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Re-Opening Your Commercial Kitchen After COVID-19 Closures

As you begin preparing to re-open your commercial kitchen, one of the most important things to remember is to have patience. Your equipment may need a little extra TLC in order to start, and service companies are likely understaffed and overwhelmed with service calls as operators run into issues with their equipment.

With that in mind, here are a few ways to best prepare your equipment for regular use:

  1. Give your entire kitchen a good deep cleaning. Disinfect all surfaces and clean the insides of equipment, underneath them, and behind them! Aim to get your kitchen looking the way it looked the first day you opened. This is a great time to start fresh!
  2. Consider bringing in some outside assistance. Have your ducts cleaned, the fire system inspected, and your hood’s fans and controls inspected. Because your hood has been sitting idle for an extended period of time, belts may have become brittle which would make them susceptible to snapping. Service your rooftop units as the coils, blowers, and other internal parts may need to be cleaned. The more you do to clean your equipment well, the less likely you are to run into issues when you try to start a machine!
  3. Ensure your hood is working properly before you turn on any other equipment. Once the unit has been cleaned, you can do a smoke test to make sure the hood is indeed working. If the smoke goes up into the hood, you’re good to go! If it does not, it’s time for a service call.
  4. Clean your refrigeration units. Clean the condensers (directions should be in your owner’s manual, or you can look for a video online). Clean out the interior of the fridge, and if any smells linger, leave the doors open to let it air out. Once smells are gone and the unit has been cleaned, turn the unit on. If it does not come to temperature within two hours, try to adjust the temperature control to see if it reacts. If it does not, call the service department. Moving forward, you should be cleaning the condenser on each unit once per month.
  5. Clean and re-light the pilot lights on your ranges and convection ovens. After you’ve ensured your hood is working properly, you can safely turn on your gas line and re-light your pilot lights. Keep in mind there may be air bubbles in the gas lines, so it may take up to two minutes to manually light a pilot light. For convection ovens, they may try to light a few times before the system determines it is unable to light and shuts down. If this happens, turn the machine off and on to allow it to cycle again. If after two restarts it is still not cycling on, and your range is working properly (this tells you that there isn’t an issue with the gas line), make a service call.
  6. Let the water run through all of your faucets to get things flowing and flush out the system.
  7. Clean and run your ice machine. Replacing the water filter should be the first thing you do. Once that is done, open the ice maker. Disassemble all removable components and wash/sanitize to remove any mold, mildew, and algae. Clean and sanitize the storage bin or dispenser along with all ice scoops, ice buckets, and transport equipment. Then, restore all components before turning the water on. Start the machine up and run two or three batches of ice and discard the ice. Run the machine through any manufacturer recommended cleaning and sanitizing procedures before starting normal ice production. Allow the machine to run for up to 24 hours prior to re-opening.

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