The ‘Crisis’ of shortage of Chef’s in Australia

The great Chef’s Crisis

It’s been well documented in recent times by different media groups, here are some examples.

I can recommend listening to this sound cloud/pod cast by Christine Green, she really nails a lot of it, I’m yet to read her book, I think it would be a cracker with all her tales! This discussion is really good, you can listen here.

and her book is available here


Some others that have covered the subject also, no solutions on this one just observations from a very experienced and respected Chef

some deeper thinking

This local Australian media article isn’t bad either, although ironically the same organisation  is guilty of what so much of the food media do with ‘glamorizing ‘ what is not actually glamorous

This article goes deeper into the mental stress of the industry

Rather than go on about the negatives of the massive hours and working the hours that everybody else is having their fun time , I thought I’d highlight a couple of issues below and an idea or two how to keep your great chefs ‘long term’ .

On the Positive side : 

My advice to young chefs the same that was given to me year years ago :

“always cook with someone else’s money , and IF you wanted to do your own thing ‘ be the 3rd one in’, *topic for explanation later time.

I would add ‘Travel’, the one thing that the industry and trade can provide is the chance to see the world, and often with that have your rent paid , which makes the crappy $$ so much sweater!

Lastly,  ‘its totally ok to crank some loud and heavy tunes during prep time’;  ‘food fights are good for mental health’;  and don’t play with front of house staff!

And before it all gets to depressing to the point of horror at the thought of people having to cook their own food, here is a classic mood lightener.


  • Money, the money I made and what was available starting in the 80’s compared to now when taking CPI into consideration is terrible, it hasn’t even kept up with inflation.  Anyone that has an eye on the $$ and wants to make good money cooking, really needs to be looking offshore for their career.


  • Media, through a plethora of tv shows, the media have turned a hand full of chefs into celebrities, rocket scientists, social commentators, marketing money making machines, health professionals, political activists and everything in between, they could save the world if the food media gave them a chance!


  • Over sensationalizing the reality of what really is the industry and highlighting the 000000000000000000ooo00000000000000000 1% that get that level of media opportunity  (lets face Mr Oliver would be the first to admit he’s a very lucky chap, just happened to be in the right place at the right time and ran with it, good luck to him, ‘lubly jubly’ as he would say!) but it’s so far from what is the norm, it  couldn’t be further from the truth, it paints a VERY UNREALISTIC picture of what life behind the pass is really like.


  • A lot of Chefs will say just pay us more… those that say this are highlighting their ignorance of ‘commercial reality’. Wage/money can only be linked to profit, and MOST food businesses don’t make money or if they do very little, so there isn’t enough left over to pay more. For Chefs to ‘earn more’ they need to be cooking in operations that make their money less off the food and more off other areas, be it alcohol, gambling, accommodation, fees, whatever it may be.


  • Busy profitable food business (that can make money) are ‘Physically’ and ‘Mentally’ are demanding and the fact is as a Chef gets older it’s harder to maintain, so how do you keep them on board?


  • Hours, well they are crap, that’s all there is to it, but does it always have to be 10-14 hr days  for days on end before you get a day off?  If your working on a fortnight roster sometimes that can mean 10 days straight. Then when you get that day you basically and up in a coma on the couch because you are physically and mentally exhausted? I would recommend to most medium to large operations consider shaking it up a bit, why not offer 4 days 10-12 hrs per day , 4 days off roster, if you cant pay more then perhaps offer a lifestyle, it’s not always about the money.


  • Training, the current method of training due the Federal Governments apprenticeship/certificate system being linked to financial incentives to  training  organisations and business owners , has resulted in a  INFERIOR level of training than decades before. I say this particularly with Food Safety, Workplace Safety, and Commercial Acumen which just doesn’t seem to be touched on. Food/Menu/Cooking  variety, flavors and presentation is at much HIGHER levels than the past, but the business side of it is poor. Kitchen/Business Management just isn’t covered or taught, so it’s left up to the individual to find their own training. I also say this with background and experience in the training sector, its a model that is fundamentally flawed and broken ( I wrote a detailed submission to the powers that be back on the day that fell on deaf ears) and guess what? All these years later the ‘training industry’ is now  finally under investigation at Federal political level, but for many the damage has been already done. It’s up to the leaders of the industry to train from within now, invest in their chefs of tomorrow, because we can’t leave it up to the Government for solutions, they already have failed there.


  • I can see a time when large hotels and food/hospitality organisations start to look at chefs in the same light that a professional football club does. Identify the talent early and sign them up to long programs that will see them stay with the club/business for the best part of their career. Just the same as the football club it would involve many layers of training and support and a structured career plan with performance intensives along the way, especially rewarding long term commitment. Some hotel groups already do this with opportunities for   transfers nationally and internationally within the group.


  • So where are the best ‘professional career chefs’ going , or going to go? In my view they will gravitate to larger organisations, Clubs, Pubs, Mining/Resource Aged care/Health sectors where the businesses make profit or are NFP on the food side, and therefore can invest in better conditions (kitchens/equipment) reasonable hours.  The money might not be higher, but the conditions and security are much higher and encourage long term commitment and opportunities for career advancement.


  • Certainly the evidence is clear in NSW where the Club scene sets the pace nationally and there are some really strong examples of training and investment into the next generation of chefs, backed with industry initiatives such as the It’s certainly an area I would suggest any new Chefs in training be looking to, you will gain experience in large commercial kitchens that a properly designed and resourced, secure employment and income and many of the best clubs offer great opportunities for ‘Fine dining’ , ‘Function’ and Catering along with Bistro work. Some even have their own Pastry and Butchery sections on site, a rarity in this day and age of ‘buy in convenience’ This gives a training Chef a ’rounded’ view and skill set on all types of kitchen work and they will be well skilled to move into any areas of the industry that they choose, from small fancy Restaurants to large scale catering kitchens. In the past you would look to a ‘Hotel’ kitchen for this training , that’s not always the case these days, and training isn’t always high on the Agenda for Hotel Kitchens like it once was.


  • Despite what the media may tell us , the fancy Restaurant with all the hype and media exposure and big named Chef , DOES NOT represent the entire industry and sure does not represent the best career path ‘commercially’ for a ‘Professional Chef’, cooking ‘professionally’ is different to cooking entirely for love or ego. There is a time and place in every commercial Chefs career for both, Ego/Passion and Commercial, getting the balance is the tricky part!

    Clubs training next generation of chefs
Next generation club chefs
  • The Brigade/Army ‘Yes Chef’ culture, is ridiculous, antiquated and out of touch with the modern world, the Culture needs change, especially the totalitarian army style of ranking and abuse!  Is stems from a time and era where menu’s and food were much different, and also the way we treat people! I’ve seen many young chefs broken from abuse by elder washed up worn out ‘cooks’ that frankly had their taste buds inserted in the wrong end of their body, ‘the way many young apprentices have been treated over the years would be one of the biggest factors in the ‘high drop out rate of apprentice chefs’.
  • How and what we eat now is vastly different, ingredients the equipment and resources are  different. For some strange reason we want to hold onto to so much the past, News flash ‘ Escoffier is Dead’ and he died a long time ago, time to move on.


  • The death of the $100k executive Chef ! Back in the 80’s in what common to find European head chefs of hotels and larger organisations earning this sort of money, I know for me it was one of the things that attracted me to the industry , there WAS money to be made when you made the top. These guys were task masters, but they knew their stuff and they could run a kitchen with lots of staff  like well oiled machines, they were tough, but they were respected and they knew their gig. But somehow things changed…management said, ‘ we don’t need these overseas $100k ego maniacs’ lets promote the Jnr Sous Chef to do it on $65k , they can do it, save  us heaps…and that short sighted approach was the beginning of the Rot.


  • Lack of ‘kitchen management’. This is the No 1 issue I find in so many operations, Head Chefs that are too busy ‘cooking’ when they should be spending MUCH more time OFF the tools ‘managing the operation’ be it staff/rosters, menu/costings, suppliers/produce, marketing, food safety, kitchen maintenance , energy costs the lists go on. If a Chef in a busy operation can spend more time on these above items they could potentially save their operation many thousands of dollars.
  • By shaving % off labour costs, % off food costs, %operating energy costs, % of maintenance/repair costs TRAINING New staff, all these small % improvements will add up to FAR greater profit than pumping out extra covers each night. If you can get your senior chef into a ‘executive ‘ position , less on the tools your bottom line will improve, you can train your own staff and guess what your senior Chef might just stay for years to come! Pay them well*, let them run it like a business, and let them spend time training the Chefs of tomorrow. * Incentives are key here, bonus’s for hitting targets, ‘profit’ based, not just ‘numbers based’.


  • Much of the above may seem to be directed at medium to larger organisations, and probably is, but it can still be implemented in smaller operations.


  • Over supply: There is a massive oversupply of eating out options available to us these days, with everyone’s busy lifestyles, long commutes from workplaces etc this is unlikely to change. But it does put an unhealthy  pressure on the staffing pool. And sadly a LARGE percentage of the small start ups will fail, and in the process probably ‘burn’ some poor young chef’s along the way.


  • I have no idea why people that ‘eat out’ think they are qualified to ‘open and run’ a food operation, especially if they come from industries so different, it’s been this way for a while, and probably won’t change . Which is good for people that are selling hospitality business finance and or supplies, not for the staff. My Tip for young or Apprentice Chefs, avoid working in start ups, leave your Ego at home and work with experienced professional operations , go where you can lean and be trained, you also know that  you are at least going to get paid!


  • Bad business managers, underpayment of staff.  Well documented,and its not just the small unknowns, the better known and bigger names are just as guilty, industrial relations is choked up with a back log of hospitality pay issues. Hardly helps attract new players.


  •  For professional Chefs , especially apprentices let the ‘I’ve always wanted to run my own restaurant crew’ do so on their own time and money not at your expense’  OR if you take on such a challenge do so with a ‘risk factor’ built into your wage/pay because statistically you are at high risk of working in a business that is going to go broke, so make sure you get plenty up front, because you will have buckley’s chance of chasing up that missing super and holiday pay once the doors are shut.


  • I feel fortunate to have done much of my Apprenticeship years working in environments where time was spent training me to reasonably high level of skills and organisation, I was lucky to work under some fantastic chefs, and a few not so! Those skills I carry with me and I know (and occasionally do) that I can get back ‘on the tools’ at any time I need/choose to. For those that are still out there busting their backs sacrificing the massive hours and commitment to feed/entertain others  I applaud you, but makes sure you are getting well looked after for your efforts.

          ‘If you think a good chef is expensive, wait until you find out what a ‘cheap’ chef will cost you’






USA updating food safety laws & NSF

Back in 2011 the USA’s food safety governing body FDA set about updating and rewriting their food safety legislation and guidelines, it’s taken up until now to for much of it to be finalized and available to read, and there is plenty to read! FDA info here

The USA take food safety seriously, very seriously and as such really leads Australia in direction and standards.

This you may find unusual for a country that seems all to happy to consume copious  amounts of processed fast food crap! But if you go into those stores you will see such things as ‘drinking straws individually wrapped’ , ‘tooth picks individually wrapped’ and in my observations the average Americans hand washing technique and time taken to so is far better than the average Australian. There is an in built culture (or paranoia!) about germs  and food safety, just not calories and nutrition!

Part of the reason for strictness in food safety also links back to the massive ‘franchise’ food network in the states, it’s really hard to find a food business that is not part of a chain or group, and some of those chains are in the THOUSANDS not just a few stores! So IF an issue of food safety occurs at one store, and word gets out it’s not that store that is the main problem it’s the damage done to the other 1,000 stores in the chain! The issue can taint all of their brand and reputation and bring a large organisation to their knees for something that may have happened as a once off on the other side of the county…a good example would be chiplote..there is heaps of articles about it  this is just one example,

Bad news sells, the media love to bring businesses down, they have probably fed millions of meals over the years with no hassles at, but that doesn’t sell in media land!

The other issue in the states is shear volume, massive population and massive food producers, some may say to few producers, but when big business runs all the smaller players out of town you end up with super food factories. You might end up with for example one or two factories producing all the burger patties for Mcdonalds for example…IF something goes wrong at that factory with the product because they are supplying to millions of customers each week you are in fact risking millions of people, not just the 100 who ate at store A!

an oldie but a goodie on the subject, America a fast food nation,

So generally as a result the states is pretty strict, as mentioned before even small wares (tong’s spoons etc)  used in the industry all have to be passed and rated NSF. Makes sense  if you think about it, here in Australia a typical small franchise would look to save $1 on a set of tongs…but not consider quality and safety…now if they were cheaply made tongs with silicone/rubber ends that franchise could easily find themselves with a customer at a store with bits of tong rubber in their salad! The chances of such happening in the states would be much lower as they would only use NSF approved tongs, so they would have been tested for quality and durability to reduce the chance of the same happening. more about NSF here

So back to the FDA changes.

I haven’t read the entire documents just the basics. But the big shift is what they are aiming for is early prevention rather than reaction. And a lot more proactive on spot inspections where it will be compulsory for all operators to have all their food safety plans and documentation accurate and up to date.

The reading suggests using digital data monitoring and logging of food storage temperatures,  and lets be totally honest with ourselves here, WHO does it ACCURATELY , REGULARLY and Honestly? Very few is the answer to that. Secondly whats the point of checking and recording twice a day, its POINTLESS a grade 4 science teacher would fail you if you suggested that checking temperatures for 2 moments of time over 24hrs is sufficient evidence to base a finding on, clearly its not! You may have checked a refrigerator both times of the day and struck it on full defrost cycle, the data from that would suggest you have a serious temperature issue! The real fact is for the other 23.5Hrs of the day your storage may have well in the correct zone.

and old saying ‘ to monitor ones performance, first we must measure the results’ 

if you haven’t already check out

or watch this video


Oil’s ain’t Oils!

Well I’m not going to attempt to break down all the different types of frying oils/fats (or mediums being the technical term) with exception of Palm and Cotton Seed, this is more about ‘filtering and different types of fryers.

Palm Oil…do a quick google on the harmful environmental issues of Palm Oil…enough said .

Cotton seed can’t be much better seeing we damn half of this country and bugger up all the water ways down stream just so we can grow cotton??Aside from that go and pull out a 10 yr+ old fryer from a fish and chip shop that has been using cotton seed oil…the toxic resin/gum that builds up is horrific, cannot be good for you!

Fryer Types

Its hard to break this down without going into pages and pages…but Fryers are a major part of many commercial kitchens and business, they cost heaps to run, heaps to purchase and can consume insane amounts of oil, the lack of attention clients give to selecting the fryer for their operation is staggering, the wrong choice could cost them thousands per year.

Years ago all fryers were flat bottom, mainly width was the main performance difference, the burner technology (Gas) was primitive to say the least, round baskets in square/rectangle fryers were normal! Yep that makes sense round shape in square wastage of energy or oil there!

The big change happened with ‘V’ base fryers and also more compact in size to suit the neatly fitting baskets, size/shape is easy to see the performance difference there, but what about the V bottom?

Basically it was worked out that many fried products were crumbed or battered and a lot of that ended up coming off the food and floating in the fryer, but once it cooked these crumbs would fall to the bottom of the fryer and form a layer of crumby/crust gunk! So A) the gas burners had to get the heat through this layer of gunk to get to the oil so wasted energy B) doing so actually just burnt this gunk/waste more and more resulting in ‘dirty’ tasting oil and also causing  premature oil failure, (think of an old smoking fryer you may have seen used). This resulted in needing to change the oil more often or sooner than ideally required, which equals BIG $$$ per month per year.

So the ‘V’ base works as it allows the crumbs to fall deep down into the middle of the fryer and down into that big valley. That Valley is MUCH cooler than up higher onto top of the burger sections, so the crumbs don’t cook and burn, resulting in massive oil life increase, in some studies 25-30% more..also the efficiency of the burners being just under the baskets means much faster recover times of the oil temperature.

So ‘v’ these days is the norm for nay place doing volume. Is there a place for flat bottom fryers?

YES! yes you say but what how/why? Chips (not coated plain type) as there is very little waste of plain chips we don’t have that problem caused by crumbs and batter. So we can flat bottom the fryer and it will take up to 25-40% less oil in the tank! So straight away a 40% less oil to purchase, no brainer you say…hmmmn I say not so fast…as I am seeing so much ‘coated’ or ‘treated’ chip product out there these days, and with that a lot of that treatment will fall off in the cook. So its a case by case consideration.

Tube Burners are quite popular as many are priced at the affordable end of the scale. Hopefully the below image shows the difference in types, many tube style fryers incorporate a v also. The down side to tube burners is that they are harder to clean, the manufacturers would say differently but it is a fact.

Where they win is ‘efficiency ‘  of the burners (gas) as the tubes are immersed in the oil they are contacting more of the oil and tend to have a higher performance rate than other burner types, so for items like chips they are a good choice.

Deep fryer types

Pressure Fryers

The other type of fryer, often not thought of in Australia with exception of a well known chicken franchise, but in the states commonly used in many different business. The short story is faster, moisture cooking especially for boned in chicken pieces. Rather than write too much I found this great explanation video…couldn’t of said it better myself, take notes on the the discussion about the cold zone, and self filtration machines.

Electric or GAS?

Save your homework, go into all the ‘major’ fast food franchise restaurants of the world they use electric, they have have invested huge chunks of time and money into their product/Equipment  R&D they haven’t come up with this same answer time and time again by mistake!

Put your hand over the back of a deep fryer (over the flue) and see for your self NO DON’T DO THAT you will get burnt! That’s how hot that wasted air/energy is , and you paid for it if its your fryer! With electricity the elements are in the oil, there is much less energy wasted.

Having said that getting enough power into a kitchen can often be an issue, especially on renovations and expansions, so Gas is often the answer

Thermostat so important! If your fryer isn’t at correct temperature when you drop those baskets of chips you are going to ‘soak’ a lot of oil up into the product, rather than the medium ‘sealing’ the product and frying it, under temp fryers can cost you thousands in oil each year, not to mention a poorly cooked greasy food item! Invest in a fryer that shows you by a light or display of some sort that says it’s reached temperature and its ready to go!

Accuracy of the thermostat is crucial, for the reason above and also to ensure you are not cooking at too high a temperature, to high simply means you risk burning the oil/food, ruining taste and also risking fire! Too high will also reduce the lifespan of your oil.

Filtering at the risk of preaching to the converted this is SO CRUCIAL the more you filter , the better you filter the longer your oil will last and save you thousands of dollars per year, plus the food will taste better.

How to do it and how often? As often as possible especially fryers that have messy products eg S&P calamari, do it after every service, seriously EVERY SHIFT watch your oil life increase and costs decrease.

How? With a filtering machine and proper micro filters, get the best. If you can afford it and you have multiple fryers invest in a self filtering , auto top up system, most of the brands have them, with these you can filter many times per day all day, without staff, so much safer and cheaper, these systems in busy places will often pay for themselves in oil saving within 1-2 years.

An example of one type of auto system is shown here,


Other ways you can increase the life of your oil is to filter your self with a floor based system where you empty the oil into a tank and it filters and pumps back into the fryer. These systems are fine when done after hours and no one is working near the fryers, they do have a fair bit of OHS risk also if the oil is too hot and someone knocks the tube, but they work well and are good base IF they are used regularly.

A combination of the two methods above is a Vito machine, the advantage of such is that it doesn’t take up floor space and can be simply move from one fryer to another, you can also run multiple filters per vat per day.

Here is how they work.

The Inspiration for a fryer topic?

I’m in the position of being able to walk into MANY different kitchens each week, and the common trend these days I see is to have ‘someone sort out your oil for you’ . What a great service and idea, no more storing drums of oil/fat , dealing with disgusting waste oil/fat stores, ordering it’s all managed for the client, the truck comes each week and swaps it all over , its a great improvement for kitchens and chefs for sure, massive as they can spend that time on more important tasks. However with it I have  seen a complacency to be aware of oil/costs/use/ and lifespan as it’ now all taken care of by someone else.

If you were to implement some of the above tips, maybe you could  extract  an extra 2 days out of your oil before it ‘really’ needed to be replaced , rather than this is the day of the week it gets done. Lets say a client implemented just the Vito strategy on 4 fryers after each service and they did extend the oil life, maybe they could be looking at an extra 50-100 days of oil x 4 fryers. Work out how much your organisation  spent on oil last year / 365 and that’s your oil cost per day, now take that at x 50 or 100…the maths is compelling.

The thing to keep in mind with the oil /swap/fill service, is that their money is made each time the filling truck comes to you, they are not in the business of extending a customer oil too much otherwise they are cutting their own income off, its like BP showing you a way to increase your cars fuel performance x 25%, its not going to happen!

Operators are keen to cut penalty rates on Sunday’s, increase meal costs to customers, but rarely do they get into the nitty gritty of ‘non obvious running costs’ such as power consumption or in this case oil/fat consumption, I bet everyone could save thousands off their oil costs by filtering properly and often.

Keeping your cool!

Another one in the obvious but clearly not obvious category.

Cool room door strips, Cold Shields. If you don’t have them on your doors you are wasting money.

They were/are designed for a specific purpose that is to keep cold air in and hot air out, and guess what they work! Manufacturers will claim numbers like 25% improvement in temperature controls, which in some cases I would say yes, others less so, all depends on the operating ambient temperatures and or drafts/breezes.

Chef’s hate them as we have to brush through them and if you are carrying a tray of something delicate you can bet that the strips will smack into the goods and ruin them!

But for the inconvenience of having to have someone open the strips for you occasionally, the business is going to be saving thousands of dollars in energy costs, coolroom motors cost a lot to run and if they are working over time even worse, for  a few hundred dollars you can save thousands  and also give your coolroom a chance of actually working to correct food safe temperatures, they are a non negotiable.

When to engage a commercial kitchen consultant designer?

The million dollar question, when at what point do you reach to a commercial kitchen consultant?

At there risk of offending anyone that has been guilty of the below, here goes!

There are many different examples of project and size and type , too may to list, but the answer always to all is to engage at the START of your planning and consideration phase, I have listed some examples below to help explain, these are all based on years of real life examples.

The confusion or lack of understanding of the ‘when and why’ to reach or engage (in Australia) in my opinion is largely the fault of the body that is supposed to promote the profession within industry. It does little to promote itself or its members to the outside world, which causes confusion  as too who/what a commercial kitchen designer consultant does.

Typically a project may have an architectural team engaged, an interior designer and the relevant specialist consultants involved, rarely any are experts or greatly experienced in what makes a commercial kitchen or food service operation design work.

The only people you want working on your kitchen and or bar plans from a ‘functional and effective’ point of view are people with lots of ‘real’ project experience that are involved from conception to completion, and those that have relevant industry experience operationally, you need to then add a good dose of industry equipment experience, a clear understanding of all the  types, features and benefits of commercial food service equipment  is essential.

Modern food service, menu’s and equipment mean we can now design effective kitchens is much smaller spaces than the old school hotel kitchen plans of past era’s. However there is a big difference between ‘compact and effective’ and ‘too small’.

I have  yet to come across a set of plans that has allocated too much space for the food service and or bar operations, its always on the too small side and this not only effects the performance of the operation but food safety and profitability.

To work out how much ‘space is required’ a detailed brief on what the facility is required to do needs to be obtained. This is a very specific detail also, simply ‘provide food and beverage’ is not a brief! (I have seen exactly those words written on a Government brief before!)

What sort of food? What type of service? What sort of numbers? What is the product/food supply situation? What are the staff skill’s/numbers anticipated to be? What would a typical menu look like,, yes the MENU massive impact on what happens kitchen design wise, yet I’m often asked to design a facility that doesn’t have this sorted! Horse/cart !! It doesn’t have to final or exact but food types, methods of cookery, service delivery all so very important.

Anything else you want to add?’

Seems so obvious but I have had clients for example that say at the last moment ..well there is going to be 50 people staying on site 7 days…..but that’s for the first 6 months..after than it will go to 250…”WT! you didn’t think that was important to state up front!” massive design implications. OR .’.we are going to cater for 100 …but we may also pick up the catering contract around the corner that would be for an extra 100!” ….great …=total redesign!

Provide as much detail at the start about the short/medium and long term plans  for the operation, this will have a big impact on design.

Current Trends 

Casual, multicultural, fast casual, healthy, funky, hip, amazing presentation, are all current directions the food and hospitality industry is heading. Designs that feature strong interaction between kitchen/food/guest are playing major parts in design, food is as much entertainment as it is a meal these days.


The major factor for space/design/equipment calculations is? How does one know how much space to allow in a project early on.

In my opinion, is to plan it like you are working it yourself, this is what i do, and i also collect as much information if possible from the existing operation and staff (if an existing business) on what is working or not working for them currently.

I really don’t understand how you can design a kitchen for commercial success if you have not experienced years of working in them yourself, you need to be able to picture yourself as the operator , actually running and cooking in the operation, same goes for the bar. That means from menu design, ordering, receiving, storing stock, then we can look at preparation and cleaning requirements, and all the space calculations are still always going to come back to the menu and type of service and skill levels of the staff expected.

So with this is I mind we work backwards, from the loading/receiving bay.

Put your Builders/Architect/Engineers Chef’s Hat on!

It’s easy to be caught up writing and concentrating about food, efficiency, systems etc, menu trends all essential points, however.

There is a HEAP of building infrastructure and services involved with a professional food kitchen/operation/bar.

If i was to say there is easily Fifteen hydraulic points/considerations in a typical 100/150 capacity restaurant/pub/bar you would say I was mad! There is at least this amount, there are ‘non negotiable’ plumbing items such as hand basin/s, dish/glass washers and then believe it or not often over looked ‘food preparation sinks’ and then we have Combi Oven/s ice machines, Gas lines this list goes on and this is without looking at mechanical ventilation, that is exhaust canopies and make up air to the buildings all under the HVAC engineers final specifications of how it will actually work.

The early days of a kitchen plan actually involves talking to Architects/Draftspersons/Engineers/Hydraulic Consultants/Electrical Consultants/Building Engineers and the list goes on…you can even through ‘heritage and environmental consultant/engineers in there. Note the words Chef/Bar Manager/Operations Manager don’t appear on the list. Everything in the food service design is going to impact how the building is designed and or built, all the services and the infrastructure to support them needs to be planned now, normally months often years before the building is built, let alone final menu’s and or decor are decided upon.

During these early planning stages and building issues that are impacted by the food service plan are going to raise their head, and there will be plenty. Examples may include, unable to place exhaust canopy in chosen location due to building engineering issues, type of cooking appliance/fuel can have a local planning/environmental impact and require pre approvals, electrical load capacities are insufficient to meet the requirements, trade waste facilities need to planned well in advance to locate their position, these calculations can’t be completed until the correct hydraulic plans are in place and these need to be based on the kitchen plan, gas locations or lack there of, ceiling heights in some areas may cause issues with coolrooms, exhaust canopies etc unable to locate plumbing or drains in certain locations due to structural integrity of the floor/slab..the list is massive.

The sooner an operator can focus on getting the basic layout of the kitchen/s, bar/s completed early on the better the project will be in planing  and building stages and costs. If the above examples are considered  ‘after’ or ‘late’ in the cycle it will always lead to

a)increase in project costs b)delays in the project c)compromised design and specifications

I often see Architectural and Interior Design conceptual drawings that look amazing at the front, so much beautiful design and presentation it looks fantastic! But when you peel back the wrapping the ingredients that are required to make that kitchen or bar functional, efficient and effective are simply not there, the design doesn’t work. It can be as simple as a lack of sinks and the right ones to comply with the Australian Standards for Food Premise Designs, through to lack of storage, no cleaning/chemical facilities, no equipment storage the list goes on. Partly the blame for this is the amazing 3D rendering computer design software that is out there now, its sometimes easier to come up with a life like amazing 3D image than what it is to have details to scaled schematic drawings.

3D presentation it encourages looking at the presentation side of things or the ‘Wow’ part before we have looked at the ‘How’part.

The Wow is much easier to achieve than How, and that probably explains why you should engage a Foodservice/Commercial Kitchen/Bar Designer as early as possible, because there is no point in making the design look wonderful if functionally it doesn’t work, the lack of functionality will make or break an operation.

In the ‘how’ we can look at how much food we will be procuring, how often and storage requirements, then the cooking and preparation requirements, how service flows, how the kitchen flows, how do the food safety considerations work, and last but not least , how we are going to do the the cleaning, washing sanitizing, the same goes for bars.

And from that we can start to determine the space required, then we can get into the nitty gritty design.

There is no magical square meter calculator ,  I have seen them and they do not work, the ONLY exception to that rule is in ‘catering’ operations with set cycle menu’s and catering numbers, e.g. mining camps, aged cares facilities etc.

Avoid costly project delays caused by having to resubmit local authority plans.

I recently was asked to help out on a project that was well underway in the construction phase. The short a story was once we had sorted out what was really required for their operation it equaled a LOT of extra plumbing points.

Now the construction hadn’t reached this part of the building yet, so no problem you may say, quite the opposite actually. All the extra plumbing points meant a redraw of the hydraulic plan , which had to be done by the Hydraulic consultant (not a cheap date$!!) then the hydraulic plan had to be resubmitted to council more $$, on top of that the plumbing contractor had to stop his trench digging until then as his entire plan was about to change, so the building process was delayed until the council could look at the plans and reapprove. Luckily in this case the council was quick, it could have been a lot worse, never the less it cost time/money that would have been avoided if we (or another consultant) was involved 6-12 months earlier!

example scenario 1. Community facility/hall/School tuck shop

If I had a dollar for every ‘commercial kitchen’ i have seen designed into a community hall or facility that is supposed to be able to cater for occasional functions of 100-200 ppl that consisted of a small square room, sink, fridge a domestic oven range and bit of domestic cabinetry , hand basin if your lucky…and passed off as a commercial kitchen!

Its a crime, clearly it’s not and it’s not going to work, normally ends up on having to hire in coolrooms, extra cooking equipment and bunch of extra staff and helpers to make the function work, instead of a couple of professional staff with professional facilities and equipment pumping out the function in a professional food safe manner, efficiently, quickly and with minimum fuss.

They should  of engaged a consultant at the start, and allocated the correct amount of space and plan initially, very expensive and hard to fix up later on.

example scenario 2. Retail property development

This one is so common it’s scary,and  is often the reason why the first time operators of the business fails, poor design that results in massive extra fit out costs. The wonderful presentation of the new complex , sexy 3D designs , sometimes video animations, funky street architecture, lovely exteriors incredible interior designs and presentation all up an extremely good looking as a project and development looks amazing. Board walk dining, lifestyle, promises thousands of people in food traffic etc.

Then the client signs the lease to their new food dream building, then the plans start. What they have all too often signed up to is a blank concrete box, maybe one or two plumbing points if they are lucky, maybe an exhaust duct maybe not, normally in a location that it is totally wrong for the application.

No consideration to how,where the stores are coming in from, often they don’t even have a back door, no cleaning facilities, no hydraulic/plumbing/power. Much of these items could have been added in during the build and as such would have been at the costs of the developer. Now the customer is having to cut concrete slabs for drainage, install or move exhausts /ducts, trade waste, building works, the list goes on. Now the fit out costs have blown out massively, the business is doomed before they even start as the capital injected is way to much to gain a realistic commercial return, to cover the blow outs, even if the business runs successfully.

This is where the saying (that a Restaurateur told me when I was an apprentice)  ‘ 2nd or 3rd one in son’ never ever go in first, the costs are way to high and too often cripple the business. 2nd or 3rd time the business sells – picking up the capital costs for a fraction of new…and now the numbers are on your side! I’d say that rule is even more valid today than ever.

If the client has an engaged a food service consultant at the very beginning they would have identified many of these infrastructure costs for them early on, and as such they could of been included in the build, or negotiated with the property owner on costs… or pull out of the deal and find one with better numbers that made sense.

example scenario 3. Renovation of existing, normally increasing size and capacity

Normally this is in the hands of the Architect, includes really complex building designs, increasing the facility size and capacity, and being a renovation it’s not simple, always complex, often involving trying to keep the existing business operating during renovations.

I’ve found that the Architects and Interior designers are brilliant at the seating/dining plans, allocating space, as there are some general ‘math’ rules that do work for this, in fact there are Australian guidelines they have to follow for minimum space requirements per person any how, so the answers are already provided to certain point.

But again its the allocation of space for the food, storage preparation and service that seems to always miss out, and the operation gets renovated with a new kitchen that really isn’t much better than the original. The new kitchen should increased capacity, decrease labour, increase efficiency, and improve on food safety and decrease running costs.

I’ve seen architects in these types of projects allow more space for the bar than the kitchen! Because that’s the ‘sexy’ focus on the project , and ego’s often take over. To be fair it is the profit center also, but it doesn’t take up anywhere near as much space to make drinks than it does to prepare food. The space requirements for both couldn’t be further apart!

Commercially however the bar will make more money than the kitchen , but this doesn’t equal  a poorly planned undersized kitchen. Sometimes the architect will engage the currently chef for input, that’s a good start, but that information should only act as part of the brief. Normally that Chef has not designed kitchens before, if they have maybe one or two, and only bits of, they are looking from a little bit too inside.

An outsiders view added to the inside will add far more options to the designs and a lot more solutions from experience in many projects. They will also have a wide picture on all the relevant equipment, specifications and regulations that will impact the design. The other issue with ‘only the existing chef’s view/input is’ generally you can bet that that Chef WILL NOT be at that business in 12 months let alone 3-5 years, fact! the design needs to work so ANY PROFESSIONAL can come in and work it, sure they will all have their own ideas on what they would have done out liked etc…no design will ever be 110% perfect , there is always complications, restrictions and barriers that will mean some sort of compromise to and up at the final result. The client should always remember that the Chef isn’t paying for the new kitchen and it’s their money and business on the line, the final decision should always be with them the person with the skin in the game.

The above scenario I often see in large club /hotel type operations, a decision is made to improve the operation, increase capacity and update the look. The result is always some cleaver Architecture that increases the existing building and amazing interior design that revives and refreshes the interior, often increasing dining capacity at the same time. But the common theme in the gets neglected, ‘we will sort the front of house out first then sort the back later’.

Which is the same as giving a car a set of shiny news wheels and paint job but leaving a clapped out motor running it!

The result always is , more customers come to the new flash facility, but the dining remains the same or in many cases worse because the kitchen is pushed beyond it’s capacity, it’s broken, standards slip, can’t keep staff and then it ultimately effects food safety also.

Operators and Managers need to understand the following, There IS and ALWAYS Will be a ‘skilled’ Chef shortage, the reasons for are for another blog post. Bottom line is yes you can pay more to attract better staff, but if your kitchen is crap it wont matter, it equals working in a constant Sh! fight everyday and that’s taxing, physically and mentality, when they get an offer that has ‘better working conditions’ they will jump ship, simple as that. The conditions and hours will determine the stability of the staff more than the $$$.

I can guarantee you that the chef turnover rate in well designed and specified kitchens is far less than the those that are not, on top of that productivity and efficiency is higher which equals better bottom lines for the business.

The kitchen renovation should  be planned with the above. In the case where is its is designed nicely it is often  really just a ‘rebuild’ of what was already there, everything has been fixed up building and equipment wise.

Nothing is challenged in the way dining concepts, presentations, menu’s its pretty much the same, missed opportunity, this is the point where you design some really good initiates that can make a food service operations strand out among an increasingly crowded market place .

At the renovation phase also you should be looking at running costs also, consider new equipment technology that can dramatically reduce energy consumption, which again improves bottom line. These discussions all need to be had early on as the results will impact the design.


Engage an experienced consultant/designer/expert asap , even if its just to add some consulting advice to the existing design team, they don’t always have to do the entire designs and  spec, it can be done by the interior design or architect team in conjunction with the consultant.

Happy designing, be sure to look up ‘commercial kitchen design’ on Pinterest , our ideas board is well over 2,000 ideas, a picture speaks a thousand words as they there’s plenty of creative ideas to look at there.

Commercial kitchen design Pinterest
Commercial kitchen design and food ideas on Pinterest

food presentation




Refrigeration Gas Set to change

Refrigeration Gas upcoming changes

As mentioned in previous post from the USA, some dates are starting to surface in the USA with regards to phasing out pretty much all the current refrigerant gasses that are commonly used in industry today, the move forward will be most likely to Hydro Carbon (HC) based gasses.

The first set of dates in the USA  are schedule for as early as March 2017. And whilst this is the USA it should be noted that Europe is on the same path, so its only fair to say that the Australasian market wont be far behind. The simple maths on damage to the ozone and environment by the current gas types compared to the new HC gas types is massively different.

Latest dates that I have seen for the Austyralian Market will see HC standard as of 2018 with an eventual phase out of existing gasses.

Reading between the technical lines, I’m seeing some issues with HC and charge amounts and issues with long distance remote refrigeration systems. The down side to these natural refrigeration gasses is that they are extremely flammable, having said that the amount of gas required in a cabinet is now tiny with HC units, as little a cigerette lighter full!

150gm is the maximum charge amount per cabinet for self contained systems. Where this becomes a problem is on really big refrigeration cabinets open fronted chillers, three door freezers for example they need more gas than this to work properly (achieve correct refrigeration temperatures) . In this example the solution may be to run multiple motors per cabinet which of course will add costs to manufacturer and then retail prices, or it may be a case of using individual cabinets instead of big multi door units.

The other challenge is with Remote and large units , for example Coolrooms. The compressor systems are much larger and require larger amounts of gas, whilst with HC gases the amount of gas required to run a system is massively reduces by at least 50% or more it’s still a large amount of HC Gas, and therefore is deemed a fire risk.

Fire Risk:

These new gasses have one down side, that is they are very flammable! However the amount of gas required to run say a 1 Door cabinet with HC use a tiny, so if an explosion occurred it would be extremely small (think cigarette lighter explosion if you had a naughty teenage/childhood you may recall the size!) so not too much of an issue however there are some recommendations on play to avoid accidental combustion ,  such as no heated burn off condensate trays and not installing near naked flame.

What does this mean for refrigerated drawer systems are char grills and cook tops, is yet to be seen.

Larger systems such as Coolrooms etc the fire risk is greater, Refrigersation mechanics and technicians are currently up skilling now in this area, in some states they may require special HC licence to work on HC refrigeration cabinets.

There is suggestion also that business owners will be required to log there refrigeration systems into the Fire Department also, so they have a data base of where big HC units are in case of fire at that location, they are prepared and warned of the possible dangers.

The cost to the manufacturing industry on changing processes , machinery , engineering and training to the new gases is massive , it will be a deal breaker for smaller companies. Larger international companies have been working with these new gasses now for years, investing millions of dollars of technology into making systems work on minimal gas, and also ensuring the fire risk is mitigated, solutions such as no spark, contactors, bushes, wiring have all been put years of R&D.

The Planet is going to be so much better off the moment we can get all registration and Airconditioning Gases to these new natural HC gasses, but there will be a lot of industry pain getting there.

For the end user consumer:

What does this all mean apart from you being kind to the planet?

MASSIVE RUNING COST REDUCTIONS, which saves you money, efficiency is 25-45% better on these new gas refrigeration systems, if you have multiple refrigeration units in your business this can mean Thousands of dollars of saved RUNING costs.

Inexperienced hospitality operators OFTEN OVER LOOK RUNNING COSTS commercial refrigeration is expensive to run and maintain, especially if you have purchased some cheap knock off copy refrigeration made normally in Asia.

Look at the KW rating on your cabinet (that’s even if they provide one) now times that by your KW$ per charge, now compare that cheap fridge you were considering against a quality cabinet with low KW rating, the money you thought you were saving upfront is elimated in most cases within a year! After that you are losing money each year, not to mention warranty out performance issues.

REFRIGERATION IS THE ONE AREA IN A HOPSITALITY OPERATION THAT ONLY FOOL’S SKIMP ON, I don’t think I can make it any clearer than that! It costs a lot to run, costs more when it breaks down and can cost you dearly if it’s not holding temperature properly and you have a food poisoning/safety issue claimed against your business.

The Flip side is that good commercial refrigeration will last many years, 10+ years is not uncommon on quality brands, compared to cooking equipment that’s probably 2-3 times longer for a busy operation.

RELIABILITY , there are thousands of HC systems already out in the international market place so the data is back on the performance and warranty statistics, Warranty issues have been more than halved in many cases with HC cabinets, so this may mean improved warranty terms going forward, which is a great thing for consumers!

Bottom line:

If you are in the process of choosing new refrigeration you should be discussing  HC and natural refrigerants with your supplier/ designer otherwise you could be in for some costly retro fit or replacement costs in the future.

For further information check out these articles,

you could get in touch with the governing body to learn more, but from what I’ve have seen on that website it’s very typically government, lots of words, links and pages  but hard to find anything really concrete…but then again there are so many types and sectors that use refrigerant gasses, our industry is really a small fish in a pond, its a pretty big field to cover so maybe should cut them some slack…these guys probably are a better resource 

Suffice to say, that what is current, will be the past, so where possible select your refrigeration with HC gas now to save the pain and costs in the short to medium term future.

The confusing situation with all the above statements that needs consideration in your designs and selection of the new Natural refrigeration gasses is noted below. A really good resource to get read for detailed information is ‘The Australian Institute of Refrigeration , Airconditioning and heating.


Hydro Carbon Refrigeration
Hydro Carbon Refrigeration





USA National Restaurant Industry Trade Show 2016

Chicago 2016

The annual NRA trade show in Chicago USA is one of the largest food service and hospitality trade shows in the world. It’s simply massive, acres of equipment, consumables, foods and training and information sessions, held over four days, you need at least two-three days to really get a good look around and absorb everything. If you get a chance to go it is a must, details here The thing about the USA food service market is its shear size, the number of food outlets and the amount of food they serve in these, from franchises and high end restaurants and bars  through to institutional catering in schools, hospitals and defense, combined with the  extraordinarily high eat out rate of Americans means this is big business, bigger than anywhere else in the world.

NRA Trade showtubo chef 2NRA 2016

Having said the above one would assume that the latest high tech and high end equipment would be on show here, well it is and it isn’t also!? Why the latter? Perhaps conservative, reliability and home grown manufacturing are some of the reasons. The states has strong and proud manufacturing sector, the total opposite of Australia, a very high percentage of the equipment used in the USA food service market is 100% USA made, and in some cases only ever sold in the USA market. Much of this has to do with the massive fast food industry and the low skill levels that are associated with the industry. There are many kitchen equipment/machines designed to remove labor and or skill out of the equation as much as possible. There are also many franchises where the national store level numbers in thousands of stores, per franchise! So if you are franchise X and you need a machine that will do X, Y and Z and make it super easy for your staff, you can easily have a machine/appliance designed and built for your exact needs, with thousands of guaranteed sales for that unit the manufacturer is all too happy to design and build a solution bespoke for that franchise company. It’s not uncommon to find food franchise head offices and food equipment manufacturers in close proximity to each other.

So as a result you will find lots of clever equipment and appliances that have very specific design specifications, features that are perfect for that franchise and well worth the extra costs involved, but for industry outside of that circle its often null and void or cost prohibitive.

The other big thing about USA equipment is that its  designed to:

A) do a specific job well B) do it with extremely high volume rates C) be incredibly durable and reliable, aesthetic’s are on the bottom of the priority list D) its large, kitchens are generally larger in the states with more space dedicated to  kitchens in the initial building phase than typically seen here. E) It appears to be expensive at first glance, until you understand the $$$ that the equipment will assist in producing over the years, as previously mentioned everything in the states is Big and Busy..the sales volume that typifies a US food service operation makes most of what we do in Australia look like a part time hobby!

There is a large portion of hands on human labor still in the US food service equipment industry, and that’s a good thing, its great to know that your choices help real people not robots! There is plenty of high tech in the manufacturing sector, but matched with an equal amount of human skill where required, i think that’s where the robust and reliable foundations come from, people being involved and all local business supporting each other.  Some of the biggest brands are still either family owned or staff owned operations!

I find for busy food service applications is pretty hard to beat US Spec equipment. It may often  be uglier but it works, its often simpler technology wise, and its reliable. Safe to say that if franchise X,Y,Z are using Brand equipment A,B,C you know that those major franchise offices have conducted large scale heavy duty tests on that equipment and the manufacturers have designed it to be as reliable as possible, and be able to meet the tasks needs, anything less would put there business are risk of future business with that franchise group and or the other franchise groups through loss of reputation. Brand reputation based on reliability, serviceability and functionality is everything in the states. The relationships between equipment brands, suppliers and food service operators are often long standing and closely guarded.

A lot of what I saw I had seen before, but it also helped reinforce why some of these items are worth considering, and then there were some new things, and or different takes on existing.

Here is a few examples of some interesting  products that stood out, all in all there are far two many to cover!

Turbo chef, a brand renowned for high speed impingement cooking solution’s have a great compact double deck pizza oven, which does what they have failed to do in the past, that is provide some visual presentation to the the normally unattractive high speed cooking process .

Turbo ChefFood trucks and BBQ trailer

Whilst food banquet carts and trolleys are not new and there is plenty of choice out there, most I would have to say most are built to a price, and that’s the market loves nothing better than a cheap product. It is hard to find carts that are simply so much better and worth spending the extra dollars on, in the long run the extra upfront will paid off as your cart will last many years , not have to be replaced every 2-3 years which is not uncommon with some of the inferior product i see in the industry. Most of the cheaper units also really don’t hold temperature well, either too hot or too cold, and none address the ‘transport time’ and keeping the food hot in the process.

These Metro carts are a stand out, bomb proof construction, massive bumper rails, big castors that can handle the bumps, special plastic bumper sections to handle the knocks and door handles that wont fall off!

Added to these features is ‘battery power back up’ Yes you read right, switch it over to battery during the transport phase so it keeps doing what it was designed to do! Simple solution to an age old problem, even better if where you are catering from lacks power! Its even got a nifty built in white board for product/menu identification and recording food temperatures and loading times, no more texta scribble on the stainless steel, simple solution again to an old problem.  Heavy duty tray supports so your pans don’t fall when the clips fail! Big winner this one.

Metro Banquet Cart metro 2

Induction cooking, whilst not new its now starting to become common place commercially as chefs get used to it. Whats to get used to you ask? Everything really, its silent, no residual heat, no visual heat and is way more efficient faster  accurate to cook with, and saves operating costs substantially. Still the off putting factor is the initial purchase price, its expensive, and it really shouldn’t be, its just a volume issue, once the volumes of sales and manufacturing increases the prices will come down. This unit I spotted by Garland was a beauty, expensive though. I have some great economical induction solution’s that I often add into my designs, same power and precision for a fraction of the cost, also easier to service. Hatco are also entering the induction space also.

Garland Induction RangeHatco Induction

Pizza Pizza Pizza, its everywhere and it’s big business and one of the most profitable , there was no shortage of equipment on display for this sector. What was noticeable though was a rise in ready to go genuine stone earth pizza ovens, gas/wood with all sorts of attractive finishes..a lot of this in the past was built to order on site, especially if you wanted an attractive product…not so any more there were many options for great Artisan style pizza ovens ready to go, quicker equipment lead times, oven portability also an option.

Commercial Pizza oven



There was plenty on show in this sector. Aesthetics of the cabinets is something that the manufactures have all been working on in recent years, finally understanding that looks along with performance is important. One of the worlds biggest refrigeration manufacturers has taken big steps in this side of their product design in recent years vastly improving the finishes and options available for presentation. So much so that the have entered the high end US Domestic market with commercial designed units that have amazing domestic attractiveness, run whisper quiet and look sexy as. On the other end of the scale I got a good close up at the ‘Spec Series’ refrigeration from True, these are the fridges you want to purchase if you only ever want to purchase one fridge the rest of your career, heavy duty bomb proof construction, performance and a rugged commercial beautiful design.

True Refrigeration Refrigeration true spec series

Environment was the BIG buzz word in this sector, commercial refrigeration in the past has been a big contributor to environmental issues such as the ozone layer, in layman terms, fridge gas is not good. This is all about to change and change fast, and I would say that much of this sector is asleep in this sector. The big game changer is HYDRO CARBON for the use in commercial refrigeration, this is a massive environmental game changer, its effect on the environment is almost Nil, compared to say a rating factor of nearly 4,000 with current gasses! It is a massive difference, no doubt it won’t be too long before you will see the older style gasses removed from the market, in the mean time World leading manufacturers such as True are leading the way for others to follow. read more about Hydrocarbon and the environment here

Natural refrigerationTrue best in classNSF

Standards  and Awards, with the massive size of the US food service industry not only do they have standards for approval of equipment and associated small wares (NSF) Unlike Australia where anything goes! They also have awards , voted by end users, designers, consultants, and other influential industry experts, ‘Best in Class’ is the highest achievement, True Refrigeration have been awarded that 15 years running!

Food trucks and BBQ are two staples of the USA food scene, there was a great range of food trucks and trailers on display with plenty of innovative features, that ‘s a special design discipline with many unique challenges.

BBQ Food truck and BBQ trailer

Custom Bespoke Solutions were on the rise, with many of the main manufacturers offering bespoke solutions for discerning buyers  with large wallets! The designs were great and some of them would work really well here in Australia, however in the current market place dictate by just one Gas approval board for the nation (with different rules for each state!) it simply isn’t commercially viable for some of these companies to even consider bring their products ‘down under’.

Bespoke cooking island

The NRA is always held in Chicago, one of the biggest most vibrant cities in the USA, and they take eating and drinking out as  serious past time there. Along with the trade show there is a massive range of establishments to check out offering not only all the traditional American fare but food from around the world, and an amazing range of funky local bars.

An example of one I found by accident was an amazing local, on the edge of the city , in an old industrial building that not only had a couple of really well designed bars, and eating choices, but a ‘Library’ section with comfy lounges for sipping on your port or coffee and reading in a quite nook, through to an indoor Boci ball court and two bowling lanes down below. All this whilst feeling like an extension of your neighbors living room, and this was highlighted when the locals come in they simply shown them their ‘locals’ tag and the first drink is on the house!

Chicago local bars BAr Lounge barboci ball

For all the bad press the states often receive, I often find that their hospitality (yes I know they go hard for the tips!) puts our hospitality to shame in Australia, by this I don’t mean the food, I think we do that much better, I mean the ‘actual hospitality. Even local cheap franchise places generally go out of their way to make sure your looked after, at the top end of town the service is amazing yet not stuffy

Design wise, no expense is spared in the medium plus end of the sector, the interiors are simply amazing, much of the styles I spotted are what we have been seeing in Australia in the cities now for a little while, its just that the US do it so much better..but I guess that’s big, busy gets you, the numbers simply make the investment worthwhile there. Chicago is great place for hospitality inspiration if you know where to look, there is something at all levels to see, from food carts selling chilli spiced mango on a stick to high end formal places with waiting lists months long!

chi 11 chic 5 chic 6 chic 8 chic7

Other notable finding at the NRA equipment wise, include an icecream dipper well that refreshes and replenishes the water in the well only when it detects the water is dirty , as apposed to running water consistently all the time, very clever , great water saver.  New Hatco Food warmers with a stylish curved appearance in a choice of colors, New Hatco Induction, True Bar refrigeration with changing color internal lights, some serious Cold Press Juicer machines from Good Nature, Duke Serving station ultimate burger making station , Exhaust canopies with self clean/wash ability, a scanner for fridges by shelf FX scans the product as it leaves/enters the fridge for auto stocktaking, better still can be linked to a users ID card and charged to their account, ideal for Staff diners, its already common in many places in the USA, Automated tortilla heater roller press pumps out hundreds of warm tortilla breads on the go, Self serve Waffle makers for buffets designed for customer use, Auto Lift Panini Grill by electrolux, top section lifts up automatically based on timer, Vollrath Manual Multi tool slicer, interchangeable cutters for heaps of solutions, the best manual tool I have seen, they also have funky shaped GN Pans to spice up the dullest of bain maries, several variations of compact portable induction pasta/noodle stations were on display, and the high tech winner a ‘bluetooth’ thermometer…the applications for this tech is extremely wide spread.

Chicago trade show chic end 2 chic end 3 chic end 4 chic7









HACCP Temperature Monitoring – the hard way or the easy way!

‘If’ a commercial kitchen and or food premises is following the legislation and duty of care that it is required to by LAW, they MUST be checking and recording the temperature of their critical control points, the fundamental basic step in following correct food safety and HACCP principles.

There is NO IF”S or BUT’S about it, you need to be checking the temperature of food storage Coolrooms, refrigeration and freezers. How else do you really know if your perishables are being stored correctly at a safe temperature, not only is this critical for food safety but if your storage temps are not correct your shelf life of your product will be significantly reduced, so food costs get blown out by wastage, and let’s not go down the path of creating a food posioning incident due to bacteria contaminated food, bacteria that was allowed to grow because you weren’t storing at correct temperatures!

HACCP compliance in a commercial kitchen


A daily recorded check sheet of all refrigerated storage areas taken at least 4 times per day 7 days a week, these data check lists need to be kept on file also.

Now let’s look at reality:

Who are you going to pay to do this job? How much money in labour is that going to cost your operation?

Also are you sure that your staff are actually noting down the ‘real correct temperatures’ or are they just jotting down numbers to fiddle the books and tick the box’s so to speak!

How are you taking the temperature? The digital (that’s if you have one!) display on the outside of the fridge is NOT ALWAYS THE ACTUAL TEMP OF THAT ROOM or CABINET!  That’s right read that again! It’s often measuring the air coming in, and that’s not necessarily the actual temperature of what’s going on with that piece of meat stored at the far end of the room or cabinet! YOU NEED TO HAVE  A SEPERATE TEMP PROBE IN THE ROOM/CABINET

Accuracy, not only do we have the human error opportunity of just ‘ticking the box’s ‘ so to speak, what about the device that’s in the Coolrooms/fridge, how accurate is it? Is it calibrated? measured at what % of accuracy? In my experience those that have a separate internal temperature checking system have the most basic cheapest thing they possibly could get their hands on 99% of the time it’s not even digital, actual accuracy is very doubtful at best.

The other issue is , frequency..four times would be probably double what most places I see do this and even if you managed 4 times, what’s going on between hour one and hour six? Or what’s happening in the middle of the night? Your Cool rooms or refrigerated cabinets  holding all your valuable perishables could be running over temperature whilst you are soundly asleep and you would have no idea, or no record of it either.

To really monitor temperatures properly the temperatures of the inside of the room/cabinet should really be monitored in smaller instalments of 10-15minutes and recorded at least half hourly.

Monitoring refrigeration temperatures manually
Monitoring refrigeration temperatures manually, is a timely and costly practice.

So let’s assume you are following the above procedure. Let’s look at the costs involved in compliance, assume the following example:

Two Coolrooms, One Freezer,  Four prep/service storage cabinets and you are checking four times a day.

7 checks at 2 minutes per check and noting on chart that’s 14 minutes x 4 times per day that’s 56 minutes a day, let’s call that 1 Hr. ! Hr at $35 real wage costs (your not going to entrust the 1st Year Apprentice with this important task!)

Now we need to do 7 days of the week plus we need to collect the data and file it and then set up a fresh set of data sheets, there’s another 15-30 minutes easily, but we won’t even bother with that in the calculation just to keep the point simple.

So $35 x 365 days = $12,775 per year to comply with legislation! That an insane cost, worse in larger establishments.

Even a smaller operation with half this amount of storage you are still looking at approximately $6,350+ per year in lost labour, and you still have an audit system that only accounts for less than 0.5% of 24hrs of your operation, that means you could have systems running over temp 99% of the time potentially. Whilst that is hopefully not likely its pretty safe to say that two quick checks per day does not reflect what your food storage temperatures all day long!

Costs of HACCP compliance

There has to be a better way, and there is! It’s so simple it’s ridiculous!

Set up a wireless digital temperature monitoring system that does it all 24/7 365 days and documents everything on an Internet cloud server for your data filing and better still if one of the Coolrooms or Cabinets breaks down and goes over temperature it will email you and text you an alert so you can go and rescue your stock before its all too late! Which could save you THOUSANDS OF $$$ in lost stock!

The other important fact in rescuing stock if a cool room or refrigerated cabinet goes down and stock is lost, is the LABOUR COST to DO THE PREP WORK AGAIN! Imagine if the function coolroom room goes down with all your meals ready for tomorrows big gig, not only do you lose the value of the stock but the prep needs to be done again! Do you have time? Do you have the staff and that also means paying them twice to the job once!

Over the years I have seen a lot of claims by equipment manufactures that promise all sorts of labour saving claims, reduced energy etc etc and much of it is true to a point. But setting a basic wireless temperature monitoring system for your operation is the simplest and cost effective thing that any foodservice operation could ever do.

These systems also record temperatures as often as every minute if set up as such, but the reality is you would set up for longer intervals then this. We set our systems up to check every five minutes and record every 15. So now we are recoding up to 96 per day, which by all counts is much better than the couple of very rough and quick checks twice a day, three times if your lukcy!

Accuracy, the units are accurate within .2c and can be calibrated. Calibrated means that if the unit was to fall outside of the accuracy zone when check against another 100% (or close as possible to) device the unit can be adjusted to be back on correct accurate readings. The other great feature is if/when the battery in the temperature check unit starts to get low , an alert is raised to remind the operator to replace the battery pretty cool!

Better still if you are really bored you can remotely see all of your fridge/cabinet temperatures with the convenience of an iPhone or iPad APP, any where anytime. You could be out playing golf and be alerted that a fridge has broken down by a message on your phone, the guys back in the kitchen probably haven’t event noticed it yet as they are too busy!

Imagine that phone call back to the kitchen, ‘hey guys pull all of the meat out of the cabinet and transfer to a working unit and call the fridge mechanic to sort it out’ that could be a thousand dollar plus phone call in getting to all that meat before it was too late!

Temperature monitoring

Sounds all high tech, complicated , is it new, never heard of  this before.

It’s actually not new technology, I first really got into it around ten years ago, when back then it was new, but massive companies , like Burger King  were staring to take up the technology as also many hospital food service operations. But the tech back then was more complicated, not totally reliable and really expensive making it out of the range of everyday establishments.

Fast forward 10 years , like all tech, the bugs have been sorted and the price is a fraction of what it was, it’s now dirt cheap, really cheap like under $1,000 to for a year,  for a device monitored 24/7 and automatically doing all your data logging , so there is really no excuse.

In the above labour cost example you could waste $12,775 per year to poorly keep a very dodgy set of paper log files per year that really wouldn’t stand up in court if push every came to shove, OR spend a fraction of that costs to have 96 records per day 365 all recorded electronically PLUS get an alert if and when a cabinet/Coolrooms goes down

That frees up hundreds of hours of labour, saves you thousands in labour costs, and makes you 100% compliant with the part of food safety and HACCP control, so it’s a no brainer really!

The other part about HACCP and food safety compliance is that you need to keep records of the temperature data logged and filed.  With this system it’s all held on line on a cloud server and you can look at the graphs any time or export to a PDF document or spread sheet.

Data fileGraph

So when requested by your local authority for records you can just download what you require and email away, and if your operation ever was subject to a food safety issue you will be easily able to produce all of your temperature monitoring reports quickly easily and with confidence of accuracy.

The added bonus with these types of systems also is analyzing the performance of your refrigeration systems. Most operators have no idea that their systems are not running to temperature, a quick check of the graphs at the end of the week and you can see what issues you may have and set up a course of action.

Refrigeration mechanics love these systems also as they have hours and days of data that they can quickly call upon to help diagnose issues of under performance of the systems. In same cases the data graphs may show that they have long defrost cycles timing with the service times in kitchens, the time when you need your refrigeration working hardest, not on a defrost cycle.

The information provided, the administration time saved and the insurance that you can actually tick off the ‘store food at safe temperature’ part of your food service plan means that thee types of systems will be common place standard in all operations in the future. They all ready are in such places as hospitals and commercial food production and even supermarkets.

It’s really something that you really need to have in place, not one day, NOW!

Contact us now to find out more, or watch a quick 1 minute video about it here

temp monitor










Commercial Kitchen Design News & what is a ‘commercial kitchen designer’

Finally found a moment to catch up on the Blog and newsletter, we did promise these would not flood your inbox! Ten issues a year is realistic target, so this one is lengthy to make up for the void.

We have been busy over the past half year or so, about complete design number twelve which is a Bar renovation/transformation, which is looking amazing! During the last half a year we have done everything from portable mining camp kitchen for a RSL , small cafes, childcare centre kitchens and major kitchen/bistro renovations.

In between projects my inbox is flooded with reading from sources all over the food, hospitality, design and equipment sectors both here and overseas, the overseas material providing the most inspiration by far. The reason for this is simple, volume. The Australian hospitality/food and associated industry is tiny in comparison to international markets, we simply do not have the population to drive anywhere near the same size industry, be it operating hospitality/food and or associated service industries we are (some industry quotes) less than 1% of the international market place!

So for inspiration on trends/equipment/design/industry it always pays to look overseas, and then see how those ideas can translate back here in the Australasian market, it’s not always the case of because they do it X way overseas it should be the way it’s done here. In many examples here in Australia we generally pick the best of a massive marketplace overseas and implement that here locally, I’d say we do that pretty well. We also have unique situation in this country where most parts of the continent are scarcely populated meaning that local service support can be very limited, so keeping things very simple is often the best way.

In May is one of the world’s biggest hospitality/foodservice trade shows in Chicago, we will be there this year looking new trends/products and success stories that have been happening in the USA.

The states provide such a wide range of ideas as the food service industry in America is huge, there is the obvious massive fast food industry, industrial/Institutional catering sector, think universities/hospitals/aged care/prisons and the massive empire of the US defence force, it is a massive sector where you can learn a lot about large scale catering.

Growing each year in the USA is a modern and cosmopolitan food scene boasting amazing Restaurants/Bars/Hotels all boasting amazing produce innovative menu’s and quality and service of the highest standard…often very health and low food miles are the features, its not all burgers and chips state side!

So for this blog edition I have selected a few good articles that provide good general information and considerations, quick reads reinforce important messages.


  • New equipment technology that actually delivers more than the sales pitch, here is a real equipment game changer  


  • Food safety, too often an afterthought, one of the key early preventative measures is temperature control  


What’s been a constant question and discussion point always is what is does a Commercial Kitchen Designer do, and what are their background and or trade and qualifications.

Well the name does suggest what we do, but it also covers a wider scope than kitchen’s alone. Bar’s, servery area’s are our domain also, and occasionally designing bespoke equipment solutions where there is no off the shelf solution available.

In some projects you need to have creative menu planning skills also, as you may be designing a project where there is actually no user/tenant client in place yet, so you are making assumptions on the type/style of food/ being a chef helps here!

We cross into interior designing some of our work, where colours, finishes and the look are critical, typically open kitchens, bars and buffet service areas. In some cases we are required to prepare seating plans and full dining interior designing of the facility.

We marginally touch building drafting and architecture, we may require to add new internal walls, or discuss with building engineers the reasons for certain building items to be located where they are, or understanding how and why those decisions were made. We don’t ever touch any of the building or structural design at all but we need to understand and work with Architects and engineers to find the best solution that accommodates all key stake holder needs.

Plumbing /Hydraulics/Electrical/Mechanical Air and Ventilation/Refrigeration/Lighting/Flooring are all other speciality trades and disciplines that we need to understand the key factors associated in the food service design. Commercial appliances normally require serious service planning just to make sure the right services are in place to operate the kitchen.

Stainless steel and cabinet making trades, and custom equipment manufacturer, whilst we don’t need to know how to operate a break press or CAD laser cutting machine we do need to understand what this does, what is realistically achievable in a sensible commercial budget by these trades. How it all goes together, what information and plans they may require and a keen eye to attention to detail of the finished product to ensure best quality is achieved for the client.

Then there are the Builders, that put all this together we have to understand what their key needs are, this includes clear, accurate documentation and actually understanding how they are going to go about completing the project, it certainly helps if you have been on the project management completion end of a fair few projects, as experience is the only way you can truly understand what happens at the end .

A good commercial kitchen designer is also wearing a health inspector/environmental health officer’s (EHO) hat on during the process also. Our plans are checked and signed off by these Authorities so we are always keeping one eye on the Australian standards to ensure our plans meet and or exceed guidelines, and they always get approved!

In some cases we often provide an independent kitchen report/inspection service to clients, basically covering the same as what an EHO may do, but generally we will find more issues, as we have more time to spend on the inspection. In many locations the workload of the EHO means that it’s not possible to get to all registered food premises, and even if they do, the opportunity to follow up is severely limited, we can get to a client quicker and let them know their issues much quicker before it becomes too late!

During the design process we are always looking to ensure HACCP and food safety guidelines can be met through good design, in smaller projects this is not always possible but we are always looking at ways to ensure our clients can deliver food service safely.

Design operational, it makes a MASSIVE difference if you have been there and done it, it cannot be said any clearer than that. If you haven’t worked in a busy hotel kitchen, don’t tell me you know how a hotel kitchen operates! Likewise that crammed up little cafe that somehow you managed pump out 100 covers in an area the size of your bathroom at home! Far from ideal, but when you get your menu and equipment selection right it can be done. Likewise, if you have had the keys handed over to you in the middle of nowhere to mining camp feeding hundreds of meals a day to bunch of blokes that have been sweating it out in 40degree heat all day and this is their ONLY highlight of the day is what you are about to cook them from a limited product range, don’t tell me you know how a mining camp kitchen operates, oh and by the way…the next stores are in 14 days good luck!

Then somehow you need to get your head around the dozens of importers of commercial foodservice and refrigeration equipment, the hundreds, more likely thousands of products available and then know what’s the good gear, what actually easy to obtain, offers good value for money, is energy efficient and most importantly which ones have good back support locally! If you have had many years selling both retail and wholesale equipment from various brands and manufacturers you build up a pretty hand arsenal of knowledge based on experience, experience of dealing in millions of dollars of equipment, understanding the customer’s needs, the process of order/import/logistics/installation/operation/training the inevitable breakdown’s.

Lastly but by no means least is the ability to design/draft/document to scale designs, initially mark ups often start on paper the old fashioned way with drawing pencil and a scale ruler before making their way to 2D and or 3D CAD drawings. These days the CAD side of things is not simple either, the days of only 2D schematic drawings is becoming a thing of the past, you are often required to be able to document ‘conceptual’ presentations, this may include programs such as REVIT, ARCI CAD , AUTO CAD, SKETCH UP to name a few, some programs get along with the other programs well, others will not! Whilst all of these programs are similar in nature they are all quite different in actual operation, you may find yourself needing to work with 2 or 3 different CAD draft persons to finish a project.

The latest trend moving forward is BIM documentation, (Building Information Management) this means EVERYTHING that is on the plan as a schedule of DATA attached to it, no matter what the item is, a wall, floor, light, oven etc. When the project is complete any item of that project can be opened up, zoomed in and full information of the item in question, great for accurate concise documentation.

And there is the ‘renderers’!’ the modern version of Rembrandt! The right person the right program can bring your design into such a lifelike view that you would be forgiven that it was real photo of the project, in some cases they can even walk/fly through the building opening doors and taking you deep inside the building, much like some modern computer games! This is another level of skill and serious computer hardware altogether.

The licensing fees on some of these programs above run into many thousands of dollars, so when considering your plans for your business you need to consider what sort of detail is required, the more pretty and lifelike you want your plans the more investment$$ is required!

If I have counted correctly there about 18-20 specialist professions/trades covered in the above, so the next time I get asked, I may just reply ‘design commercial kitchens’!

Classic design mistake I often get is ‘my chef can design our kitchen!’ I’d say in most cases not very well! Most chefs are lucky if the have ever been involved with 1-2 designs in their career, mostly the kitchen is in place when they arrive and they have to make do with what is there. Kitchen design at trade school is almost nonexistent, so don’t think it’s covered there!

The better approach is I’d like our chef to have lots of input into the design, this is the perfect approach, especially if the chef has been at that position for a while, I will normally extract all the key needs they require to put together a great design. The foot note here though is unless your Chef is financially a shareholder of the operation tread cautiously with any specific favourite wants or needs that others may find not so helpful, as the reality is the Chef will most likely not be with you in 6-12 months time. I always believe that no plan is perfect, the opportunity for perfect doesn’t seem to come up, there are always, space, time, budget limitations that mean we will do as ‘perfect as possible’!

Recently in the UK a university degree program has commenced for the discipline of ‘food service designer/consultant’, it’s hard to see it happening in Australia in the short term, until then we will learn what we can from our international professionals whilst maintaining and building on our local experience and skills.

If you got this far on this article and your heads not spinning well done, hopefully you have an understanding of what we do, and all the different skill sets, knowledge and experience that goes into your plans.

Bespoke cooking and equipment and the Art of Grilling

I recently toured what is a rarity in the Australian Catering equipment industry, that is an ‘Australian owned Manufacturer’! Cookon which has been around the industry for decades has been busy in recent years specializing in Custom and Bespoke Grills and cooking equipment.

Owned by the long established Langford metals group in Brisbane it now has access to the latest technology in Laser and Fibre optic machinery all using précising cutting measurements based on 3D Cad programming . This is normal manufacturing process for production run equipment and metal jobs, but in this case that same precision technology is applied to one off custom designs.

Custom Char and Roaster
Custom Char and Roaster

The team and importantly the design and trades team have been involved with Cookon in many cases for decades, which means there is an amazing amount of IP on board, over the years they have designed and manufactured hundreds of unique cooking appliances, chances are if you can think of it they have probably done it!

The current industry trend that has been around for a few years and is likely to only increase is what we call as ‘show cooking’. Front of house cooking either to order or in advance with slow roasting /grilling techniques showcasing the international food styles of South American and Asian meat cooking where cooking over coals, wood and flame is the key ingredient. Cookon’s powder coating facility allows some added colour to be incorporated also.

Argentinian BBQ


Any ‘honest’ chef or foodie will agree that meat cooked over charcoal or wood always tastes better, the juices and fat as they drip over the coals create mini flare ups increasing the ‘BBQ’ and ‘Smoke’ flavours. I always cook by BBQ and Roasts over charcoal and wood in a Kamado, they have the added benefit of ceramic insulation, speeding up the cooking times increasing moisture retention.


Using different types of wood in the cooking process also can change the flavour of the product as well as cooking times. Add to the improved flavour the amazing spectacle and theatre of the smoke and flame and you really do then create a special point of difference to your menu and operation.

Wood Fired Roast

When wood fire is prohibitive.

It’s not always possible to have a woodfired or charcoal appliance in your kitchen, the set up and compliance costs involved a great due to the duct and exhaust canopy requirements. However all is not lost! You can still create a similar effect by designing a spectacular grill that is gas powered, add some ‘decorative’ flame to the unit and you have a spectacular talking piece without the wood hassles, just not the same flavour.

Custom Show Grill

Turbo charging your grilling.

With all the main branded grill manufacturers that make a ‘matching’ Chargrill/BBQ in their range, I find that they are all just ‘OK’ they do a job and often the menu if wide and varied so all of the appliances in the cooking line are used equally, and here in Australia most of our kitchens are not pumping out massive volume of char/BBQ meats so they handle the workload ‘OK”.

There are though exceptions, specialist steak/BBQ establishments, higher volume pubs that do series volume of grilled meats, these are the types of places that need to seriously look at their grill/BBQ equipment in isolation and look at the design and specification in greater detail. You need to start looking at not just how many Kw of power is being generated but ‘how’ what type of burners, what radiant assistance or baffles are in place, what heat retention is there, in common rank and file BBQ Grills the answer is NONE! You can pump as much gas flame power you like at a grill, but someone has to pay for that gas consumption, and that’s the operator. What if you insulated the box with a ceramic or brick lining to build a residual layer of heat that eventually assist with the cooking process for free!

Cookon Custom LT10 Grill_Cliffords at Watermark_Surfers Paradise (21)

The type of grid/bar is also important, Cast iron retains heat the heat best. Fat Drip tray design is also important no just that it does its job and drain such away properly but is built and designed in such a way that it can cope with the extreme heat being generated. What happens between the gas burner the grill is equally important, it’s not just a case of putting a much gas flame as possible up to the grill surface, that will only invite massive flare ups and hot spot burns that in turn create a nasty carcinogenic after taste. It’s fare to say that most ‘pub’ cooks have no idea when it comes to grilling, they simply believe that lost of heat and flame coming out of the grill is great, they couldn’t be further from the truth! If its out past the meat contact point, what’s the point? That’s just wasted energy and MONEY! The trend of many establishments are offering bigger thicker cuts of meat mean that the skill and equipment is more important than ever. You need the cooking process to penetrate deeper into the meat, this means you need to actually slow things down little to ensure it occurs OR finish the cut off in an Oven to ensure the process is correct. Otherwise you end up with the all too familiar burnt on the outside cold in the middle steak! Combi ovens with their added steam are a great tool for finishing off. Or you can consider a version of wood grill and BBQ as one unit such as the Spanish Made Mibrasa or Josper.

Mibrassa Grill

One of the busiest steak Restaurants I have ever been to is the Webber BBQ GRILL in Chicago USA, massive over sized Webbers loaded with piles of meat and a bunch of highly skilled grill chefs  smashing out massive volumes of food. The technique that was always employed during the process was the lid being placed back on the grill for portions of time, ensuring a more even heat source all over the meat not just under it, and as always with meat cooking ‘plenty of time ‘ was allowed for resting the meat before service.

Webber grill restaurant

if you would like to learn more about designing your very bespoke equipment to suit your operation then feel free to contact us here by email

Dishwashing machines – Purchasing

Purchasing Considerations:

False Economy 1:

It is easy to state ‘I want to save operating costs, just select the lowest KW and water consumption machine.’ However an incorrectly sized machine won’t do the job properly and cost you more time and money than what you saved by the lower cost smaller capacity machine in no time at all.

The machine has to be sized correctly for your operation; it must be able to cope with the anticipated work load, volume of dishes, level of soil/waste matter on the dishes before entering the system etc.

A low KW machine may not have enough power to ‘recover’ quickly enough to meet the workload and you are left constantly waiting for the machine to ‘heat up*’.

*Many customers are blissfully unaware that commercial dish/pot/ware washers are designed NOT to operate until the correct water temperatures are reached in the machine, both wash and rinse. Part of what makes a ‘commercial’ machine ‘fit for purpose’ is the high temperature rinse cycle, and unless the water temperature is at that correct level (normally min 75c) it often won’t start let alone complete a cycle.


False Economy 2:

The other unknown cost and consideration when selecting a machine is ‘technology cost’, (TC) what is TC cost? It’s when you get a really fancy machine lots of computer and digital controllers, lots of complex operation systems that when all working together operate the machine perfectly at the ultimate economic energy saving level, but it’s not IF but WHEN it breaks down…….disaster! They are complex pieces of machinery, and we live in a country that is normally at the farthest distance from where they were manufactured, (the high technical machines are normally made in Europe). The ‘local factory trained technician’ often doesn’t exist (despite what the manufacturers Sales Rep will tell you) and then you have a situation where local subcontractor trades are left to do their very best to understand and learn the machinery as they go. The high tech machines are not easy to diagnose (even with self diagnostic computers/digital on board) and everyone is flying by the seat of their pants to sort out the issues…it normally equals hours and hours or worse days of down time.

It doesn’t matter what sort of machine it is how great it is when it works, how energy efficient it may be, if its broken down it’s useless to all, and now you are washing dishes by hand, calling in extra labour and it’s costing you big dollars, even if it is in warranty period and you’re not paying to fix it, it’s still costing you.


False Economy 3:

Cheap Cheap! If the price is heaps cheaper than the other offers and you are wondering if it sounds to good to be true, then it probably is!

Most people wouldn’t buy themselves a new family car if it was half the price of all the other cars, they would be sceptical of why it was so cheap, how well built and reliable it was, how good the backup service, support and warranty was, especially if it was an ‘unknown’ brand within the industry/market.

It is no different with commercial equipment, there is a reason why it costs what it does, and most of the time it comes down to the points raised above.

If the Dish/Ware washer you are considering doesn’t have local offices in each state of Australia, technicians in at least each capital city and designated preferred technicians in regional areas then I would not suggest purchasing the machine.

Some may argue, what if it’s just a small little café/kitchen, surely just a cheap and nasty? I’d argue against for just the same reasons as a larger establishment needs to consider. In fact the pain at small kitchen/café end can actually be far worse as its normally owner operator, who feels it not an employee on wages/salary. Financial implications (like paying extra labour to wash manually) are felt in their own back pocket…or the poor owner is the one staying back late to wash dishes and wasting their own precious time chasing the service tech up! smaller machine yes, bigger pain for sure!

Decision Time:

Armed with all this information, what should you be looking for in your selection of brand and model machine?

  • Capacity, look at what rates the manufacture suggests the machine can perform to, consider your maximum peak loads then add 25% onto that figure and make sure that the machine meets these numbers. Plates per hour/racks per hour etc.
  • Energy, what power do you, or can you supply to the machine? Generally all power full machines will require 3 phase supply, lighter duty 15 -30Amps
  • Brand, is it a larger reputable brand? A quick ‘google’ search will highlight the main popular brands. Check that they have offices in each city.
  • Service, if in doubt contact the State office of the brand you are considering and ask to speak the ‘service’ department, have a chat with them, ask them about their service and support systems. You won’t get this conversation from cheap unknown internet brands.
  • Operating systems, how simple is the machine you considering, just remember it WILL breakdown at some point!
  • Systems, don’t forget if you don’t have sufficient soiled set down sorting space, pre rinsing, clean product space, space for sorting/storing then the best machine in the world won’t be much help!


Now that you have made it this far, click on and open the below link and watch this video to find your perfect dishwasher employee!

Plate Jockey Guru!

Dishwashing Guru

Commercial Dishwash/Warewash Design

Designing the Ware/Dish Wash Area:

Efficient and Ergonomic Space/Storage/Systems

This is in reference to everything except for the machine, especially for larger establishments and facilities, this part is as if not more important than the machine itself!

Is there enough ‘set down’ space for the soiled dishes/utensils?

Is there a proper sort scrape system in place, scrape holes in the set down bench or not? The Location of such and the big one, food waste/disposal machines/systems*.

*A subject to cover in detail another time.

Pre rinse sink or sinks, size, basket rack support frame in the sink or not, built in waste trap into the sink drain, remote drain valve opening device (OHS safety no cutting hands with rogue steak knives in bottom of sink!)

Dishwasher basket storage, plenty of and easy access, either under bench racks, or wall racks. Storage of cleaning equipment and chemicals, clothes brushes, scrubbers all need a home, well draining and on the ‘dirty side’ of the line. As do chemicals for the machine and general washing, a small amount will be required at or near the machine and or sink, again on a well draining rack or shelf, the bulk chemical storage will be located elsewhere in a suitably ventilated room away from food stores and preparation.

Clean racks space, in a small operation this may be as simple as allowance for 2 baskets on the exit side of a DW, not 1.5! It’s amazing how many exit benches even entry that are made that simply do not consider the standard requirements of a DW basket or 2!

Larger operations that may have exit rollers may hold many basket racks, and may need to as the operation system may be such that the staff member could be bogged down rinsing and loading dishes at the dirty end at such pace and volume that they don’t get a chance to get to the clean end for a while to sort and stack, if there is insufficient ‘parking space’ the machine will stop (sensor at end of bench tells it to!) and then you can’t load the machine until baskets are cleared. This may mean extending the exit roller bench around a corner to gain more meters, if this is the case the corner roller bench often requires ‘power assistance’ to help the baskets along.

Sorting racks, in larger operations the ability to place racks of cutlery aside onto a shelf for sorting can make a big difference to efficiency of the operation, freeing up valuable ‘parking space’ this can be a simple shelf above the bench that holds the baskets ready for this task.

Finally all these dishes, cutlery and crockery need homes, where possible storage should be provided nearby to allow for bulk stacking in peak times before transfer of the utensils/crockery to their final homes.

You need to have the best possible solution of stacking, sorting, parking and sorting in place with the space available to you to make the most of any machine you have, if you get this part right it can mean a huge difference is labour savings for a larger operation, perhaps one staff member instead of two in peak times.

Warewashing floor plans

typical DW elevated drawings
typical DW elevated drawings


Commercial machines are noisy! The water pressures and volumes are much greater than domestic machines, that after all is how you get a 3 minute wash cycle not 30! It is not ideal to have them near the front of house if it can be avoided, especially larger rack machines. Most manufacturers do have a specification upgrade or model that includes ‘insulated hood/body’ and this is the model that should be selected anywhere where noise or heat is a consideration.

Water Quality:

Know the quality of your water. The main concern it is what is known as ‘hard’ which refers to high levels of minerals in the water, particularly ‘calcium’. On its own all this may do really is show up as a kind of dirty water mark on stainless, fine white lines around water drops stains etc. But when this water is exposed to constant heating such as the boiling/heating tank in the dishwasher, it tends to ‘calcify’ up around the elements in the tank, blocks jets/nozzles etc and can lead to premature element failure also.

If the water quality is poor than a high quality water filter or filters is recommended to be installed onto the incoming water supply, in some remote areas , especially where bore water is used a ‘Reverse Osmosis’ system may be required, which can be expensive. Some people just choose to use and abuse the machine and replace often knowing it will have a limited effective performance life.

Stand Alone Reverse Osmosis Machine

Sufficient Hot Water Supply,

When designing a facility your Hydraulics engineer should be requesting specification details about the machine/s being used and also gain a better understanding of the anticipated use rates and times to meet general use and also peak demands, from this they can establish recommendations for a suitable Hot water system to suit.

The hydraulics consultant/engineer will also require the above information for calculations required for your trade waste requirements.

The small print:

Australian Water Mark:

Quality machines as noted above will have an Australian water mark, sticker/badge fixed to the machine, which means the unit has been through a process of testing and certification to meet Australian plumbing standards, learn more here,


Back Flow Prevention Devices (BFPD):

Normally are incorporated into most machines a BFPD is a type of valve that is connected to the water supply (or is in the machine ) of the machine, its designed to prevent soiled/dirty water being forced back into the freshwater supply line where it could contaminate other fresh/clean water supply lines.

In some local council areas it has been noted that local plumbing inspectors have demanded BFPD be fitted to machines, even where such machines already have such a device either built in and or supplied with the machine. In some cases they specify a particular type of BFPD, which not only is expensive but is supposed to be inspected at least on Annual basis which adds frustration and costs to the business.

It’s something that customers need to be aware of and are normally not, and it’s an extra cost and inconvenience to the business. Your plumber and yourself can dispute it with the local inspector and you may or may not win your argument.

It’s something that your Hydraulics Consultant/engineer may be able to advise you with, again you will need to be able to provide them with full speciation details from the Manufacturer of the machine.

Canopies/Drains and Stainless Steel

Floor drainage, not only is it a requirement to meet Australian Standards to have a ‘draining floor to waste’ on this area it makes perfect safety and hygiene sense. In large facilities with large machines you should be using ‘floor drain troughs’ to cope with such a wet area.

Lower volume operations with pass through machines often a small round floor waste is suffice.

Dishwasher floor trough

To Canopy or Not to Canopy?

When you look at the Australian standards a Pass through Dishwasher generally the answer is YES, even if low KW. However local Authorities often consider the specific situation of its use. For example it is in such a location where the volume is so infrequent that its hardly used, and perhaps a simple ceiling vent may suffice (the steam has to go somewhere!) such a place may be a community hall, where the kitchen only gets used on a Saturday night once every now and then.

Or a small kitchen than opted for a pass through DW instead of an under counter machine for OHS reasons (avoiding heavy tray lifting and bending down). Higher volume Pass through and Conveyor machines its not negotiable. There is a bunch of reasons why the Canopies (Steam condensate hoods) are required, Hygiene, Working conditions and protection of the building materials are some of.

Built in steam condensate hoods, are now available on some machines. These have a filter system built in/on the hood that processes the steam in such a way a canopy id not required. This is great in locations where installing a hood and the duct work associated could be cost prohibitive. They are a more expensive machine, but the savings of the duct and canopy offset the cost.

Commercial Dishwasher Canopy
Commercial Dishwasher Canopy

Stainless Steel.

Generally lots of it! From floor to canopy or ceiling at least behind the Dishwasher and preferably the entire DW/Ware washing area.

You can use tiles which may be ok for lighter duty areas, but the upkeep and cleaning of them isn’t as easy as Stainless steel splash backs in this area. Under shelves should be ‘rack style’ to allow drainage as also for wall shelves, backs with 300mm splash backs well sealed to wall, both at the back and end sections if applicable.

Running Costs:

Saving money with hot air!

A clever energy saver most machines offer is a type of steam condensate/heat exchanger system, where basically a large amount the steam that escapes from the machine is captured and used to reheat water, this reduces energy consumption a lot as you are giving the water heating process a boost from the steam you have already paid to generate!

To Polish or not to Polish?

Totally up to each establishment’s style and type of service. Where once we were taught to polish all cutlery and glasses it’s not always seen as important in today’s age of ‘casual dining/drinking’ However if you’re a busy place 100+ per day and you are paying staff to manually polish cutlery/crockery you need to your maths and consider machines that do it for you. There are ‘cutlery burnishes’ that have tumble your silver ware with a special compound that makes them all shiny and spotless each time, they can be a bit noisy, but cheaper than paying staff to do it!

And for Glasses you should consider upgrading your glass washer to a machine that has a ‘reverse osmosis’ water demineralisation and filtering system either built in or attached, you will get close to ‘spot free washing as you can get and in most cases avoid the expensive chore of ‘polishing’, so it’s just a mathematical question of do I spend a few thousand more on such a machine to save XX$$$ PA in extra wages polishing glassware.

Saving Labour $$$

The other pre rinse method is in the machine itself. Applicable to flight and rack conveyor machines normally, although some high end Pass through systems offer something similar also. It’s normally a section of the DW system that is on before the main rinse body, rinses all the dishes before entering the wash cycle, not as energy efficient as the manual pre rinse, but saves labour dramatically by cutting back on the prep time of the dish washer operator, so in some cases the annual labour savings could offset energy costs.

Some larger systems also offer a ‘dryer tunnel’ section also, effectively a hot air blast as the dishes pass through a great luxury if you can afford it, very costly to run, and given that the dishes are going to be coming out of the machine at +75c minimum they generally air dry pretty well without too much help.

Saving running costs by choice of energy

Whilst not common in Australia, something different to consider, running your machine on Gas or Steam!

Gas is a no brainer on the KW Per Hour costs as you could be running at 6KWPhr instead of 24KPhr as an example, basically the system has a gas hot water heater to generate the hot water instead of electrical. The other great benefit of such a machine is that if a facility does not have enough power available or the costs to upgrade the power to suit it can allow a large capacity machine to be used without bumping up the power requirements.

Steam is even greater economically again, but in Australia almost unheard of these days, but still does happen in the Northern Hemisphere where steam heating systems in large commercial buildings such as hospitals occurs.

Gas Commercial DW