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Do the Right Thing, the Right Way

They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. They could say the same thing about the road to unnecessary, expensive service calls. The reason: When foodservice operators clean and perform light servicing of their kitchen equipment, they can sometimes make mistakes that force a service agent to undo those efforts.

According to Paul Pumpitis, service manager for Duffy’s-AIS, a common problem he encounters is operators using vegetable oil-based cooking sprays to lubricate equipment with moving parts, like slicers and mixers.

The preferred approach is to lubricate these parts with mineral oil, Pumpitis points out. While cooking sprays may seem to work, they actually make the problem worse with repeated applications. “What operators don’t realize is those types of sprays leave a residue that becomes thick and sticky,” Pumpitis says. “They make the problem worse over time. Eventually they can't move the part at all. They don't understand why, and they call us.”

Other problems can come from common internal efforts to keep equipment clean. For example, cleaning crews will sometimes hose down kitchen equipment. This can introduce water to internal components, damaging or even destroying everything from pilot lights to a system’s computerized parts, Pumpitis says.

Operators should train their cleaning teams to not directly hose down equipment; they should also be told to be careful even spraying water near equipment. Back splash, Pumpitis says, can get in parts near the ground, causing problems like rust to form on pilot lights.

Another cleaning issue can arise from foil being placed on range grates. Operators, says Pumpitis, do this to keep the grates spot free after cleaning. “They don't always realize that the gap between the burner and the burner grate is designed for airflow. If you put foil down there and cover that up, it tends to affect the operation of the burner.” While this is an easy problem to solve, if a service agent is the one to solve it, operators will be on the hook for a completely avoidable invoice.

Handling the descaling of a piece of hot side equipment’s boiler can also cause trouble, says Pumpitis. While some manufacturers make it possible for operators to descale it themselves, these operators may not know that the scale doesn’t always dissolve in this process. Sometimes it just falls from the walls of the boiler and gathers at the bottom. If the scale isn’t actually removed by a service agent, the scale build-up can lead to very expensive problems.

“If you get enough scale at the bottom of the boiler, the heat from the heat source doesn't transfer to the water. It transfers directly to the boiler. If you have a gas unit, the heat exchanger will start to leak and then you need a new boiler. At that point you’ve got a customer who has taken care of their equipment religiously and now they need a boiler and don't understand why,” says Pumpitis.

Trying to keep equipment clean and operating efficiently should be a goal of every operator. Before they do anything outside the norm, though, they should look through their owner’s manual or even touch base with their service agent. These few minutes may seem like overkill, but they could end up saving the operator time, trouble and money.