Manage Refrigeration with the Internet of Things

For many businesses, paying attention to the small things can mean the difference between success and failure. This is especially true in the restaurant industry, where the margins are thin and reputation is a big reason why customers come in the door. Consider the case of a restaurant that’s been operating in downtown Pittsburgh for 18 years. The restaurant is popular and successful, with a reputation for great food and a memorable dining experience, and reservations for the holidays have to be made a month in advance. In short, this restaurant is enjoying the kind of success that most only dream about. Incredibly, they were hit with a consumer alert in early May of this year, surprising the whole city. The primary issue cited – foods held at unsafe temperatures and improper food cooling procedures.

The unfortunate reality is that this is a very easy mistake to make, even for the most well-run organizations. Restaurants typically rely on staff to check on coolers and freezers where food is kept before preparation, if they regularly check them at all. Even where monitoring is a priority, checking refrigeration temps is clearly not a full-time job, so the task falls to one of the kitchen staff who has another “real” job to do. If the evening is busy and the staff are overwhelmed, you’re probably lucky to have cooler temperatures checked once every few hours. That is more than enough time for a real problem to develop. Relying on staff to monitor your refrigeration has another downside. When the restaurant is closed and the staff are sitting at home, who is around to check on the coolers protecting thousands of dollars in inventory? If there is a a power outage or some other problem with refrigeration, you won’t know about it until the following day.

The Internet of Things (IoT) provides a perfect solution to this problem. For pennies a day, your refrigeration can be checked every few minutes, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, whether your restaurant is staffed or not. If temperatures or humidity exceed the preset limits – which you can configure, you can be notified immediately through email or text to your phone so you can react to an issue before it affects your business. This data also has a use beyond just immediate problems. It is recorded and stored in the cloud, so that when inspectors show up you have a wealth of historical data that proves your refrigeration is working properly and is well-maintained, heading off any potential citations.

This wealth of data recorded and stored over time can also be used to identify trends. This lets you head off small issues before they become big problems. For instance, let’s say that the charts show that one of your coolers is taking longer than normal to recover its operating temperature during the evening rush, when the door is being opened a lot, even if the temperature never exceeds your preset limits. This may indicate a developing problem with the coolant level or the compressor that you can have maintenance check on before the cooler fails, letting you solve the problem with less expense and before it creates a health issue.

Finally, since IoT operates in the cloud it’s not susceptible to power or network outages on site – only the sensors are. This enables the system to provide notifications if it loses contact with your restaurant. If you lose power when the restaurant is closed, you don’t have to wait until the following day to find out. The system can send you a notification immediately that your site is down and alert you so that you can react and keep your inventory safe.

Implementing IoT technology in your business is fast and simple. In fact, since it is so easy to set up, many vendors will implement the service for a test site on a 30-day trial basis. The monitoring can be set up in hours and you can decide whether the information is worth it before you spend any money. Considering the risk to your reputation and business if you have an incident or a consumer alert, can you afford not to try IoT? If you think this might be a fit for you, just reach out to us using the button below or at our Contact Us link, and we can talk to you about your options and which solution will work for you.

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