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How to Reduce Maintenance Cost for Your Restaurant

As a restaurant owner or manager, you know how crucial maintenance is to a restaurant’s operations. It is not essentially a pleasant task but directly affects the customer experience. 

Imagine a worst-case scenario: Your fryer breaks down unexpectedly. You rely on it for 75% of your menu items. When it ceases to function, your restaurants operations will come to a halt, and you have to tell your customers your most popular food items are now unavailable.

Given the importance of customer experience, you should do everything you can to ensure the proper upkeep of your restaurant. Here are some proven methods to carry out restaurant maintenance tasks, minimize maintenance costs, and improve customer experience. 

Reduce Unplanned Maintenance

Your restaurant’s HVAC system breaks down unexpectedly or the ice machine stops working all of a sudden. Such events can happen when you don’t have a proper inspection, maintenance, and repair program in place. The failure to have a maintenance program is responsible for most cases of unplanned maintenance. 

Case in point: Most manufacturers recommend inspecting and cleaning a refrigerator’s condenser coil once every three months. If you fail to do so, dust and grease will likely cover the coils. As such, your power consumption will increase and the compressor will eventually break down, resulting in higher repair costs, possible food spoilage, and restaurant shut down if repair is not done quickly. Timely intervention can save you from potential losses, downtime, and costly replacements.  

Many restaurants resort to reactive maintenance, meaning they fix or repair equipment after it stops functioning. Repair is done in reaction to a failure instead of preventing the break down in the first place.  

For your restaurant operations to run smoothly, you must take preventive measures and have a maintenance plan in place. By implementing planned maintenance, you will reduce the risk of unplanned maintenance, ensure a better customer experience, and decrease costly repairs and replacements. 

Implement Preventive Maintenance

For most restaurants, maintenance becomes a concern only when something ceases to function. This is a reactive and costly approach. Your restaurant’s day-to-day operations are important, but you must also look at the big picture. Being proactive and turning to a preventive maintenance strategy will not only reduce maintenance costs but also improve overall customer experience.

For example, you want your HVAC system to function smoothly at all times. It is crucial not only for customer comfort but may have regulatory implications as well. The system will stay up and running only if you implement a preventive maintenance program, which should involve:

  • Inspection and cleaning or replacing the filters
  • Cleaning the condenser, evaporator coils, drain lines, and pans
  • Replacing worn belts and pulleys
  • Cleaning the ducts
  • Testing the thermostats, controls, electrical systems, and fan motors
  • Removing debris from inside and outside the unit

Here are some methods to keep track of preventive maintenance in your restaurant:

Pen and paper

A technician or manager fills out a physical form by hand, creating a maintenance checklist. It lists down the maintenance schedule for each asset and prioritizes all inspection and maintenance tasks. The assigned maintenance staff then carries out maintenance and inspections according to the predefined schedule. 

Spreadsheets

You can choose to use a spreadsheet to create a maintenance checklist, setup inspection, and maintenance schedule, assign resources, and track maintenance tasks. It can help you perform timely maintenance, saving you thousands of dollars that you may otherwise spend on repairs and replacements. 

CMMS

A CMMS will let you create QR code or use asset tags for all your equipment and set up automatic preventive maintenance reminders for your staff. It is a more costly method than pen and paper and spreadsheets, but can be worth it if you have lots of restaurant equipment to maintain.

Train Staff Properly    

A $10,000 loss because the central air conditioning system stopped working on a blistering summer day: considering the downtime and long-term cost of losing customers. Turns out, it happened because the maintenance checklist was not properly created, or someone failed to follow the schedule.

The lack of appropriate training of the staff in creating and using a proper maintenance checklist has already cost many restaurants dearly. The value of employee training becomes evident only when something valuable is broken, or a costly mistake is made. 

A maintenance checklist helps your staff monitor your assets by creating consistent action items based on your maintenance goals. It helps you know what maintenance tasks are being carried out by each staff member. And in the event of any problem, you can always go back to the log and check who created the checklist and train them accordingly so that future mistakes are prevented.  

Outsource When Needed

Having in-house technicians makes sense only if you have multiple restaurants. Single location restaurants can reduce labor costs by outsourcing maintenance to contractors. These contractors can perform specialized preventive maintenance tasks that your staff cannot perform.

The best approach for a restaurant is to take a balanced maintenance approach. While preventive maintenance can help reduce unexpected equipment breakdowns, not every piece of equipment is suitable for preventive maintenance. For lower-valued equipment, it is best to take an unplanned maintenance approach and only repair it when it breaks down. A balanced approach can lower your maintenance cost and improve your customer experience.

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