Many foodservice equipment manufacturers continue to offer extended warranties to help sweeten the sales process during this slower growth period.

Taking a 10,000-foot look at extended warranties, it seems as if everyone wins. Factories, working through their distribution channels, get to sell more products. Operators like the concept of extended warranties because they feel it adds value to their transaction. In many instances they believe it allows them to control service and maintenance costs for a specific period of time. Service agents get to develop long-term relationships with their operator customers, which makes their businesses more stable. And the net result is that an operator gets a long and useful service life from that piece of equipment, which translates into a nice return on investment.

If only things worked that way in the real world.

In many respects this scenario overlooks the simple fact that ensuring a long and useful service life for a piece of foodservice equipment remains a shared responsibility. It's not enough for the operators to request an extended warranty. They need to communicate the scope of the warranty down to the store level and educate their teams about the importance of planned maintenance and its role in helping a piece of equipment live up to its promise.

Warranties and planned maintenance are key tools that frontline operators can use to maximize equipment up time and minimize service interruptions. But the person demanding the extended warranty tends not to be the person interacting with the service agent during routine visits or when something goes awry. Operators need to make certain they communicate the importance of planned maintenance. If this information stays only at the corporate level, it's worth nothing more than the paper on which it's written.

When something does breakdown, operators understandably want a quick first-time fix. But as Refrigerated Specialist's Scott Hester pointed out during the fall conference hosted by the Commercial Food Equipment Service Association, service is a shared responsibility. Restaurants can implement certain requirements that impede a service agent's ability to deliver service in a timely and cost-effective manner.

Furthermore, service agents and manufacturers need to enhance the way they communicate specific information about extended warranties. Feedback from service agents indicates that the scope of a warranty varies not only by factory but also by customer. That, too, makes it difficult for service agents to provide effective and efficient service in a timely manner and leads to lots of phone calls and emails between everyone involved.

No, good service is not the sole responsibility of the factory that made the product or the service agent that cares for it in the field or the operator that uses the equipment. Without question, it's a responsibility everyone shares equally.