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Author Archives: Heather Hartley

cafeteria equipment

The Importance of Choosing the Right School Cafeteria Equipment

With 4.9 billion school lunches served each year, the school cafeteria industry handles more meals than the biggest restaurant chains in the United States. When selecting school cafeteria equipment, it’s important to choose wisely. Here are some points to ponder before you select commercial kitchen equipment for your school’s cafeteria.

Why the Right Equipment Is Important

Good nutrition is essential to students’ ability to perform well in the classroom. While the kind of food provided in a school cafeteria is a crucial consideration, the kind of equipment that aids in the preparation and storage of lunches is just as important. Nutritionists know that the way in which a meal is made is directly related to the healthfulness of the meal. Another consideration is that certain pieces of school cafeteria kitchen equipment are tough to clean, and this can create health problems for students who consume food produced by unsanitary equipment.

Selecting the Right Equipment

Before you purchase cafeteria equipment, either for a new facility or to replace current models, consider your school’s budget. Commercial kitchen equipment designed to produce meals for a large number of people can be costly, and you will have to weigh the need for each piece against the limits of your budget.

Many schools currently use traditional kitchen equipment for food preparation, like oven ranges and stovetops, but others have chosen more modern pieces, like convection ovens. In selecting equipment, you’ll need to consider not only each piece’s efficiency but also its effect on nutrition and the ease or difficulty of cleaning it properly.

Choosing Dishwashers and Storage Equipment

The first items most people consider when they think of a school cafeteria kitchen are ovens and stoves. But the cafeteria equipment for food storage and washing dishes is also crucial. Freezers and refrigerators keep food fresh, a must for safety. These pieces of equipment should be resistant to mildew and mold, which can cause health problems for students. Dishwashers need to be able to handle an enormous number of plates, cups, pots, pans, and utensils, or else they will also cause health problems.

Choosing the Right Ovens

More modern oven models have given school nutritionists the chance to broaden nutritional choices. If an oven has newer functions and features, it can allow nutritionists to come up with a wider range of menu options. Broiling, baking, and grilling generally produce healthier foods than frying, and they allow for a given type of food to be made in different ways. Students appreciate the expanded options that allow them to make healthier choices.

The Most Valuable Features of Cafeteria and Buffet Equipment

It may be tempting to opt for inexpensive cafeteria line equipment, but be aware that these pieces may be poorly constructed and therefore may not last long, making them a bad investment. Such cafeteria and buffet equipment are usually made of lower quality stainless steel, and this material can quickly become deformed. They also contain wells that are heated only from the bottom, thereby raising labor and energy costs. Furthermore, these units may lack the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) or Underwriters Laboratories (UL) certification, which will prompt the local food department to deny approval of the units for use in food handling. If your equipment lacks the necessary features, your operating costs will be significantly higher, and the equipment will have a short life span.

Look for a Supply Company that Offers a Wide Range of Equipment

In addition to standard cafeteria equipment like ovens, stoves, and dishwashers, you should consider newer options, such as griddles, grills, products designed for portion control, induction ranges, and steam table equipment. The more equipment you can afford, the more choices you can offer students and staff as they move through the cafeteria lines

Set Up Serving Stations for Different Foods

This eliminates the usual straight line students have to wait in and enables them to go straight to the kinds of food they want. This is a faster and more enjoyable way of filling plates.

Parents agree that their children’s nutrition is a top concern and the ways in which food is prepared and served matters. If you’re purchasing cafeteria equipment for your school, call our team to learn more about what we offer.

commercial kitchen design

9 Factors to Think about When You’re Designing Your Restaurant Kitchen

Restaurants are big business. In 2019, the industry grossed about $863 billion. If you want to open a restaurant, one of the key considerations is your kitchen design. Here are the nine crucial factors to discuss with your commercial kitchen design team.

1. Space Efficiency and Flexibility

Flexibility in your restaurant kitchen design is as important as flexibility in the entrees you offer. If you have daily specials or alter your offerings seasonally, you’ll need a kitchen layout that can adapt to changes. A modular kitchen that includes equipment on wheels can serve different functions at once. This will make you and your staff work more efficiently.

2. Simplicity of Design

The simpler your design, the more easily your employees can produce meals. If the layout is confusing, your employees will lose valuable time trying to figure it out. Minimize the amount of restaurant equipment, thereby saving space and money, and consider how the work might flow from one station to the next.

3. Plan the Kitchen Workflow

This is where your commercial kitchen design team comes in. It’s natural for kitchens to be noisy and crowded; that’s why working as a chef is exciting. However, there should be order within the chaos. Plan out work spaces according to tasks: dishwashing, inventory, storage, food prep, cooking, and serving. Then waste disposal and dishwashing can take place away from the commercial kitchen appliances in the chef’s area. This way servers leave the kitchen with entrees on one side as busboys take in dirty dishes and silverware on the opposite side.

4. Sanitation and Safety

Having a lack of wash stations is a critical error in commercial kitchen design. When considering drainboards, landing tables, and racks, think about how much silverware, plates, glasses, cups, and trays will pile up at your busiest times, and factor in how much your dishwashers can handle.

Food safety and health code practices should be utilized everywhere in the kitchen, by all of your employees. Although laying out the spaces for cooking and prepping is the more interesting design task, don’t forget that laying out cleaning areas is also crucial. Consider the places where soiled dishes will accumulate and where freshly washed stacks will go for easy accessibility by the staff.

5. Training and Supervising

Your commercial kitchen design should provide space in the back where the head chef can train and supervise other employees. It can be a challenge to hire and keep exceptional staff members, so it’s important to give them incentives for promotion in the back area of the kitchen. The head chef should be able to tour the kitchen and watch the employees’ activities.

6. Make Your Kitchen Energy Efficient

Restaurant kitchens use a great deal of energy, so much so that a large portion of your costs could go to energy. You can cut down on these costs by situating cooking appliances in a way that allows the exhaust hood to carry off hot air. This will help to cool the kitchen. Also, take care to place refrigerators away from equipment that generates heat so that your appliances won’t be overworked.

7. Ventilation

Just as it’s important to think about energy efficiency, it’s important to think about ventilation. Without good ventilation, the inside air quality will be poor due to odors and inadequate air circulation. The range fan should be running when the cooking begins, and the range hood filter should be switched out often. Also, consider designing your kitchen so that there’s room for air purifiers or fans in strategic areas, especially since the rear of the kitchen can get very hot.

8. Maintenance

The most common error people make in commercial kitchen design is not leaving sufficient space for maintenance. You need room for repair people to access broken equipment. Therefore carefully planning out the placement of all countertops and pieces of equipment is imperative. Go for a modular design that allows you to move work areas if necessary.

9. Technology

In the rear of the kitchen, technology should be accessible, flexible, and modular. Instead of using paper tickets, electronic display screens can improve the accuracy of orders and speed up serving by providing customized routing to prep areas.

Restaurant kitchen design is a complex process. Contact us today to learn more.

correctional facilities equipment

What’s the Right Equipment for a Correctional Facilities Kitchen?

There are millions of people currently incarcerated in the U.S. Every single one of those prisoners is entitled to three meals a day. That’s a lot of food coming out of a lot of kitchens. It isn’t easy to run a correctional facilities kitchen because there are always a whole lot of mouths to feed. Do you know what kind of commercial kitchen equipment you need to get the job done? Do you know how to purchase cafeteria equipment and how to run a kitchen? Food is essential in any jail or prison. Now, you need to know the essentials of keeping a correctional facilities kitchen running smoothly and efficiently.

The Equipment in a Correctional Facilities Kitchen

There is a lot of food service equipment needed in any correctional facilities kitchen. Many correctional facilities provide food and shelter for thousands of inmates. In some facilities, meals may be conducted for all the inmates at once, while others may use shifts to get everyone fed. Either way, it’s up to the kitchen to provide safe and nutritious food for all the prisoners.

Of course, every correctional facilities kitchen needs certain basic equipment. A large, commercial refrigerator for food storage, a commercial oven, stovetops, and a commercial ice machine will all be necessary. The kitchen will also need a large prep area where food can be chopped and otherwise prepared for mealtimes. Don’t forget about the cafeteria equipment that will be needed, such as trays for carrying the food and utensils for serving and eating the food. Napkins, forks, (dull) knives, and spoons will all be needed. The kitchen workers will need tongs, large spoons and forks, and sharper knives in order to prepare and serve the food.

A Good Correctional Facilities Kitchen Design

Good use of space is essential in any correctional facilities kitchen. You need to make the most out of the space and still maintain a design that’s safe for the staff, the inmates, and the guards who may be working in the kitchen. Keep the prep areas near the food storage spaces.

The correctional facilities kitchen should also have sinks for washing food and utensils, and sinks and dishwashing areas for cleaning dishes and trays. May correctional facilities kitchen designs include a large, commercial dishwasher. These machines are capable of washing trays and the tools associated with food service.

Remember to have places to dispose of food waste and other trash as well. NO kitchen is complete without this. If you’re familiar at all with restaurant kitchen design or school kitchen design, you already have a good idea of how to design an efficient correctional facilities kitchen.

There were 2,162,400 people in federal and state prisons in 2016. That’s a lot of mouths to feed, and that’s why designed and equipping a great correctional facilities kitchen is so important.

school kitchen designer

Design Ideas for Your School Kitchen

School kitchen design is not only focused on the type of cafeteria equipment that’s best for the lunchroom. Foodservice equipment is only part of the story when it comes to school kitchen design. The trend for many school districts as reported by leading school kitchen design experts is how to make the student experience a more positive one.

Today’s School Kitchen Serves a Different Purpose

School lunchtime has always been a popular “subject” among students. The school cafeteria is the place where children meet for their meals and have a little social time together. Today, school kitchens are more focused on delivering healthy options and creating an environment in which children feel comfortable.

Of course, healthy meals start with efficiency — but that is not where the school kitchen designer job ends. Today, more and more school districts are looking to use LEED-certified building methods, which may involve energy efficiency, space for new food technologies, and creating a space that can evolve with new technologies with minimal investment.

On top of all the must-haves, there is always the budget that has to be considered. With some careful planning and a school kitchen designer, it might just be possible to have it all and stay within budget.

Some Ideas To Consider

Many school districts are doing away with the single-file line to the serving station and instead are setting up multiple serving stations. For example, there might be a fruit and salad station, a main course station, a station for veggies, and other offerings in a help-yourself area. There are studies that indicate placement of food determines which foods will fill up the plate. This design idea can help to boost the consumption of fresh fruit and veggies.

The school kitchen should be designed with efficiency in mind. There are a lot of meals that need to be prepared, so one of the best sources of input for school kitchen design are the people that are going to be cooking in the area. Your school kitchen designer should collect information from the kitchen staff to learn what is working and what is not with the current design.

A school kitchen designer is your best option for getting the right design for your school cafeteria. You can get all the must-haves and do it at the right price. For more information, please contact us today.

commercial ice machine

3 Signs Your Commercial Ice Machine Is On The Fritz

Commercial ice machines are a big part of food preparation and restaurant services. When your ice machine runs into trouble, it prevents you from properly serving your customers and forcing you to lose valuable sales.

But how do you know if your restaurant needs a new commercial ice machine? If you’re not sure if it’s time to have a new commercial ice machine installed in your restaurant, keep an eye out for these ice machine problems:

  1. The machine won’t turn on. Check the breaker box to make sure that power is flowing to your ice machine. If the power is on, but the ice machine isn’t, bring in a repair service. When a repair doesn’t fix the problem you’re having, it’s time to start thinking about purchasing food service equipment.
  2. The machine is short cycling. Short cycling is a huge waste of energy caused by a machine turning on and off rapidly several times throughout the day. Short cycling can sometimes be caused by overheating internal components or a faulty electrical connection. In either case, a short cycling ice machine will slow down the production of ice in the system and hike up your energy bill. If your ice machine routinely short cycles, it might be time to consider a new energy-efficient model.
  3. The machine leaks. Leaks can happen anywhere in your commercial ice machine. You might not notice a leak until there are puddles forming around the base of the equipment. Sometimes a leak will spill into the ice container of the machine and cause misshapen pieces of ice. Leaks can cause your machine to produce lower levels of ice, too. If your commercial ice machine routinely suffers from leaks despite regular maintenance and repairs, it might be time to contact a food service equipment company for a new machine.

It’s no secret the restaurant industry needs to be on the ball. In fact, the restaurant industry brought in up to $863 billion in sales just this year. To keep up with these sales, it’s important to have commercial kitchen appliances that can keep up with you.

Looking for high quality commercial kitchen appliances?

Thompson and Little offers commercial kitchen appliances like commercial ice machines, commercial refrigerators, and other food service equipment. To learn more about the appliances we offer or for information on our kitchen design services, contact Thompson and Little today.

school kitchen design

School Kitchen Design In Support of Efficiency

If there is one thing that really rises above the other things in school kitchen design it has to be an efficient design layout. School kitchens serve over 4 billion lunches alone annually. Preparing thousands of meals a day requires a finely tuned school kitchen design that is focused on efficiency.

Some school districts make the mistake of thinking that taking restaurant equipment like a commercial refrigerator and a few other pieces creates an efficient school kitchen design. Unfortunately, the right school kitchen design is not quite that simple.

What Can a Professional School Kitchen Designer Bring to the Table?

Getting the most out of your school kitchen space really depends on the experience of the person that is designing the space. An experienced school kitchen designer can help your school get more out of the kitchen space that is available but that is not all the right professional brings to the table.

Making the job easier for your kitchen staff is also a wonderful benefit of having your school kitchen professionally designed. The designer will consider your space then come up with a layout that enables workers to work more efficiently, and easier.

Other benefits of hiring a professional school kitchen designer include:

  • An easy way to purchase cafeteria equipment
  • Potential discounts on purchasing foodservice equipment
  • A perfectly designed kitchen that will provide years of functional service

There are added value benefits of using a pro to design your school kitchens like potential discounts on cafeteria equipment and foodservice equipment. The professional designer gets better rates on equipment than the average person. It can be a cost-savings to the school.

Perfect Designs

Your school kitchen sees a lot of wear and tear each day. There are a lot of students that are relying on an efficient kitchen to get the food out so they can get to class. The perfectly designed kitchen will help to ensure that food is cooked quickly and with ease so that students get the service that they deserve.

Take advantage of professional design for your school kitchen and get the highly functional, efficient your school deserves. Learn more about professional kitchen design, cafeteria equipment, and more today.

church kitchen design

What You Should Consider For Your Church Kitchen Design

There are some key factors you’ll want to consider adding to your church kitchen design. First, you should turn to the professionals to ensure that your church kitchen design suits your congregation’s needs. A church kitchen design company has the experience to ensure that every detail is considered. They will know which restaurant equipment is best to fit your priorities.

Consider These Design Elements

Any church that wants to get the most value for their kitchen budget will need to invest in the right equipment. Getting the value that your organization deserves means choosing commercial kitchen equipment that is built to last and deliver years of quality function.

Churches and other groups have consistently chosen commercial equipment because of the value that it delivers. The commercial equipment industry has grown by leaps and bounds, largely due to this value. The commercial equipment industry has seen a growth rate of 2.2% and is a $3.7 billion industry now.

The right commercial kitchen appliances are a good investment. You will have the worry-free operation for years to come. Each church kitchen design should include at a minimum:

  • A commercial ice machine
  • A commercial refrigerator
  • A commercial stove

While it may seem like an ice machine is a bit luxurious, once you have it, you will be amazed at how much it’s used. A stove and a refrigerator are absolute necessities. A lot of church groups also choose to have a commercial dishwasher installed, as well.

Having the right equipment installed means that the kitchen will be used frequently. Whether your congregation plans on renting the space out to generate income or becomes a space that will be used for gatherings of the congregation, having the right equipment will make the space more enjoyable to use.

Other Design Elements to Consider

While appliances take center stage in any church kitchen design, that is not all you have to think about. What will you use for storage? For food preparation? What type of counters would you like to see in your church kitchen?

Many churches choose to go completely commercial by adding stainless steel workspaces for food prep and commercial-type flooring. Of course, it is completely up to you as to what you choose to do for your kitchen.

Before you make any choices, consult with a church kitchen design company that has the experience to deliver the options that will give your group the best value and a kitchen that you will love.

2017 Young Lion Award

Young Lion-Dealer

Drew O’Quinn
Thompson & Little
Fayetteville, N.C.

By Mike Sherer, Senior Contributing Editor

Anyone who’s worked in, let alone run, a small business knows that you have to be able to wear a lot of different hats. For Drew O’Quinn, V.P., Thompson & Little, Fayetteville, N.C., the process of learning and earning those hats started early—by watching first his grandfather, then his father, and now his mother serve as President of the 71-year-old family business.

“As a teenager,” says O’Quinn, “I worked during the summers loading trucks, working the showroom, even cleaning the bathrooms. In my first year after graduating from college, I performed deliveries and installations, as well as welded and finished fabrication in our fabrication shop. I really appreciate my parents giving me the chance to learn all the facets and divisions within the company.”

Knowing all the positions in the business, and how to perform them, has given O’Quinn, now 37, a profound perspective on what makes the company run. “Delivering and installing kitchen equipment, for example, is not an easy job,” he says. “It takes patience and expertise, so I have the utmost appreciation for our installation team given those experiences. Another valuable asset I gained while working in the field was the ability to gauge how long an installation should take.”

Now as V.P., he still wears a lot of hats, overseeing the contract department and the sales department. He meets biweekly with the accounting department, estimates large bid projects, and works alongside his purchasing managers. He understands that what really makes the business run isn’t what he knows, but what the team members throughout the company know.

“They’re what makes us go,” he says. “I truly believe that if you hire good people with a good attitude, give them training and tools and get out of their way, they’ll be successful. Many of our staff members have long tenure with the company—one has been here 35 years—and that excites me. Their experience is instrumental to our customer’s success, and their tenure is a testament to our team culture.”

“As our staff knows, we’re not selling kitchen equipment,” he says. “We’re selling solutions.” Those solutions come from well-trained professionals with experience, and O’Quinn is extremely proud of the Thompson & Little team.

O’Quinn is a firm believer in training. After participating in numerous training events with the Supply & Equipment Foodservice Alliance, the buying group Thompson & Little has belonged to for 25 years, he was nominated to serve on SEFA’s training committee. SEFA has always been dedicated to training DSR professionals and O’Quinn saw all the successes of their programs.

“Over my career, I have learned from so many outstanding foodservice professionals that have helped me become a better business person and industry professional. Many have given tirelessly to the industry, and many of my friends and colleagues in the industry are my fiercest competitors,” he says. “Those impressions motivated me to give back any way I can.”

“Drew deserves the spotlight,” says Tom Stritch, V.P.-Dealer Relations for SEFA, “but he’s the last one to seek it or want it. For all the good work he does, he never asks anything in return.”

“He’s a humble man,” agrees Tedde Reid, President and Founder of SEFA. “His contribution to SEFA and the industry is enormous, but he also gives back to his community. He leads two youth groups at his church, and is actively involved in two of the worldwide youth ministries that his mom founded. What’s great about Drew is that his wisdom, experience and maturity comes with youth and enthusiasm.”What’s made him so successful, according to people who know him, is his ability to truly listen. “Some people talk a lot,” says Fred Cypress, President of Dixie Store Fixtures & Sales Co., Birmingham, Ala. “Others think they have all the answers. A few listen to everyone’s opinion and then speak thoughtfully. Drew is one of those people. He’s very insightful, and if he has an opinion worth voicing, he will.

”Stritch and Cypress encouraged O’Quinn to join the Foodservice Equipment Distributors Association, given Thompson & Little was not a member at the time. It was advice O’Quinn is thankful for to this day, as FEDA has been an instrumental organization in his dealership, as well as the dealer community. This year, O’Quinn joined the FEDA’s Board of Directors, and he’ll serve as Assistant Chair for its 2018 convention.

Since taking on his present job responsibilities, O’Quinn says the biggest challenge the company faces is growth in a competitive and more transparent market. “The way to go to market is different now than it was a decade ago,” he says. “I did a full technology overhaul when I took over operations—new servers and networks, new phone system, new software system, and new e-commerce website. Everyone can offer a low price, and the Internet has made it easy for customers to educate themselves. That’s why we have to sell solutions, not equipment.”

He adds, “I love coming into work. It’s a great business and industry, and I enjoy working side by side with very talented co-workers,” he says. “If I do anything well, it’s hiring great people and giving them a work environment they can succeed in and have some fun doing it.”

Tips for Choosing a Commercial Fryer

Being in the market for a new fryer can come with a great deal of decision making. Below we have listed some questions to consider, key facts for the decision process, and some side notes on proper application for your fryer.

Questions you should consider when in the market for a new fryer

  • What fried items does your restaurant’s menu consist of?
    Open pot fryers are generally best for low sediment items such as french fries, while tube fryers are the most versatile but best heavier sediment items like chicken, fish, and onion rings. Flat bottom Fryers are better for heavily battered items. These items might consist of tempura and funnel cakes.
  • Will you use a gas fryer or an electric fryer? 
    It’s important to know if you’re going to use natural gas or liquid propane. If you are using liquid propane what kind of tank will you be using for your hook-up?
  • Level of output?
    Volume of fried food per hour is key. This will help you determine size and number of frypots needed.

Key facts for the decision process 

  • As oil prices increase, a number of new technologies have been introduced by various suppliers to increase oil life and lower oil costs. Some manufacturers limit the amount of oil needed in the fry pot. Some extend the life of the oil by straining and filtering.
  • As energy prices increase, other technologies have been introduced to improve heat transfer putting more energy into the cooking oil and less up the exhaust vent. This lowers energy costs.
  • ENERGY STAR fryers offer shorter cook times, faster temperature recovery times, and higher pound-per-hour production rates through advanced burner and heat exchanger designs. Some models offer insulated frypots, which reduces standby losses, giving the fryer a lower idle energy rate.
  • Cost-saving tips: Cut idle time and turn off back-up fryer when possible. Recalibrate.
  • ENERGY STAR fryers can save $120 for electric annually or $590 for gas annually. Good practices can save: $400 annually for a gas fryer by cutting four hours of idle time per day.

Notes on Fryer Application

  • Fryers are often used for appetizers and specific entrees.
  • Capacity is determined by how many pounds of French fries a fryer can cook in one hour. Typically this is calculated by roughly doubling the oil tank capacity of a fryer. A 40 gallon fryer should produce between 75 and 80 pounds of french fries per hour.
  • Countertop models have much less capacity than floor models and are typically used for very small volume applications.
  • Larger volume kitchens purchase multiple tank floor fryer units or put several smaller floor units in series next to each other. This is especially useful for frying different food types simultaneously. Avoid flavor transfer from one type of food to another by using the same heating oil.

The Importance of Bar Layout and Design from Krowne

Building stainless steel bar equipment from the ground up entirely in the U.S.A. requires a lot of people, knowledge, machinery and material. Krowne has spent nearly 68 years refining and mastering the process involved in producing underbar equipment and refrigeration that has led us to become a leader in the industry. It may seem logical that our focus lies solely on the manufacturing and shipping of underbar equipment.

What many people are not aware of is the constant research and development done by our Bar Layout and Design specialists in an effort to evolve our product offerings. The main goal is to create more efficient bar layouts that not only benefit the restaurant owner, but the patrons as well. Our efficient and ergonomic layouts facilitate a more profitable bar through innovative designs that reduce the amount of movement required to prepare a drink.

A well designed bar WILL pay for itself.

It would be easy to simply accept a project, build it to exact customer specs and ship it out. However, at Krowne we like to take it a step further and understand why the customer is designing it a certain way. Do they want the bartenders to use multiple workstations? How many bartenders will be working concurrently? Will this bar have wine, spirits and beer? These are all very important questions because they directly correlate to our layout decisions. After various field studies we have determined that our efficient layouts not only increase profits and efficiency at a bar, but also boost bartender morale as they have a defined work space used to prepare drinks.

We are also innovators of bar ergonomics. We are constantly redesigning bar equipment to keep the bartender facing the customer as often as possible. To do this we have created places to keep liquor, wine, beer and mixers all in the front of the bar. From bartenders to restaurant owners to the patrons they serve, we have you covered.

We don’t just build bars, we design them!

For More Information

Phone: 910-484-1128

Fax: 910-484-0576


Thompson & Little
933 Robeson Street
Fayetteville, NC 28305