. Even if you do not have a lot of cooking equipment, all of your refrigeration has compressor units that run 24/7, putting off heat.
    6. Does the space/building have a sprinkler system? If yes, you may not need to do anything during construction. If no, the demising walls separating you and your next door neighbor will need to be a two hour fire rated wall.
    7. Verify the water line size coming into your space.
    8. Is there a space above and/or below you? Since your hood will need to vent up through the space, and through the roof, and your floor drains will need to be cut/plumbing run into the floor below the floor slab, and above the ceiling below, these items will require coordination with occupied spaces above and below.
    9. If you are considering a patio space, this may require a land disturbance permit. This is separate from your building permit and will require plans from a surveyor and/or civil engineer. You may also be required to produce a landscape plan for the local govern agency arborist to approve.
    10. Parking. You will need to meet local parking requirements for the size/seats/square footage of your restaurant. Make sure the landlord has taken parking into consideration for restaurants.
    Note: Most chain restaurants have a “Landlord Work Letter.” This letter is their wish list of everything they would want in an ideal space. Besides size of space, location, traffic count and rent, most of the above items are also in the work letter. You do not need to be a chain to create your own “Landlord Work Letter.” While you may not get all of the items on your wish list, it will give you some negotiating power as to rent, free time before rent starts and tenant improvement dollars to add items that are not in place.

    Do your homework. There is a lot more to opening a restaurant than most people consider.

    For more information, contact Philip Alenne at (678) 936-7005 or via email at

  • 18 Dec 2014 3:58 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Source: National Restaurant Association

    Reel in good talent from the labor pool with these steps:

    1. Identify what’s a “good catch.” Start by determining what skills and traits are essential. If your restaurant has a set of core values or a mission statement, use that to guide you. For example, Great New Hampshire Restaurants looks to its “Table of Success,” which identifies the company’s six core values, including respect and executing greatness. “A few years back, we decided to define our culture and core values,” says co-owner and CEO Tom Boucher. “We stopped and asked ourselves: What makes us great? We then communicated and integrated these values into as many areas of our business as possible, including our hiring practices.”

    Craft job descriptions that list what each job entails. Think about what makes your star employees stand out. “List out all the skills that your good employees have and frame your interview questions around them,” recommends T.J. Schier, president of the SMART Restaurant Group, a franchisee of Dallas-based Which Wich, a fast-casual sandwich chain, and co-author of SMART Restaurant Guide to Recruiting and Selecting.

    Consider an initial assessment to screen out unqualified candidates. Schier uses an online questionnaire operated by Snagajob to assess candidates before deciding who to call in for an interview.

    When it comes time for the interview, ask questions that help determine whether the applicant is a good match. “Don’t just throw softball questions because you like someone,” Schier says. Start with the basics, like availability, and move on to behavioral-based questions that identify whether the applicant has the skills needed for the specific position. He recommends a two-interview process, with a different interviewer each time.

    2. Know where to look. One of the best sources is right under your nose. Ask team members for referrals; consider rewarding them with monetary incentives. “The real value is that they’re getting good people to work aside,” says Tom Tice, a recruiting manager for Seattle-based Starbucks.

    Take that approach a step further with “second-interview referrals.” If you have a few open slots, encourage candidates to bring an interested friend to their second interview. Wanting to impress their potential employer, “they’re not going to bring along a slacker,” Schier says.

    Tap labor pools that run deep with good candidates. About 250,000 military members exit the armed forces every year, many looking for civilian jobs. Last year, Starbucks pledged to hire 10,000 veterans and active military spouses by the end of 2018. They’re a reliable workforce instilled with values like honor, duty and commitment to a common cause.

    “One thing we do really well in the military is take care of people, and that speaks well to Starbucks,” says Starbucks’ Tice, a veteran himself. The company works closely with the military’s Transition Assistance Program to recruit talent and has gained traction through referrals within the tight-knit military community.

    Social media offers a great platform to reach potential candidates. “Social media links us to our candidates on a human level,” Tice says. He uses LinkedIn Recruiter to post job listings and find talent, Twitter to publicize recruiting events and encourage a dialogue, and Instagram to share event photos, putting a face on the recruiters and forging a connection with candidates.

    3. Lure in the winners. When it comes to attracting and retaining good talent, your company culture makes all the difference. Starbucks fosters a “culture of warmth and belonging” and provides opportunities to connect with the community, Tice says. The coffeehouse chain cultivates a team environment, where everyone is a “partner” and has equity in the company. “It appeals to people who want to be part of something bigger than themselves,” he says.

    Benefits and incentives also entice top talent. While medical coverage, tuition reimbursement and vacation can be a big draw, don’t forget to promote smaller perks. Starbucks touts that partners get a free pound of coffee each week; Which Wich, specializing in customizable sandwiches, gives team members customized Nikes.

    Schier attracts go-getters to his Which Wich units by offering a commission for bringing in catering business. For snagging a large deal, he creates a photo op and awards the team member an oversized commission check. Elated team members often post the photos to Facebook, spreading the word about Which Wich careers. “When you create an environment that delivers the service you want, it becomes a lot easier to recruit the right people.”
  • 12 Dec 2014 10:10 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Source: National Restaurant Association 

    If you’re ready to sign a lease because you’ve agreed on a monthly price, think again. The typical restaurant lease is 20 to 40 pages with provision after provision. When negotiating a lease, look beyond your monthly payment to ensure you protect your assets and control your costs.

    An experienced retail commercial broker can help negotiate terms, often at no cost to you, because landlords typically pay broker commissions. It’s also wise to have a lawyer review the lease. You might be living with this document for 15 years or more, given renewals.

    “It’s worth paying an attorney up front to make sure you have the best protection,” says Richard Muhlebach, a retail broker working in the Seattle and San Francisco areas. This article isn’t intended as legal advice; seek legal counsel as needed.

    “When negotiating lease terms, you must decide what’s essential, and be prepared and willing to stand your ground. It’s rare that you have to be at a particular site,” says attorney Gregory Apter, president of Hilco Real Estate, where he’s helped hundreds of clients negotiate leases. “Prioritize, weigh the costs and benefits before making concessions and then be willing to stick to your plan,” he advises.

    Here are nine negotiable items to consider before signing on the dotted line:
    1. Percentage rent. Some leases require “percentage rent.” Once a tenant’s sales reach a certain level, the tenant must pay the landlord a percentage of the restaurant’s revenue. “I’m not a big believer in percentage rent if it can be avoided,” Apter says. “It’s generally no one’s business but yours as to how you are performing.” Sharing this information can hurt future negotiations. “If the landlord knows the financial performance of a particular retail location, it can materially ­- and negatively - impact your future flexibility,” he says. Nonetheless, percentage rent is fairly common. If you ultimately agree to it, negotiate the terms.
    2. Exclusivity and radius restrictions. Try to preclude direct competition in the same shopping area. It’s unusual to block all restaurants, but you might negotiate exclusivity within a category, such as pizzerias or burger joints. On the other hand, your landlord might want to impose radius restrictions, preventing you from opening another unit close-by. “Try to avoid these restrictions, which impinge on your business’s flexibility, Apter says.
    3. Assignment and subletting clauses. You’ll want the right to sublet or assign the space to another tenant, should you need to close or sell your restaurant. Avoid restrictions that require the transferee to have the same net worth or experience as you, advises retail broker Muhlebach.
    4. Option to renew. “Negotiate for as many options as you can get,” says Muhlebach. “An option is an obligation for the landlord and a right for the tenant.” Avoid making renewal contingent on your remaining the tenant, or your resale value will plummet, advises real-estate consultant Lewis Gelmon, president of Gelmon Enterprises based in San Diego.

      Tip: You can negotiate renewal terms, rather than automatically taking your option to renew. Gelmon suggests starting negotiations early. “If you don’t like the way negotiations pan out, you still have the right to exercise your option to renew.”

    5. Future rent prices. Negotiate future rent terms. Prices tend to be based on percentage increases or tied to fair market value. Given a choice, opt for percentage increases because they’re easier to budget for, Muhlebach advises. Otherwise, you could be shocked with a large increase.
    6. Kick-out clauses. Consider negotiating for a kick-out clause, giving you a one-time right to cancel a lease after a specified time period if your sales haven’t surpassed a certain amount.
    7. Start date of rent. Many landlords will waive rent payments during the build-out period. Typically they’ll waive payments for 60 to 90 days or more, or until you open for business, whichever comes first, says New York City restaurant real estate broker Frank Glasgall, of Glasgall & Associates. Consider asking to delay the clock from ticking until you get a building permit, Muhlebach advises.
    8. Change of use. Try to maintain flexibility so you can change concepts if needed or can sublease/assign the space to a different business, Apter says.
    9. Operating expenses. Negotiate whether you or the landlord are responsible for operating expenses, including property taxes, insurance and management fees. “Some landlords add in zingers that aren’t industry standard,” Muhlebach says. Watch out for administrative fees and capital improvement costs. “You’ve got to catch those things,” Muhlebach urges. “Once they’re in black-and-white and you’ve signed the lease, you have to hold up your end of the deal.”
  • 05 Dec 2014 11:56 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Tips for properly storing test strips for the sanitizing solutions in your restaurant:

    • Make sure the cap is placed back on the vial or the strip is not left hanging out of the roll dispenser.
    • Make sure the strips are protected from water until used.
    • Do not store in direct sunlight.
    • Always check the expiration date, as old strips are not accurate.
  • 18 Nov 2014 9:22 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Source: National Restaurant Association

    In 2013, about 46 million Americans were expected to visit a restaurant while out shopping for bargains on Thanksgiving Day or Black Friday, providing a boost in traffic for restaurants near malls and other shopping areas.

    Research from the National Restaurant Association found that 8 million consumers would visit a restaurant while shopping on Thanksgiving Day or that evening (39 percent of shoppers that day), and 38 million would do so on Black Friday (60 percent of shoppers that day).

    To welcome bargain hunters on Nov. 27 and 28 this year, consider these quick promotional tips:
    1. In this season of giving, donate part of guest checks or sales of specific menu items like desserts or signature cocktails to charitable causes or local community programs. According to NRA research, six out of 10 consumers say they are more likely to choose a restaurant that is involved in charitable activities.
    2. Offer “Thanksgiving leftovers” menu specials, like turkey-cranberry-mashed potato gourmet sandwiches or wraps, turkey noodle soup with stuffing-inspired croutons, or dessert samplers featuring house-made pies.
    3. Specialty drinks can also attract shoppers looking for a break. Offer specials on beverages like hot chocolate, mulled cider, and seasonal cocktails to guests showing a receipt of a same-day purchase from a nearby retail store.
    4. Extend Thanksgiving meal takeout offerings through the weekend for guests who may be too tired to cook after a long day of shopping.
    5. Display gift cards prominently in stores. Restaurant gift cards rank number one when it comes to gifts consumers like to receive on gift occasions, according to NRA research.
    6. Extend your shopping-related promotions through Small Business Saturday on Nov. 30.

  • 14 Nov 2014 9:58 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Source: National Restaurant Association

    Your restaurant’s dining room design is an essential part of your brand image and can make or break your business. Whether you’re opening a new restaurant or remodeling, here are some tips on how to stand out from the crowd.

    Getting started
    • Tap into your restaurant’s personality. What works for one restaurant might not for another. Use your concept, menu, location and price point to drive your design.
    • Focus on the customer. McDonald’s conducted extensive customer research to prepare for its current reimaging efforts, which included remodeling 2,000 units nationwide in the past two years, with another 800 planned for 2013. Changes include more contemporary, movable furniture, pendant lighting and varied seating heights. “We want people to be comfortable whether they’re here for lunch, a meeting or dinner with the kids,” says spokesperson Danya Proud. One goal is to transform McDonald’s to a place where customers bring their laptop computers and settle in for a while.
    • Withstand the test of time. “We design our restaurants to be timeless, not just the latest fad,” says David Schultz, co-owner of DAS Architects, a Philadelphia-based firm that specializes in restaurant projects. Likewise, McDonald’s redesign emphasizes a contemporary look that “will still feel fresh for 15-20 years,” Proud says, including modern, yet durable furniture.
    Creating the right ambience

    Contemporary designs emphasize a simple, authentic atmosphere, says Schultz. “Often it’s about creating an ambience that allows customers to be comfortable whether they’re in jeans or a suit,” he says. Here are some ways to set the tone:
    • Make material decisions. Reclaimed wood, exposed brick and sometimes stained concrete flooring can be composed to create a modern rustic ambience that is popular in today’s approach to fine-dining and casual restaurants, says Schultz. Brick veneers are also in style, says Alfredo Jaime, a partner and co-founder of San Diego’s Jaime Partners, which specializes in project management for restaurant construction. “They provide the look and feel of brick, but without the cost.” For the bar, consider a live-edge wood plank, showcasing the wood’s natural edge, for a solid, sturdy and natural feel, says Schultz. Quickservice giants Wendy’s and McDonald’s also incorporate back-to-basics materials in their remodels. Wendy’s new design options include wood-like ceramic tile and stacked-stone fireplaces combined with modern touches like flat-screen televisions and digital menu boards. Wendy’s plans to reimage half of its company-owned restaurants by the end of 2015.
    • Differentiate yourself with “found objects.” Foster a unique, yet down-to-earth feel with reclaimed objects like antique furniture, reused barn boards and light fixtures crafted out of found objects. For example, Seattle’s Little Water Cantina refashioned vintage gramophones into pendant light fixtures. The restaurant’s lounge is enlivened by a wall constructed out of 800 recycled tequila bottles collected from the dumpsters of local Mexican restaurants by husband-and-wife owners Shannon and Laura Wilkinson.
    • Put food at center stage. Open kitchens are a popular design element, says Jaime. “People like to see the action. It gives them a feeling of being part of the food preparation process.”
    • Bring the outdoors inside. Jaime notes a rise in restaurants striving for a natural look. Last year, his firm oversaw the construction of San Diego’s Herringbone restaurant, transforming a vacant warehouse into an airy, natural setting, complete with six 100-year-old olive trees that were planted into the excavated ground.
    • Tell your own story. Personalize your restaurant with little touches, like artwork commissioned to relate specifically to your concept. For example, at Carluccio’s Coal Fire Pizza in Northfield, N.J., a sepia-tone photo mural stretches across the wall behind the bar, highlighting photos of the owner’s children enjoying Italian dishes and pictures of Italian landmarks.
    • Choose your palette wisely. Schultz recommends warm, rich tones, like browns, beiges, amber, rose and salmon. “Use greens and blues sparingly,” he advises. “People tend not to look good in green light. Blue is a cold color, and you want to create a warm, inviting atmosphere.” Of course, color schemes differ depending on your concept. McDonald’s redesign emphasizes vivid colors, like oranges, yellows and greens. A steakhouse might use dark woods and black leather chairs, while a pizza joint lends itself to more splashes of color.
  • 06 Nov 2014 3:19 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Source: National Restaurant Association

    Restaurant personnel often lack proper knowledge of the equipment they use each day. Whether it's programmable fryers, high-tech combination ovens, or sophisticated video order systems, equipment designers have put more emphasis on ease of use rather than comprehension of how it works.

    Nevertheless, managers and kitchen managers should have a working knowledge of how each piece of equipment works, how to properly clean it, and how to perform periodic maintenance.

    Common sense plays a role when it comes to preserving equipment longevity. For instance, refrigeration equipment relies on airflow to remove heat. Staff should be trained not to stack boxes so close that it could cut off air circulation, causing the compressor to work harder.

    Likewise, staff should be instructed to turn off equipment not in use. Or, let's say you use a char broiler that has two or more burners. Turning off one side during slow times not only saves unnecessary wear and tear, it also reduces the amount of heat.

    Consider providing new managers with basic information on how to maintain and clean equipment to provide longer use. This includes an overview of the common parts, such as coils and condensers, etc. Potential corrective issues they can check before calling a repairperson also should be offered.

    Managers should know the location of breaker panels (each breaker should be clearly marked), gas shutoff valves, quick disconnects, water shutoff valves, and grease traps. It can give them more confidence about how to handle repair issues when they are running the store.

    Whether you're in the startup phase or if you've been open for years, it's never too late to improve your training. Even a simple addendum containing copies or excerpts from your equipment manuals can prove to be valuable training material that can save you money in the long run.
  • 31 Oct 2014 8:24 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Source: National Restaurant Association

    Buying used commercial foodservice equipment can save you a bundle in the short term. But is it a good investment? Tackle these 10 questions before deciding whether to buy new or used.

    1. What are your equipment requirements?
    Start by determining your operation’s needs, recommends Joseph Carbonara, editor-in-chief of Foodservice Equipment & Supplies magazine. Ask: Can the equipment help you execute your menu? Can it handle the volume? Is it simple enough for your labor pool to operate? Consider any growth plans, like increased volume or menu expansion. He recommends investing in new equipment for cornerstone items, such as a brick oven for a pizzeria.

    Familiarize yourself with the available equipment options by visiting local dealers or the NRA Show. Then decide what features you need.

    2. What does it cost to purchase the item new?
    “If a used item costs more than 50 percent of the price of a new one, I would strongly suggest looking at new,” says Carbonara. Expect better bargains at auctions, but buyer beware.

    3. What is the total cost of ownership?
    To determine whether you’re getting a good deal, consider the total cost of ownership. Factor in the expected lifespan, the cost of service/repairs and operational costs. “The initial purchase price is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the total cost to own and operate an appliance,” says Richard Young, senior engineer and director of education for the PG&E Food Service Technology Center.

    The cost of energy and other commodities, such as water or fryer oil, often exceeds the initial purchase price by many thousands of dollars. You might think you’re getting a great deal on a low-cost piece of equipment, but you potentially are throwing away big dollars on the operating side, Young says. FSTC offers an online calculator to help you estimate life-cycle costs.

    Tip: To slash your energy and water bills, look for equipment that qualifies for either Energy Star and/or California Energy Wise incentives. See the lifetime cost savings of buying new Energy Star equipment vs. new conventional equipment. Unfortunately, it’s often difficult to find used Energy Star equipment, notes Jeff Clark, director of the National Restaurant Association’s Conserve program, which focuses on environmental sustainability in the restaurant industry. “Be sure to ask your equipment dealer though; you might get lucky,” says Clark.

    4. Has the equipment been reconditioned?
    Some dealers recondition used equipment before re-selling it, replacing parts and making repairs as needed. Ask specifically what work was done. Reconditioned equipment comes with a higher price tag but lower risk than equipment bought “as is.” You also could consider buying remanufactured equipment that has been stripped down and rebuilt.

    5. What type of warranty is provided?

    Used equipment generally sells “as is” from auctions and individual sellers, so don’t expect a warranty. In contrast, dealers often provide a 30-day warranty on parts; some might give 60 or 90 days on parts and labor. If you want the security of a lengthier warranty, consider a remanufactured or new item.

    6. Can I get someone to service and replace parts?
    Make sure parts are available and that a local technician can service and repair the equipment. Your chances are best with an American brand-name product, says Tim Schrack, vice president of purchasing for Omaha-headquartered Hockenbergs Foodservice Equipment & Supply, which has 10 locations throughout the country.

    7. Who was the previous owner?
    If you luck into finding equipment owned by a church or a school, it will have less “mileage” than the same piece operated by a high-volume quickservice restaurant. “It’s like buying the car that grandma drove once a week,” Carbonara says.

    8. How well does the equipment operate?
    “Ask to see the equipment operate,” says Hockenbergs’ Schrack. “We’ll hook up any piece of equipment on request … It’s tricky to buy anything used online.”

    Tip: Ask an authorized service agent to inspect the unit to ensure that it is in good operating condition, Carbonara suggests.

    9. Is the seller reliable?
    Work with sellers who want to establish a long-term relationship with you, Carbonara advises. “You want someone who is concerned that they’re putting their name and reputation on the line and wants to be good with you for a whole bunch of deals, not just this one.”

    10. Does the equipment stand the test of time?
    Look for equipment built to last, with brand names know for endurance, says Jameel Burkett, president of Burkett Restaurant Equipment & Supplies in Toledo, Ohio. For example, Hobart mixers and slicers can last for decades, he says, as can items like stainless steel tables and shelving, which have no mechanical parts that break.

    Convection ovens and ranges tend to stand the test of time, Schrack says. But be wary of steamers, dishwashers, ice machines and other equipment that use water because they can develop lime buildup. If not maintained properly, aging refrigeration equipment can become energy-guzzlers and lose some performance FSTC’s Young says. “If the refrigerant has leaked, the unit has been overcharged or the coils are damaged, then that unit will probably not perform to spec.”
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