How do you prepare to welcome guests as the Restaurant Industry reopens? Aside from working on your differentiating marketing campaigns, you should also check out the condition of your physical restaurant. Closing your doors for dine-in services for some time may have caused your tools and equipment to malfunction, that’s why you need to see how well it still functions before you start accepting customers again. One of the sections that need thorough examination is your restaurant HVAC system.
Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, or most commonly known as the HVAC system is an important component of a restaurant. While it’s not associated with the usual service and customer-related operations, it has major effects on the entire restaurant operations. Keeping it in its optimal condition should always be your priority while working on your HVAC system.
Trying to operate a restaurant, you should know how a single mistake can impact the entire operations of a single shift. For instance, if your ventilation is not functioning at its best there’s a great chance that the aroma from your kitchen could be traveled and trapped in the dining area. This situation can affect your customer’s dining experience negatively. Though it’s not associated directly with the customers, it still affects them. Everything in your restaurant is interconnected, and your responsibility to keep everyone and everything at its optimal condition should always be carried out.
Especially now that the modern diners are particular with the standard ventilation process of an establishment, you must already know the importance of keeping your HVAC system updated and well-maintained. But how would you know that it’s time for an upgrade? Here’s a checklist to help you decide if it’s time to let go of your current HVAC system.
Signs That You Need To Upgrade The HVAC System Of Your Restaurant
It is helpful that you have a guide to know what indicates the need to upgrade your existing system. Learn to call your maintenance and the engineering team of the building to help you go through the process of examining the HVAC of your restaurant. If you’re not familiar with this section, don’t hesitate to consult for professional insight to avoid avoidable mistakes.
If one of your air conditioning or heating units is not working then it might be time to check them out. You can’t exactly just point out the reason why it’s not functioning per se, you need to have it looked at first before coming up with a solution.
Several factors can cause why it’s stopped working, it can be because of the age of your unit, a mechanical issue, or there have been too many repairs on your unit. While having it repaired can patch things up, it won’t be the long-term solution that you’re looking for. Keeping an inoperative system can only cost you in the long run, and it’s not a healthy investment for your restaurant.
Lastly, the pandemic outbreak caused market behavior changes. If your restaurant doesn’t have a functioning ventilation system, it’ll affect the customer-buying decision since they prefer a safer dining experience.
Increase in Energy Costs
Your restaurant air conditioning system might need an upgrade if you notice a sudden rise in your usual electric bills. If there are no changes in your daily operations, your HVAC system might be the culprit for this sudden spike. This is related to the age of your unit, the older the system units, the more energy it requires to operate. And it doesn’t matter how well you maintain it, that’s just how it goes. It’s not equipped with modern technology that can help process energy efficiently.
But, then again, before deciding to let it go, you should have it checked first by a professional. The sudden usage of electricity is workable sometimes, some concerns can be fixed. If the rise of the costs is still occurring, then that’s the time you’re now certain to trash your units.
Do your customers often complain that it’s too hot in your dining area? Are proper ventilation and air conditioning observed in your back-of-the-house area? Listen to the concerns related to HVAC systems and check out if there are mechanical and technical issues that need fixing.
If your air conditioning or heat pump can’t keep up with your current demand, then it’s time for an upgrade. The last thing you need is to offer a substandard service to your customers. Modern diners want well-maintained, clean, safe, and healthy indoor environments. Failing to deliver these expectations can lead to the ruin of your business.
Some areas published building ventilation codes that will require you to take ventilation seriously, as it affects the well-being of your restaurant staff. Poor ventilation and heat control result in unsafe working environments and leads staff to health hazards. Inability to take care of the well-being of your staff is grave conduct as a restaurant owner. Ensure safety for your staff by providing them a well and conditioned working environment.
Every area of your restaurant has a different temperature requirement, but the rule of thumb is it can’t be too hot nor too cold. It should just meet the desired temperature. A modern and well-function HVAC system can determine the perfect room temperature for every area, if the dining area is too cold for nothing, then you have another reason to check on your existing HVAC system.
While imbalance in temperature can also be caused by other issues such as poor airflow, not enough insulation, or duct problems, having your units checked on is still the best next step for you. Don’t waste time trying to figure out why the adjustments on the temperature of a certain area don’t make sense, just reach out to your technician and let them do their job- you still have a restaurant to run.
Excessive dust inside your premises can be the cause why you’ll need your duct and ventilation systems to be cleaned or upgraded. It’s not healthy for a business where food preparation is involved to produce dust. You may not have entire control over dust production, but it is your responsibility to reduce the presence of dust inside your premises.
Other customers are also lethally allergic to dust, preserving the welfare and the dining experience of your customers by working on your ducts and ventilation system.
It might be time to look for a different HVAC system model for restaurants if you noticed that there’s an increase in the humidity levels inside your restaurant. Keep in mind that an increase in humidity is not healthy for your restaurant. It’s not good for your customers, and it surely is not doing any better for your inventory management. Humidity is one of the top culprits that causes spoilage.
If you’re investing a good amount for high-quality ingredients, you must also invest in the things that could protect them. Storage and temperature should be at their highest quality to avoid food waste caused by spoilage.
Unwanted Smoke and Grease
If the smoke is being trapped inside the kitchen, or grease is starting to build upon the surfaces, then there must be something wrong with your exhaust hood, and the makeup air unit is not functioning well. Enough makeup air or outside air should be brought inside the establishment to avoid negative air pressure. Negative air pressure brings different types of concerns such as drafty and doors that slam, stale air, poor air quality, and inefficient energy.
It also negatively affects your entire kitchen staff. The saying “if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen” can be translated. It’s not just the heat in between the entire staff but it’s also the heat inside the kitchen area. If your kitchen staff is not given a comfortable, well-conditioned, and safe working environment, it will also affect their productivity and effectiveness.
To avoid being in this situation, you must talk to a professional to address your concerns. Additional makeup air units or optimized air exhaust are some of the solutions that you need to implement right away. Consult with your HVAC expert and learn if you’re still meeting the HVAC standards for workplace ventilation.
Loud and weird noises produced by your HVAC units should be eliminated right away. Once your blower creates louder noise than the usual, or your air conditioning unit starts producing banging sounds, it creates a displeasing customer dining experience. It can be that there are loose parts or that your unit is just pretty old.
Whatever the reason may be, it is still important that you know if it needs fixing or you need to upgrade your current HVAC system. Remember that some parts of these units are irreplaceable, once that part of the unit is lost or broken, it’s beyond fixing already.
Also, if you continue to opt for repairing, your current system will eventually wear out even if it’s composed of new tools and components inside. Its entire unit will stay outdated, and it will be a huge waste of resources on your end as you’ll be forced to let go of that unit as well. If you’re maintaining every unit of your HVAC system and it still keeps on producing unwanted noises, it is not time to upgrade it.
Grave mechanical damages on your unit that are too obvious to work around, ask for an upgrade. If your heating unit, furnace, air conditioning, ducts, vents, or any other part of your HVAC system undergo physical damages, it has to be checked upon immediately.
It is best that you consult your HVAC professional rather than doing things on your own, as it can lead to more damages and more costs on your end.
The only thing that should come out on your kitchen doors should be your plated dish, (or the chef if the customers want to pay their compliments). Other than that, the smoke, the heat, especially the odor should not escape the kitchen area. While aroma might positively stimulate the senses of your customers, it is best to give an impression that your restaurant has well-functioning ventilation and cleanliness is observed.
Ensure that your dining area will not smell like your kitchen. Work on your exhaust fans and other ventilation units, and keep providing a pleasant dining experience for your customers.
Ideally, creating your checklist for proper monitoring of your restaurant technology is helpful to make sure that you won’t miss an area to monitor. Here’s a checklist that can serve as your guide for your HVAC systems.
Check if there are visible damages on your HVAC system units. Though it looks tough and durable, these units are susceptible to physical damages due to changes in climate, seasons, and weather. Snow, hail, and even rain can damage the exterior part of your units.
It is best to inspect your HVAC system right after every storm to check on physical damages it may suffer, oil and refrigerant leaks can also be visible, watch out for those. Lastly, make sure that you’ll make sure that the airflow across the condenser and evaporator coils are free and clear. Conducting daily inspections is helpful as you can address the existing issue right away.
On this checkup, you have to ask for a technician or someone expert on electrical requirements. The electrical service panel should be well maintained as discoloration or overheating of this section leads to the downfall of the entire HVAC system.
Check on the fuses, breakers, outlets, and replace all the necessary batteries with the new ones. Look for any damaged wire to fix, and ensure that every piece of equipment (even not part of your HVAC system) meets the electrical currents of their manufacturer’s specs.
Examining your ventilation, especially during the summer season should be done frequently. If your filters are compromised, it will cause your entire HVAC, especially your air conditioning system to work harder than their usual task leading to waste of energy.
Makeup air units and exhausts should properly contain and exhausting kitchen fumes and odors.
We only have one planet, let’s do our part in taking care of it. As a restaurant owner, ensure that you make the most out of every energy that you consume. Leave a lesser carbon footprint by complying with the different ventilation codes in your area.
It’s also not just about the environment, if you have a great imbalance on your HVAC system, you’re also risking the well-being of your customers and restaurant employees.
HVAC Checklist – by Area
Proper maintenance of temperature in your kitchen area results in increased productivity on your kitchen staff. Working in a kitchen, especially during hot summer days, can be disastrous if proper HVAC practices are not observed. If your kitchen gets too hot, your refrigerator and freezer units have to work harder resulting in higher electrical bills.
Air quality inside the kitchen should be well-conditioned as well. Smoke, grease, and air particle inhalation can impose serious health respiratory issues on your staff. Make sure that you’ll comply with the ventilation codes in your area. Take a quick look here on what are the building ventilation requirements in the UK.
Lastly, fire suppression is also under your HVAC system. You’re working on different types of chemicals and gas in your restaurant, accumulation of these chemicals or gasses on your hoods may cause accidental fire accidents. Avoid those types of incidents by making sure you’ll do your inspections religiously.
Keep the temperature in your dining area comfortable enough for your customers to enjoy their meals. It should not be too cold or too hot as it might affect the quality of the food item served. The air should be clear and not stale, and there should not be unpleasant odors escaping from the kitchen.
While this is not the area of focus on a restaurant, it is still part of your operations. Keeping it clean and pleasant-smelling is one way to make sure that your customers will have an overall great experience with your restaurant. It is an area where you can extend your branding efforts, keep your brand associated with cleanliness and order by ensuring your restrooms are well-ventilated and spotless.
Your restrooms should be cool enough for your customers to seek comfort in them. It is called a “comfort room” for a reason. Also, if it gets too hot in there, it’s not the best experience you can provide to your customers.
One of the first major touchpoints of customers on your restaurant, your reception or receiving area should be visually pleasant. Also, your waiting guests should be free from an imbalance in air and temperature. They should feel comfortable while waiting, you don’t want them to leave right?
Alfresco dining is one of the solutions that lead the Restaurant Industry to keep on thriving during the pandemic season. Make sure that you’ll continue to provide a quality service on your outlining area by maintaining a desirable temperature on your patio or outdoor area. You must also strategically place your outdoor dining area away from your kitchen exhausts.