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There are plenty of sound reasons why pub caterers should dispense with their domestic catering equipment and purchase more robust and hard-working...

There are plenty of sound reasons why pub caterers should dispense with their domestic catering equipment and purchase more robust and hard-working commercial equivalents.

Perhaps the most credible motive for making the investment in commercial equipment lies in the fact that it is designed to withstand the rigours of a commercial environment.

Richard Oakes, marketing services manager of Foster Refrigerator, pointed out that people are eating out not just at set meal times, but throughout the day. So, in the case of refrigeration units, they need to work "24 hours a day, 365 days per year - unlike a domestic unit that is only maybe opened 3-4 times per day in the home".

This same principle can be applied to practically every piece of equipment in the kitchen - the oven, the microwave, the grill, the fryer, the dishwasher and even the food processor. If you buy domestic, you are buying a product that is designed for occasional use in the home. Taking the equipment out of this environment will not only compromise health and hygiene issues, it will radically shorten the lifespan of the product.

To keep up with the law

CESA (The Catering Equipment Suppliers Association) would always advise caterers against buying domestic equipment as it does not fulfil the fitness-for-purpose requirements that are central to the criteria used by Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) when they are inspecting commercial catering premises.

Current European Union equipment directives state that from the beginning of 1996 all gas and electric catering appliances must carry the CE mark. This has empowered Environmental Health Officers and Heath & Safety Executive Officers to prevent caterers from using any new items of equipment which do not carry the CE mark which, of course, domestic models do not.

EHOs are also interested in the stringent laws that account for how food should be stored and prepared which brings us neatly to the next important issue - food safety.


Food safety should be king in the commercial kitchen if caterers want to continue serving food for any period of time. Commercial equipment is designed with ease of use and hygiene at the top of the priority list and it is for this reason that most equipment is designed so that it is incredibly easy to clean. And most, if not all, commercial equipment is manufactured from one of the most hygienic substrates known to man - stainless steel.

But it is not just cleanliness that is important when you consider food safety - there are some very definite risks that commercial manufacturers are keen to point out if publicans choose domestic. Law states that food must be kept at 8 deg C or less depending on what it is. In a busy kitchen with constant opening and shutting of refrigerator doors, you need a commercial refrigerator with a rapid temperature pull down time once the door has been open, particularly since most pub kitchens are a very hot environment. Domestic refrigerators tend to be very slow at regaining the optimum refrigeration temperature.

Lee Freeman, technical sales manager of Gram explained: "Poor temperature control and slow chill times are major causes of food poisoning, particularly when chilling high-risk items such as raw meat, poultry, eggs and seafood. Our cabinets will maintain optimum running conditions and temperature - even with frequent door openings and because they use a fan-blown evaporator."

But it is not just refrigeration where hygiene issues need to be considered. Cooking equipment must be able to maintain temperature to ensure that food is cooked thoroughly. David Watts, managing director of Apuro, the sole UK importer/ distributor of Samsung microwaves, explains that food safety issues can be raised if the correct microwave is not used. "Domestic microwaves can be potentially dangerous when used in a commercial environment such as a pub," he began. "A domestic oven is designed for very limited occasional use during the day, possibly minutes only, whereas a commercial model is designed to work for long periods of time. What this means in practical terms is that a domestic microwave oven used over long periods can overheat and loose power output, which means that food cooked at the end of a busy period, with no compensation for power loss, may not be cooked thoroughly. This can result in food being served cold, or in the worst case scenario, food which is unsafe for consumption."

Likewise, sanitation is high on the agenda for dishwasher manufacturers as Peter Nimmon, commercial director of Meiko was keen to point out. It is not enough that plates look clean, but HACCP regulations insist that a rinse temperature of 82.5 deg C has to be sustained for some seconds to make sure that plates are bacteria free. "The use of domestic equipment would raise not only eyebrows, but negative points regarding hygiene and turnover - how could a pub claim to serve 100 lunches per day when the dishwasher takes 40 minutes to wash 20 plates?"

Fitness for purpose

"Publicans involved in catering equipment purchasing could be forgiven for thinking that the only people who need worry about equipment standards are the manufacturers and suppliers. But they would be mistaken," said CESA director, Bryan Whittaker.

This is true. Publicans should not be blinded by price issues and should consider the wider picture that commercial equipment can bring real efficiency and time savings to the kitchen - commodities which are priceless. For example, in the case of commercial refrigeration cabinets not only are a number of additional features available, they are also designed to maximise storage capacity. "So while a commercial unit may take up the same footprint space as a domestic refrigerator, every square inch is used to maximum advantage," revealed Fosters' Richard Oakes.

Likewise time saving advantages can be gained when using a commercial dishwasher. "A commercial machine must be able to produce sparkling clean results quickly - commercial machines operate cycles in seconds (90/120/240) not the 30/40 minutes that a domestic machine takes," explained Meiko's Peter Nimmo. But beyond the actual cycle itself, time is saved in stacking and unloading the machines since the racks on commercial units simply lift out, meaning the machine does not need to be unloaded piece by piece before another load can be started.


Of paramount importance when considering purchasing any equipment is the after-sales service you can expect. By placing a domestic unit in a commercial environment, most manufacturers' guarantees are rendered void meaning that any breakdowns have to be fixed out of the caterers' own pocket.

Conversely most commercial manufacturers offer generous service packages and will have parts readily available to ensure that if a problem arises, caterers have the peace of mind that they will not be waiting for some months before their equipment is useable again.


While food safety is invariably high on the agenda, there are hidden safety issues to consider, according to CESA. "Even more worrying is that any accident caused to staff involving non-compliant equipment will leave no defence against claims or actions arising from the accident," outlined Bryan Whittaker. "A sobering reminder, if one were needed, that it is important to deal with reputable commercial equipment suppliers who have been conscientious about bringing their equipment into line with the new standards. One way to reduce the risk of falling foul of the standards is to choose from companies who fulfil all the necessary criteria to be accepted for membership of CESA."


So if you have been keeping score, so far this is a pretty convincing whitewash in the favour of commercial equipment. But if there is one area that domestic can clawback a single goal in this clash of the titans it is on the issue of price.

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