By David Turk
In the restaurant and foodservice industry, the easiest and least expensive option in the short term often ends up being inconvenient and more costly in the long run. Whether it’s the headaches associated with unreliable equipment in the kitchen, a disappointing dish made with sub-standard ingredients or a bad customer experience because of poorly trained staff, the consequences to cutting corners are clear.
Putting off preventive maintenance when it comes to heating and cooling equipment is no exception. Although there may be a marginal benefit—a bit of extra effort avoided and money saved in the short run—the path of least resistance and lowest cost could lead to a very expensive crisis: equipment failure, expensive repairs or the need for complete replacement.
Even if equipment does not fail right away, the slightest variation in temperature or humidity can drive customers away, lower employee productivity, affect service and spoil goods. And when equipment does break down, the real cost is usually incurred in the immediate aftermath, such as having to bring noisy portable heaters or air conditioners into a busy kitchen or dining area.
Almost always, the cost to respond and control a crisis is higher than the final repair and quite a bit higher than the cumulative cost of preventive maintenance.
“Preventive maintenance on heating and cooling equipment is an easy way for restaurant owners and operators to ensure stability, predictability and efficiency, not to mention a good way to avoid a crisis that could compromise the guest experience or worse, lead to a shut-down,” says Geoff Atkinson, director of Enercare Commercial Services. “Most people don’t think twice about changing the oil in their cars or rotating their tires. The same common sense principles for car maintenance apply to heating and cooling equipment.”
When properly maintained, heating and cooling equipment operates at maximum efficiency, leading to energy savings, improved air quality and a more consistent experience for guests.
What to look for
In the case of equipment for restaurants and comparable buildings, manufacturers suggest monthly visual inspections by the building owner or a designate, and regular scheduled service by a qualified technician. For non-experts, there are two telltale signs that equipment is not operating at peak levels:
- A lack of hot or cool air in the building, and
- A spike in energy bills compared to the same month in the previous year.
Both can usually be tied back to the most common maintenance-related issues, even in high-efficiency equipment:
- Dirty air filter and/or evaporator and condenser coils
- Refrigerant leaks
- Blown fuses
- Electric control failure
- Thermostat problems
Addressing the issues above leads not only to peace of mind, but also to measurable and immediate increases in efficiency. According to the U.S. Department of Energy and ENERGY STAR websites, performing specific maintenance can lead to an increase in efficiency of up to 15 per cent. Some common maintenance tasks are:
- Replace dirty filters
- Clean coils and drain channels
- Use a fin comb to straighten coil fins
- Clean debris and leaves from the fan, compressor and condenser
- Optimize burner efficiency
- Remove soot from burners
- Adjust operating sequence
“In my experience, individuals who neglect to perform regular maintenance either don’t appreciate the potential consequences of a crisis or are so strapped for cash that they can only think about the short term,” says Atkinson. “They need to consider how expensive this can get and how an uncomfortable dining experience will affect the reputation of a restaurant and the potential for future business.”
About the author:
David Turk is associate marketing manager at Enercare. Enercare works with industry leading manufacturers to deliver reliable and efficient heating and cooling equipment. For more information visit www.enercare.ca.