When Jeff Gelwix, President of Pacific Drive-Ins dba Sonic Drive-Ins, audited his operations, he discovered restaurant repairs and maintenance (R&M) was not getting the attention it deserved—and it was costing him.
The franchise was lacking in three core areas:
- No inventory of fixed assets across locations
- No standard, consistent procedure for managing repairs
- No time for general managers to handle repairs themselves
The ramifications were adding up, and Jeff “continued to dump money into equipment and had no way of attaching spend to specific assets besides recollection and memory.”
He knew he needed to find a solution. Facilities maintenance software was the obvious choice, but it’s not what he wound up using to manage R&M. Let’s explore why.
What is facilities maintenance software?
Facilities maintenance software is software that helps large companies manage R&M by storing all data associated with equipment and infrastructure repairs. It’s often bundled with computer-aided facility management software (CAFM) and goes by several other names, including computer maintenance management system (CMMS) and facility management software.
Many industries use facilities maintenance software, including real estate, manufacturing, schools, healthcare, government, hotels, and religious organizations. For example, schools can use it to schedule routine maintenance, like fire extinguisher inspections.
Can restaurants use facilities maintenance software?
Restaurants can technically use facilities maintenance software to perform various R&M tasks, including scheduling preventive maintenance, creating and tracking work orders, organizing inventory, tracking assets, and sourcing spare parts.
However, it’s not the best solution available to restaurants.
What are restaurants missing in facilities maintenance software?
Facilities maintenance software is meant to support large companies with massive equipment footprints and teams of specialized technicians.
It’s specifically designed to be able to support a wide variety of industries—which means it lacks the nuance needed to successfully tackle the unique needs of restaurants.
Here are the five reasons why facilities maintenance software doesn’t work for the restaurant industry:
1. It doesn't consider the specific needs of kitchens
Operators like Jeff, who run multiple restaurants, generally don’t have dedicated technicians on-site at every location to handle repairs. Instead, they rely mostly on back-of-house staff, managers, and anyone else within the restaurant’s four walls to tackle them—when they barely have time to do their own jobs!
Jeff explains, “It’s a tall task to go out and get quotes, manage vendors, ensure work is being performed appropriately, and ensure we’re being charged fairly.”
2. It's a big time commitment
As Richmond Green, Partner and VP of Operations at gusto! points out, “The people running our restaurants have [...] a million different things they’re trying to balance and think about. And oftentimes repairs are one of those things that they’ll notice, but the resolution of a problem can be very inefficient.”
It takes time to get facilities maintenance software up and running, from manually inputting data to configuring important settings. It also takes time to learn complex software built for technicians—and operators don’t have the time to train staff on how to use it.
But let’s assume you DO find the time and get to the point where the staff understands how to use it. More time investment is still required: staff will be responsible for manually entering all of the information associated with the repair request, along with managing each request directly with a vendor from end to end.
At the end of the day, facilities maintenance software is just a tool for managing repairs that requires constant user input and engagement. The eventual outcome of any repair still heavily depends on your team’s time investment.
3. It has hidden costs
Facilities maintenance software pricing may seem attractive, but unexpected, additional expenses cause the cost to soar. Generally speaking, your access starts at a base price with basic features included. But those features won’t cover your restaurant group’s needs, so you’ll need to upgrade the software.
Need to support multiple locations? Submitting more than 3 service requests a month? Want access for every single employee? There are additional charges associated with those needs.
Facilities maintenance software not only punishes your pockets—it hurts vendors, too. Think about all of the specialists you’ve formed relationships with over the years: when you use facilities maintenance software, those vendors will be charged an extra fee to continue working with you.
4. It doesn't offer support for data analysis
Facilities maintenance software hosts raw repair data. But it can’t help operators understand what all those numbers mean for the business.
Instead, you or someone else on your team has to take time out of your packed schedule to analyze the data, find trends, and hypothesize how to make smarter R&M spending decisions.
Consider all of the analytical work required to get answers to these questions:
- What is the total cost of owning and maintaining kitchen equipment in every location?
- Is one location outspending another on R&M? What’s the root cause of the discrepancy?
- Is it more cost-effective to continue repairing a specific piece of equipment or replace it entirely?
- Why is your R&M spending increasing each month?
How much time will you have to spend away from your customers if you’re crunching these numbers?
5. It lacks a human touch
Facilities maintenance software lacks a human touch. Getting support is difficult—you can call a generic Customer Service line and wait hours for a response with time you don’t have. You might even try getting support online, only to get insufficient answers from a chatbot.
This impersonality is something Jeff Palermo, the operating partner at 4 Rivers Smokehouse, discovered when searching for different facility maintenance software options to help build a consistent R&M process.
If facilities maintenance software won't work for restaurants, what will?
With an understanding of why facilities maintenance software isn’t the best option for restaurants, let’s look at two alternatives.
Manual R&M tracking
Many operators lack a process for managing repairs because they rely on manual methods, from jotting down notes on paper or phones to recording data in spreadsheets.
While manual tracking technically works, things can get complicated fast—especially in large commercial kitchens and across restaurant locations.
Not only is there a lot of equipment to track, but a lot of people. Different managers and individual employees could have preferred ways to document repairs, and those differences are only multiplied across multiple restaurant locations.
When everyone tracks repairs differently, it’s incredibly difficult to understand the history of any one piece of equipment. As Jeff at Pacific Drive-Ins discovered, GMs were calling the same vendors repeatedly for the same repair since there wasn’t a documented process for R&M management.
A tech-enabled solution
Other operators use a tech-enabled solution that’s specifically built for restaurants. When operators have an issue, they simply text a service request to an R&M platform. A team of real people responds to try and troubleshoot the issue to avoid unnecessary service.
If that doesn’t work, they’ll first contact the restaurant's approved vendors for availability. Unavailable? The team helps source a highly-rated vendor. If needed, they can collect multiple vendor quotes on behalf of operators to get the fairest price.
And when the job is done? They follow up to make sure it’s completed properly. They even track and collect crucial repair data across locations, like first-time fix rate, and help operators make sense of that data to make better decisions.
The best fit to manage restaurant R&M
86 Repairs is the solution that Jeff wound up using to manage Pacific Drive-Ins’ R&M. He saw an opportunity to partner with a team of real people who can take repairs off their general managers’ plates.
He and his team get access to a restaurant-specific solution with transparent pricing—it’s just one steady, monthly expense so they can better manage their R&M spend. They don’t need to learn complex software or spend countless hours getting everything up and running.
Instead, their entire R&M process is defined and simplified. When equipment goes down, restaurant staff can text, call, or email 86 to reach a Customer Service team member that’s available 24/7/365 to provide support.
These specialists don’t just facilitate communication between Sonic Drive-Ins and vendors but manage repairs from end to end. This includes troubleshooting issues with staff, sourcing competitive bids, and scheduling and following up on each service. Jeff and his team can even connect with a dedicated Account Manager to get actionable data insights to make better R&M decisions.
So make a smart decision for your restaurant and book a demo to learn about the simplest solution available for managing restaurant R&M!