Paxton Keiser Enterprises dba Taco John's started with one location before expanding to 11. The corporate team had a lot on its plate as it grew, including repair and maintenance (R&M) management. Naturally, problems kept popping up.
“Keeping up with repairs and maintenance in our minds and our notebooks was not efficient,” says Ashton Dunbar, Director of Development. Sound familiar?
The corporate team needed an alternative. For years, that alternative was facility management software, the go-to solution for operators interested in technology to help streamline the R&M process.
But this is no longer the case. Let’s explore why facility management software can technically work for your restaurants—and why you’re better off investing in an alternative that will give you and your team even less stress.
What is facility management software?
You might know facility management software as computer-aided facility management (CAFM). A computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) is usually bundled within CAFM software to help large organizations manage R&M by storing data on all tasks performed on equipment and infrastructure.
CMMS is usually used to:
- Create and track work orders
- Trigger preventative maintenance services
- Schedule reactive maintenance
- Create and organize your inventory
- Track your assets
- Purchase spare parts
CMMS is a complex piece of software used by many industries, including:
- Real estate
- Schools and universities
- Religious organizations
The use of CMMS depends on the industry. For example, in a hotel, a guest may report a faulty door to the front desk. The front desk can then generate a work order on the CMMS to have the maintenance team fix it. And in a school, the facilities management team may use a CMMS to schedule regular maintenance, like inspecting fire alarms.
Is facility management software a bad choice for my restaurants?
You might notice we excluded restaurants from the previous list—even though large hospitality groups might be able to make CMMS work for them. Here are five reasons why it’s not the best choice to manage restaurant R&M.
1. CMMS is not built for the restaurant industry
CMMS was historically built for large organizations with huge equipment and infrastructure footprints, and dedicated on-site technicians to service assets across multiple locations. It was not built for restaurants that have different use cases and face unique challenges around R&M.
After all, most multi-unit operators don’t have facility managers or onsite technicians for each location. Even if they did, it would be a big hurdle to try and tackle every repair themselves without unlimited time.
Consider Brandon Stewart, President and CEO of Starboard Investments dba Jimmy John’s, who handled everything in his franchise’s R&M, from getting quotes and managing vendors to dispatching service.
“I know how to replace a glycol pump, but I don’t necessarily know how to tell if a glycol pump is down,” shares Stewart. Now think about how this can snowball into every other piece of equipment in a kitchen—from hot-side to hood vent systems.
The point: Facility management software is built for highly-trained technicians, so it can't provide the support that a commercial kitchen needs.
2. CMMS requires a huge time commitment
An investment in a CMMS is an investment of time. It takes time to set everything up, from understanding how the software works to manually inputting data and configuring other settings. It also takes time to train your staff—the complexity of the software means there’s a steep learning curve in getting everyone up to speed on how to use it.
Even after some level of mastery, someone is still responsible for managing all the information around a service request. They have to take time out of their day to input data for work orders by manually filling out fields, identifying the equipment that needs repair, and submitting work orders. This is time your restaurant staff simply doesn’t have!
Even if they do, they’re not true R&M experts, so assigning these tasks to them can often lead to a suboptimal repair resolution. And who can blame them when it’s not their area of expertise?
As Richmond Green, Partner and VP of Operations at gusto! puts it, “The people running our restaurants have the hardest job in the whole frickin’ world. Especially during the past two years, they’ve got 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.”
Sure, using a CMMS to manage your R&M may be easier than doing it all by hand, but it’s still not an efficient use of time. And if that wasn’t enough, you also need to deal with new software features that regularly get rolled out. Who will stay updated on these? Do you assign one person or leave it to your entire team? When in your busy day will you—or anyone—find time for this?
3. CMMS always costs more than expected
Ever signed up for software only to discover the free or basic package is so limited that you have to upgrade to make it usable? CMMS is kind of like that. Where the solution might have a base price, you and your team will need to keep adding features to make it usable for your restaurants.
Pricing will vary by the number of locations you have, how many employees use the system, and how many work orders you place. Imagine using the system during a busy service where time is of the essence, only to get a notification saying you’ve reached your work order limit and need to upgrade to create one—it’s a very real possibility with facility management software.
It’s easy to see how costs can quickly spiral out of control, especially if you plan to expand your footprint or your team.
4. CMMS won't help you understand data
Are you paying a fair price for a repair?
Should you replace or repair equipment and infrastructure?
How often should you repair equipment?
What is the difference in incident history across locations?
What is the total cost of ownership of your equipment?
Savvy restaurant operators want to know the answers to these questions. However, facility management software will not give you the answers on its own—it only offers the raw data you need to analyze and make sense of yourself.
There’s no dashboard with clear and actionable insights. If you want them, you must set aside time to regularly analyze the data to find trends. There are also no recommendations on improving financial forecasting and strategic planning, and you don’t get easy access to crucial metrics like first-time fix rate—an incredibly valuable indicator of vendor performance.
Without easy access to insights, how can you make quick, data-driven decisions to control costs? You can’t.
5. CMMS has no human touch
Jeff Palermo, the operating partner at 4 Rivers Smokehouse, was looking for software to manage R&M and had considered a CMMS. But he decided against it because every option felt complicated and impersonal.
This impersonality is a reality with any CMMS: the software handles the communication between restaurants and vendors, but it can’t build collaborative relationships.
Instead, it charges vendors for being part of their vendor network and pressurizes them to complete the work quickly. This can strain any attempt to build a meaningful business relationship.
On top of that, there’s not much in the way of hands-on customer support from real people, which means you don’t get real-time troubleshooting and understanding over the phone from a human who’s been on the line themselves.
What are the alternatives to facility management software?
With an understanding that a CMMS isn’t exactly the best solution for managing restaurant R&M, you’re probably wondering: “What is?” Here are your two options.
The status quo of pen and paper
Operators often track repairs themselves with whatever methods they can—from pen and paper and spreadsheets to notes on their phones. But things can get complicated fast, especially in large kitchens with a lot of staff. Just imagine if there are 40+ pieces of equipment to track and 15 different kitchen staff—all of whom may be tracking repairs on any given day.
They could all have different ways of doing this when something breaks down. Someone may jot something down on a notepad; someone else may make a note on their phone; someone in the back office may even use their laptop. And, if things get hectic, staff may forget to document breakdowns and repairs entirely.
Brandon Stewart at Starboard Investments encountered a frustrating issue trying to fix a cold table: “That same cold table would break three, four weeks later, or I would find out that nobody ever came out. […] And then I find out that either A, nothing happened, or B, they came out, and then we have no idea what they did when they came out, so we don’t know what was actually wrong with it. Because there’s just so much information flow, for me, tracking was impossible.”
Then there’s the matter of sourcing quotes, making side-by-side comparisons to choose a vendor and tracking which vendor came when, what they did, and how much they charged. Problems are inevitable when you track R&M manually. You’ll spend lots of time investigating issues—costing you even more time, and potentially doubling down on your R&M spend.
And consider that this happens in just one kitchen! Imagine how difficult tracking R&M is across locations—there’s more staff, more equipment, and more work to track. The issues only multiply as your business expands.
Finally, without a proper system for tracking repair data, you end up having very little, if any, meaningful data you can use to make better business decisions.
Managing R&M with a restaurant-specific tech solution
The oven in your kitchen won’t get to temp, so you text in a service request to an R&M platform built for the restaurant industry. A team—yes, real people—will respond and try to troubleshoot the issue.
And if troubleshooting doesn’t work? The team chooses the best vendor for the job based on historical cost and quality data. They even source multiple vendor quotes so you get the fairest price for the job.
You don’t need to pick up the phone to call vendors or compare quotes. Instead, you can focus on doing what you do best: serving fantastic food and keeping guests happy.
On top of this, the team tracks and collects important real-time repair data across your locations, like the first-time-fix rate, repair frequency by equipment type, and the total cost of ownership of all equipment.
They then help you make sense of the data so you can make smarter decisions to improve your R&M. You even get recommendations, like how to improve financial forecasting and strategic planning, from a dedicated Account Manager.
It might sound like a dream, but it’s a reality for 86 Repairs customers!
The simple solution to manage restaurant R&M
86 Repairs is specifically built for restaurants—and supports the equipment and infrastructure found in large commercial kitchens.
Unlike facility management software, you and your team don’t need specialized training. You get a solution your team actually wants to use without spending endless hours on training and setup. Plus, pricing is transparent with no hidden costs—just one recurring expense to better manage your monthly R&M spend.
Additionally, 86 Repairs offers 24/7/365 on-demand support from real humans with restaurant industry experience. Our Customer Service Specialists help you troubleshoot in a way that a CMMS never could. And they don’t just facilitate communication between you and vendors—they take it off your plate entirely. These providers are found within our extensive network of trusted vendors—and can partner with 86 Repairs for free, opening the door to long-lasting relationships.
You also get actionable data and insights on R&M via a customer portal, so you spend very little time analyzing data and more time making smarter R&M decisions.
So why not make a smart decision now and request a demo? See how 86 Repairs helps you take control of your restaurant R&M, reduce repair costs, and spend less time on equipment repairs.