Hot Side

Where to Begin with Restaurant Equipment Maintenance

Restaurant equipment maintenance is vital to avoid emergency repairs. Get started with this guide of maintenance tips across hot and cold side equipment!

Restaurant equipment maintenance is critical for avoiding emergencies—which lead to downtime, lost sales, and higher expenses. Consider this: routine restaurant grease trap cleaning starts at $175, while emergency vendor dispatch when it’s overflowing is just over $560.

So when it comes to restaurant equipment maintenance, how do you determine where to begin? After all, there are so many different types of equipment and infrastructure that need to be taken care of. 

Let this guide be your starting point. Here, we offer restaurant equipment maintenance tips for common appliances and infrastructure found within hospitality businesses to help you understand what to do and when.

Hot side restaurant equipment maintenance

Hot side equipment refers to the appliances within a restaurant that apply heat to food, like ovens or grills.

Here’s how to maintain these appliances and keep them working at their full potential.

Commercial oven maintenance

There are several types of commercial ovens, like roasting, convection, steam, combination, and rotisserie. They all have the same general functionality, so you can apply these maintenance tips to most ovens found within your kitchen:

Clean interior cabinets to remove crumbs and smoky scents. Scrape spillage from the walls and the bottom of the interior and empty crumb trays. For stubborn buildup, use an oven cleaner. Clean monthly for infrequent oven use and weekly for daily use.

Calibrate the temperature so your oven temps properly. While calibration is usually done by a qualified technician, you can do it yourself. Simply preheat the oven to 350°F and place a heat-safe thermometer inside to see if the reading matches.  If your reading is off by 10° in either direction, recalibration is likely needed. Some ovens have a removable knob and screw that lets you do this. Otherwise, contact a technician for further assistance—especially if your temperature reading is off by more than 10°.

Inspect burners and pilot lights every six months to ensure they’re working correctly so your oven can get to temp:

  • Check that the pilot lights are lit for gas ovens—even when not in use.
  • Examine the thermocouple for buildup. Keep the thermocouple free of buildup by cleaning it with an abrasive material like steel wool. This ensures the pilot will stay lit.
  • Inspect burner tubes for degradation. If corroded, they likely won’t work, and your oven won’t operate properly.

There’s another aspect of maintenance to consider for steam ovens. Make sure your team is changing their water filters every four to six months. Without clean filters, buildup will occur and cause the oven to malfunction, potentially invalidating the warranty!

Flat top grill maintenance

Surface maintenance is the best place to start with restaurant flat top grills (otherwise known as griddles) to get a consistent cooking temperature.

Regularly scrape and clean your flat tops to remove residue and buildup so food doesn’t burn and stick to the surface. A flat top that feels tacky—likely from carbon and grease buildup—is the first sign more routine cleaning is needed.

A flat top that isn’t sticking, in turn, may need to be stripped and reseasoned for better cooking. 

Just like with ovens, you’ll want to use a thermometer to check that your flat top grill is temping properly. Also, be sure to remove and scrub burner tubes so their holes aren’t blocked and the grill can operate properly.

Cold side restaurant equipment maintenance

Cold side equipment refers to the appliances within a restaurant that keep perishable goods at a cool temperature (like walk-ins) and apply cold temperatures to create a specific product (like ice cream or ice machines).

Refrigerator maintenance

These are our best practice maintenance tips for restaurant refrigerators:

Reach-in maintenance

Clean the condenser coils so the compressor doesn’t have to work too hard to get the fridge to temp when its door is shut. This helps prolong the life of the unit.

  • You can remove debris from coils with compressed air, a cloth, or a soft brush—but be mindful to not bend the metal fins. If the coils are still greasy after removing debris, soak them in a degreasing solution and rinse them with water.

Examine evaporators for frost or ice buildup. Look for the fan in your fridge cabinet. If there’s no frost or ice buildup, no further action is needed. If there’s even a little frost, your coils are freezing over.

  • Remove all items from the fridge, turn it off, and leave the door open overnight to defrost. Start using the fridge again, and if buildup returns in a few days, dispatch a vendor to look at it.

Examine door gaskets—the rubber lining around your refrigerator doors. They protect your evaporator by keeping the interior air cool and keeping exterior humidity outside the unit. To inspect the gaskets:

  • Carefully pull on them. If they slip, fall apart, or react unusually, replace them.
  • Open and close the door. If the door doesn’t snap into place or falls apart when it does, replace the gaskets.

Walk-in maintenance

Routinely inspect the evaporator at the back of the unit for frost buildup. Like reach-ins, frost buildup may indicate the unit needs defrosting. But it could also mean the walk-in has a faulty defrost component. 

While your in-house team can do routine checks to prevent major emergencies, a refrigeration technician should do most maintenance for your walk-ins because of how complicated the units are.

Ice machine maintenance

Restaurant ice machine wells should be filled at the start and end of each shift to maximize ice production and ensure the unit is working properly. 

Staff should also clean air filters at least every two weeks. The cleaning should be done more regularly in environments with lots of airborne contaminants, like a brewery or bakery.

In addition, most ice machine manufacturers recommend a minimum of two preventative maintenance services per year, with more suggested in environments with lots of airborne contaminants. 

Ice machine technicians will perform various maintenance tasks, including checking for small leaks or water damage, examining the water pump and regulator in water-cooled units, conducting a production check to see that the unit is functioning optimally and cleaning the air condenser and air filters in air-cooled units to remove debris.

The preventative maintenance service will include deep cleaning: the machine will be descaled, disinfected, and sanitized. This process removes unwanted substances like scale and grime and prevents buildup so that the unit can function properly and produce quality ice that’s safe to consume.

Ice cream machine maintenance

Routine cleaning is the most essential maintenance for ice cream machines because buildup grows quickly from the sugar and protein in ice cream mixtures. This buildup can cause different parts of the unit to break, such as the motor, handle, or pump.

However, cleaning these machines is complicated. The units must be disassembled, cleaned thoroughly, and reassembled perfectly—just one missing washer can cause ice cream machines to malfunction. This process can take several hours.

The vast majority of ice cream machines must be cleaned by hand daily. However, some manufacturer machines—like Taylor—have heat treatment cycles that are run every shift so manual cleaning only needs to be done bi-weekly.

To get the best results from routine cleaning, always check the specific instructions for your restaurant’s ice cream machine manufacturer.

A simple solution for restaurant equipment maintenance

86 Repairs is a tech-enabled solution that’s built for the restaurant industry. It handles end-to-end repair management, from building equipment inventories and troubleshooting issues with your staff to sourcing the best vendors for the job and scheduling and documenting each service visit so you don’t have to. 

You also get access to actionable data and insights that help you save on R&M and make better decisions so you can improve your bottom line.

Book a demo to learn how 86 Repairs simplifies R&M so you can focus on running a restaurant.

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