Hot Side

The 86 Repairs Guide to Restaurant Flat Top Grills

Want to do a job well done? Follow our preventive maintenance and troubleshooting tips to keep your restaurant flat top grill cooking consistently.

Welcome to another 86 Repairs Guide! In this series, we provide valuable troubleshooting, preventative maintenance, and warranty information on the equipment and infrastructure found in your restaurant. We hope this information will help you and your team become more informed about repairs and maintenance (R&M)—and save you time and money along the way.

It’s the smell of summer, the key to terrific tailgates, and the cornerstone of family cookouts. Using it is easy, but people still spend decades trying to master their skills with it. And when it comes to cooking, there are few things more satisfying than hearing it sizzle.

Restaurant flat top grills allow cooks to smash burgers, flip pancakes, chop cheesesteaks, and prepare all sorts of other foods with speed. Ignoring the performance of this equipment would be a missteak. (So would allowing this pun to go to print, but here we are...)

Some menu items must be cooked on a grill: if the flat top is out of service, you lose revenue. And if the flat top isn’t performing properly, you could be serving under or overcooked food.

So, if you want your restaurant to keep doing a job well-done, just follow our guide to keep your flat top grill cooking consistently and maintenance costs minimal.

Table of Contents

What is a restaurant flat top grill?

A grill is a piece of equipment that allows food to be cooked over dry heat. A regular grill uses slatted metal to separate food from the flame, but still allows enough open surface area for those satisfying burn marks.

A restaurant flat top grill is also known as a griddle. It has a flat, smooth surface usually made of metal. Heat is applied from below for consistent cooking temperatures. If you run a busy breakfast spot, burger joint, or cheesesteak chain, you’re probably pretty reliant on your flat top grills.

The only big difference between grills and flat top grills is the top cover. Mechanically, the two pieces of equipment are nearly the same. 

Numbers to know about restaurant grills

86 Repairs categorizes grills and griddles together when we collect data on restaurant repairs from our customers due to their similarities.

In The State of Repairs, we found that 5.5% of service requests in 2021 were associated with grills or griddles. The average invoice cost to repair a grill or griddle was $710.25.

Our solution tracks many repair and maintenance (R&M) data points for restaurants, including first-time fix rate (FTFR)—the average frequency in which a top-performing vendor can resolve an issue in one service request. For grills and griddles, the FTFR is relatively low at 84.5%.

Keep grill and griddle repair costs to a minimum with a preventative maintenance schedule, troubleshooting common issues, and smart parts replacement solutions. Although this guide is centered around flat top grills, keep in mind these tips can be used for regular grills as well. 

Maintenance for restaurant flat top grills

The best griddle maintenance starts at the surface. Surface maintenance ensures the flat top of the grill can continue cooking with consistency. 

  • If your flat top grill feels tacky, you likely have carbon buildup from grease that hasn’t been removed.
    • Always ensure your flat top grill is scraped and cleaned of residue or buildup to avoid food burning and sticking to its surface.
  • If your flat top grill is still sticking, consider stripping the surface and reseasoning for optimal food quality.

If you remove your restaurant’s flat top grill surface for stripping and reseasoning, you should also clean the burner tubes. Remove these for scrubbing, and make sure their holes aren’t obscured or blocked so the grill can operate properly.

Like any piece of hot- or cold-side equipment, the temperature of the flat top grill must be appropriate before it’s used to cook food for customers. Just use a thermometer to make sure the grill is temping appropriately.

Restaurant flat top grill troubleshooting tips

As soon as something isn’t working right in the kitchen, we know the heat is on to get it fixed quickly. So use these troubleshooting ideas the next time your flat top grill isn’t doing great.

Not heating

Our State of Repairs report found that this was the top issue for grills and griddles in 2021, accounting for almost 25% of all service requests.

First, verify the pilot is still lit. For flat top grills, you can find this through the holes next to the burner knobs. Look for a flame.

  • If the flame is out, relight it.
  • If the flame is lit, your burners likely need to be cleaned. Remove buildup with scouring pads.

No power

Perform electrical checks to see if the unit itself is the problem, or if it’s an underlying electrical issue:

  • Plug the unit into another outlet to see if it receives power.
  • If there’s still no power, try toggling the breaker for the area where the equipment is plugged in.
  • If toggling the breaker does not work, check for a tripped GFI. To reset, hit the “Test/Reset” buttons on the outlet.

If troubleshooting doesn’t give your flat top grill heat or power, call a vendor to investigate further.

Restaurant flat top grill parts and warranties

Parts replacement is actually the third most common need for grill and griddle R&M. But this is extremely easy—and cost-efficient—to do in-house.

Knobs are often lost, broken, or damaged in the hustle and bustle of a kitchen. Before you call a vendor to replace the knob for you, look up the manufacturer of your restaurant flat top grill.

  • Visually examine the knob in need of replacement. There are only a few different configurations, so make sure the temperature notches and on-off indicators match to avoid confusion.
  • Find the interface of the knob that connects it to the gas valve for the griddle. It will either look like a crescent moon or half circle (very common) or a rounded plus sign (not-so-common). 
  • Look for knobs that match the front and interface of the broken piece online or in-store. If you can’t source the same make and model, look for a knob with the same interface in a similar size.
  • Slide the replacement onto the brass stem on the griddle, and tighten the small set screw on the side of the knob so it won’t fall off. This is hard to see, so look closely for it or you run the risk of losing yet another knob! 

Vendors tend to charge around $50-70 for this simple fix, but sourcing the knob and replacing it yourself should only cost around $20-30. Plus, there’s no need for downtime when you don’t have to wait for a vendor to show up!

For bigger parts in need of replacement, or issues that can’t get resolved for troubleshooting, always check your warranty before calling a vendor for repair. A lot of hot side equipment, like flat top grills, have 1-2 year warranties for mechanical components. But certain internal components, like burners, might be shorter than the rest of the unit.

As with any piece of kitchen equipment, always double-check your warranty because they can vary widely across different manufacturers. For example:

  • Star usually offers 2-year parts warranty for grill and griddles, but only a 6-month warranty for grates and burners. 
  • Vulcan’s warranties usually include a 1-year warranty for parts and labor, but only 3 months of coverage for “flame safety components.”

A final note on restaurant flat top grills

No need to get grilled over your R&M expenses for griddles. Keep the surface clean, take the time to troubleshoot, replace knobs using your know-how, and stay wise with your warranty to avoid losing money and time to repair this important piece of kitchen equipment.

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