Ask any shared kitchen owner what their worst nightmare is and you’re likely to hear: refrigeration failure. A simple power outage could lead to the loss of all your tenants’ perishable ingredients.
That could lose them thousands of dollars which could easily put a small to medium producer out of business.
It doesn’t even have to be a catastrophic event, inconsistent cooler and freezer temperatures can spoil ingredients without you even knowing there’s a problem.
Traditional temperature logging is done manually by writing down fridge temps in a logbook. But this often leads to pencil whipping by overworked cooks, who forget to fill it out and then just make up the numbers at the end of the month.
Even when done perfectly, this system gives you no warning of an anomaly and doesn’t guarantee that food is staying within safe limits.
If you’re tired of taking manual temperature readings every day and want to go home from your kitchen safe in the knowledge that your coolers and freezers are functioning properly, read on to find out about an innovative product that solves the problem and then some.
Husband and wife team Tim and Sara Smith have a particular fondness for the world of shared kitchens, having been part of an incubator at Virginia’s Frontier Kitchen themselves. Like all the best inventions, the idea for Sensorcheck came naturally out of the work they were already doing.
“We teamed up with a commercial kitchen for whom we had already been doing some technology freelance work.” Tim reveals, “They asked us whether additional technology could be leveraged: ‘Isn’t there something we can do to replace the manual process of logging?’”
Tim explains how they worked on a prototype that was so successful that they offered it out to other friends and family that had businesses it could be useful for.
“We realized pretty quickly that it addresses a pretty interesting need and that as far as refrigeration hardware goes, very little of the equipment was internet-enabled, or smart,” he explains
Tim says that the purpose from day one was to provide 24/7 temperature monitoring in a way that helps customers comply with temperature logging requirements.
He says: “The idea that if there’s a refrigerated unit that goes out of a safe temp zone, there’s an alert pushed out to the managers that allows them to avoid the loss of food, ingredients, or product. Because they have prior warning that there is a problem.”
Tim explains how the product simplifies the whole process of temperature monitoring without the kitchen owner having to purchase new equipment.
“What our products do is turn ordinary refrigeration equipment into smart refrigeration equipment.” He says, “Because now the telemetry is coming right off the refrigerator”
Not only does the system let you know that your food has been stored at a safe temperature. It also helps you avoid loss of ingredients by alerting you immediately if fridge temperatures go out of a safe range. This means you can intervene as quickly as possible and minimize the risk of losing ingredients.
Sensor Check Saves Shared Kitchen Owner Mitch a Dangerous Trip
Mitch Hagney runs the Local Sprout Food Hub in San Antonio. In his words, the Local Sprout Food Hub is “a shared community space for sustainable food projects in South Texas. Used by food manufacturers, food trucks, caterers, and indoor farmers.”
Mitch’s background as a hydroponic farmer means he knows all about the importance of constantly monitoring key metrics. And he was glad he had installed Sensorcheck in his kitchen when Texas was hit by a freak winter storm in February 2021.
“My food hub has a number of different walk-in coolers that are shared between different food manufacturers, from people doing fresh-pressed juice, to ranchers who are storing their meat in large freezers,” he says.
Texas isn’t the best equipped to deal with massive snowstorms. The state was suddenly in a state of emergency as roads were made impassable and there were massive electrical failures and internet outages across the state.
“We were lucky enough not to lose our electricity at the Food Hub, which was nice,” Mitch recalls, “But my Wifi did go down.”
Most of the systems at the kitchen were reliant on Wifi to be used remotely, but Sensorcheck had a trick up its sleeve as he attests: “I have monitoring systems like security cameras and they went down but I was lucky enough that Sensorcheck uses cellular data so I could know from across town that my fridges and freezers were still up even though the Wifi networks were down.”
That is a key feature because Mitch wasn’t able to safely get to the kitchen to check manually.
“We didn’t have plows and salt so it would have been dangerous to go across town,” He explains, “It prevented me from having to endanger myself going out onto the streets to figure it out.”
The Real Good Kitchen Avoids Disaster From Day One
After being inspired by legendary shared kitchen incubator La Cocina while working in San Francisco, Bailey Foster returned home to Knoxville to open Real Good Kitchen, her own shared kitchen and food business incubator.
“There was a lot of prosperity and growth and energy in our food and beverage scene but no shared kitchens to meet the demand or to incubate businesses,” She explains.
So for Bailey, it was a case of opportunity Knoxville, as she triumphantly opened in January with three members on the first day which has since increased to 14 members and counting.
Bailey describes the make-up of the business as “a nice cross-section of businesses with a combination of packaged foods – pimento cheese, chocolates, hot sauce – meal prep services, a baker, and food trucks.”
She installed Sensorcheck from the beginning after finding the system on the partnership page of The Food Corridor and realizing the catastrophic risk of a cooler or freezer failure for her clients.
“Our freezer and cooler are brand new,” Bailey says, “So we don’t have any concerns about it right now but being a shared kitchen and not being staffed 100% of the time, it really made sense for us to go ahead and invest in a monitoring system for our cooler and freezer just because it could be such a big liability for us and our member businesses.”
As it turned out, the system proved invaluable almost immediately. As Bailey explains: “We had a power outage and the only reason that I became aware of it was because of the Sensorcheck monitoring system. I woke up at five o’clock in the morning and saw that I had alerts over the course of several hours from the system.”
She says that she initially assumed it was just the fridge and freezer, but when she arrived at the kitchen she found it was a global outage.
“I was very glad to have that system in place,” She recalls, “Otherwise it could have been several more hours before we actually caught the outage and were able to get it fixed. So we didn’t lose any product so it was a great trial run for the value of having the system in place.”
For Bailey, the system paid for itself right away, and she would recommend the service highly to other shared kitchen operators: “The price is very reasonable. The startup cost is not more than a few hundred dollars and the monthly monitoring fee is really affordable. That combined with the general friendliness and professionalism of Tim and Sara made the decision for me.”
“Working with Sara and Tim, I really couldn’t have asked for a better experience,” Bailey adds, “In terms of their willingness to help us troubleshoot and try to get the product to work at an optimal level. They’re dedicated to customer service and to a personalized experience.”
She is also full of praise for The Food Corridor: “The Food Corridor has been invaluable. It really is a great service for a very niche industry. The community on Facebook and we use the software itself, and the other resources. It’s been a great help.”
Peace of Mind and Better Compliance for You and Your Tenants
Having created a product of such value to shared kitchen operators, Tim and Sara are excited about the possibilities for even more applications in the space.
As Tim explains: “We see tremendous value being pushed back into The Food Corridor install base. We’ve already talked to Ashley about some roadmap items that would allow our technology to inter-operate with their technology. We can’t announce anything right now, but the potential for this partnership to blossom into even stronger offerings exists.”
He explains how Mitch of Local Sprout Food Hub came to the couple with a request to not only get alerts for the whole complex but also to give tenants alerts specific to the units they care about.
“So we developed a feature to subdivide the global view of the complex and give user views to what’s going on with your refrigeration,” Tim says.
This innovation gave Mitch an extra selling point for his potential tenants – temperature monitoring for their specific refrigeration units for maximum peace of mind.
This is just the beginning as Tim sees the potential for automated temperature monitoring as an essential component of shared kitchen management.
“Every kitchen has this requirement and Sensorcheck would love to provide that on a wide scale,” He says, “Which is another reason why we’re so excited about our partnership with The Food Corridor. Because it really is a gathering place for shared kitchens.”
At some point, your refrigeration units will have an issue. Sensorcheck offers the insurance that when something goes wrong, you know about it as soon as possible. On top of that, it also revolutionizes your compliance, making it a whole lot easier to keep the health inspector happy.
Remove that nagging worry that your coolers and freezers might not be running correctly and add a layer of reliability and food security to your shared kitchen, take a look at our partnership page to learn more about getting started with Sensorcheck.