Prolonging the Life of Your Kitchen Equipment

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Proper maintenance and the right parts program can ensure top performance of your equipment.


[This post originally appeared as a Henny Penny sponsored blog post on Nation’s Restaurant News]


Some of your kitchen equipment has seen better days. Your rotisserie isn’t cooking evenly, the way it used to. Your pressure fryer does not heat oil accurately. You are having food quality issues. But margins are tight. Plus, you’ve reduced labor so you depend on your equipment even more. You can’t afford to buy new. What to do?

Fortunately, there is a solution. Two solutions, in fact. You need a good preventative maintenance program to extend the performance of your equipment and, when parts wear out, you need to investigate replacing the affected parts rather than purchasing new equipment.

Peter Krause and Jim Anglin are experts in keeping equipment in prime working condition. Krause is the field support and technical training supervisor for equipment supplier Henny Penny and Anglin is the company’s director of parts and supplies. The two share some practices that can help operators prolong the life of their equipment and keep it running in peak order.

Planned Maintenance

To keep kitchen equipment in the best working order, one or more employees in the back-of-the-house needs to be trained to perform routine preventative maintenance, or, as Krause calls it, planned maintenance. The goal of planned maintenance, he says, is to keep all equipment working safely, decrease down time and reduce the total cost of ownership for the operator.

The main thing is to be proactive in scheduling both internally conducted maintenance and check-ups by a professional service technician. Krause suggests that when maintenance is performed by the end-user it is a good idea to plan maintenance to coincide with routine tasks. As an example, he points out that if a customer changes their oil approximately once a month on a pressure fryer, that customer can create a “Changing the Oil” checklist that directs their team member to perform all of the monthly maintenance on the fryer at that time.  A checklist might look like this: (1) Dispose of the oil. (2) Perform a clean-out procedure on the fry pot. (3) Lubricate lid components. To make sure maintenance tasks are getting done, it’s best to have a manager follow up with the team member assigned to the task and reinforce why these steps are important to the performance of the equipment.

There are common denominators for the care of each piece of equipment, according to Krause. If a unit is electric, the cord, plug, heating elements and contactors require a thorough inspection. If it is gas, the gas hose, quick disconnect and pilot-burner assembly would require inspection. For pressure fryers, it is necessary to make sure the lid, safety relief valve and lid components are checked.

It is also a good idea to have a service technician come in at scheduled intervals. The professional will inspect components to ensure that nothing in the equipment would compromise food safety or food quality or result in unexpected downtime. Service technicians also are trained to recognize when a part needs to be replaced rather than repaired.

Henny Penny holds training classes for end users on the steps they should be taking in-house. Henny Penny also holds classes for technicians which include training on the kind of maintenance that would be performed in-house as well as the critical inspections that require a trained service technician.

Replacement Parts

Replacing parts versus buying new equipment is a dilemma that can only be addressed on a case-by-case basis, according to Anglin. Generally, a well-maintained piece of equipment can last for decades. But this depends on consistent maintenance according to manufacturer specs. One key to longevity is parts replacement.

Some components within the equipment will not last decades. Anglin points out that most of today’s modern equipment is designed with wearable parts that can be replaced at regularly scheduled intervals. Examples include silicone o-ring seals, gaskets and oil filtration media.

Henny Penny recognizes the fact that operators, in tough financial times, need to extend the life of their kitchen equipment as long as feasibly and safely possible.  Down time is not an option.  Operators simply can’t be without working equipment to help deliver their brand experience.  Henny Penny recognizes how important it is to have the right parts at the right times for our partners and have recently upgraded their fulfillment operation to ensure expedient shipments to service and distributor partners to avoid that dreaded downtime!

Anglin recommends that operators use OEM-specified parts, that is, those parts specified by the original manufacturer’s design engineers, to ensure safety, reliability and proper fit. He says look-alike parts may appear to be similar, but may fall short on endurance or safety ratings. When this occurs the look-alike will have to be replaced sooner with associated installation costs or may compromise the safety of the equipment.

If the equipment is more than 10 years old and it breaks down, the operator must weigh the cost of repair against the cost of replacement. This decision must factor in the age of the equipment, return on investment in terms of labor savings, consumables savings such as cooking oil or food waste, and potential utility rebates.

Top-Performing Equipment Can Be Key to Addressing Margin Pressure

Labor issues, from increased labor costs to a shrinking pipeline of employees, are putting pressure on operators’ already slim margins. Many are responding by reengineering their kitchens, often with a smaller footprint and multi-use equipment. They are relying on modern technology and equipment to solve labor issues. Because of this, it is even more critical that equipment function optimally over a period of time.

Both planned maintenance and replacement parts and supplies play a major role in ensuring extended life and performance of every piece of equipment in the back-of-the-house.