Getting new kitchen equipment up and running is no small task. It can involve operators, dealers, service agencies, skilled trades and general contractors. With so many parties, it’s easy for missteps to occur when attempting to start up a new piece of equipment in either a new kitchen or an existing operation.

According to Nathan Morris, Oklahoma City service manager for Hagar Restaurant Service, the biggest startup issues typically involve poor communication around utilities. In some cases, a service agent will arrive at a job scene and the gas line to the kitchen or the electrical pull for specific pieces of equipment hasn’t even been built. In others, the utility infrastructure is in place, but the gas or electricity for the facility hasn’t even been turned on yet. In both, startup is impossible.

These problems typically arise because of poor communication between the trades (such as electricians and plumbers) and the general contractor about starting up the equipment actually requires.

The parties involved then face a double whammy: Not only is a piece of equipment operators were expecting to use unavailable but the service agency that came out in good faith to perform a job needs to be reimbursed for its time.

The fix for these problems is straightforward: Operators, equipment dealers and general contractors should know the exact utility needs of a piece of equipment and be sure they’re met before calling out a service agency. Simply having a gas line built or electricity in the walls isn’t enough.

Another infrastructure-related challenge for new builds involves the hood. Simply put, never operate gas-fired equipment without a hood to expel the dangerous byproducts of cooking and combustion.

“The hood is a deal-breaker,” says Isaac Lock, Dallas service manager with Hagar Restaurant Service. “A lot of times it is kind of overlooked because the plumbers will say we're ready, the electricians will say we are ready. We'll get there and turn on the hood and nothing happens. That's where we put the brakes on. We can't do any further startup because we don't have an operational hood.”

Startup issues occur in existing, operational kitchens, as well. In these facilities a common sticking point is the distinction between install and startup, Morris says. Installations involve putting a piece of equipment in place, leveling it and hooking it up to utilities. Startup takes place after install and involves calibrating the equipment to the manufacturer’s exact specifications so that it operates at its peak.

While it’s common for equipment manufacturers to pay for startups of their units, they often don’t pay for installs. In many cases, Morris says, operators aren’t aware of the distinction between startup and install. In some cases the service agency will be able to handle the installation. In others, often due to licensing of the trades, a plumber or electrician will need to come out. In both instances the operator gets stuck with an unexpected bill.

Even when the install is performed before the service agency arrives for startup, though, the job may not be up to snuff. 

“A plumber has lots of general knowledge of plumbing, but very little specific knowledge of the equipment that is going in. A lot of times they will install something the way they know how instead of how it says to do it in the owner’s manual,” says Morris.

It’s not uncommon, for example, to find the wrong sized water line connected to a combi or a steamer. When service agents encounter this, often all they can do is tell the operator that the unit was improperly installed, and that startup will have to wait.

To prevent this problem, operators who hire a tradesman to install a unit should provide them with the piece’s manual and make sure it’s being installed according to the instructions inside. This simple step can prevent a lot of problems.

Missteps along the way to startup often involve different parties not knowing exactly what’s required of them and of the equipment. Operators, trades, dealers, service agents and general contractors should stay in communication to ensure that startup goes smoothly. Doing so will help ensure that no one is stuck with an unneeded, unexpected bill and that the operator is getting the most out of its equipment.