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Building A Restaurant When You Can’t Afford A Ventilation Hood

There are many expenses opening a new restaurant can incur, and to first-time owners these can sometimes come as a big shock. For instance, one of the largest purchases that new owners aren’t always prepared for is the hood system In many cases this several-thousand-dollar item can make or break your budget. So what about operating a restaurant kitchen without the hood?

Here’s some more words of wisdom from John Eric Smith, Mr. J.E.S. himself, on how you can still legally operate a restaurant if the expense of  a hood system is just too great for your finances:

Building A Restaurant When You Can’t Afford A Hood

So you want to go into the restaurant business? I am the man you want to talk to. Years of experience in the restaurant equipment field; I sell it, I repair it and I answer questions related to almost anything you need to know about restaurants… except for smallwares, that’s my wife’s field. I learn something new almost every day and I have many, many contacts to find out the answer if I don’t know. Now your impression of me is “he must be full of himself” as us southern folks say. Not really. There have been several mistakes along the 15 year path that I will not forget. One of the hardest things to swallow is, “I really have to pay that much for a hood system?” Yes, you do!!

When people come into my showroom and want to go into the business of serving food to the public my first question is “what’s your menu?” Most of the time it’s short orders: hamburgers, fries, a grilled chicken sandwich, etc. In South Carolina we have DHEC, “Department of Health and Environmental Control,” and they dictate what you may serve without a hood system. At around $800 to $1,000 a running foot the hood can get pricey. So you need a 10' hood? Ok that will be around $9,000. Now I see you wince because you had no idea you were going to spend $9,000 just to start. The thought is now going through your head “I’m not spending that!” Now I see you’re sincere and have a good idea so my next statement is “Why don’t you think of something you can make that will bring people in, get some cash flow and then look at a hood?”

You can bake without a hood as long as it is baked goods like cakes, cookies, pies and bread. Finding prepackaged foods is easy these days and folks like US Foodservice or Sysco will be more than happy to show you, and even let you sample, some of their products. Frying is out! NO FRYING!!  So lets make a mean sandwich and give the option of putting it in the panini press with some of the best meats around and serve it with the freshest bread that we bake on site. I bet if you search for a different sandwich spread that would make your sandwich stand out above the rest that would get people coming. Salad’s; people love a good salad. How many women would come to your place at lunch if they could get a great salad at a good price? Ok this sounds like a place I would go to for a quick lunch, right? Not so fast. If you could find or make a great muffin, croissant, bear claw or anything else you could bake in your convection oven and throw in a coffee bar you have breakfast. You’ve got breakfast and lunch covered, but what about dinner? I have a friend here in Greenwood that has figured the no hood scenario out better than anyone I know. Howard Corley owns Howard’s On Main and in the evening he sells beer and wine to the office crowd getting off of work. Folks will stop by for a sandwich and a beer or something with a glass of wine. Some states will even let you have a rotisserie for chicken or an Alto Shaam for prime rib without a hood but check first.  There is so much you can do without a hood! it just requires a little thought and alot of work. Welcome to the restaurant business! Want to buy some equipment?

Breakfast: muffins, croissant, bagel with different cream cheese, Belgium waffle and GREAT COFFEE

Lunch: assorted sandwiches hot or cold, potato salad, Cole slaw and some of these sweet potato chips we found, hot dogs, salads

Dinner: Salads, ” salad bar”  Rotisserie chicken, Prime rib , baked potato, Sandwiches and Wine and beer after 5pm

*States have different rulings so be sure to check with the health department before setting your menu.

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