When equipment isn’t working, restaurants can’t sell food. And every minute a restaurant can’t serve food, it’s losing money: Restaurants lose about $46 billion in revenue because of equipment downtime every year.
But operators don’t just lose revenue on broken equipment—they lose valuable time as they try to manage every facet of the repair and maintenance (R&M) process.
As Richmond Green, VP of Operations at gusto!, explains, “I was making sure we had the right vendor contract signed, making sure that dates were being scheduled for visits, making sure that we were getting follow-up visits scheduled after vendor visits. And then coordinating with the leaders of our shops with the specifics for each one of their locations. It was a lot of management on my end.”
Proper restaurant maintenance is vital for operators to reduce downtime, save money on expensive last-minute repairs, and avoid spending extra time on R&M management. Here’s what you need to know.
What is restaurant maintenance?
Restaurant maintenance refers to the ongoing care of equipment and infrastructure to keep them in good working condition. It helps operators maintain the durability of restaurant assets and avoid last-minute breakdowns that lead to costly repairs, downtime, and lost sales.
Maintenance usually occurs within a set schedule according to the type of equipment or infrastructure. There are two types of maintenance restaurants should have scheduled:
Routine maintenance refers to the daily, weekly, and monthly tasks performed by on-site restaurant teams at the beginning or end of a shift.
Routine maintenance tasks include, but are not limited to:
- Regularly checking that every sink has hot water running and soap nearby.
- A morning check of the walk-in and HVAC thermostats to ensure they’re set to an appropriate temperature.
- Flushing debris, draining oil, and cleaning a commercial deep fryer at the end of every shift.
- Disassembling, cleaning, and reassembling an ice cream machine at close, or running the heat treatment cycle on a Taylor ice cream machine.
- Cleaning an ice machine’s filters every two weeks.
Skipping routine maintenance can lead to clogs, buildup, and unsanitary conditions—none of which are welcome in busy restaurant kitchens.
Preventative maintenance (PM) refers to technical maintenance tasks performed by specialized technicians. PM isn’t necessary as often as routine maintenance, but should always be performed according to the manufacturer’s guidelines and/or local health and business codes.
“[PM is] an absolutely critical task,” says Richmond. “Not having a good PM plan opens you up to legal risks. It opens you up to safety, fire, and financial risks. An operator could say, ‘I haven’t had anybody maintaining my HVAC unit, and it gave out five years before it’s supposed to.’ That’s $15,000 that we’ve got to figure out how to replace.”
Examples of PM include, but aren’t limited to:
- Annual backflow preventer inspections.
- Twice annual ice machine inspection and deep cleaning.
- Quarterly cleaning for large, external grease traps via a complete drain or filtration.
- Cleaning restaurant hoods as often as the local health code regulations recommend them.
Though PM is required for certain equipment and infrastructure, like HVAC systems and grease traps, it’s not recommended for everything.
For example, hot side PM can be prohibitively expensive—and include tasks that restaurant staff should be doing as part of their routine maintenance, anyway. You’re better off performing routine maintenance to keep this equipment operating smoothly.
Despite the importance of restaurant maintenance—both to protect profits and prevent risks—it’s all too common for operators to let it fall to the bottom of the priority list.
Why restaurant maintenance gets pushed to the back burner
“The people who are actually running our restaurants have the hardest job in the whole frickin’ world,” says Richmond. “Especially during the past two years, they’ve got a million different things they’re trying to balance and think about.”
Front- and back-of-house staff are already swamped taking and fulfilling orders. But restaurant operators like Richmond are, too. They have way too much on their plate each day—from managing the front- and back-of-house staff to keeping guests happy, and from ordering ingredients to paying the bills for those ingredients (and every other expense).
Many restaurant operators also have to take on the responsibility of managing R&M. Like Richmond did, they have to source vendors, schedule the visit, follow up if the vendor doesn’t show up, and make sure the repair is done correctly.
With so many competing priorities and limited time to complete them, restaurant maintenance “to-do’s” get pushed down the priority list. They’re out of sight, out of mind—at least until an equipment or infrastructure failure becomes so serious it can’t be ignored.
Managing maintenance like this for one location can be challenging enough. But for multiple units? The problems compound. Things get complicated quickly as operators have to communicate with multiple managers and vendors and contend with multiple chances for lost revenue—not to mention documenting every issue along the way.
As Richmond explains, “If you have any aspirations to grow beyond just a couple of restaurants, the equipment maintenance side of the business can be very tedious. It’s very task-oriented.”
Restaurant maintenance is a headache. But it doesn’t have to be—operators can simply take it off their plate and put it onto the plate of a trusted partner instead.
Getting a partner for restaurant maintenance
86 Repairs is the R&M management platform built for the restaurant industry. When something in an operator’s restaurant goes down, all they have to do is call, text, or email our team—and we manage the rest. We operate as a trusted partner to restaurant teams so we can focus on R&M, and they can focus on keeping customers happy.
As part of our service, we document all equipment and infrastructure found within the business in a digital equipment inventory. The inventory helps our team make quick maintenance recommendations, along with suggestions for long-term preventative maintenance.
Why is this helpful? As Richmond explains, “We all have information about the equipment that’s in each one of our restaurants, but [86 Repairs] just has a more detailed and thorough system than it would be if I was managing it. Y’all are able to have more insight into equipment, especially with our preventative maintenance providers.”
Dedicated Account Managers offer data-driven insights on equipment and infrastructure based on historical R&M data that we track across all customer restaurant locations. These recommendations include specific guidance on whether to repair a piece of equipment or replace it entirely—ensuring no extra time is wasted on maintenance and that operators are spending R&M funds as wisely as possible.
The result? Operators reduce their R&M costs and spend less time overall managing it. gusto!’s partnership with 86 Repairs is how Richmond is able to save $200 per vendor visit and free up more of his valuable time.
“[With 86,] We know we’ve got somebody that can devote their full attention to making sure things get done,” explains Richmond. “Rather than me dedicating 5% of my time to making sure that it gets done. It’s absolutely worth it to have a partner that’s entirely dedicated to managing repairs.”
“[86 Repairs is] kind of like an insurance policy, making sure that things are getting done properly and on time,” he continues. “Knowing that the hot box is getting taken care of or that the vent hoods are getting cleaned every quarter, is a tremendous cost saver. It’s peace of mind.”
Want peace of mind at your multi-unit restaurant group? Book a demo to learn more about how we simplify restaurant maintenance.