Kurt Walker was working as a licensed electrician, when he was encouraged by a friend to try his hand as a technician for a company servicing foodservice equipment. That was 30 years ago, and Walker, who has spent the last 19 years at Ben E. Keith, Edmond, Okla., admits that there is never a dull moment in his field of work. “It has been exciting watching the industry and company grow,” he says.
Walker services dish machines, beverage equipment, laundry equipment and other chemical dispensing units. He also manages more than 2,300 customers in four states and oversees a team of five service techs. He’s known for keeping his cool with customers in a crisis and going above and beyond with customer service.
Here Walker discusses what he thinks every operator should know when it comes to caring for dish machines and beverage equipment.
FE&S: When it comes to dish machines and beverage equipment, what is most troublesome for operators and why?
KW: Most of our operators tell me when a dish machine is down, it’s devastating. They’d rather a cash register go down than a dish machine. Service gets so backed up, they might as well shut their doors. Although this is one of the most expensive pieces of equipment, it’s typically operated by the most inexperienced staff members. For this reason, and due to high turnover in the dish room, we do in-service training to circumvent problems as well as schedule monthly preventative maintenance on this equipment. The same is true with coffee brewers used in high-volume breakfast operations.
FE&S: Are there maintenance and cleaning tasks specific to this equipment that operators should be aware of?
KW: Monthly preventative maintenance calls can help keep them on top of it. Operators also should keep machines clean inside and out to circumvent problems.
FE&S: What are common mistakes operators make when caring for this equipment?
KW: One of the most common mistakes is when a dish machine’s hot water tank goes out and is replaced with a tankless hot water heater. [In my experience], this never works on commercial dish machines, since the coil in these systems can’t keep up with the hot water demand. Not having proper water temperature in a dish machine is the biggest issue we see. For beverage equipment, the number one issue is keeping the equipment and spray head clean on a daily basis.
FE&S: Why is operator training so important in extending the service life of dish machines and beverage equipment?
KW: Turnover in a kitchen, other than with the chef or line cook, is pretty common. For this reason, constant training is necessary to stay up and efficient.
FE&S: Discuss the importance of planned maintenance with this equipment.
KW: All my techs have planned preventative maintenance lists for customers that they keep up to date. This cuts down on emergency service calls.
FE&S: Are there any other service or maintenance related issues operators should be aware of with this equipment?
KW: Most operators are familiar with what’s needed, but sometimes we need to step in to let them know, for example, a low temp dish machine is not ideal for their 135-seat restaurant. We sell and survey equipment to ensure it’s appropriate for their operation. Service techs serve as consultants in this regard.