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Restaurant Power Outage Short Term Solutions - Discussion-Advice-Experiences

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I'd like to open a discussion to explore & share actions and solutions to the problem us restaurants face in an unexpected power outage, to minimize impact, damage and loss of income and be more prepared.



We had a power outage recently due to a bad wind storm damaging our city's electric lines. It lasted almost a full day.

As the temperature in our stand up refrigerators was surely rising, our walk in frig. held better and our freezers as well. Of course we kept the doors shut or opening to a minimum.

Yet the clock was ticking and not knowing when the power would be restored. Of course the restaurant couldn't even open.

We rushed and moved some food(was an ordeal moving it) to from one Building to another and had an electrician temporarily wire into our circuit breaker in the other building with a 220v gas generator. The generator we had, wouldn't start(we did get it started later), so we also had to rush to Home Depot to purchase another. The old generator was only a 110v so it might not have met our needs for the walk in.

The electrician temporarily disconnected the circuit box main breaker(turned off) from the power grid so no power would enter the utilities system and shock the city workers repairing the lines, wherever the faults were in our city.

This allowed the building's power and units to come back on and bring the temperature back to normal unit the power came back on a few hours later. Of course we had to shut off non essential items in the building because the generator was a smaller portable unit.


So Well,

In hind sight and to prepare for another future event, we need to make a plan of actions.

Also depending on the length of outage etc.


Can I get input and knowledge and experiences sharing on this subject?


I mean, can we do better/more/missing options?

Like we do have 2 ice makers which always have full bins. We could have moved that ice into refrigerators to help maintain temperature.

We also had some frozen "rapid cooling water paddles" in a freezer we could have moved to different units to help maintain their temperature.

Also dry ice is available in some of our local grocery stores(if not sold out).

Yet these frozen items might make the refrigerator too cold and damage sensitive food...

Especially the super cold dry ice I suppose perhaps....although it is commonly used in coolers for recreation. But must be wrapped in newspaper/cardboard I've read, to avoid damage to the cooler bottom surface material.

Perhaps we didn't even need a generator for one day of being without power. Although it seems these alternatives I speak of might not last long. Perhaps they should be implemented for a short expected outage.

If we had outages more often, I suppose we would want to fill refrigerators and freezers with like Gell bags(gourmet to home food boxes often contain) to absorb the temperature and act as a cold sink to prolong the inside temperature during an outage.

I believe the refrigerators need a max of 40 degrees F to maintain food and the freezers shouldn't thaw, yet that can take longer. I'm guessing the health department is just focused on not letting the temperature rise too much and for too long.

It seems a waste to have a large gas generator sitting stored, which might not be needed often at all. Yet these new pricey lithium battery generators probably can't power so many cooling units or for long.

It seems nothing very affordable could power the restaurant to keep it going/fully open. I mean it would have to power virtually everything. The high electricity users such as the 220v espresso machine, ALL the refrigerators, freezers, ice makers, dishwashers, stereo system, Sandwich grills.

Thinking out of the box, allowed us to help a friend who lost power some years ago. To power his residential refrigerator with no available generator. We used a 12v power inverter attached to his car battery with the engine running and an extension cord. We were able to turn it on whenever his frig temp started to rise. He was without power for a week, with no food loss. But the inverter couldn't power much more than that.

I know I've read that solar yard lights can be brought in to provide light inside a home at nite, and then brought back outside in the daytime to recharge, which is clever.

Just looking for the prudent sweet spot solutions in all this and a deeper look into what I shared and what I've missed.

Thank you


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Outside of fuel generators, I guess looking into a battery storage/solar solution is another route.   You don't have to have solar for a Powerwall(Tesla) and can charge at grid off-peak hours to hold energy.   I think there are other solutions outside of Tesla tech that are out there.    Link to an article detailing restaurants with battery backup.

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Posted (edited)

If you were in my area this would be a several times a year occurrence.


The easy answer is to have a stand-by propane generator. Guessing that would be about 5K + fuel.


Pull-start gas generators need occasional attention so they will start when you need them....but are much cheaper.


What's the dollar value of   the lost food and lost business?


We had a gas-powered generac inverter that IIRC cost ~$500 that can power three fridges and a freezer as well as some lights.  You'd have to run cords to each appliance.

Edited by gfweb (log)
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you're not missing much.

obviously a 110v only generator . . . not gonna' cut it.


the market does offer 'whole house' generators - single/multiple fuel sources . . . but if you're renting a location, installing one may not make sense because 'taking it with you' is not as simple as it sounds.


get your electrician friend to measure the amperage draw of all the refrigerator units running in 'steady state' - this will give you an indication of how much power you need to generate.  big caution:  units 'at start'  will suck more amps than steady state running - which means should one-two-three-more all start simultaneously, that will trip out the generator . . . so basically somebody has to 24x7 baby sit the situation.


where is the generator going to be "stored?"  the main reason 'small gas engines' decline to start on demand is . . . they are not regularly started and run.  the gasoline lacquers in the carb and dang over dang they will just not start.  the best situation is where the genset can be started and run on a regular basis - a tickler file:  run the genset every 60 days for 30 minutes.....  keep some ether starting fluid on hand.

depending on size/amps needed, starter's age, , ,  electric start can be very advantageous....  push come to shove, jumper cables from the car will solve the ah-sh*t, battery dead issue.


other things to consider:  when your electricity is out, so is the electricity to local gas stations . . . keep you vehicle fully fueled when bad stuff is predicted and also have a siphon hose at-the-ready.


at my house, I have a 220v/60 amp circuit installed to the garage - for a welder.  disconnect from the grid (big switch at the top...) back feed through the garage, genset outside, , , works like a charm...



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Great info AlaMoi thanks. 

Yes well the generator we had didn't start because of the lacquer problem I believe. Took lots of starter fluid and such. 

We realized later when we went to run it dry of gas to avoid the lacquer problem in storage, the fuel cut off valve would drip(and keep the engine running). We had to replace the little valve so this won't happen again. We did find it cheap online.


Wow gas pumps not being able to pump the gas in the ground. Sounds like quite a mess.

Yes a Siphon hose would be very handy then thanks. I may buy one.


Guess that's why a generator that runs on both gas and propane is handier.

Natural gas generally continues at buildings is my understanding they have generators to keep the gas going(or the gas is under natural pressure) if the lines aren't broken due to like an earth quake. The gas line could run the generator for as long as you needed in extreme outages. 

But doesn't seem generators which can run on the natural gas line of your building are sold in stores.. Interesting..


Thanks for mentioning why the generator has to be monitored if running close to max with appliances/motors. I'm going to add that as a sticker explaining why. 


The generator will be stored in a shed. I might also buy a very affordable cover on aliexpress.


I'm like the handyman and just gathering info for action and directions on things. 


If the owner had purchased one size larger generator model, it would have had the electric start motor. 


I like your back feed plug method as long as you turn off the main switch, cool. 





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many of the 'other' options will depend on the 'running amperage' need to power the refrigeration units.

stuff like the Tesla Powerwall is extremely attractive - install and forget . . . but if it can't provide X days of electrical power . . .

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Thanks for Sharing. 

The "dust" hasn't settled on these new emerging options and I like the portability of a portable generator, without spending too much money for something generally rarely needed.
My boss got a portable 220v generator but it's gas only, not multi fuel(for propane as well), he probably should have got instead. But we are in CO and don't get hurricanes that can take out power in very large areas, making gasoline hard to find in a prolonged event. 
I do like that it's portable because our city can have isolated outages where you might need to take the generator to help a friend who is only effected. 

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On 5/18/2024 at 12:04 PM, AlaMoi said:


....other things to consider:  when your electricity is out, so is the electricity to local gas stations . . . keep you vehicle fully fueled when bad stuff is predicted and also have a siphon hose at-the-ready.


Regardless of the threat, ALWAYS keep your car fully fueled.     Trying to get home in SF from Berkeley after the Loma Prieta earthquake, husband was lucky to find one, ONE, gas station that had generator power and was pumping gas.    With our increasing 'weather events', we should NEVER take normal for granted.  You never know when you'll need to "get out of Dodge".

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eGullet member #80.

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Posted (edited)

Thanks for the discussions ALL!


I've made a reference sheet containing the strategies and information I found in a lot of my research online and condensed it all into useful sheet to review during an outage for a restaurant or home. We'll reference it when we need to. I'm going to find some places to post it, like with the generators etc. 

I don't think you'll find such a thorough, comprehensive and succinct list on the subject elsewhere. 

So during such crisis we will have a clear mind and not be too indecisive and making poor decisions and panicking. 

Thought I'd share below for anyone interested in using or building from for their fit:

Take care.





Outages Often Do Not Last Long. If So, Food in Refrigerates Is Quit Safe & Unaffected For A Few Hrs., In Freezers Even Longer.

DO Check CSU.ORG For Expected Restoration Times! If Outage Might Be Much Longer, Read Below & Take Appropriate Short/Long Term Actions ASAP. This Info Is Also Applicable For: Broken Units, Or When Planning For A Potential Imminent Storm/Power Outage. Without Power, Your Unit Is Still A Powerful Insulating Box.

-Do Not Place Food Outside In The Snow. The Sun Warms Food. Avoid Unnecessarily Opening Units.



Foods Will Maintain A Spoil Safe Temp. (≤40℉/4.4℃) For 3-6 Hrs. However After The First Couple Hrs., Foods Can Begin To Age Faster, About 1 Day For Every Hour.  Above The Safe Temp., Food Will Begin To Spoil By Accelerated Natural Growth Of Bacteria & More. Many Foods, Left Over 2 Hrs. Above The Safe Temp., May No Longer Be Considered Safe To Eat. Particularly Uncooked: Fish/Seafood/Poultry/Red Meat, Dairy/Milk & Aged Leftovers. Also Some Chopped/Cut Fruits/Vegetables.

If It Either Doesn’t Look Good Or Smell Good, It’s Definitely No Longer Good. Anyone Eating It May Become Quite Ill.

Rinsing or Cooking Slightly Spoiled Food, May Make It Safe For A Dog’s Robust Food-Scavenger Digestion, But Not A Human’s.


SHORT TERM Actions Which EXTENDS The Time: Placing Into The Refrigerators, ASAP:

Ice (From An Ice Maker)/Snow/Gel-Water Packs/Frozen Water Bottles/Cooling Paddles Sometimes Stored In Freezers.

Dry-Ice* Can Be A Strong Option, Be Aware It Can Freeze Food Near It.

Also: Consolidate Food From Another, To Fill A Unit (Leave Room For Ice). Move Freezable Food(s) Into A Freezer.



Frozen Food Will Thaw In 12, Up To 24 Hrs-If Unit Is Packed Full. Even Then, Food Won’t Reach An Unsafe Temp. (≥40℉/4.4℃) For Another 12-24 Hrs. Time Can Be EXTENDED By: Consolidating Food To Pack Into One Full Unit. Adding Dry-Ice* On The Top Shelves, Atop The Food. Once Power Is Restored, Food That Did Not Reach An Unsafe Temp. Can Be Safely Refrozen. Taste Might Be Effected Some.


LONG TERM Outage Actions (Also For SHORT TERM - IF A Generator Is Available):

Power Refrigerator/Freezer Units With A Portable Generator(s), Until Power Is Restored. This Can Also Power Lighting & Small Items. Add Units & Motors One At A Time, To Avoid Multiple Start Ups, Over Loading The Generator. If The Generator Isn’t Capable Of Running All The Units At Once: Simply Rotate Powering In Split Groups, Approx. Every 30-60 Min. Once All The Cooling Units Reach Their Temp. Setting, Their Motors Will Cycle Off & On. You Then Might Find You Can Now Power All The Units With The Generator. If Food Is Cold Enough, To Conserve Fuel, You May Turn The Generator Off Occasionally.

Be Aware, That During A Wide Spread Power Outage, Generator Fuel May Be Scarce, Gas Pumps May Be Out Of Order, etc.

Only A Large Trailered 250vac Generator Is Capable Of Powering All Of A Restaurant’s Open For Business Equipment. i.e. Electric Grills, Espresso, AC, Vent Hood, Make Up Blower, Etc.

-A Portable 12vdc to 120vac Power Inverter, Connected To A Running Car, With An Extension Cord, Might Power 1 Refrigerator. When Done, Be Sure To Shut Off Its Fuel Supply Valve & Run The Generator(s) Till They Stall.

So Their Carburetors Will Not Be Gummed Up With Dried/Gelled Fuel Next Time They Are Needed Again!


*DRY-ICE(Penguin Brand?): Is Sold At Some: Local Grocery Stores & Some Other Places. In A Chest Freezer, Up Front By Customer Service. Wisely Call First To Check On Current Availability. I.e. Walmart @ $2 Lb., King Soopers @ $2 Lb., Safeway @ $4 Lb. Also: Butcher Shops/Ice Cream Shops/Supply Companies. The Expense Can Add Up.

-Dry-Ice Is Super Cold Frozen Solid CO2 Gas @ -109℉/-78℃! Normal Ice Is Only A Bit Below 32℉/0℃. Avoid Frost Bite, Handle Only With Thick Protection i.e. Gloves/Cloth. Keep Away From Children. Direct Contact Can Damage Temp. Vulnerable Surfaces(i.e. Glass, Plastic, etc.). Place Some Insulation i.e. Cardboard Sheet etc. Directly Underneath It.


Suggested Quantities: Refrigerator: 10 Lb.(Replace Every 1-2 Days). Freezer: 15-50 lb.(Dependent On Unit Size. Replace Every 1-4 Days).  12’x12’ Walk Ins*(Replace Every 1-2 Days.).: Freezer: 150-150 lb. Refrigerator: 50-100 lb.

*Use In A Walk In Can Cause A Suffocation Hazard. The Room Can Fill From The Floor Up, With The Odorless & Invisible, Melted Carbon Dioxide Gas. So When Entering, Just Leave The Door Open & Do Have A Rescue Buddy Outside.

-Use In Refrigerators Can Freeze Food. Start With Conservative Quantities & Monitor Temp.

-Store Excess Dry-Ice In A Freezer Unit. Otherwise In A Camping Cooler.

-But Never In Any Container Which Is Latched/Sealed Air Tight(Drain Plug Closed).

-This Could Pressurize As The CO2 Turns To Gas. Causing A Real Hazard Upon Rupturing/Opening.

-To Dispose Of Dry-Ice, Place It In A Freezer Unit. It Will Help The Motor Keep The Food Frozen & Save Some Electricity.

While It Slowly Sublimates Away & Disappears Over A Few Days/Weeks. Otherwise, Leave It At Room Temperature In A Well Ventilated Area. With Cardboard Under It. For A Small Fog Effects Show, Place Some Into A Large Pyrex Glass Bowl Or Metal Pot, Half Filled With Hot Water. Once The Water Cools(10 Min.), Most Of The Show Is Over.

-Never Place Down a Plumbing Fixture Or Pipe. It Can Easily Damage Them, With Its Extreme Temp.


Fun Related - Did You Knows:

Interesting Dry-Ice Uses: Removal Of: Car Hail Dents, Floor Tile. Mosquitos/Ticks Attractant(Away From People) & More.

Refrigerators Were Originally Just Insulated “Ice Boxes”. Cooled Simply By Placing A Large Block Of Ice Inside. Common In American Homes, Between 1835-1935. Until Our Modern Electricity Powered Refrigerators Were Perfected & Popularized.

Edited by jimtmcdaniels (log)
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Posted (edited)

1. Develop a plan for summer outage and a plan for winter outage.

2. Develop a menu for power outage cooking.

3. If the restaurant has a parking lot, solar panels are nice. They keep the customer's cars cool in summer and your need to remove snow less in the winter.

4. If you have a truck, the truck generator with an invertor can give you some additional emergency power with a long extension cord.

5. You need to check your generator's specifications and see if it can work well with gasohol and the possible problem with "phase separation" with gasohol for all generators. 

6. Review safety for dry ice use in enclosed areas.



Edited by dcarch (log)
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2 hours ago, dcarch said:

1. Develop a plan for summer outage and a plan for winter outage.

2. Develop a menu for power outage cooking.

3. If the restaurant has a parking lot, solar panels are nice. They keep the customer's cars cool in summer and your need to remove snow less in the winter.

4. If you have a truck, the truck generator with an invertor can give you some additional emergency power with a long extension cord.

5. You need to check your generator's specifications and see if it can work well with gasohol and the possible problem with "phase separation" with gasohol for all generators. 

6. Review safety for dry ice use in enclosed areas.




#6 may be the most important.  A few blocks in a walk-in will put a lot of CO2 in the air over time.  A worker could pass out.


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if there's a widespread prolonged outage, you won't find ice or dry ice anywhere.

and, as pointed out, dry ice is really frozen CO2 - one pound (and that ain't much!) sublimes into 8.xx cubic feet of carbon dioxide.

without any electricity to exhaust, not a recommended solution.


as for the info sheet - perhaps one should save all the explanations and pontifications for after the 'emergency' - and reduce to a checklist type thing.

"If this happens, do this:   .   .   .  . "

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Posted (edited)

Good points.


I did research using dry ice in a walk in and the hazard. 

These particular sites were very informative:

http://www.acmedryice.com/power_outage_dry_ice.html#:~:text=WALK-IN REFRIGERATOR,the air is sucked through.


https://extension.umn.edu/preserving-and-preparing/power-outages-keep-food-safe#:~:text=For a 20-cubic-foot,on top of the food.

The amount of dry ice recommended varies a bit between sources.

Individuals online have had very good luck with one block of dry ice lasting an entire week.

The dry ice is in the "short term" options of the list.


A generator is definitely the best option. Multi fuel which can run on propane or gas is a better option during a prolonged power outage.

Our power outages in town very rarely last for more than 2 days. In rare instances, in some isolated pocket areas, no more than 7 days at the most.  


I wanted the list to be encompassingly comprehensive so that Everyone, the restaurant workers and their families, would have an idea of what options they all might have for saving food in their personal home refrigerators and freezers. The dry ice could be a sweet spot for some of them to consider. Also for if their unit breaks while waiting to buy a replacement or get repair on it. It seems dry ice availability has been on the decline.

However some cities might have an abundance of dry ice suppliers/makers.

If there is a dry ice warehouse or if they start trucking it into the city during a big power outage, dry ice might be what many are using during a crisis. It might be easier for authorities to truck or rail road in dry ice, then to give every a band new complicated generator which needs hard to get fuel that no one has. 

The word generator seems to encompasses solar and battery generators. 

The restaurant has 2 ice machines with bins. I wanted staff to know that using that ice can prolong the time in the units if placed inside in a large container(s). I wanted people to know that ice is what we use to use to keep food cool before the 1935's. It's our history. Ice boxes were small because they needed to be to conserve how much ice was needed and didn't keep food quite as cold as our modern refrigerators did. The food in them didn't last as long. 

I also wanted people to know it is possible to feed rinsed or cooked spoiled food to dogs. Dogs have to eat too during a power outage. Also if people realize they can feed some of it to their dogs, they won't feel so bad that the food and their money is going to waste and so want to try to save it and eat it or feed it to humans.....

I also wanted all the info to be printable, to fit on one side of a sheet of paper, in a larger 24 font size. 


Edited by jimtmcdaniels (log)
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