equipment dilema's,...what should i use?

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Bistro a go-go
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2012/03/16 23:04:48 (permalink)

equipment dilema's,...what should i use?

dilema #1:
in the course of getting all my equipment together for 2 trucks, i found a vulcan 30 gallon gas tilt skillet for 500.00. skillet is 36" wide and 2 ft deep with a lid. it is thermostatically controlled.
i already have a 2 ft flat grill and a 3' flat grill (both thermostatically controlled). Im thinking why not use the skillet in place of a flat grill? it will certainly do more things. bottom is 1" thick stainless and cooks evenly (or atleast my last one did). the sides keep grease in the pan. it can also hold 2" of oil for a big funnel cake cooker. it will cook damn near anything plus we used ours for a bain marie during peak times filled with water. cleanup is easy, maybe easier in the skillet over a flat grill or about the same?
opinions: any one feel the flat grills would be better than skillet? and why?
the one thing is weight difference at 250lb more for skillet,...thats alot but most of the weight would fall directly on the trucks frame rails.
 
okay, dilema # 2:
both of my trucks came with step in freezer/coolers with a coldplate and a 120v compressor. this is fairly rare and expensive option when build new. the cooler is about 4' deep and runs the entire width of the truck directly behind the drivers seat. The heavy duty narrow walkin cooler door is located directly behind the passenger seat area so that the driver can jump through passenger door, open cooler, grab product and back out in a hurry. they serviced a vending machine route with frozen sandwiches, ect. there is no access door from rear. the dilema is weather to use the coolers or remove them? the realestate in a 24' truck is valuable and with the cooler, ill have less than 13' 6" of actual kitchen space.
the pro's are:
cold plates plugged in at night keep these cold all day. volume selling is easier because i can stock cases of product in both trucks. both trucks at bigger shows in same space insures few trips to purveyors. (almost 8 x 8' in 2 trucks and 27' of kitchen line to turn and burn gets me excited).
the down side:
space lost, no access to front cabin area from rear, cant get into cooler from kitchen area without getting out of truck and go around truck. I do have a upright coke cooler pass thru and a 5 ft sandwhich prep cooler in ea truck's kitchen too. Ill post pics tomorrow or as soon as i can, next week maybe?
this is the first of the mechical struggles. let me know your thoughts, especially you guys really in the know when it comes to volume cooking and big boy kitchen toys. pls help me figure this out,...?
#1

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    Dr of BBQ
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    Re:equipment dilema's,...what should i use? 2012/03/16 23:29:20 (permalink)
    Geez it's not about coolers, truck lengths, and access, it's about your menu. Your going about it backwards. That is unless your selling ice cream bars, and funnel cakes.
    jack
    #2
    chefbuba
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    Re:equipment dilema's,...what should i use? 2012/03/16 23:31:08 (permalink)
    Will your hd allow this type of refrigeration? Essentially, it is an ice chest, not mechanical refrigeration, and you have no way to regulate your temps.
    In '99 when I was still working movies, we had to have our older trucks converted over from the cold plate style, and any new trucks had mechanical.
    #3
    Bistro a go-go
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    Re:equipment dilema's,...what should i use? 2012/03/17 10:31:47 (permalink)
    chef, these have thermostats and working mechanicals. just happens to hold temps because of that plate. i think theyre more concerned about what the thermometer says.
    ive spent 20 years running professional kitchens in my own two restaurants and know that menu's can change by wiping the white board off and pick up another dry-erase marker and change it, so to me its what 'can' i cook in volume in short time and do it properly instead of being limited to what i can get out struggleing. just wanna put in equipment thats the best i can afford that makes the most sense. I already have the 2 flat grills and the skillet so wondering what some of you chefs think about the skillet idea? i know it sounds crazy to some of you but if youve ever used one youde know what im talking about. opinions anyone?
    #4
    Bistro a go-go
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    Re:equipment dilema's,...what should i use? 2012/03/17 10:31:47 (permalink)
    chef, these have thermostats and working mechanicals. just happens to hold temps because of that plate. i think theyre more concerned about what the thermometer says.
    ive spent 20 years running professional kitchens in my own two restaurants and know that menu's can change by wiping the white board off and pick up another dry-erase marker and change it, so to me its what 'can' i cook in volume in short time and do it properly instead of being limited to what i can get out struggleing. just wanna put in equipment thats the best i can afford that makes the most sense. I already have the 2 flat grills and the skillet so wondering what some of you chefs think about the skillet idea? i know it sounds crazy to some of you but if youve ever used one youde know what im talking about. opinions anyone?
    #5
    roadkillgrill
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    Re:equipment dilema's,...what should i use? 2012/03/17 12:22:08 (permalink)
    my 2c would be K.I.S.S. ....
    to me you might get boxed into a corner using a multi use piece of equipment. Ive been there. ie., If you did loaded funnels, you couldn't use the skillet for frying and as a Marie to keep all the topping warm. Ended up using dedicated removable equipment myself. Events will determine what you are allowed sell. One hour and I can have transferred equipment in/out for an entirely different menu.
     
    As for the cooler, it might be rare, but I would have to X it.  However the 'Tim Toolman Taylor would come out of me and find a way to modify it to a sidewall cooler, ie can the cold plate fit in a 8' 4 door merchandiser. That would be a much better utilization of space. Really doesnt justify having 64sf of cooler to 108sf of kitchen...to me.  I would love nothing more than to put a fan through the cooler wall and use it for AC....lol
     
    Good Luck!!!
    #6
    DawnT
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    Re:equipment dilema's,...what should i use? 2012/03/17 12:36:01 (permalink)
    First time I seen a tilt skillet was in a hospital kitchen. It appears to be a wonderful solution if you were cooking items that would be transfered to a steam pan, boil it out, and then start something else. OTOH, trying to use it as a conventional griddle seems a bit awkward. From what I recall, trying to do pancakes or patties, or other conventional grilled items would be a real pain having to work within the depth of the skillet. You'd be quite limited in access with a spatula I would guess just by the physical constraints of working within the depth of an enclosed container. You'd have a great plus when it comes to cleaning though. We have a 36" countertop with splash guards of a few inches around the sides. Trying to visualize working the grill within an enclosed and deep surface would seem quite difficult. 
    #7
    Bistro a go-go
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    Re:equipment dilema's,...what should i use? 2012/03/17 12:40:51 (permalink)
    KISS was the first thing i didnt learn obviously. i always try and think outside the box or look at all options. sometimes it works and sometimes tried and true are king. 
     
    ive used skillets for frying MANY times, just not for loaded funnels. whats your reasoning there? just curious. also cooler is 4 x 7 or 28sq ft. the rear service area of the truck is 7 x 18' or 126 sq ft. its a 24 footer total.
     
    the issue of the sides is being considered. im just weighing the plus's and minus's that are being pointed out here and by my friends that are chefs. i bought the skillet because it was a steal and not to use in the truck but the chef that was with me when i bought it was the one that said use it instead of the flat grill thus my post here. i hadnt considered it even remotely till he said something. he's been a corporate chef for a nationwide hotel chain for 38 yrs, same company, but doesnt know the food truck side of food sales.
    post edited by Bistro a go-go - 2012/03/17 12:51:58
    #8
    CCinNJ
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    Re:equipment dilema's,...what should i use? 2012/03/17 13:20:29 (permalink)
    Do you have a plan to tie the menu together with some core identity...theme...style of cooking?
    #9
    CCinNJ
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    Re:equipment dilema's,...what should i use? 2012/03/17 13:33:53 (permalink)
    You can have nothing but Louis Vuitton in the closet. That does not mean black brown and blue makes a good suit.
    #10
    Bistro a go-go
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    Re:equipment dilema's,...what should i use? 2012/03/17 17:50:34 (permalink)
    i promise i wont be serving any blue Vuitton. it doesnt go well in the south with all the fried foods. (laughing)
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    PurpleCheetah
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    Re:equipment dilema's,...what should i use? 2012/03/18 00:44:45 (permalink)
    CCinNJ

    You can have nothing but Louis Vuitton in the closet. That does not mean black brown and blue makes a good suit.

    I couldn't agree more ccin!!! Dr of BBQ made a statement that has stuck in my head that some new builders tend to over think things, I think about that every time I make a decision and now I do truly try to KIS.....I agree on the constraints of the depth of the tilt skillet, I have worked with a tilt skillet, many in used it for big batch cooking in a large facility for 300+ people......I don' want to cook to many items and hot hold them, which is why my menu ( many items) is/are designed with items I can turn out quickly to order, because I don't want to waste money cooking things I may or may not sell in the time I am there. I think the flat top you have will be a better equipment choice and why not use a refrigerator and ditch the walk in cooler, it seems to be more odd than practical.
     
    #12
    PurpleCheetah
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    Re:equipment dilema's,...what should i use? 2012/03/18 00:54:02 (permalink)
    Bistro a go-go


    space lost, no access to front cabin area from rear, cant get into cooler from kitchen area without getting out of truck and go around truck. I do have a upright coke cooler pass thru and a 5 ft sandwhich prep cooler in ea truck's kitchen too. Ill post pics tomorrow or as soon as i can, next week maybe?
    this is the first of the mechical struggles. let me know your thoughts, especially you guys really in the know when it comes to volume cooking and big boy kitchen toys. pls help me figure this out,...?
    How much volume are you planing on putting out that you need such large capacity equipment? how many will work in your trucks? just curios?

    #13
    CCinNJ
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    Re:equipment dilema's,...what should i use? 2012/03/18 09:45:39 (permalink)
    I an glad you have a sense of humor!

    I mean no offense by this. You seem to have the most outstanding skill when it come to being a Picker. Together with the skill and experience you have in the restaurant business this formula might lead you to some decisions that may not be most practical or functional when it comes to incorporating some items...even if they were built and designed to feed an army! You are not feeding an army on a food truck
    It is good that you are very open to a discussion about what not to use. Sometimes when one finds things at a steal...it is natural to want to fix it (not
    me) or make a case to use it. That is very spontaneous. You never know what you are going to find next.
    #14
    Bistro a go-go
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    Re:equipment dilema's,...what should i use? 2012/03/18 09:57:24 (permalink)
    volume is the only way to make any money so i plan on success over failure. ive gone the route of buying equipment, installing it, use it to find out the business needed bigger guns, so now pay to take out the equip, sell it for pennies on the dollar and buy what i shouldve bought first time around. time and money wasted and i dont have either to waste.  I want to set the thing up for serving masses and if i dont sell a bunch its not because i couldnt get the food out. ever been in the weeds and wish you have more space on the grill for more steaks or burgers with tickets falling off the ticket bar cause you have a line to get in. heard too many stories  of friends who had to redo entire system to get the volume. I want to start out with that NOT being my problem.
     
    my sit down brick and morter store did well over a million in sales and there wouldve been no way to do that smoothly with half sized equipment. this is my dilema. I can cook on anything you give me, just some are easier to turn and burn.
    Im really thinking that the step in coolers are a size issue cause it really limits the cooking equipment. the tilt skillet is the same size footprint as a flat grill which was why i considered that one. still on the fence. any chefs out there?
    #15
    CCinNJ
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    Re:equipment dilema's,...what should i use? 2012/03/18 10:15:14 (permalink)
    Sit down stand up roll on the ground...your food comes first. Excellent food creates volume. They only line up because of the food. Customers will not give a rats ass about anything but the food.

    Food truck owners serving excellent food might trump an opinion of a Chef that has no experience on a food truck and no vision to make it fit make it work. Many of the greatest most popular food trucks are owned and operated by folks that never worked in a restaurant. They had the vision for a dish or a menu that is wildly popular in the new culture of streetfood.

    Food truck menus do not flip like a restaurant menu might. There is usually an identity a theme a showcase it or items that easily affords a way to identify a truck. Grilled cheese truck...Big Gay ice cream truck...Korean taco truck.
    post edited by CCinNJ - 2012/03/18 10:22:26
    #16
    marco226
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    Re:equipment dilema's,...what should i use? 2012/03/18 10:29:33 (permalink)
    here is my 2 cents. i was a cook for 24yrs. i consider myself. to be one of the fastest line cook around.
    in 30 yrs total in the food industry i only meet one person faster than myself.
    the chef who trained me always said work with what you got. you can always make it work.
    first i can not give you good advise without knowing your menu. you need to build you kitchen around your menu.
    as far as tilt skillets are concerned they are awsome. they will do what ever a griddle can do and a fryer.
    i once did a clam bake for 500 fire men. when i ran out of steamer space. the tilt skillet saved me.
    not only can you steam with it. you can even sautee with it too. the only draw back is you can only do one thing at a time.
    how fast can you change over from frying to cooking bugers, cleaning them is cumbersome for me anyway.
    how fast can the skillet recover. they do however can take a lot of abuse and keep going. i have worked in very small kitchens in my day.
    never a food truck. i know i am in for a challange. this is a great opertunity for me to build my own kitchen.with all your experiance you should be able to find a solution that works beat for you. good luck to you. hope this helps
    #17
    chefbuba
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    Re:equipment dilema's,...what should i use? 2012/03/18 12:41:59 (permalink)
    What's your menu????? Build the kitchen around that.
    I built mine to do burgers and sandwiches.......when I do saute specials, I can get in the weeds, because that's not what I had it built for.
    You can only put out so much food per hr, until you get r done, have a few events under your belt where you have that line for hrs on end, you won't know how much you can do. 
    Will you do all the cooking, and just have a cashier? or have multiple people in the truck?
    Is this figured into your layout?
     
     
    #18
    CCinNJ
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    Re:equipment dilema's,...what should i use? 2012/03/18 13:12:00 (permalink)
    Cocktails and course service factors apply...in a restaurant. Soup to nuts out the window at the same time every time on a truck.
    #19
    Bistro a go-go
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    Re:equipment dilema's,...what should i use? 2012/03/18 19:46:13 (permalink)
    everything on revolving menu but sliders jerk pulled pork, sandwiches, wraps, pepperoni rolls, tacos, salads, fresh pulled mozzarella, grilled corn, battered fried fruit.
    my entire menu works like a fast food mexi restaurant. I have a cpl of cooks to rotate, ill build and serve and if its jamnin' ill drag in a teenager (son) cashier. most stuff is cooked and dropped and built from there. its 2 to 4 people and the line looks like 18 ft with a 6 ft service window, order and pickup sides. plenty of room for 4 if needed.
     
    made the decision to take the step in cooler out of one truck to start and see how well a bigger line and no step-in works. if it works well, ill pull the other one. i can always use em in a commisary or sell em.
    #20
    Bistro a go-go
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    Re:equipment dilema's,...what should i use? 2012/03/18 19:46:14 (permalink)
    everything on revolving menu but sliders jerk pulled pork, sandwiches, wraps, pepperoni rolls, tacos, salads, fresh pulled mozzarella, grilled corn, battered fried fruit.
    my entire menu works like a fast food mexi restaurant. I have a cpl of cooks to rotate, ill build and serve and if its jamnin' ill drag in a teenager (son) cashier. most stuff is cooked and dropped and built from there. its 2 to 4 people and the line looks like 18 ft with a 6 ft service window, order and pickup sides. plenty of room for 4 if needed.
     
    made the decision to take the step in cooler out of one truck to start and see how well a bigger line and no step-in works. if it works well, ill pull the other one. i can always use em in a commisary or sell em.
    #21
    CCinNJ
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    Re:equipment dilema's,...what should i use? 2012/03/18 22:36:18 (permalink)
    Italian Southern Ja-Mexican fusion!

    Bistro is French?
    #22
    CCinNJ
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    Re:equipment dilema's,...what should i use? 2012/03/19 06:02:20 (permalink)
    In terms of menu and food sales...

    What happened between the peak of sales in the restaurant...to closure?

    Is this the same menu or some best sellers that worked in the restaurant?

    Will you be operating the truck in the same general area where the restaurant was located?
    #23
    Bistro a go-go
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    Re:equipment dilema's,...what should i use? 2012/03/19 10:01:09 (permalink)
    bad criminal partner and lower back issues was reason for closure.
     
    different menu's altogether. restaurant was strick northern italian in 300 seater, funky dive italian in 80 seater.
     
    same town of 500,000 people but will travel 150 mile radius for the right event or cater, what do these answers tell you?
     
    also, i know it helps to know specifics of menu in order to determine equipment but i want to build the best and most versatle truck i can build which offers flexibility of menu. most posters here are concerned with menu (the type of paint being used to paint with) and im building a kitchen on wheels (the canvass).
    i seriously doubt they asked jimi hendrix what songs he was gonna play when he bought those stratocasters, (laughing, and kiddin').
    post edited by Bistro a go-go - 2012/03/19 11:54:21
    #24
    Dr of BBQ
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    Re:equipment dilema's,...what should i use? 2012/03/19 11:03:27 (permalink)
    I'll stick with my original post your trying to do this backwards. I'm not sure if you came here looking for a debate, or were serious about your efforts to build a food truck. I just can't imagine anyone with any past restaurant experience not planing their menu first and foremost before anything else.  
     
    Below are some thoughts as I read through this thread. They are in no particular order but all point to the importance of your menu.
     
    Your menu will define the targeted customers.
     
    Pricing  will define your ability to be competitive in the market.
     
    You can not forecast food cost, production expenses, equipment needs, or your possible success or failure without a menu.
     
    If you want to open a restaurant (rule number 1) any restaurant business plan must begin with a menu.
     
    Your menu creates an image of the restaurant, identifies targeted customers, and defines the restaurant's competition.
     
    Your menu maintains the focus on the importance of food and the influence it has on the success of the restaurant.
     
    Good luck but this is my last post to this thread.
    jack
    #25
    pnwchef
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    Re:equipment dilema's,...what should i use? 2012/03/19 11:13:18 (permalink)
    DrofBBQ and Chefbuba, have been in this business for many years. I have been in Catering for over 30 years. I have never build a restaurant, then a menu. I have also found I could do just about anything with a oven, flat grill,fryer and  a few burners. If your doing a food truck, do a few thing well, there is no need for a large menu, if anything it confuses people. Like I said, both the DR and the Chef do a few things real well and are successful. I would take their opinion to the bank any day of the week...............pnwc
    #26
    marco226
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    Re:equipment dilema's,...what should i use? 2012/03/19 11:29:32 (permalink)
    a agree with the DR. here is a thought as big as your truck is. go ahead and put in a full service kitchen in.
    steamers, tilt skillet, fryers, range, etc the list goes on. if you have a full kitchen. then you can cook anything you want.
    but i still agree with the others your are kinda going backwards.
    the food truck industry is a completly differant animal. as you will see. if you have the room go for it.
    #27
    Bistro a go-go
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    Re:equipment dilema's,...what should i use? 2012/03/19 11:52:06 (permalink)
    doc, listen, i fully agree with everything youve said and appreciate all the input. the menu is # 1 most important.  i was thinking that i might not want to unveil a menu just yet but maybe i shouldve said this. i was looking for opinions about the different types of equipment available to me and i guess i got what i was asking for in different opinions all of which go right back to my menu. didnt mean to offend or hurt any feelings. i certainly can be a sarcastic crotchety old basta%3 sometimes and maybe some dont know how to take some comments i may make but rest assured, im sincere about this venture and apologetic incase ive offended you guys. youre right about this being different animal. from now ill project an image and disclose a menu frame so everone trying to help will have info needed to give an opinion. i hope to meet you all in person someday and on good and friendly terms.
    #28
    Bistro a go-go
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    Re:equipment dilema's,...what should i use? 2012/03/19 12:03:01 (permalink)
    also to add to my previous post, chalk board menu for a sample day at riverfest festival in mid summer would be different from a day that im driving to the kodak plant or blue cross blue shield for lunch in their parking lot. they may have a cpl of core items but all else may be totally different. 
     
    #29
    CCinNJ
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    Re:equipment dilema's,...what should i use? 2012/03/19 22:22:03 (permalink)
    Here is a list of food trucks in Atlanta...

    http://www.atlantastreetfood.com/vendors

    They participated in a Friday gathering last year. Maybe that will be happening again this year. Or maybe they do daily business and you can visit (without being fresh) and get some feeling for the landscape of equipment...menus etc.

    Then go though your list of equipment and your repertoire...andmatch items that would work here here here and here. Eliminate the items that might really fly solo or might hold a certain piece of equipment "hostage" for so long it does not make much sense. See what is left and see what new creative ideas you come up with...with all that skill and experience.
    #30
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