When John Varner joined EMR in January 1978, his industrial background was well-suited for the company. As the company transitioned to specializing in foodservice equipment, Varner found himself installing the first conveyor oven in a large pizza chain back in 1983. “Although the foodservice equipment segment was foreign to me initially, as time went on, it became a great fit, and I’ve been here ever since,” he says.

John Varner Service Pro You Should KnowFE&S: What equipment is most troublesome for pizza operators and why?

JV: The ovens can be a problem but usually because of operator error or unfamiliarity. With pizza chains, ovens are the center of everything.

FE&S: Are there maintenance and cleaning tasks specific to the pizza segment operators should be aware of?

JV: One of the biggest problems is, even though most places don’t make their own dough, they still use flour when making pizzas. With that type of dust floating around, conveyor oven intakes can get clogged. This impacts controls and motors, causes overheating and shortens the equipment’s life span. One of the biggest problems is keeping controls clean. Originally, these ovens had screens in the back, which weren’t easily accessible for dusting off. Now, cooling fans are in the front and some have filters that can be changed and cleaned. This helps get operators into the routine of keeping things clean. Oven interiors also can accumulate crumbs and food debris over time, so units need to be periodically disassembled and cleaned out to keep airflow moving.

FE&S: What are common mistakes pizza operators make when caring for equipment?

JV: The biggest thing is not keeping up with cleaning. Operators turn ovens on and off without realizing the impact lack of airflow through the controls will have.

FE&S: Why is operator training so important in extending the service life of equipment?

JV: Being able to keep ovens functioning and airflow going is key as these units are very sensitive to heat. Some units have temperature probes to notify operators when filters need cleaning. This happens when temperatures are too hot. Disassembly has become simpler, and with filters on the front, it’s more obvious when it’s time for cleaning.

FE&S: Discuss the importance of planned maintenance.

JV: With planned maintenance, the things they can do on the outside, like cleaning the filters and even cleaning inside the oven, are not as difficult. It’s when units are disassembled that the wear and tear is more obvious. Bushings and bearings on conveyor drives should be checked regularly. Service technicians will be able to get into the guts of the oven. This ensures drive belts and blowers are operating properly.