Monthly Archives: April 2012

Basics for Buying Blenders

blenders-buying-guide1Last month, our Bids Team member Dick Bowder showed us how his 4 Fs — Function, Fit, Fuel, Finance – can help you make smarter equipment purchases. This month, we see how the 4Fs can help you get the right blender for your operation.

Function. We sell blenders for less than $50. They work fine if you use them once or twice a day for a small job. We also sell a blender for over $4000 that automatically dispenses up to eight ingredients into the mix while adding the just right amount of ice. Function determines which one right.

Some of the Function questions to ask:

  • What are the specific ingredients (including ice) that will go into the Blender?  How well can the blender handle this mix?
  • What is the specific end product you want your blender to produce? What is its ideal consistency and texture?
  • What volume or capacity should your blender’s container hold and process? If you need to make a 40 oz batch and your blender holds 32 oz, you’ve got the wrong blender.
  • Would you benefit if the blender had additional capacity and extra power for future use or for very busy times?
  • How often will you use the blender? How much beverage do you need to produce in one time period/shift? Base this on your busiest times. If you run a popular bar specializing in frozen drinks, on Friday nights your blender must be able to reliably produce gallons and gallons of consistent product.
  • How fast do you need to produce one batch?
  • What other functions and features do you need? You’ll be amazed at what is available on a commercial blender these days. Some of the more popular features include: Accurate timing and shut off. Programmable mixes. Quiet operation. Built-in ice shaver. If speed and efficiency are most important, we have several blenders that automatically mix ice and ingredients and then blend them together to your exact specifications.
  • What Wares and Accessories will you need? Extra containers. Separate timer. Ice bin/blender station. Specialized cleaning items.

Technically, these aren’t Functions, but for a Blender, they are important:

  • Manufacturer’s reputation and warranty including availability of spare parts and speed of service.
  • The blender’s durability. For heavy-duty commercial operations, you want metal gears and you want horse power.

Once you have determined your Functions, you’ll have a good set of basic specs for your blender.

Fit. Almost any blender fits on a countertop. Several can convert for in-counter use.  But there are other considerations besides footprint.

  • Where will it be placed? Check to verify: The blender’s location fits in with the work flow of that area. You have adequate clearance above it. A sink and an ice bin are nearby (optional). The blender’s noise level is acceptable. There is enough space to keep frequently used items close by.
  • Will you need to buy other wares such as margarita glasses to go with it?

FUEL – Most blenders run on standard 120v, 60Hz electrical and have short power cords. Make sure your location has 120v or that you can bring 120v to it in compliance with local codes. Note the blender’s power requirements and compare them to the power available. Some heavy duty blenders can pull 15 amps so they may need their own breaker circuit.

FINANCE – What is the best piece of equipment for my budget?

Determine your budget independently of your machine selection. Yes, that means your budget could show you can afford a more expensive machine.

Compare your selected blender to your budget and adjust your choice up or down to get the best blender your budget will allow. As Dick says, “Equipment is an investment in your business. You want to get the best quality you can possibly afford. Cheap equipment is much more expensive in the long run.”

Creating the Perfect Restaurant Outdoor Dining Space

eating-outdoors-instawares

Spring is the perfect time to dine al fresco. As the weather warms up, customers can’t wait to grab a spot outside at their favorite restaurant or bar. An attractive and comfortable outdoor dining space can generate huge profits for your business this spring and summer. Here are a few tips for creating an outdoor eating area that keeps customers returning time after time:

  • Control the Temperature – Air temperatures can fluctuate widely during the spring months. A balmy 75 degree afternoon can often turn into a chilly 45 degree evening. Accommodate afternoon diners that want to linger after the sun sets with a portable patio heater. Powered by a propane cylinder, these water resistant heaters are efficient enough to keep customers comfortable outside, even when the temperature drops. Alternately, make sure that customers don’t get hot during the day by installing ceiling fans in covered outdoor dining spaces.
  • Make It Easy – Dining outdoors should be a simple and stress-free experience. A folding menu board displayed in a highly visible location in your outdoor dining area makes it easy for customers to order. Use colored markers to highlight meal and drink specials on a free-standing write-on board that welcomes customers as they arrive.
  • Keep It Clean – Customers expect cleanliness whether they are dining indoors or out. Maintain your outdoor dining areas by sweeping the floors frequently and making sure that tables and chairs are cleaned regularly. Install a rubber scraper mat at each entrance to reduce dirt and grime tracked indoors. Place covered or uncovered waste receptacles around the perimeter of the dining area for customers and staff members to easily dispose of trash.
  • Simplify Serving – Minimize the time your staff spends running inside by keeping frequently used items outdoors.  Galvanized tubs filled with ice and cold drinks are perfect for outdoor bar areas, allowing staff members to serve customers quickly.

From casual and fine dining to quick serve and fast food, outdoor dining areas are a valuable investment for virtually any type of restaurant. A comfortable, welcoming, and relaxing outdoor dining space enhances your restaurant, offering customers a pleasant environment to gather with friends and family, work, or study.

What’s Cooking in 2012: Top Food Prep Methods

cooking-at-instawaresCan food prep methods be as trendy as fashion? You bet. Take a look at the top 10 food prep methods we expect to see at restaurants across the country this year.

Pickling

From farm to table, consumers are looking for local when it comes to food. And what could be more home-grown than a pickle? Restaurants such as Farm Burger in Atlanta now have a variety of locally-sourced pickled vegetables such as carrots, beets, and okra on their menus, both as an appetizer and burger toppings.

Fermenting

Once a method for preserving food when refrigeration was not an option, fermenting is a great way to draw out the health benefits of certain foods. Fermented food is a great source of probiotics, which help regulate the digestive system. Look for variations of fermented favorites like sauerkraut, kimchi, and yogurt on a menu near you.

Sous Vide

Chefs throughout the world rely on the sous vide method to achieve perfect texture and preserve the moisture and flavor of meat, vegetables, and more. Using the sous vide method, food is cooked at the temperature it will be served at by vacuum sealing it and immersing it into a low temperature water bath. Chef Jason Wilson, owner of Crush in Seattle, uses the sous vide method for 90% of the items on his menu, including beef short ribs.

Liquid Nitrogen Chilling/Freezing

One of the coolest (no pun intended) food prep methods of 2012 is liquid nitrogen chilling/freezing. Liquid nitrogen enables chefs to freeze ingredients instantly, making it an excellent choice for preparing frozen desserts. It can also be used to create perfectly textured vegan ice cream from rice or coconut milk or for preparing flour from walnuts and other nuts.

Oil-Poaching

A favorite for fish, oil-poaching is a great way to tenderize meat and vegetables. Submerging food for a few seconds in hot oil seals in the juices, creating tender and flavorful dishes. Try it on salmon, halibut, tuna, artichoke hearts, or carrots.

Smoking

Not just a way to prepare barbecue, smoking lends a great earthy flavor to vegetables, cheese, and more. There are three types of smoking: cold smoking, hot smoking, and smoke roasting. Cold smoking at temperatures below 100 degrees Fahrenheit adds a shot of smoky flavor to fully cured or cooked meats such as chicken breasts, steak, scallops, pork chops, and salmon. Hot smoking at temperatures between 165 and 185 degrees Fahrenheit is a popular choice for foods like ham, reducing moisture and fat. Also called pit roasting or barbecuing, smoke roasting is the traditional “barbecuing method” in which food is enclosed in a barbecue pit, smoke roaster, or closed wood-fired masonry oven at temperatures above 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

Braising

Often done using a Dutch oven, slow cooker, or pressure cooker, braising is a great way to tenderize tough cuts of meat like top blade roast, short ribs, and shanks. To braise, food is first seared or browned in fat and then covered and simmered in liquid on low heat, producing tender meat and rich gravy or sauce.

Grilling

From hamburgers to steaks and chicken, grilling is preferred by home cooks and chefs alike. Creative variations of grilled favorites like grilled cheese, burgers, and veggies are expected to pop up on menus across the U.S. this year.

Roasting

Roasting uses dry heat to cook meats or vegetables. Food can be placed on a rack, roasting pan, or rotisserie and cooked at low temperatures, high temperatures, or a combination of both. All of these methods help to retain moisture and draw out the natural flavor of food.

Foam/Froth/Air

Forget whipped cream, mousse, and meringue. Foam has gone high tech. Chefs are now creating whipped and foamed versions of foods such as mushrooms, beets, and coconut using gelling agents like agar and lecithin and immersion blenders or whipped cream canisters equipped with N20 cartridges