Kent Estep, Field Supervisor, CES, Mesquite, Texas
Cooking Equipment Specialist, a Dallas-based service agency. “During that time, we’ve gone from sticks to electronics,” Estep jokes.Kent Estep began servicing foodservice equipment more than 40 years ago by working with a dairy company that also owned a variety of restaurant chains. Then he and a friend hung out their own shingle and operated a service company for 17 years. Nine years ago Estep joined
In his current role, Estep handles installations, tech support and training.
Q: It all starts with installation. What goes into a good equipment install?
A: The first thing you need is a pre-site survey of the location. What kind of access do you have to the site? Can the utilities support the equipment? Most sites feel they have plenty of gas, but do they have enough volume to run the equipment? You nearly always have enough gas pressure, but do you have a big enough gas line to run the item? It all depends on the site. After you get your pre-site survey done, you have to make sure you can get the equipment into the room. What are the entryways like? You also need a breakdown from the manufacturer or dealer as to what equipment will go into the space to make sure you can get it through those entryways. Once, we had to bring a range into a kitchen through a window. Once the equipment is in place you hook it up, make sure it works, check your pressure and so forth.
Q: Equipment has gotten way more sophisticated since you started. How does that impact service?
A: You can safely say equipment has gotten way, way, way more sophisticated over the past 40 years. When I was younger you had electric heat and gas heat. And you might have a 25-degree swing between the temperature selected and the actual temperature in the equipment. Now, if the temperature swings by more than 5 degrees you have a big problem. With something like a combi oven, these new units cook for a certain amount of time, steam for a certain amount of time and so forth. So being off the slightest amount can have a big difference on the quality of the food. With combi ovens, for example, if you don’t do your planned maintenance a hose might leak, and you will have water in with the electronics and that can lead to a catastrophic failure. And you just cost yourself anywhere from $6,000 to $10,000 depending on what it destroys.
Q: As this type of equipment becomes more common are customers seeing the value of planned maintenance?
A: They are after the first time there is a problem. And we try to stress the importance of planned maintenance when we install combi ovens. Most of the hoses we replace happen during a planned maintenance call. The hoses erode over time and the more water you move through there at a higher rate, the faster and faster it erodes and that leads your hoses to rupture. These planned maintenance visits are more to protect the operators than us. It shortens the life of your components dramatically if you are not doing some kind of planned maintenance.
Q: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned?
A: The most important thing I have learned is that if a man can build it we can fix it. You have to have patience. Mentally break the unit into sections. Understand what it does and not just what’s broken. That will help you understand where to begin. When I walk into a restaurant, I ask them to describe the issues they are having and then go to where that sequence of operations begins. It can really save you time instead of going from end to end.