Fire Suppression

The hood fire suppression system may not be the last thing on a new restaurateur’s mind, but it’s likely close to it. However, a few decisions need to be made regarding the restaurant system — as it is often called in the fire protection business — that may determine how much it costs up front and into the future. Taking a look at how chain restaurants do things can help newcomers to the business understand why they may want to consider all of their fire protection options while developing their own recipe for success.

In the eyes of many restaurateurs, possessing a chain of restaurants is the ultimate prize. Even among those who prefer the individual pride of a single successful location, no one can deny that owners of restaurant chains succeed by developing a formula for growing their business and maximizing profits. For any chain, that formula is rooted in the dollars-and-cents plan that is laid out before each location opens. Part of that plan is developing the menu, which may be the same at every location, or may vary based on local taste. 

That menu will determine how the kitchen is arranged to ensure ultimate production efficiency and in turn, the cooking appliance arrangement will directly determine the layout of the fire suppression system. 

Know Your Options

Using what is called “appliance-specific protection,” the system is installed so each nozzle is specific to the appliance it protects. 

This type of protection ensures that in the event of a fire, each appliance receives the minimum amount of fire suppressing chemical required — no more and no less. With an appliance-specific fire system, the type and severity of the hazard that the appliance presents determines the nozzles that must protect it. 

When compared to a flat-top griddle, a deep fat fryer requires more fire-suppressing chemical because it contains more flammable fuel. Therefore, a fryer nozzle will emit more chemical if the system actuates, and a griddle nozzle will emit less. The amount of chemical needed at each nozzle determines the size of the fire system, which naturally affects the total installation cost. For a chain restaurant, this type of knowledge allows the fire protection portion of the start-up budget to be minimized — this exact appliance layout has been key to their success. 

While offering the most economical start-up price, appliance-specific fire systems offer no flexibility for changes in appliance arrangement. For this type of system to work, each piece of cooking equipment must be precisely located in relation to the nozzles that protect it. As a result, if the restaurant operator swaps the location of a range and a griddle, the fire system will need to be modified. If new equipment is added or existing equipment is replaced, the fire system may need to be expanded to accommodate a larger hazard.

Extra Protection

To protect against the additional costs and delays that changes to a kitchen’s appliance line-up can cause, several hood fire suppression system manufacturers now offer “overlapping” or “zone” protection. 

This fire suppression design costs more to install than an appliance-specific system, but allows for maximum flexibility when it comes to appliance arrangement. With overlapping coverage, the entire area beneath the hood can be protected by the fire suppression system, and nearly all appliances are interchangeable as a result. 

An appliance-specific fire system requires nozzles to be aimed within a tiny margin of error, typically two to six inches. An overlapping system uses an array of nozzles and heat detectors located across the length of the hood. This ensures that a cooking fire will be detected and suppressed wherever it may occur in the protected “hazard zone,” which can be the entire area beneath the hood, or any portion thereof. 

Planning, especially planning for what happens after the doors open, is key to the success of any new restaurant. Whether your plans are based on a tried-and-true formula for success, or on hedging your bets against the insecurity of the restaurant industry, knowing your options for fire protection can be one of the greatest assets in giving your new location its best chance at success. By contacting a fire protection provider early, and utilizing their expertise during planning, you can best ensure you will develop the fire suppression system that best takes your budget, location and safety into consideration. 

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