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


Advice for the Operator: Hotels

Different types of operations face different pressures and different challenges. This series from Service Insights provides advice to specific types of foodservice establishments from long-time veterans of the equipment service and repair sector. The first story in this series focused on maintenance tips and ideas for quick-service and fast-casual restaurants and the second one focuses on hospitals

Many foodservice operations focus their efforts on just one type of service. Hotels are different. They often have three or more operations, including a bar, a restaurant and a banquet service for receptions, conferences and other events. That means the hotels face challenges that span all these areas.

Fortunately, hotels are professionally run, with leaders who understand the value of planned maintenance, says Jeff Martin, director of service operations southeast for Pennsylvania-based Clark Service Group. In the case of hotel bars, that alone solves most problems. These spaces are built around refrigeration, so having someone clean the coils on a regular basis eliminates most emergency breakdowns.

Not everything goes so smoothly in other parts of a hotel foodservice operation, though.

Concept Changeup

According to Martin, hotels stand out by being able to easily change the concept of their in-house restaurant. The hotel owns the equipment and the building, and it has the permits. Why not switch things up when business slows down?

This sort of change can be supported by the sheer volume of equipment hotels have. They’ll often pull an under-used piece from one kitchen and place it in another as part of a concept change, Martin says.

Switching concepts shouldn’t be done on a whim, though. Successfully executing such a change takes extensive preparation, says Martin. “There's a lot of planning and thinking about what needs to be done ahead of time. They need to get everything written down and know exactly what piece goes where. They need to know what equipment they need in order to do what they want … The question is, ‘what pieces are critical to making this work?’”

Planning isn’t limited to what equipment a hotel’s new concept needs. Operators must also ensure they have the space to accommodate this equipment. It’s not unheard of, Martin says, for a hotel kitchen to be in the middle of a concept change only to learn that the inches on the hot line simply don’t add up.

Similarly, Martin has dealt with situations where an operation has ordered a new piece of equipment only to find its voltage or natural gas type doesn’t match the kitchen infrastructure. His advice: Read the spec sheets before ordering and involve members of the foodservice equipment and supplies supply chain, such as dealers, reps, and service agents, for support.

Banquet Issues

The challenges on the banquet side are simpler but are still critical. These issues, Martin says, usually revolve around the extremely high number of meals a banquet operation has to serve in a short amount of time.

To achieve this volume, hotel banquet operations rely heavily on three pieces of equipment: combi ovens, which cook food and rethermalize dishes; walk-in coolers, which safely hold the cooked food; and warewashers, which perform high-speed cleaning of dishes that may be needed immediately after cleaning. If any one of these goes down, operations in a banquet kitchen can become very difficult.

Thanks to planned maintenance, many issues with these pieces are solved before they become real problems. Still, problems do occur, often due to user error.

Walk-ins are the least troublesome on this front, says Martin. Staff simply need to remember to close the door. Beyond that, these units are basically foolproof, and planned maintenance catches most problems early.

For combi ovens and warewashers, user error usually happens when staff are rushing or don’t have experience with the equipment. “Somebody doesn't load something [in the warewasher] properly, and that's where we get jams. Silverware flies and gets stuck in motors,” Martin says. Similarly, “I've seen many glass doors shattered because somebody didn't load the oven right.”

To avoid these problems, Martin encourages regular staff training. During planned maintenance and emergency repair calls, service agents can offer some instruction in this area. Operators can also consider putting only long-term, trusted employees on these key units, Martin notes.

Hotel advantages

Despite these challenges, hotels do have some advantages in the service realm. In addition to their penchant for planned maintenance, scheduling service at these operations can be easy. Hotels, after all, are open 24 hours. When the kitchen is closed, a technician can come in and make needed repairs.

With this sort of flexibility, combined with careful planning, hotels should be able avoid many major problems and keep all their operations running smoothly.