Foodservice Equipment & Supplies

MAR 2018

Foodservice Equipment & Supplies magazines is an industry resource connecting foodservice operators, equipment and supplies manufacturers and dealers, and facility design consultants.

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50 • FOODSERVICE EQUIPMENT & SUPPLIES • MARCH 2018 effect on food safety. Ice machines must have regular cleaning and sanitization (usually twice a year) to prevent the growth of bacteria and germs inside the machine, which can transfer to the finished ice. While ice machines may be the most obvious example of how maintenance affects food safety, the concept applies to every piece of equip- ment. Heina points to the example of a bagel operation. "If the rack oven is not cleaned, and therefore not maintaining the set baking temperature, the bagels could come out not properly cooked," he says, "which would lead not only to dissatisfied customers but there could potentially be some health risk ramifi- cations in serving an underdone bagel as well." Food quality, flavor and appear- ance also suffer when operators fail to maintain their equipment. Inexperi- enced staff working on equipment that's not maintained might not know when product is underdone, or if it's over- done. The ice machine that's not being cleaned regularly might produce ice that's safe to use, but the flavor of the ice may be off. Meat slicers that aren't properly maintained can deliver slices of uneven widths, which can negatively impact customer satisfaction and profit margins. And "if you get knives, forks or spoons coming out of the dishwasher with caked-on food, it certainly is a health issue — but it's also a presentation issue," says Hodge. Following manufacturers' mainte- nance guidelines also helps ensure staff safety. Improperly maintained gaskets on ovens can lead to hot air escaping. On dishmachines, especially flight- and conveyor-type models, hot water can leak out from torn or loose curtains. Both can lead to serious burns and lost work time. "Open fryers have flues that vent the gas out the back," says Hodge. "They'll de- velop a great buildup and that can catch on fire." Grease that leaks out of a fryer or water that leaks through dishmachine curtains can spill onto the floor and might not be noticed — that is, until a crew member slips and falls. Scheduled maintenance impacts a machine's energy efficiency. Because leaky gaskets on coolers or ovens allow air to escape, they force the equipment to work harder to compensate, result- ing in higher energy costs. "It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that if you leave a walk-in cooler door open and you don't have a protective plastic screen or air screen, you're going to waste energy," Hodge says. Heina, who specializes in ovens, notes that "if a burner is packed with debris, it's going to have to work harder to maintain the oven temperature. That's going to increase both your gas and electricity costs." Performing regularly scheduled maintenance may also keep warran- ties valid. Heina notes this is the "era of extended warranties," with manufacturers offering three- to five-year warranties on certain pieces of equipment to stay competitive. However, to keep the war- ranty valid, the end user must show they perform regular upkeep and/or maintenance on the unit. DO IT YOURSELF … OR NOT? Not every maintenance job requires a call to the service agent. In fact, in-house maintenance performed on a regular basis can help extend the life of equipment and, as noted earlier, is often necessary to ensure warranty cover- age remains intact. "I think properly cleaned and maintained equipment will last significantly longer than equipment that's ignored," Hodge adds. A good place to start in establishing a maintenance program is the manufac- turer's recommendations provided with the equipment. Frequent visual inspections can also help catch little problems that can become big ones down the road. For example, a visual check of blower fan screens or exhaust screens for debris can spot buildup, which, left unchecked, could accumulate over time. Even the service experts say staff can replace a variety of parts without requiring a service call. Hodge cites door handles and knobs as two easily replace- able items on most machines. Also, many filters and air screens are easily cleaned and/or replaced, as are door gaskets on some smaller pieces of equipment. One manufacturer of a door gasket replace- ment tool even has an accompanying YouTube video showing how to install the replacement gaskets. Knowing exactly which staff mem- bers are capable of doing a maintenance job is essential. Hodge notes, "A 16-year- old kid doesn't know that the piece of equipment he's treating nonchalantly or abusing costs $22,000." To alleviate that possibility, some restaurant managers institute a policy that "if you have a key to the store, you do the maintenance." In other words, employees who have a certain level of responsibility for day-to- day operations are also tasked with doing minor scheduled maintenance jobs. But no matter who does it, scheduled maintenance is a definite requirement for keeping equipment operating at optimal levels. Bruce Hodge calls it "absolutely critical to any restaurant. It's like cutting the grass. Whether you do it or hire a lawn service or the kid next door, it mat- ters not, but the grass still needs to be cut. It just needs to be done." FE&S A POSITIVE EFFECT Is scheduled maintenance only a cost line item, or can it really contribute to a positive return on investment? Bruce Hodge of General Parts believes it can result in a positive return because "the equipment lasts longer. Equipment nowadays has almost a built-in obsolescence to it. Most equipment, I think, is written off in five to seven years, but the equipment, particularly the heavier equipment, should last 10 to 20 years if you maintain it." Christopher Heina of Cobblestone Ovens takes a slightly different view, noting that "it's hard to make a statement on a blanket posi- tive ROI. A better argument is going to be the consequences if you don't do this, and the downtime, which can negatively affect ROI." WHY MAINTENANCE MATTERS

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