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Gear up for less in 2014

The new crop of food service products helps you run your operation more efficiently and safely … and a surprising number do it without taking a big chunk out of your bottom line. Here are a few new products to help your everyday operations—all for $60 or less.

Efficiently economical

The long life of energy-saving light bulbs (either compact fluorescents or light-emitting diodes) is well documented, but compare their operating costs against those of standard incandescent bulbs and the benefits really shine. Using figures from the Food Service Technology Center, based on a 13-cent-per-kilowatt-hour average, the annual cost of operating a 60-watt incandescent lamp 12 hours a day is $34.16. That compares with $8.54 annually for an equivalent CFL and $6.83 for an equivalent LED lamp.

Although there is a significantly higher initial cost to energy-saving bulbs, the real payoff comes in the lifespan of the bulb and how that affects replacement and labor costs. While the average incandescent bulb has a lifetime of around 1,000 hours, a CFL bulb can last up to 8,000 hours and an LED bulb up to 25,000 hours. One line of LED bulbs, from Switch, comes in frosted or non-frosted models, with wattage equivalents from 40 to 100; the 60-watt equivalent bulb sells for $50. (Remember that used CFL bulbs must be recycled or disposed of at a hazardous waste facility.)

If you serve food from a steam table, one “hidden” energy waster is the heat and steam that can escape from the gap between pans and the table itself. The old technique of “cater wrapping” the pan as a gap filler or pan cover can use up an enormous amount of plastic wrap, get punctured or still leave gaps for heat to escape. One solution to help retain heat is a gasket like the CaterSeal from Franklin Machine Products. This heat-resistant (up to 450 F) silicone gasket fits snugly around the rim of a half- or full-size steam table pan, yet still allows a lid or wrap to be used if a cover is desired. Cost is around $40 for the half-size gasket, $55 for the full.

Safely consistent

Consistency is important to customers. They want to know they’re getting the same product on Thursday as they did Monday…or if you’re a multi-unit operator, from one store to the next. And that can pertain to something as simple as seasoning. For example, during rush times, it’s easy for a busy fry cook to be distracted and suddenly get heavy-handed with the salt on the french fries. A solution that’s more reliable than the traditional saltshaker is the new Inseason dispenser from Server Products. This plastic dispensing unit has an adjustable portion control trigger to ensure a consistent amount of granular seasoning is delivered with each pull. At a list price of $60, it can help cut down on returned orders and wasted product.

Any employee accident has ramifications beyond simply the accident itself—it can mean work time lost, medical costs and potential litigation. That’s why protective gear is so important for back-of-house staff, especially those who are working with knives on high-volume chopping jobs. Reinforced gloves are an inexpensive way to help protect employees’ hands from accidental knife slips. The HexArmor NXT line from Daymark features reinforced shielding on the back of the thumb, index finger and middle finger—the areas most likely to come in contact with a knife blade or tip. The gloves are available in sizes ranging from XXS up to XXXL and, at about $12 per pair, economical enough to outfit everyone in the kitchen.       

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