Foodservice Equipment Reports

BACK STORY: Right Menu, Wrong Equipment

Before any big equipment purchase, you should talk to the dealer to make sure you’re getting the right piece of equipment for the job. One concessionaire is still learning this lesson the hard way after deciding to use three deep-fat fryers to boil saltwater instead of oil. Duffy’s Equipment Service, Sauquoit, N.Y., was repeatedly called to a concession stand in Utica, N.Y., to address recurring abuse.

Paul Toukatly, Duffy’s service manager, responded to the first call. The customer said the fryers at his park concession stand were not working. “When we got there, we found that they were making Salt Potatoes in the fryers.” 

A local concession favorite in central New York, Salt Potatoes are made by boiling young potatoes in saltwater; the standard recipe calls for 1 lb. of salt for every 4 lb. of potatoes. “Most people use a large pot on a stove to make these potatoes, but this customer decided to use his fryers,” Toukatly says.

The result: A thick layer of salt had corroded through the heating elements, wiring and thermostat bulbs and shorted out the units. The malfunction also tripped the park’s breakers, shutting down the waterfall, park lights and other electric features. “It was kind of funny,” Toukatly admits about the Rube Goldberg chain-reaction effect. 

The fault lay in the operator’s insistence on using the fryers. Water can only boil to 212°F, so the heating mechanism never reached its setting to shut off,” Toukatly explains. As a result, the water continuously evaporated, leaving salt deposits behind; then the operator added more saltwater until it became too corrosive for the hardware.

Toukatly replaced the damaged parts, then scraped out and washed the units to remove the salt layer. “There wasn’t much else we could do.” The manufacturer honored the warranty for the first service call, but refused to reimburse any repairs thereafter—and there were many. 

“I recommended making Salt Potatoes in a pot on the stove—the operator had the equipment.” Despite the advice of Duffy’s service technicians, numerous costly repairs and the obvious continued consequences, the concession-stand operator stubbornly kept using the fryers. “In the end, rather than switching to pots, they stopped selling Salt Potatoes altogether,” Toukatly says.

When the operator purchased the fryers, the dealer of course would have assumed the units were going to be used for frying. Toukatly doubts the dealer would have sold the fryers to the operator if they knew what he wanted to use them for. Toukatly recommends customers be very clear with vendors about what they’re intending to cook to ensure they’re making informed equipment purchases.

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