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For a Good Installation, Set Expectations

Purchasing and installing a new piece of kitchen equipment and is an expensive and time-consuming process. To help this process go as smoothly as possible, operators and service agencies should work together to set out exactly what an install covers.

According to Bob Colin, Florida Branch Manager for Heritage Foodservice Equipment, a good way to approach these agreements is for the installer to ask the operator what he forsees as an ideal end state once the an install is complete. This will help the service agency set the exact parameters of the work, including how much time the service agent will spend demoing the equipment and any special requests regarding the condition of the kitchen upon project completion.

When it comes time to draw up the agreement, it should cover the obvious, like utility connections and start up, of course. But there are some other, less common issues that are worth discussing and possibly placing in the install agreement.

One is the potential for minor structural damage that could exist but are hidden by the existing old unit scheduled for replacement, or even caused by the replacement unit itself, Colin says. “You can have an oven that’s been sitting on the same spot on the floor for 15 years and they’ve never really cleaned underneath it. Maybe water puddles beneath it when they mop. So the installer puts his jack underneath it and lifts up eight floor tiles along with the oven. Or you he pulls it away from the wall and the drywall is rotted and moldy. You can never see everything, but there are things that you have to know are possibilities.”

If operators or installers suspect such a problem may pop up, they should discuss how to handle these challenges. Some installers may help with minor structural repairs, while others will opt to pass those to a firm that specializes in such work, Colin says.

Another issue arises with equipment like warewashers, which often use detergent and detergent reservoirs provided by a third party. In such a case, the operator should talk to the service agent about integrating these into the newly installed warewasher. Sometimes the agent will help with the transition; other times it will be up to the operator to coordinate with their chemical provider. Either way, the operator should know what to expect ahead of time and plan accordingly.

Once these details are set and a deal agreed to, operators should avoid changing an installation’s scope of work, especially when the technician arrives for an install.

This is actually a growing problem, Colin says. Technicians will arrive for a daytime installation, only to have the operator decide he wants the technician to perform the work in the evening. Such a change is obviously a burden for the service agency, which could find itself paying technicians who don’t have any work to do. The operator could feel the pinch as well, including extra truck roll charges or additional fees added for off-hours work.

Not only are schedule changes an issue, so are changes to the work that the operator wants done. There have been times, Colin says, when a technician arrives to install a fryer, only to hear the operator ask them to install a new oven, as well. This can lead to misunderstandings and frustrations for both parties.

“[Additional work] could need materials we don’t have. It will add time to the job that we’ve already quoted a set amount of hours for. Now we’re trying to explain to the customer that it’s going to be more money even though they have a quote. It just muddies the waters,” says Colin.

Muddy waters, of course, leave everyone feeling grimy. Instead, operator and installer should start by taking a deep dive into the project, then resolve to keep the waters clear with a thorough set of expectations.