Keeping the foodservice equipment marketplace up to date with the latest menu and concept trends.



Asking the Right Questions can Reduce Purchasing Problems



Purchasing a new piece of kitchen equipment usually involves two to three parties: The operator, the dealer and often the manufacturer’s representative.

A fourth member of equipment and supplies community, service agents, sees the end results of these purchases. While everything works out in most cases, there are times when a service agency encounters issues rooted in the initial the purchase.

According to Jeremy Allen, vice president of operations for Indiana-based service agency Vanco, though rare, the most common issues involve utilities hook-ups. While in most cases dealer sales reps handle these details, sometimes a question isn’t asked, or a bad assumption is made.

In some cases the dealer offers to swap the wrong unit with the right one. This requires scheduling delivery, handling the installation and initial start-up, etc. At a minimum it’s a big hassle. If a swap can’t be arranged, the hassle can turn into a big expense, with the operator paying a service agent to change out certain components to make a piece of equipment compatible with the building’s utilities.

This problem can be avoided by having the dealer and operator double check that the utilities on the specified piece match the facility. Depending on the piece of equipment, this process may include:

  • The unit’s electrical voltage
  • Type of gas the unit requires
  • The size of the gas line
  • Gas pressure
  • Water and drain line availability

Confirming the proper utility hookups is the minimum that should be done when ordering a piece of equipment. A piece’s utility requirements could match the facility perfectly, yet still break down early in its service life. When this happens, the culprit is often the unit’s location within the kitchen, Allen says.

If a piece of equipment with a cooling fan and electrical controls is placed next to a fryer bank, for instance, it could end up drawing grease-laden air into the unit, causing all sorts of problems.

Fixing this sort of problem can be costly. While a manufacturer may honor the piece’s warranty for the first repair, it probably will not be so forgiving if the same breakdown happens again. Operators may then get stuck with hefty repair bills or having to pay to rearrange their kitchen layout or add some sort of divider between the two pieces causing trouble.

To avoid these issues, operators should take a few minutes to talk through how and where this unit will be used, Allen says.“It’s really valuable for the dealer to understand the operation of the kitchen, how the flow is going to work, so they can think about those things when installing a piece.”

In addition to asking questions about how a piece will work in a facility, Allen recommends that operators keep service and maintenance in mind when making a purchase, especially if it’s a key component of their kitchen.

“What’s my after-installation support? Do you have service agents that are authorized to service this? Have I heard of them? Do you not have anybody? Can I use anybody? Those types of things are important for customers to consider in their purchase. You obviously want to work with someone who’s going to stand behind what they’ve sold,” says Allen.

These questions, like questions involving utility hookups and layouts, are relatively straightforward. But by making sure the straightforward questions are asked and answered, operators save themselves time, effort and plenty of money.