Those familiar with the Stark family from Game of Thrones know their words well - “Winter is coming” - and know that it is spoken like a warning, an alert to prepare for the harsh winter ahead. These words are often better received in the restaurant world. Usually, winter in the foodservice industry means one thing: an increase in business. People are cooped up as the days get shorter and daylight wanes away. Eager to escape, many find themselves at the local pub, bar, or restaurant more frequently than in the summertime. Combine this with the return of football season and the holidays, and most in the foodservice industry will realize an uptick in business in the coming months.

With an increase in business on the horizon, there is no time better than now to make sure that all of your commercial restaurant equipment is up to par, and ready to handle an increased workload. We compiled this guide that notes some of the problems that may befall major key pieces of equipment - equipment that your restaurant would not be able to survive without. Some of these issues may develop over time simply due to prolonged use. Other issues may appear with little or no warning. In some cases, we offer solutions or products to help. In other cases, we refer to resources that will be able to help fix your problems. Sometimes restaurant equipment can be salvaged with a replacement part or a thorough cleaning. In other instances, it is better to replace the equipment entirely.

Kitchen Hood / Exhaust System

Dirty Restaurant Hood

Over time in the commercial kitchen, grease may build up in the exhaust hood. This system was designed to remove grease and hot air from the kitchen. If left unclean, it can pose a huge fire risk. Without a properly functioning hood, grease may also impact functions of your kitchen equipment and the longevity of appliances in the kitchen. Your hood exhaust system should be inspected regularly by a trained and certified professional to determine fire risk. The inspector will also be able to tell you if or when a cleaning will be required. Usually, the hood is scraped clean, and then washed with chemicals to break down grease. We found an excellent source in IKECA that answers many of the questions regarding hood and exhaust system cleanings and inspections. They also provide information on how frequently you should clean your hood based on busyness of your establishment.

Deep Fryer Won’t Heat Up

Many restaurants are in possession of more than one deep fryer, but smaller establishments may have only one on which they rely. If that deep fryer shuts down or won’t heat up, these businesses may suffer greatly. To attempt to fix this problem, here are a few possible solutions. First, turn off the power and gas! The fryer may need to be reset, and if after that it does not heat up, the oil levels should be checked to make sure that the oil is at the minimum level. If it is not, then you should add more to the fryer. The fryer’s heating element may also be worn out, among other parts.

Ice Machine Not Making Ice or Not Making Enough Ice

No Ice in Ice MachineAir and water temperature can greatly affect ice production, so if you haven't installed your ice machine in a cool environment, this could be the root of the problem. Like refrigerators, ice machines require the condenser fan to operate to keep the compressor cool. If the condenser coils are blocked, or riddled with dust, dirt, or grease, your ice machine may stop functioning properly. If this is the case, sweeping out coils with a brush, or wiping them down with a wet cloth may be enough to get your ice machine back on track. If this doesn’t work, you may need to call the manufacturer to find someone licensed to service your ice machine. We recommended that you thoroughly clean your ice machine a minimum of every six months- ideally before and after your busier season (aka right now!) In this article, we detail some of the problems that may occur if you do not regularly clean your ice machine.

Ice Tastes Bad

To improve the quality of your ice, you have to go straight to the source which is of course, the water intake. Water quality may be affected by many things, but in every situation, it can be improved with the addition of a quality water filter. As we mentioned earlier, your ice machine also requires regular cleanings, and if it has not been cleaned in a while, there is a good chance that mold or slime has already started to build up inside. This can also affect the flavor, quality, and consistency of your ice cubes. Cleaning solution can be found at Ice Machines Plus, along with plenty of water filters as well. Since beverages are usually sold with higher markup, it is imperative that the ice used in them not alter or negatively affect the flavor of the drinks served.

Refrigerator / Freezer Won’t Stay Cold

Broken RefrigeratorSimilar to your ice machine’s problem, the condenser coils may require a simple cleaning. Vacuum or wipe away dirt and dust to see if this solves the problem. The coils should also not be blocked or inhibited in any way. (I found this to be a frequent problem with our glass chilling cooler in my bartending days). The refrigerator should be disconnected before cleaning the coils. Your refrigerator may also not be closing properly. If the rubber door seal is warped, cracked, or peeling, cold air may be finding a way to escape the cabinet. Your commercial refrigerator should be kept between 35-40 and 40 degrees, and your commercial freezer should remain between 0 and 5 degrees.

If none of these above solutions help your problem, you may have a compressor or condenser issue. The compressor may overheat if your condenser is unable to cool adequately. The problem could also be as simple as the thermostat not reading temperatures correctly. If the thermostat doesn’t know the correct temperature, it won’t know to adjust the temperature. Most refrigerators will automatically defrost so coils do not freeze. If the defrost cycle stops, the evaporator coils may freeze up, and the refrigerator will not stay cool. In this case, you will be required to manually remove or defrost the ice.

Your evaporator fan and condenser fan are also both vitally important to the proper operation of your refrigerator or freezer. The evaporator fan circulates cool air through the fridge, while the condenser fan helps keep the compressor cool and operational. Any malfunction can cause compressor to stop working and overheat. And, if none of these issues seem to be cause of your problems, check and make sure no one tripped over or unplugged your appliance’s cord!

Gas Ranges and Commercial Oven

In most cases, the restaurant range and the commercial oven are the backbone and cornerstone of your kitchen. They are used to create almost every meal, or at least a component of every meal. These large pieces of equipment feature many moving parts and components, however, which means that there is more that can go wrong.

Winter is coming, and it won't be long before it is felt in the weather, and in your restaurant. Just as you wouldn't prepare for a snowstorm without a shovel, you shouldn't prepare for an increase in business without properly working equipment. For new commercial restaurant equipment, especially a new ice machine, look no further than Ice Machines Plus.

Don't go into the busy season unprepared. Get your kitchen, your bar - your entire restaurant - ready and capable of handling the upcoming winter.