Practicing Prevention

Regular equipment maintenance reduces downtime, increases selling opportunities.

By
Amanda Baltazar, Freelance writer

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After Tedeschi Food Shops implemented a quarterly preventative-maintenance program for its foodservice equipment, the chain reaped savings of about 20% in repair and maintenance costs in 2009 over 2007.

Energy expenditure and lost sales decreased, repair costs dropped, service calls fell, spoilage virtually disappeared and there were no unavailable products. Employees were also happier, no longer having to inform customers there was no refrigerated food and beverages.

Six years ago, the Rockland, Mass.-based retailer worked with two of its longtime contractors and came up with a quarterly preventative-maintenance schedule. Now, every three months, contractors spend three or four hours in each store checking every piece of equipment.

“We find out what’s wrong before equipment actually breaks down,” says Henry Stone, director of store services, “and we have less equipment actually breaking down.”

The financial savings have been significant, but there’s more to the equation. “Even if costs were even, the fact of the stores not being impeded [by broken equipment] is worth money,” says Stone. “It makes a lot more sense to fix something before it breaks. If something’s working right, you don’t see it; and if it’s not, it’s all over you.”

A stitch in time saves nine: Grandmothers say it frequently, but there’s more than a kernel of truth in that cliche. Yet many convenience operators don’t conduct preventative maintenance on their foodservice equipment. But equipment that’s cared for will last longer, be more efficient and cheaper to run, have less downtime, and be less likely to cause foodborne-illness outbreaks.

“Equipment ages faster when you don’t take care of it. There’s a shelf life to everything,” says Mike Dunne, sales manager of Restaurant City, a restaurant equipment supply store in Providence, R.I. “And it’s little things that drive the electricity bill up.”

One key to performing sufficient preventative maintenance is having a checklist, so you can cross off scheduled jobs when they are done.

What follows is a look at the major pieces of foodservice equipment and how you can perform preventative maintenance on them.

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