No matter how well made or how well maintained, every piece of foodservice equipment will stop working at some point. This can throw a kitchen into disarray. Operators can take several steps, though, to schedule a service call quickly and help the process go as smoothly as possible.

  • Know your warranty status: When a piece of equipment breaks down, an operator’s first question to ask is whether it’s under warranty. Jeff Eichman of Sacramento, Calif.-based Commercial Appliance Service recommends operators keep an equipment reference list that includes make, model and serial numbers for each piece of equipment; date of purchase; and warranty length (if possible). When a piece fails, managers can call the manufacturer to check warranty, request service, or find the closest authorized service provider. Even if the broken unit is not under warranty, the factory-authorized service agent may be the best choice to carry out a repair, notes Eichman. “These companies should be familiar with the equipment, stock common components, and have the relationship for technical support and quick parts procurement.” To expedite service, he adds, end users can always call the factory-authorized servicer provider directly, as most servicers can get pre-authorizations on warrantied equipment.
  • Be specific about the problem: This starts with providing the make, model and serial number of the broken unit, then offering specifics about the problem.If a switch is stuck, or a hinge is broken, knowing this info will allow the agency to possibly send the right parts for repair on the first trip. If the service agent doesn’t know exactly what piece of equipment is down, or what the problem is, the fix could require additional trips. That could mean more costly labor hours, truck fees and a longer down time.
  • Understand scheduling: Technicians don’t know the cause of a problem until they can actually examine the equipment. A compressor problem could just be wiring or the start components, which are quick fixes, or a full-on compressor failure, which could take hours to replace. This unpredictability combined with technician availability, job site location and possible traffic jams make scheduling difficult. Operators that can provide a longer service window — at least two hours — will make scheduling calls easier, says Eichman. “Windows need to be long enough to troubleshoot and to give leeway if the technician is running behind or early. A service window will be typically easier to make if it’s the first call of the day than one in the afternoon due to all the variables.” In addition, operators should inform servicers of specific times to avoid for given equipment.
  • Have decision-makers on hand/available: When a technician diagnoses a problem, someone has to approve the solution. A person with authority, typically an owner or manager, needs to decide if they want to proceed with repairing a unit or ordering expensive parts. That person needs to be at the restaurant, or at least easily reachable by phone, says Eichman. Instead of just giving one phone number, operators should provide multiple contacts when placing the service call. This will help technicians get quick decisions while they are on the clock. Even better, operators should build a relationship with the service provider and spend 10 minutes setting up their account with contacts and preferences. This can streamline communications and make the entire repair process go more smoothly.
  • Prepare for payment: If an operator and service agency don’t have a prior billing arrangement (such as 30-day net), payment may be due at the time of service, says Eichman. “With the volatility of restaurants and warranties, service companies often will require customers without net 30 terms to secure the service call with a credit card. Consider applying for an open account or request to put the credit card on file with additional authorized users if the card holder is unavailable.

Service agencies and their technicians want to get your equipment up and running almost as much as you do. A quick fix makes them look good and sets up a possible long-term business relationship. By helping the agency understand the problem and being ready to seal the business deal, operators can minimize the pain and cost of a broken unit.