It’s an issue all restaurant operators dread: an equipment breakdown with refrigeration—especially one that might go unnoticed.

It happened to the operator of a top quick-service chain in the Southeast; he caught the malfunction, but just barely. Both he and his manager were on site at the time. If not, the “melt-down” might well have resulted in spoiled chicken being served the next day.

Equipment malfunctions affecting food temperature—whether keeping food cold enough to prevent spoilage or warm enough during cooking and hold times—cause operators grief and beckon big losses.

On average, a restaurant’s refrigerated inventory at any time is valued at roughly $10,000, with failures occurring about twice a year. That’s some serious waste and lost revenue.

But the risk of serving potentially unsafe food to the customer is even greater—immeasurable, really—and sends a collective shudder through the entire food industry. When it comes to the food you serve, there’s simply no denying the stakes are high, not only for individual operators but for the franchise itself. When it comes to food safety, you don’t want to be responsible for hurting the brand.

You don’t want to chance a mishap with refrigeration or other coolers. This operator researched temperature management systems that would manage and monitor the equipment in the back of the house and notify him and other employees if something wasn’t working properly.

He chose from several systems on the market that provided temperature tracking through sensors, then alerting employees about fluctuation. Ease of use was especially important. A few things this operator experienced:

Easy setup

The sensors that tracked equipment temperatures took just minutes to install. Wireless, they attached to his coolers; a “gateway” is then plugged into a centrally located outlet.

Technology ensures freshness

The sensors gather temperature and humidity data from the coolers, delivering that information to gateway, which then pushes the data to the cloud where employees can access it through various devices. This operator chose a stand-alone system that didn’t involve Wi-Fi networks or necessitate involvement from the IT department. Now, employees get a sense right away if temperatures might be fluctuating out of normal ranges.

Keeping everyone in the loop

The best protection against spoilage and food waste is to have more than one person monitoring equipment. Consider choosing a system that allows access to the information through Apple, Android, and Windows smart devices, as well as Windows PCs; that way, the information is available to virtually any employee at any time.

For this operator, the sensors record the equipment temperatures at intervals he sets, and digital records of the results are created for inspectors and employees to track the function and reliability of equipment.

Alerts at the first sign

Depending on what you’re cooling—or keeping warm—certain thresholds will need to be maintained in your systems. If those thresholds are breached, your system should push out alerts via text and email to designated users, allowing for quick response.

Knowing what’s going on with your equipment and the food it keeps viable is everything. It means avoiding unpleasant surprises and cultivating a fast response when things do happen—and they will. Knowledge shuttled quickly to multiple team members means a quick response, fixing the problem before you lose thousands of dollars in food waste. You can ensure no food crosses the counter that doesn’t meet the highest standards of freshness, taste, and quality.

Ryan Yost is general manager for the Printer Solutions Division (PSD) for Avery Dennison Corporation. For more information, visit
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