Beating the heat

hood system

In some parts of the country, soaring summer temperatures can give even the hardest-working air conditioners a run for their money. And when it comes to outdoor events, keeping cool is an even bigger challenge. Here, operators share their trusted tactics for keeping staff comfortable this summer—in and out of the kitchen.  

1. Balance your hood system

oven hood

Having hood systems that are properly balanced for the equipment below is crucial for keeping a kitchen cool, says Rene Rodriguez, director of food service at University of Texas at Austin. “If you’re changing out equipment and not taking into consideration the hood, if it’s not drawing up enough [air], it’s going to generate heat in your kitchen,” he says. One common mistake Rodriguez has seen is switching an electric flat top with a charbroiler—which have two different CFM requirements—and keeping the same hood. “Your kitchen will never get cold.” 

2. Pick cooking styles wisely

chef grilling

With the wide-ranging weather in the Pacific Northwest, outdoor tailgate events at Eastern Washington University in Cheney, Wash., from August through December can range from 100 degrees down to 0, says David McKay, director of dining services. Though grilling burgers or brats is the quintessential warm-weather tailgate choice, it’s nearly impossible to avoid overheating with the equipment in use. 

“Cooking over a hamburger grill with hot gas or charcoal, somebody’s going to get pretty hot, whether you’re doing a couple hundred or 1,000 [items],” McKay says. Instead, operators should look to smoked meats at a carving station. “You’re giving [your diners] the outdoor experience, yet you don’t have your staff working over the hot charcoal,” he says.

3. Cut down compressor heat

kitchen equipment

Equipment that keeps the food in your kitchen cold can actually be responsible for making the whole space hotter, Rodriguez says. During his department’s last renovation, the team decided to convert to a central refrigeration rack system, eliminating the need for individual compressors on freezers and fridges. Cumulatively, those compressors do give off heat and raise the overall temperature of the space. “We [noticed] a huge difference in the temperature that we’re able to maintain in our kitchen because we weren’t getting heat from those areas,” he says. 

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
hybrid worker

Some of our employees can work four 10-hour days. It’s really helped with balance. We’ve also created a lot of hybrid positions, such as a personal services assistant and foodservice worker role. It allows workers to pick up more shifts and cover both positions.

Ideas and Innovation
cheeseburger

We set up an interactive collaboration with our dietetics department where students worked with our culinary team to test how recipes are imagined and produced. One of the recipes they came up with was a barbecue tempeh sandwich, which they believed was a great option for vegan students across campus. We added the sandwich to our On the Go program and then expanded it to our vegan station on campus due to its success.

Ideas and Innovation
salad bowl

We have reorganized our salad bars to not only include the traditional DIY salad ingredients, but also several daily entree salads. Our students requested 32-ounce heavy glass salad bowls that have been wildly popular. The big bowls allow students to load up on their favorite salads and customize with additional ingredients from around the servery. We have seen a significant surge in usage that cuts across all groups, including athletes.

Ideas and Innovation
bleu barn

While undergoing a large-scale expansion that changed a chunk of its layout and added a new building to campus, Bethany crafted its own cafe—a place where residents and guests of the Waupaca, Wis., senior living center could grab a casual bite throughout the day.

Originally dubbed The Barn because of the area’s affinity for farming, the rustic-themed fast casual took over a space earlier occupied by a great room with a small kitchen, and where resident assistants once served meals. (Now that area is squarely in the purview of foodservice and is staffed by members of the dining team...

FSD Resources