To get the best possible performance out of your fryer, follow these guidelines:
• Use clean oil at all times.
• Bring oil to the proper temperature (350 F). If the temperature is too low the food will absorb too much oil. If it’s too high, you’ll burn your product too easily.
• Food should be frozen, very cold or very dry before it’s lowered into the fryer.
• Shake off excess crumbs, batter or breading before dropping items into the fryer.
• Don’t fry too much at one time. Doing so lowers the temperature, thereby causing food to absorb too much oil.
• After draining food over the oil tank, turn it out onto cloth or paper to drain further.
• Serve immediately as fried items do not hold up well over time.
Photos by Rick Daugherty
But in a restaurant, furniture mishaps are harder to camouflage. A rug might cause customers and staff to trip. Tablecloths get messy fast with many diners. And sometimes it is just impossible to flip a booth’s cushion over to hide a mistake. And since customers notice everything, from stains on fabric to tears on upholstery, operators have to be on immediate damage control.
“First, I will say that there are tons of different kinds of upholstery and vinyls on the market,” says Brian Christensen, a graphic and web design coordinator at Waymar Companies in Burnsville, Minnesota. “With that comes a multitude of different coatings to repel spills. Some fabrics actually have silver ions embedded in the threads to kill germs and ‘self-clean.’ These different characteristics lead to higher prices.”
Annabelle Petriella, owner of www.StylishFurnitureAndDecor.com and www.StylishDesignServices.com, recommends treating fabric upholstery with a stain guard, if possible, before using the fabric and to adhere pads to the bottom of chair legs to protect floors and legs. “Choose fabrics that are easy to clean and won’t show dirt as easily,” she says. “Dark colors, patterned and non-plain fabrics, vinyl, acrylic and microfiber/ultrasuede are good choices. Avoid cotton, linen and silk.”
When it comes to proper clean-up, operators need to act fast and follow manufacturer’s instructions, which are many times overlooked or lost.
“Prompt cleaning is always recommended,” Christensen says. “Ordinary dirt and stains can be removed with mild soap and water. Rinse with clean water and dry with a lint-free cloth. The use of certain cleaning agents can be harmful to the surface appearance and lifespan of a product. Some fabrics that do not have a coating can actually transfer dyes from clothes (such as denim jeans) causing permanent damage. For this reason, it is typical to see a darker fabric on seats.”
For mild messes on vinyl and upholstery, head to the kitchen for supplies. “For light soiling, use a solution of 10-percent household liquid dish soap with warm water applied with a soft damp cloth,” says Janet Gregoire, office manager at Millennium Seating in Marietta, Georgia. “If necessary, use a solution of 10-percent household liquid dish soap with warm water applied with a soft bristle brush. Wipe away the residue with a water-dampened cloth.”
Heavier messes will require a stronger solution. “For heavy soiling, dampen a soft white cloth with a one to one (1:1) solution of Formula 409/water,” says Donny Oglesby, furniture specialist at KaTom Restaurant Supply in Russellville, Tennessee. “For more difficult stains, dampen a soft white cloth with a solution of household bleach (10percent bleach/ 90 percent water). Rub gently and rinse with a water dampened cloth to remove bleach concentrate.” No matter what cleaner or solution is applied, make sure it is properly removed to avert further damage, like plasticizer migration, according to Christine Worley, fabric claims handler at Mayer Fabrics in Indianapolis, Indiana.
“This occurs when cleaners have been applied and left on the material and the plasticizers (the molecular hinge that allows materials to maintain their flexibility) are drawn to the surface,” she says. “When the plasticizers migrate to the surface, the material becomes brittle. A tell-tale sign of this is that the sides of the booth (where they have not been cleaned) are still soft and pliable to the touch whereas the ‘seat’ surface is hard and brittle indicating plasticizer migration has occurred. We have all sat on a booth at one time or another that was cracked with sharp edges, haven’t we?”
To prevent this, Worley said every cleaning should be followed by a rinse wipe with clear water to remove any chemical residue that could build up on the surface.
“For example, it would be like washing your dishes and not rinsing them or washing your hair and not rinsing out the shampoo. You have still taken the step to clean the item but the result will not be pleasant in any of those scenarios if rinsing does not take place,” Worley says.
To repair a tear or rip to upholstery, avoid duct tape. “I cannot recommend any do-it-yourself patching or fixing; I would have a professional do it right. The largest impression a customer has of a restaurant (aside from the food) is the atmosphere, furniture is the largest contributor to that,” Christensen says.
Oglesby agrees that do-it-yourself patching is not the answer. “There are a few repair kits on the market where you glue torn areas down with a patch over top. These are very obvious and do not last long as people slide across them, and it rips the vinyl more. You can remove the vinyl and attempt a patch underneath but you will still have the rip on the top and if you are not a trained repair man replacing the vinyl can be very hard. The best thing to do when you have a rip is contact your local furniture repair company and have them come out to attempt a repair or replace that section of vinyl.”
But even with the best care and attention, time takes its toll on booths and chairs, and operators must decide when to replace.
“Booths and chairs have different replacement needs,” Oglesby adds. “Booths need to be replaced when the springs or the wood under the cushions have broken. This is evident by springs coming through or when you sit, you feel like you are going through the bottom of the booth. For chairs, the upholstery can be replaced as needed. As long as the frame is not bent or welds are broken, it can stay in use. Wood chairs can separate over time. A little wood glue or gorilla glue, clamp and leave overnight, and the chair will be good as new.”.
DeAnn Owens is a freelance journalist living in Ohio. She specializes in features and human interest stories.
Pick-up windows add appeal for on-the-go customers
BY Annemarie Mannion Photo By Rick Daugherty
That’s the belief of operators of pizzeria drive-thrus who are making it as convenient, comfortable and as quick as possible for customers to get their pizzas.
Operators who have embraced the idea of drive-thrus say opening one, and equipping it, is not as daunting as one might expect.
The drive-thru at Mr. Scrib’s Pizza in Muskegon, Michigan, proves that theory. It opened 28 years ago and operates with a simple system that includes an intercom and a metal box with lights.
The intercom enables workers, even if they are not standing at the window, to hear that a driver is there and wants to place an order. The metal box has numbers that light up and allows customers to go and park and then see when their orders are ready.
“We tell them their number and they go and wait until they see it light up,” says Manager Lisa Crabtree, “or sometimes (they) go and get gas or run to the store and come back for their pizza.”
Other operators have developed their own approaches for how to handle drive-thru sales. Home Run Inn, which operates in the Chicago area, only sells pizza by the slice through it’s drive-thru, which opened in Melrose Park, Illinois, about a year ago because a fast food business had left the space.
“The Arby’s that had been there already had the drive-thru, so we
decided we’d make a go of it,” says Dan Costello, president of the restaurant group.
Costello says customers can choose slices, priced at $4 a piece, from four different pies that are prepared and waiting in cabinet warmers.
“It’s not so different than staging and storing pizzas like you would for a buffet,” Costello says.
He says customers like the convenience of it. “We see a lot of moms who’ve done their grocery shopping and want to pick up a slice before they take their kids to soccer practice,” Costello says. “They don’t want to get their kids out of the car to do it.”
One of the largest considerations when adding a drive-thru boils down to space requirements. Though Home Run Inn wants to have drive-thrus at new locations, Costello says it is not that easy to find a site that can accommodate one.
“You have to have a large enough site for a drive-thru lane and an escape lane,” Costello says. “It’s a lot of land that you need to allocate to it.”
Pizza Patron, which has locations in the Southwest, West and Southeast, opened its first drive-thru in 2006 and has given the green light to adding more.
“It’s become the primary objective in our real estate search to look for places where we can put in a drive-thru lane,” says Andy Gamm, brand director for Pizza Patron.
While finding an appropriately sized site can be an issue, Gamm says building a drive-thru is not cost-prohibitive, even for smaller operators.
“It can be relatively inexpensive —maybe $5,000 or $10,000 — if all you have to do is put a hole in wall (for the window),” Gamm says.
Equipment will add to the cost and can include cabinet warmers, special ovens, menu boards, and communications systems.
At Pizza Patron, the company worked with a company to develop a quick bake oven that enabled the company to reduce its baking speed from 5½ to 3½ minutes.
Pizza Patron also prepares some extra-large pepperoni pizzas that are held in warming cabinets for customers who want a pizza immediately. If those pizzas are not sold in 20 minutes “they either get sampled or thrown away,” Gamm says.
While drive-thrus may seem the province of larger operations, Gamm says it can work for smaller venues and will pay off over time.
“If you’ve got the space that’s
conducive for it, then I think it would work for anyone,” he says. “The more convenient you can make it for people, the more they like it. They really like not having to get out of their cars. And the return on investment is pretty significant.”
That has been the case at Mr. Scrib’s, where half of the restaurant’s sales come from the drive-thru. Some days it’s where most of the small pizzeria’s sales are rung up.
It also helps the business, which is located on a busy street, compete with the fast food joints that line the strip. Thanks to its drive-thru window, Mr. Scrib’s can cater to the needs of many of its customers who work at nearby businesses and who want their pizzas quick. It also keeps the interior of the restaurant less crowded.
“Our restaurant isn’t that big, so it helps us with crowding,” says Crabtree. “It’s more convenient for our customers, particularly in bad weather.”
Annemarie Mannion is a freelance writer living in the Chicago area. She specializes in business and health stories.
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