Keep up so you don’t break down
Dealing with repairs and maintenance is a pain; nothing is exciting about it. It’s just something we all need to deal with. How you handle R&M indicates how you approach this job, either as a business career or a hobby. Suppose you wait until the last second, living off hope; then this is a hobby to you. If you create a proactive plan to keep everything functional, then you are a business professional. When you don’t deal with maintenance or let repairs drag, they sneak up on you at the worst possible time, typically on a Saturday night when you need that equipment the most. It then costs you time and a half to get the one technician willing to work the weekend to slowly drive out to your pizzeria. To avoid this, have a preventative maintenance plan.
Preventative maintenance means a technician comes to check out your refrigerated and prep equipment every quarter. They perform maintenance checks, do some deep cleaning, and verify everything is in working order. In addition, you need a standardized deep cleaning schedule that your store abides by to make sure equipment is maintained correctly. You can get a lot done yourself by watching resource videos on YouTube, but certified technicians are trained to look for things you won’t be able to catch. That’s why you need both yourself and the technician consistently tending to the equipment that allows you to operate and create profit.
Make sure your preventative maintenance plan is scheduled out with dates from the technician. Set it in a calendar every year like you would a dentist appointment. Make it crystal clear when the techs should come out, and then you’ll have a record of when they’ve visited. If you don’t do this, your proactive payment for these techs might be for work that never occurs.
If possible, have a backup plan for everything in your store. In other words, what would you do if your walk-in goes down? Move items to the pizza prep units? Bring in a generator? Load up coolers with ice? Whatever you choose, have a plan for it that staff is aware of. If something breaks, do you have a second store you can use for mixers, slicers and fryers? If not your store, perhaps a restaurant friend’s store? Possibly a school cafeteria or a church kitchen. Suppose you have no idea, then start making friends and create a backup plan. Again, it’s a lot easier to avoid all of this and maintain the equipment properly in the first place … but equipment failures will occur.
When techs come out to do repairs, treat them like gold, give them a slice of pizza, get them a soda or water because you want them wanting to come to your store, especially when it’s an emergency on a weekend night. When the chips are down, they’ll work harder to get you operational faster if they dig you and your store. Some technicians are unethical; to be safe, always acquire the broken part they replace, so you know you’re dealing with a reputable technician who isn’t pulling a fast one on you.
Do your research. Understand how long each piece of equipment should typically last. Learn this from other industry experienced people or the manufacturer themselves. You might be able to squeeze 10 years out of a five-year item, but don’t expect to, and certainly budget for replacing these items. You don’t want to find yourself at year five doing tens of thousands of dollars in replacements that you never budgeted for.
Avoidance of pitfalls is not luck. Avoidance of pitfalls comes from planning and being more proactive than reactive. The devil is in the details on repairs and maintenance. If you don’t spend money now, seeking to get by, you will eventually lose tenfold more when you take the hit on having to replace items at the worst possible time. You’ll also deal with not being able to operate at 100 percent as you search out and buy new replacements. Never be reactive with repairs or maintenance; proactive is always cheaper.
MIKE BAUSCH is the owner of Andolini’s Pizzeria in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Instagram: @mikeybausch