During the past 12 months, the concept of scheduled maintenance has become more popular among foodservice operators. This is likely due to the challenging economy, which has operators from all industry segments trying to maximize the service life of the foodservice equipment in their kitchens. While the renewed interest in scheduled maintenance is good, it’s equally important for the operator to see this as a value-added program and not a necessary evil.
If handled correctly, scheduled maintenance can actually reduce a foodservice operator’s service costs. We had a customer who spent $15,000 on maintenance prior to signing up with us for a scheduled maintenance program. In that company’s first year with us, their scheduled maintenance costs dropped to $11,000; last year the amount they spent with us on maintenance and service dropped to $7,000. Once foodservice operators understand the actual value of a scheduled maintenance program, the conversation begins to move beyond price.
That’s because a scheduled maintenance program allows foodservice operators to focus on what they do best, which is to serve customers, prepare food and the like. There can be a bit of panic within a foodservice operation if staff has to move large amounts of inventory from one walk-in to another. This can decrease productivity, food quality and even result in loss of inventory if product cannot be held at proper temperatures. Scheduled maintenance can keep to a minimum the number of costly emergency calls the operator has to make to their service agent to repair a piece of equipment that unexpectedly malfunctions.
One of the biggest mistakes foodservice operators make is ignoring the need for scheduled maintenance. Operators might schedule what maintenance their budget allows, but that’s not always enough to ensure the equipment continues to function properly and efficiently. Under optimal conditions, many pieces of equipment need cleaning and service once a year, which might fit into the operator’s existing budget. But due to environmental conditions such as poor water or air quality, more-frequent service is necessary for some equipment. Cutting back on maintenance in this instance will eventually affect the performance and service life of certain pieces of equipment.
To remedy budget constraints, some foodservice operators will try to cut corners by going with a cheaper service option. What they don’t realize is that this could cost them more in the long run. For example, an incorrectly sized filter can introduce contaminants into a system, having an adverse affect on a condenser or evaporator. Operators across all foodservice segments often don’t realize this until they’re faced with a large repair bill.
It is important that operators are educated as to what a scheduled maintenance program entails. Sometimes service agents will position their scheduled maintenance program as simply changing the filter or wiping off the compressor. But there’s more that goes into good scheduled maintenance and every situation is different.
Scheduled maintenance is a wise investment because it allows for consistency and continuity within a foodservice operation, which is critical to meeting consumer needs time and again.