Planned maintenance. Preventative maintenance. To many foodservice operators, the two are one and the same. But to foodservice equipment repair agencies, the phrases have very different meanings that should matter to those who run a kitchen.

According to John Schwindt, vice president and chief operating officer with Denver-based Hawkins Commercial Appliance Service, foodservice professionals often confuse the two terms they’ve been used interchangeably for so long by so many people. To keep them straight, just think of the meaning of the words themselves.

To many operators, preventative maintenance is maintenance that will keep a piece of equipment from failing. For service agencies, that’s simply unrealistic. “Everything fails eventually,” Schwindt said, no matter how well a foodservice operator maintains a piece of equipment. This simple fact means that preventative maintenance doesn’t really exist.

Planned maintenance, on the other hand, is very real and is exactly what it sounds like: maintenance on a schedule. Filters and belts get changed, utilities are calibrated, boilers and compressors are cleaned, visual inspections are performed to find leaks or mechanical components that are out of alignment, etc.

The closest comparison, said Schwindt, is regularly scheduled maintenance on a car. Having a mechanic change the oil, rotate the tires and look for trouble spots won’t stop breakdowns from ever happening. They can, though, stop premature failures, extend the life of a piece of equipment and ensure that the car is running at peak efficiency.

This level of efficiency should be important to operators for many reasons. Take fryers as an example. “If a fryer isn’t working properly, it takes a lot longer to cook French fries, so now you’re serving a grease-soaked fry instead of a nice crisp one,” Schwindt said. Similarly, refrigeration that isn’t working well will consume more electricity and may not maintain safe holding temperatures.

What’s more, just like scheduled maintenance for a car, planned maintenance on a piece of foodservice equipment helps catch small problems before they become big. Should a service agent find a leaky hose on piece of equipment during planned maintenance inspection, the hose can be swapped out then and there with little trouble. If that hose bursts on a Friday night, the disruption can be huge. It’s essentially the difference between a mechanic spotting a frayed belt during a car’s oil change mile inspection vs. having that same belt break on the freeway.

It’s also important to point out that operators must perform planned maintenance in order to keep some pieces of equipment under warranty. Understandably, many manufacturers will require an operator regularly clean a steamer’s boiler for the unit’s warranty to remain in effect, said Schwindt. The same goes for compressors in refrigeration units. If the operator fails to clean and maintain them in accordance with the manufacturer guidelines and they break down, the warranty may not apply.

All of this means that planned maintenance should save most operators money in the long run. Reducing the number of emergency calls, using utilities as efficiently as possible, extending equipment life and avoiding disruptions that can lead to bad customer experiences all add to the plus side of the ledger. So while planned maintenance won’t prevent breakdowns from ever happening, putting it on schedule is definitely worth an operator’s time.