New Vert-Ergo™ Handle a Success

Have you ever wondered, why residential refrigerator handles are vertical and walk-in cooler/freezer handles are horizontal? Maybe you haven’t, but we have. We have witnessed the struggle of restaurant employees opening their walk-in cooler door several times with an awkward, uncomfortable reach with their hand gripping down. So we thought, why can’t walk-ins be designed with a more comfortable handle? This lead to the design of the Vert-Ergo™ walk-in cooler/freezer handle.

In April, U.S. Cooler launched the release of the Vert-Ergo handle for walk-in coolers and freezers. The Vert-Ergo handle is the industry’s first vertically positioned walk-in cooler or freezer handle. The vertical handle design places your hand further from the hinges on the door, which in turn, makes a substantial decrease in the effort required to open the door. When users grip the Vert-Ergo handle, they use a more natural, vertical grip allowing the use of powerful muscles in the forearm and upper arm. The round handle allows for a full grip making it more comfortable to use.

With over 200 Vert-Ergo handles in the field, we have received overwhelmingly positive feedback from the usage of the vertical handle. The simplistic yet strong design looks a bit different than the horizontal handle, but users enjoy the ergonomic benefits.

U.S. Cooler’s new Vert-Ergo handle is built to exact standards with a quality you can see and feel. It is available with an externally mounted lock or as a standalone handle. A padlock can be added as an additional locking mechanism. The handle is mounted with a glow-in-the-dark safety release located inside the walk-in. The Vert-Ergo handle can be mounted on either a right hand or left hand opening door.

Walk-in Cooler and Freezer Online Buying Guide

Walk-in coolers and freezers are a very custom product. Standard sizes are available in the industry but they assume some standard specifications. Walk-ins are not a one-size fits all item like other foodservice equipment. If you are shopping for walk-ins online, make sure to review the specifications used in sizing that walk-in. Where the walk-in is located geographically as well as if it will be installed indoors or outdoors makes a difference in the required equipment needed to run your walk-in effectively.

U.S. Cooler indoor walk-in cooler without a floor.

Here are some important things to consider before purchasing a walk-in cooler or freezer online.

  • Indoor or Outdoor: Indoor and outdoor walk-in coolers and freezers are manufactured differently. Outdoor models require additional weatherproof items on the walk-in. If your walk-in will be located outdoors, it will require some type of weather ceiling strips or a rain roof to protect the panels from the elements. If refrigeration units will be located outdoors, they require a weather cover as well as all-weather controls.  An Indoor walk-in will not work properly outdoors without additional equipment. Indoor and outdoor refrigeration units are sized differently. Look closely at the description to make sure it will fit your location needs.
  • Floor or No Floor:  Whether or not you’ll need an insulated floor depends on where your walk-in unit will be installed.  Walk-in freezers almost always require an insulated floor unless you have an insulated concrete floor already in place with thermal breaks. Walk-in coolers do not always require a floor, but it depends on where the walk-in will be installed. For cooler units installed indoors on a bare concrete slab, a floor is not essential. In new construction, if you plan on carrying heavy loads in and out of your walk-in cooler, it is recommended to construct an insulated concrete pad with thermal breaks. This will help stop condensation from forming on your concrete floor. For a walk-in to be placed above-grade level such as over a basement or on a second story floor, an insulated floor is required.
  • Holding Product: What you are storing in your walk-in makes a difference in what refrigeration unit is needed. For coolers, many models are sized assuming product entering the cooler will be 55°F and the cooler will be holding at 35°F. For freezers, many models are sized assuming product entering the freezer will be entering at 20°F and holding at -10°F. Models vary, so make sure to check the specifications on how it was sized.  If product is entering or holding at different temperatures than what the refrigeration is sized for, the refrigeration will be sized incorrectly causing it to not work properly.
  • Airflow around the Walk-in: When planning your space, remember that there should be at least 2” around the exterior of the walk-in for airflow. Without the proper airflow around walk-in cooler or freezer panels, panels could sweat or cause condensation.
  • Refrigeration Systems: There are two main types of refrigeration systems used on walk-in coolers and freezers.
    • The “pre-assembled-remote” refrigeration is a split system with the coil inside the cooler/freezer and the condensing unit either outdoors or near the walk-in. Most often on remote refrigeration systems the condensing unit is installed outside of the building. Remote refrigeration units require a licensed refrigeration contractor to install and run lines. For refrigeration warranty purposes all refrigeration must be installed by a licensed refrigeration contractor.
    • The “self-contained” refrigeration system contains the coil and condensing unit all in one that is installed on the ceiling or on/in the walls of the walk-in. Typically, a hole is pre-cut in the ceiling panel or wall panel and the unit drops in. This unit is usually ready to be installed, however a licensed refrigeration contractor must start up unit.
  • Geographic Location: The geographic location where the walk-in will be installed makes a difference. Walk-ins that are located in warmer or colder climates require to be sized accordingly. Walk-ins being shipped to warmer climates, higher elevations or with warm product entering temperatures may need a custom quotation and may not work with a “package” available online. Make sure to check the ambient temperature in the specifications to ensure the refrigeration is sized properly and will suit your climate.
  • Delivery: Due to the large product size, walk-in cooler and freezer panels are shipped on pallets and banded together for protection. A forklift will be needed to unload the unit or the unit can be unpacked and unloaded panel by panel off the pallet while it is still on the truck. Two or three people will need to be available to receive delivery if this choice is chosen. You may be charged a surcharge if it takes too long to unload the truck. Many trucks do not have a large enough lift gate for the size of pallets being delivered, therefor this option may not be available for you. It is recommended to have a fork-lift onsite at the time of delivery. It is a good idea to contact the shipping company to make an appointment for delivery to ensure the delivery process goes smoothly. Residential deliveries and limited access locations may incur sur-charges from the shipping company.

Refrigeration Solutions for Craft Breweries

brewery countThe craft brewery industry has seen exponential growth this decade, fueled by consumer demand for full-flavored beers. According to the Brewers Association there are 3,040 breweries operating in the U.S., 99% of which are small, independent craft breweries.1 With thousands more breweries in the planning stages, this trend shows no sign of slowing.

The logistics of how to keep beer cold and fresh before shipping to the consumer is vital to the success of any craft brewer. That’s why Brew Cave by U.S. Cooler is introducing their new line of walk-in coolers for the brewery industry. Brew Cave is best known for its walk-in kegerator for residential bars, but now produces everything from keg storage warehouses to tap house coolers.

tapped kegs
Kegs rigged up to supply a tasting room.

Every brewery has unique needs and budgets. Brew Cave’s flexible design process allows them to easily create custom walk-in coolers. Whether the cooler needs to be angled, have reach-in glass doors, operate with minimum sound, be located outdoors or any other special case, Brew Cave is up to the task. Their parent company U.S. Cooler has been in operation since 1986 and its employees have extensive experience catering to a wide assortment of industries from bars, convenience and grocery stores to scientific and manufacturing facilities.

The Health Inspector and Your Walk-in Cooler or Freezer

In recent years, health inspections have properly transitioned away from “floors, walls and ceilings” and are now focused on the factors which can cause food borne illness. So how about your walk-in cooler or freezer? What will your inspector most closely examine?

organized refrigerator
Keeping food organized and properly labeled is very important.

Let me share with you a few key areas:

  1. Most importantly, are the units holding foods at the required temperatures? Temperature control is essential to limit the growth of disease causing bacteria.
  2. Is there sufficient lighting? This is important for the purposes of cleaning, product identification, rotating stock, etc.
  3. Is food up off the floor and on shelving? Floors are, for obvious reasons, always considered a dirty surface. If product is on the floor, and then placed on working surfaces such as work tables or cutting boards, then that is an opportunity for cross contamination.

Restaurant & Foodservice Social Networking

Social networking sites can be a great tool for connecting with your customers. Sites like Facebook and Twitter are great because they cater to a very wide spectrum of users (who may be interested in dining at your establishment). But what if you wanted to network and connect with equipment and food suppliers, manufacturers, franchisers, chefs and waiters for hire, restaurant owners and managers, and just about anyone in the foodservice industry? Two sites, Fohboh and Foodservice.com, have stepped in to accomplish just this.

logofohboh

Fohboh is described on their own website as…

FohBoh™ (short for industry terms front of the house and back of the house) offers a powerful vertical professional platform to an enormous global addressable market. FohBoh offers foodservice professionals and others worldwide, the ability to connect, communicate, collaborate and transact business online with other like-minded professionals, and is addressing the real needs of this diverse global industry.

Fohboh gives you the ability to upload photos, videos, customize your profile and even host your own blog there.

foodservice_logoFoodservice.com has been around since 1996  and provides a wealth of information and services for the industry, but recently added social networking features. This network is new (and is currently not as full-featured as Fohboh) but already has over 160,000 members.

You or your business can connect with U.S. Cooler on Facebook or Twitter.

Give Your Walk-in a Walkthrough

Walk-in coolers and freezers: When is the last time you went into your property’s walk-in cooler unannounced? If you haven’t done it in a while, you might be surprised. This is essential for passing your health inspection. I recently had the experience where an excellent GM asked me to identify opportunity areas in the kitchen operation. I went through the walk-in coolers and freezers and found the following issues within the first 10-minute visual inspection:

  • organized walk-in cooler
    Make sure you have an inventory management process in place.

    Walk-in freezer that was very poorly lit (read: hard to find items), with boxes of frozen foods that had not been dated. Clearly without a date, it is hard to employ the First-in, First-out (FIFO) method of inventory management. How do we know when that box of chicken wings on the bottom of the stack came in? It is possible the box on the bottom is living there in perpetuity while new inventory is stacked on top every week?

  • Food items stored unwrapped, with no date, in non-translucent storage pans and hotel pans. In one instance, two different products were in the same tray: one was uncooked raw chicken breast stored at an angle so the blood was running into unwrapped Canadian bacon. In a cruel moment of irony, just that morning I had been in the hotel’s restaurant outlet and sat next to four female business travelers who all ordered the Eggs Benedict for breakfast. When I eventually asked the sous chef (the executive chef was off at the time) what was going on, there was a general lack of awareness and training about the dangers of such poor food handling and the improper storage methods. The acts and non-acts were not malicious; rather it was a training and education issue. Oh, and he thought buying Lexans for storage purposes was too expensive for the GM to approve.
  • Soup stored unwrapped in a large container sitting on the floor directly under the cooler’s condenser unit that was dripping water condensation into the soup.

What the Food Safety Bill Means for Restaurants

A growing number of food-borne illness outbreaks in recent years have scared consumers about everything from salad greens to peanut butter to eggs and spurred lawmakers into action — eventually. The Senate finally took the issue off the back burner this week, voting to approve a version of a bill passed by the House last year that’s designed to head off outbreaks rather than merely deal with them after the fact.

Food safety is uppermost in the minds of restaurant operators, whose reputations can suffer lasting damage when salmonella and E. coli outbreaks are tied to tainted ingredients they’ve served. The bill would finally give the FDA the power to order food product recalls when contamination is suspected, and would increase the agency’s authority to conduct multiple inspections of processing facilities where conditions might be ripe for food contamination.

New Jersey Steak House Goes Above and Beyond on Food Safety

When David Walzog got the go-ahead to design the kitchen for Strip House at The Westminster Hotel in Livingston, N.J., the executive chef’s wish list drew on his experiences working at the Monkey Bar and Michael Jordan’s The Steak House N.Y.C., both in New York City.

Walzog insisted on 14 sets of refrigerated drawers—where food is held below 40F. Several drawers were installed on the line, providing more space for plate assembly and enabling 14 cooks to keep surfaces clean and orderly.

Drawers and gaskets are cleaned daily, and twice a week they’re disassembled for bleaching. The quarry tile floor in the kitchen is graded and easy to hose down and power wash, he says.

Strip House’s five walk-in coolers are extra-spacious. The lowest shelf is 10 inches off the floor, two inches higher than health codes mandate, Walzog says, to facilitate mopping and cleaning. Rubber-coated shelving resists rust and cleans and moves easily to accommodate a variety of bin sizes. Safety glass and wire grating enclose two pairs of fluorescent bulbs for ceiling light.