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Maintain Equipment to Avoid Supply Chain Woes

At this point, it should come as no surprise that supply chain issues impact kitchen equipment repairs. The waits for some parts, though, are truly shocking.

“[The wait is] 600 days for some components,” says Scott Hester, president of Dallas-based companies Refrigerated Specialist Inc. and Cooking Equipment Specialist. “I’m seeing people replace equipment because they can’t get a circuit board that’s proprietary to one of the major brands of dish machine. I’m seeing compressor delays that are taking weeks and months. I’m sitting on a salad spinner service order for a national chicken chain…that’s going on six months waiting for this motor to come in.”

With such long delays and expensive solutions, now is the time for operators to take steps to minimize the chances of a breakdown.

Many of these steps are straightforward, says Hester. Operators can start by simply looking through the owner’s manual and following the manufacturers’ recommendations for cleaning and maintenance. “In the case of a margarita machine, that might be cleaning and sanitizing, along with lubricating the seals and o-rings,” he says. “With a steamer or dish machine, it could be weekly descaling. These can keep the cooking or cleaning efficiencies up to par.”

Some cleaning and maintenance work can be handled in-house, but other jobs just can’t be done by operators. For these tasks, they should rely on planned maintenance provided by a reputable service agency. Having a field technician come in to deep clean a unit and handle replacements of consumables like gaskets (when available) can prevent breakdowns.

In addition to cleaning and planned maintenance, operators should also give kitchen staff refresher courses on equipment use and abuse, Hester says.

Sometimes the abuse of equipment is obvious, such as when a line cook uses an oven door as a step. “[Staff] should never do that but the consequences are more painful today because you are going to spend $300 or $500 or $1,000 on something like a hinge kit or a door, but then you are going to have to wait for an extra-long time instead of just a couple of days to get it done. Those are the layers of pain that come,” says Hester.

In other cases, the problems are more subtle. Staffers may wear out a gasket by scrubbing too hard during cleaning, for example, or damage a fryer by not positioning the filter paper properly. To learn how to avoid such issues, operators can turn to the companies in the equipment supply chain for guidance. Manufacturers and manufacturers’ representatives may have additional training materials that operators can use to help their staff.

To get the most out of the supply chain, notes Hester, it’s best for operators to have established good partnerships with them. After all, a business that’s only had one or two transactions with an operator over several years can’t be expected to provide value-added services.

When there are established partnerships, Hester says, everyone from factories to reps to dealers to service agents may be able to provide in-person guidance. These can come in formal settings like classes or informal settings like a planned maintenance visit. “It’s a good idea to let the technician preach a little bit when he’s there,” says Hester. “Generally speaking, they'll be offering some sage advice.”

There’s never a good time for an equipment breakdown. But there are especially bad times, and now is one. By doing all they can to take care of their equipment, though, operators can limit the chances that a routine repair turns into a major problem.