Big Easy Restaurant Chooses Rheem Tankless To Deliver Hot Water For 1,000 Customer A Day.

The 10,000 square-foot Drago’s Restaurant in Metairie, La., is arguably the most popular seafood spot among locals. Serving 1,000 customers each day, the 40-year-old landmark also attracts the tourists, making it one of the top five restaurants in New Orleans in terms of gross sales. When the management recently got fed up with an outdated, 150-gallon-tank water heater’s inability to keep up with demand, they switched to Rheem tankless technology to power the massive hot-water needs of the busy restaurant.

“Our restaurant is so big, our peak demand can be all day, every day,” says Drago’s manager Tommy Cvitanovich, past president of the New Orleans Restaurant Association and son of owner Drago Cvitanovich, who opened the restaurant in 1969.

“We’ve got kettles that are going all day long,” he continues. “It’s very important for me to fill them and get them boiling ASAP. It’s much better to start at 160°F than at the faucet temperature. I have one pot that is probably 80 gallons – just filling it would deplete a tank heater. But I also have a 60-gallon kettle and two 40-gallon kettles.

“When we had a tank, we had to have boiler inspections once a year, and we were constantly running out of hot water,” he continues. “We would run out especially at night, when we were cleaning.”

Temperature regulation was also a critical factor. Cvitanovich explains that he needs to reach two specific hot water temperatures around the clock – 140°F for regular cleaning and 180°F for rinsing dishes. “Sometimes if we were cleaning and the tank ran out, we had to wait for hot water,” he says, referring to the previous tank-type unit. “I know some people clean with cold, but I’m a big fan of hot water – it’s ‘old school,’ but it loosens grease and makes it easier to clean.”

After consulting with Rheem’s local sales agent, Barbot, Woolf, Canale of Harahan, La., Cvitanovich called in Bienvenu Brothers Plumbing, Heating and Cooling of Metairie.

Once proper sizing was determined for the job, the company installed three Rheem GT-199XN Tankless Heavy-Duty gas water heaters, each with an Energy Factor of .82 and a maximum flow rate of 7.4 gpm (gallons per minute).

- Two of the units were manifolded together to handle the restaurant’s overall water needs – from the kitchen to cleaning to restrooms.
- One additional 7.4 gpm tankless unit was installed to heat water exclusively for the massive kettles in the kitchen.

“All three tankless water heaters were installed outdoors, up on a roof, to save space in the building,” explains plumbing contractor Louis Bienvenu, one of four Bienvenu brothers and president, estimator and project manager for the company. “Installing outside eliminated the need for venting, which saves installation time and cost for the customer. Equally important, it eliminates the worry about an insufficient supply of makeup air for the heaters’ combustion processes, which would play havoc with a commercial kitchen’s appliance operations.”

Extensive tankless experience: The Bienvenu brothers have a lot of experience installing tankless water heaters in residential applications, but Drago’s was among a much smaller number of commercial installations the company had completed to date. The ease of commercial installation and tankless technology’s ability to handle the extreme hot-water needs of a large and busy restaurant has convinced Louis Bienvenu that he’ll be doing a lot more heavy-duty tankless installations in the future.

In fact, it was a Rheem tankless installation in Tommy Cvitanovich’s home that led him to replace the tank-type water heater in the restaurant. After Hurricane Katrina, Cvitanovich lost the roof of his house, which was “totally broken down to two-by-fours and brick walls,” he says. When Cvitanovich rebuilt, Bienvenu Brothers installed four gas-fired 5.4 gpm tankless water heaters in the attic of the home. These indoor units are direct-vent models, which means they draw the air for their combustion processes directly from the outside through vent piping, rather than from within the home.

Two of the units supply a cabana and the home’s master bath, which includes a luxury shower. The remaining pair supplies the rest of the five-bathroom, 6,250-square-foot home. “I love tankless,” Cvitanovich says. “I’ve got a wife and four children. When people start bathing around our house, it wasn’t uncommon to run out of hot water the previous tank-type unit. That’s why we went to tankless.”

Fortunately, Drago’s luckily suffered very little damage from the hurricane, and remained open following Katrina. “After the storm, we served almost 80,000 meals free of charge,” Cvitanovich says.

Dependable hot water: While space savings and energy efficiency are important to Cvitanovich for both his home and his restaurant, maintaining temperature and reliability were the driving factors for the tankless installation at Drago’s. “We go through a lot of hot water here, and we’ve never run out since we got tankless,” he says. “They told us that if they are hooked up together [manifolded] and one goes out, you still have hot water from the other two. That was part of the reason we went with Rheem tankless, but it hasn’t happened yet.”

All in all, Cvitanovich describes himself as “very satisfied with tankless. That’s why I recommended it to some friends who also had to rebuild their homes after the storm.”

NOTE: Publication-quality photograph of the image shown in this press release can be downloaded at the following location on the web:

About Rheem Manufacturing Company
Rheem Manufacturing Company ( is a privately held company with headquarters in Atlanta. In its 81st year of operation, the company manufactures a full-line of high-quality residential and commercial heating and cooling systems, tank and tankless water heaters, swimming pool heaters and commercial boilers throughout North America and world markets. The premium brands of Rheem Manufacturing Company include Raypak, Ruud and Rheem. Rheem Manufacturing Company is the official heating, cooling and water heating supplier to Richard Childress Racing and Kevin Harvick Inc. as well as the major associate sponsor of the No. 29 Sprint Cup® car driven by Kevin Harvick, 2007 Daytona 500 Champion, 2007 Craftsman Truck Series Champion and 2006 Busch Series Champion. Rheem is also the primary sponsor of Kevin Harvick Inc.’s No. 33 and No. 77 cars in Nationwide® Series and sponsor of KHI’s 2 and 33 entries in The Craftsman Truck Series. 


Tommy Cvitanovich
Drago’s Restaurant
3232 N. Amoult Road
Metairie, LA  70002
direct: 504-888-9254
cell: 504-888-9254 

Bienvenu Brothers Plumbing
212 Elmeer Avenue
Metairie, LA 70005
cell: 504-782-7783

John Woolf
Barbot, Woolf, Canale, Inc.
1401 Distributors Row, Ste. C
Harahan, LA 70123
504-734-0229 x 13