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6 Reasons Why CMMS Doesn't Solve Restaurant Repairs and Maintenance Problems

Ariel Upton
November 4, 2020

Do more with less.

It’s every restaurant operator's goal right now to make the most of their front and back-of-house operations while running lean teams on lean budgets. 

In the wake of COVID-19, operators are swiftly embracing restaurant technology tools to streamline point-of-sale (POS), 3rd party online ordering integrations, employee scheduling, food cost management tools, and more. 

Unfortunately, on the restaurant repairs and maintenance side operators are left with very few options for updating their current approach to equipment repairs and maintenance to save time and money in this crucial part of their business. 

Because managing the restaurant equipment repairs and maintenance in a restaurant is such a painful process, it’s often overlooked by even the savviest of operators and de-prioritized (even though repairs and maintenance is the single largest controllable expense in a restaurant)!

One of the only technology solutions available to operators to streamline their restaurant repairs and maintenance processes has come in the form of the CMMS, or Computerized Maintenance Management System. 

You don’t need CMMS software (sometimes referred to as facilities management software) to manage your restaurant repairs and maintenance operations.

In this article we’re going to outline why you don’t need CMMS software to manage restaurant R&M, including:

  1. What a CMMS is and who it’s good for (hint: not built for restaurants)
  2. 6 reasons you don’t need a CMMS to manage restaurant maintenance programs
  3. The restaurant technology solution that can solve your pain around restaurant equipment repairs and maintenance for good

What is a Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS)?

A computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) is a software tool that stores data about repairs and maintenance performed on equipment, facilities, infrastructure, and other assets. 

Enterprise CMMS tools promise streamlined processes, increases in asset productivity, and at its core, will help you create, complete, and track work orders related to your equipment.

Basic CMMS functionality includes the ability to:

  • Create work orders, including submission, review, assignment, completion, and analysis
  • Trigger automatic maintenance, such as planned maintenance or preventative maintenance
  • Schedule reactive, in-time maintenance
  • Organize and track asset management
  • Purchase equipment parts and organize inventory

What industries can benefit from CMMS?

There are many industries that can benefit from using CMMS systems to streamline and optimize their facilities and maintenance management processes, such as:

  • Schools and Universities
  • Property Management
  • Manufacturing
  • Religious Organizations
  • Healthcare
  • Gym and Fitness
  • Government
  • Farming and Agriculture
  • Hotels
  • Fleet Management

Each of these industries can implement a CMMS to help them with asset and facility management and get the results they’re looking for. CMMS tools were built for dedicated technicians and facilities teams who are available onsite to service their equipment and infrastructure. 

If you work in one of the industries listed above - an enterprise CMMS tool is most likely the solution you’re looking for.

However, the industry where CMMS tools fall flat (very, very flat) is the restaurant industry. Which brings us to our first point.

Quick service restaurant fryer

6 reasons why CMMS systems don't solve restaurant repairs and maintenance problems 

1. CMMS systems are built to support multiple industries - not the restaurant industry

And if it seems like the 'For Restaurants' category is tacked on as one of their targeted verticals it's because it is. CMMS systems were designed to support large-scale manufacturing companies and their onsite facilities management teams and processes.

Which makes complete sense. 

These types of companies have large, oftentimes custom, equipment and infrastructure footprints that are managed by highly trained, onsite technicians. They need a CMMS system to manage work orders, track equipment lifespan, and implement planned maintenance.

But CMMS systems weren’t built for restaurant operators who have a completely different use case for equipment maintenance software. 

Multi-unit, multi-market operators don’t have full-time facilities managers on staff in every location, and if they do have full-time facilities team members, it’s highly unlikely they are able to support their equipment onsite in every store.

Plain and simple: CMMS systems were not built to support the unique challenges that operators face around restaurant repairs and maintenance.

2. With a CMMS system you’re still responsible for building equipment inventories

We can’t emphasize how much of a problem this is. If you do not have accurate equipment inventories it’s impossible to derive actionable, accurate, and meaningful data from a CMMS system or other facilities maintenance software tool.

95% of our customers don’t have a complete equipment inventory for their restaurant locations when they start working with us. 95%! 

And many of those companies are moving off a legacy CMMS sans a complete equipment inventory.

How can that be?

Because when you implement a CMMS system your team is still required for building and managing equipment inventories across all of our restaurant locations. 

Your team, who is responsible for everything else in your restaurant and are not R&M experts, would be required to photograph every piece of equipment, look-up and verify serial numbers, make and model numbers, and warranty information. 

This is no small task as the average number of pieces of equipment in a quick service or fast casual restaurant is 65 and in full service restaurants, 95. 

And some of these tasks require an enormous amount of work, like crawling on roofs to document HVAC systems or looking up worn or illegible serial numbers on older pieces of equipment. 

Once you understand how many steps go into building an equipment inventory at one location, let alone dozens or hundreds, you can understand why so few restaurant groups have these at their disposal even if they are currently using a CMMS system.

For operators who are managing R&M off spreadsheets it’s even less likely that you have an accurate equipment inventory across restaurant locations.

3. With a CMMS system you’re still responsible for updating assets and managing ongoing maintenance data

Not only are you responsible for building the initial equipment inventory, you’re on the hook for managing assets on a regular basis. Consistent and accurate asset management is critical to capturing ongoing R&M savings. 

Every time a new piece of equipment is replaced in one of your restaurants you need to make sure this information is updated in a centralized system. For the many reasons outlined above, this rarely is done to 100% accuracy.

Beyond the responsibility of ongoing asset management, with a CMMS system your team is still responsible for ongoing data maintenance.

And here-in lies one of the primary reasons investing in a CMMS tool will not help you track hard cost or time savings on repairs and maintenance.

Your front-line staff is responsible for a hundred different things in their day-to-day jobs that have nothing to do with repairs and maintenance.

Your staff are not R&M experts, they are not trained in equipment troubleshooting, and they don’t have time to track every step in an incident. They are focused on feeding and serving your guests and now adhering to COVID sanitization and safety compliances. 

In the wake of the pandemic, it’s likely your team is experiencing higher than normal turnover or are running leaner than ever before. Neither of these labor challenges bodes well for gathering meticulous data on every step of the service incident lifecycle.

Why is gathering accurate data so important in the R&M process?

Accurate data across all pieces of kitchen equipment will provide you with the information you need to start tracking hard cost and time savings information. 

Without this data, it’s almost impossible to identify consistent and repeatable opportunities for savings. 

One example - consistent data is what helps you make sound repair vs. replace decisions. If you don’t know how often a specific piece of equipment is breaking or how much you’ve spent repairing it, you can’t make a reliable decision on whether or not you should continue spending money repairing it or replace it outright.

4. With CMMS maintenance software your staff must undergo extensive staff training to manage the tool

Think about how your staff in a restaurant works vs. how a dedicated facilities manager for a manufacturing plant works. One of these things is not like the other. The later is what CMMS was built for, the former not so much.

Like any software implementation, new tools take training. In our experience CMMS systems come with extensive training and onboarding programs for your team to navigate before even being able to start using the tool. Then you have to have a staff member to continue training new staff as they join the team or as new features or add-on services are added. 

So say your entire staff does get trained up and you have a team member responsible for training at every location, then comes the issue of ongoing management of the software as new service incidents arise.

Your staff is juggling so many responsibilities at one time during service. When a piece of equipment goes down, your line cook or general manager does not have time to log-in to a separate app or system to track the details of the incident. They do not have time to submit a work order and fill out a dozen or more related fields to capture the entirety of the issue at hand. 

If a full-time member of your facilities team is onsite at a particular location when a piece of equipment goes down - that’s great.

But if you do have full-time facilities managers or technicians on staff they are not in every location at all times. This means your front-line staff is still responsible for ongoing data management and ongoing management of the software. 

Add in additional layers of complexity when it comes to setting up and managing custom integrations between CMMS and accounting or POS software. Most enterprise CMMS platforms only provide API access and business integrations at their highest monthly price tier and you’re still responsible for managing it all.

See how this problem continues to perpetuate?

5. With CMMS, you’re paying additional fees for upgrades and add-on services

You see it all the time when vetting SaaS solutions or enterprise software tools - the three tier pricing structure along the lines of free, basic, and pro. 

Free is free. We understand how attractive free is. But in order to access the full breadth of capabilities you need from a CMMS system or facilities maintenance software tool to actually accomplish your repairs and maintenance goals, you’re going to have to upgrade and it’s going to cost you. 

Typically, the price of a CMMS is dictated by how many locations you’re operating, how many employees are using the system, and how many work orders are placed. 

If pricing begins at $59 per month you can see how quickly this monthly fee increases as you add locations and staff members to operate the system consistently. Not to mention you’re getting charged per incident.

Keep this in mind as you’re vetting platforms: Not only are you paying more than the initial pricing for the features that actually do what the software promises, you’re still on the hook for managing service incidents and all of the data.

6.With CMMS your team is responsible for making sense of the data

Data is just data. Data on it’s own won’t help you save on your R&M line item. It’s what you do with that data that can help you make actionable and measurable changes to your repairs and maintenance process.

  • Do you want to know if you’re paying a fair price for a repair?
  • Do you want to make an accurate repair vs. replace decision?
  • Do you want to know the total cost of ownership of equipment?
  • Do you want confidence you have the best vendor mix?
  • Do you want to know if you’re working with the best service provider in your market?
  • Do you want to track asset downtime?
  • Do you want to compare real-time incident history across locations?
  • Do you want to be able to track every open incident and its status?
  • Do you want to know if your general manager has handled an unchecked repair?

If the answer is ‘yes’ to any of these questions, you need to realize that a CMMS system on its own will not help you get these answers. 

With a CMMS, even if all of your data makes it into the platform consistently and accurately your team is still responsible for making sense of the data in your system to come to these conclusions.

This is an investment that goes beyond the price of the software and requires your team to navigate the data on a daily and weekly basis to make sure you aren’t overspending on repairs. CMMS solutions are time-consuming for your staff every way you look at it.

So if CMMS systems are not the best solution for managing restaurant repairs and maintenance - what is?

In order to make the most of your R&M line item in your restaurant we recommend finding a repairs and maintenance partner that can help you on the software and the service side.

You need to be able to trust your repairs and maintenance partner to handle the entire onboarding process, daily incident management, complete communication with service providers, ongoing asset management, preventative maintenance, and regular data processing. 

Above all else, you need to find a partner that makes managing the repairs and maintenance process as simple as sending a text from the restaurant floor and easy enough to be up and running in 15 minutes or less.

To get high adoption, reliable results, and a solid return on your investment, you need a turnkey solution that takes the pain out of every step of the process.