As the old saying goes, "It is a poor workman who blames his tools." However, whoever popularized that adage obviously didn't work in food service.

Purchasing the right equipment for your restaurant can impact how well your food is received by hungry patrons. Moreover, health inspectors will look for a number of characteristics in your equipment to determine whether your establishment gets a passing grade. How meticulous your employees and managers are at cleaning up after themselves and preparing food safely won't make up for using inappropriate equipment. Don't let little mistakes add up to a costly closure. Consider these factors when purchasing new appliances and furnishings for your eatery.

"What sort of surfaces do your cooks prepare food on?"

All aspects of food code boil down to a single idea: The food service industry can be quite dangerous without proper oversight. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's latest food code guidelines, nearly 48 million Americans suffer from foodborne illnesses every year. Of that, around 3,000 cases are fatal. Unfortunately, these numbers probably skew toward the low end as instances of unsafe cooking are most likely underreported. That's why health inspectors are so stringent about keeping restaurateurs up to snuff. They need to be able to predict and preempt future issues by examining how a kitchen operates on a day-to-day basis.

How well a surface can be cleaned falls under the inspector's purview. While stated inspectors will ask employees to demonstrate or explain how they disinfect work stations and equipment, even the most rigorous cleaning regimen can be subverted by a surface made from the wrong material. The question is: What sort of surfaces do your cooks prepare food on?

According to a recent study by the Hospitality Institute of Technology and Management, stainless steel countertops are least likely to harbor germs if sanitized properly with a water and vinegar solution. Additionally, unlike tile or wooden surfaces, stainless steel is more impervious to dings or scratches, which could store contaminants away in places unreachable by traditional cleaning techniques.

Make sure your refrigerators operate at optimal levels to avoid a low health inspection grade.Make sure your refrigerators operate at optimal levels to avoid a low health inspection grade.

Refrigeration keeps food stored at a temperature where microorganisms couldn't possibly survive. That's why the FDA requires all refrigerated storage units to have a functional thermometer in plain sight. Regulating the temperature in these units is crucial in an environment where heated cooking equipment can counteract refrigeration.

A variable of a few degrees is all it takes. According to the FDA 2013 Food Code, storing food at any temperature above 41 degrees Fahrenheit increases its susceptibility to bacteria and viruses. A readily available thermometer or temperature-measuring device can warn employees of possible damage to the refrigeration unit, preserving inventory and saving customers from illness.

However, if a thermometer breaks in a trusty refrigerator a restaurant has relied on for years, the FDA won't strong-arm the business into buying a whole new unit. Instead, the agency recommends installing a new thermometer in the old refrigerator, though special precautions need to be observed. Any glass component to the thermometer must be stored in a shatterproof case. Additionally, any thermometers not attached to the unit must be embedded in substances resembling the material stored within, not just resting on a shelf. This will give employees the most accurate readings possible. 

Hospitality and restaurant industry piece brought to you by Marlin Equipment Finance, leaders in food service equipment financing. Marlin is a nationwide provider of equipment financing solutions supporting equipment suppliers and manufacturers in the security, food services, healthcare, information technology, office technology and telecommunications sectors.