Foodborne diseases caused 5,000 deaths and an astounding 76 million illnesses in 2014. With stakes this high, foodservice operations must guarantee food safety. So for many leading Metro NYC operators, Americold provides a dependable solution.
The company, which Bob Levine started in the five boroughs of New York in the 1970's to service freezers for the ice cream trade, now serves restaurants from Manhattan to Montauk and most recently from Miami to Fort Lauderdale. With a fleet of repair trucks and trained technicians always available, they are able to quickly respond to emergency calls and get customer equipment back up and running.
“When I started out, my goal was to help restaurateurs keep their food preservation equipment in peak operating condition,” says Levine. “Today, as technology has changed the way food is cooked, and cooled, food safety has become a very important issue.”
Americold has been in the food preservation business for 30-plus years, “With the advent of the letter-grading system, our ability to deal with health departments has become vital to our customers,” Levine noted. “The expectations and requirements of health departments have changed as well as the inspection process,” Levine continued.
Letter grading has changed the entire way the industry does business. “What happens is guys who used to give their refrigeration work to air conditioning companies now say we can’t rely on this AC guy to be a specialist. “Americold is the only company that’s strictly food preservation,” he says. “HVAC dealers don't carry the parts, they don’t train on this equipment the way we do. Americold is specifically designed to meet the requirements of health departments and the office support staff is Department of Health certified.”
Americold's Rapid Response program is unique to the industry. “We came up with this idea a few years ago to address the needs of customers,” says Levine. “When the health department inspector walks in, customers used to be left to fend for themselves and stumble through the inspection. What we do for all contract customers is, if the inspector walks in, any time night or day, the restaurant's first phone call is to our hotline and we’ll scramble the closest technician there immediately to be on-site during the inspection. “We stay on-site with the customer all through the investigation. After a while, the inspectors have come to know Americold,” he says. “When they see our truck there, see us there working on the equipment, they tend to say, let’s move on, and they go to the next area of the restaurant they need to inspect. They have confidence in us.”
Levine says the company's technicians are known industry-wide for their dedication and work ethic. “There's a culture of passion and enthusiasm at Americold that’s contagious,” he says. “Our technicians are both dedicated and long-standing. Turnover is minimal. Some of our techs have been with us for decades and know the equipment and the customer. It’s still a family company and they’re treated as family.” Rob Rivera, Americold's vice president and COO, notes that a priority today is to be able to respond to the changes in food preservation technology. “Everyone is trying to figure out how to lessen their energy bill, and minimize their carbon footprint.” Restaurants are now using small parallel rack systems, like supermarkets use, but smaller, for the express purpose of energy management and electric cost. “Racks benefit normal refrigeration, the walk-in and the lowboy refrigerator.”
Americold continues to innovate with its newly introduced free temperature monitoring system for new contract customers,” says Rivera. “In New York City, the health department is so strict about maintaining product temps at 41 degrees or below and it's very easy for a small refrigerator to go off-kilter without people realizing it. We want to give customers the ability to be notified instantly, so that the manager, the executive chef, knows about it before the line even goes down.”
“It also gives them the ability to maintain active records,” adds Levine. “When the health department comes in and says, why is this box not on temperature, they can say, 20 minutes ago it was where it was supposed to be, and show them the proof,” says Rivera. “It's much better than having a chef walk around with a thermometer to check temperatures,” says Levine. “It's 24-hour monitoring. Even when they're not there, they can be confident the food is safe.”
From food preservation to energy savings and most recently temperature monitoring, Americold continues to deliver peace of mind to its customer base.