Repair vs. Replace: How to Decide When to Replace Restaurant Equipment
Faulty equipment can cause lots of issues in commercial and institutional kitchens. There is a lot to deal with from the inconvenience involved, rethinking menus, and the costs involved when equipment isn’t operational. But when considering if a foodservice business should repair or replace restaurant equipment, the most effective way to approach the decision is to use set criteria to make a sound judgment.
In some cases, repairing a broken-down unit might be the most cost-effective way to go when considering the question of repair vs. replacement. In other cases, the benefits and return on that investment are simply too great not to replace aging restaurant equipment, especially when considering new technologies that save on utilities and rebates at the time of purchase. To get more insight, we spoke with Jason Hall, CMC who is also the Vice President of Research and Culinary Development at Southbend.
“When deciding to replace or repair equipment, I have always looked at several factors and it becomes a matter of what is most beneficial to the culinary program and the customers we are serving,” said Hall.
Let’s walk through the factors that contribute to the factors that Hall is referring to.
Without a doubt, this is the first thing any operator should consider. If an existing piece of equipment can cause harm to staff or guests, it’s time to replace it. The last thing anyone wants to see in the back of the house is a flood, leak, or fire. Or have a staff member get injured from faulty equipment. Safety is the most important factor.
Performance & Quality
There are a few ways to look at this category, so let’s start with the food. When equipment becomes old and worn, it can often contribute to poor food quality. Uneven cook temperatures result in partially cooked foods. Sometimes worn-down equipment can contribute to unwanted flavors and aromas, creating a less than desirable final product.
Performance also plays a role in terms of operational efficiencies. If a range or fryer is lagging and recovery times are low, throughput will be impacted. Longer reheat times can also be an issue, meaning longer wait times for customers. A reduction in cooking capacity might translate to an inability to produce at volume. Another major issue when foodservice equipment isn’t working properly? Additional stress on an already shorthanded kitchen staff.
Finally, there’s the important factor of efficiency as it relates to utilities. Warewashers that aren’t working properly might use an excess amount of water. Bad ranges can use too much gas. And when refrigeration compressors are compromised, electricity is wasted. The bottom line is poor foodservice equipment performance is one of the quickest ways to experience an unhealthy bottom line.
The Cost of Repairing Foodservice Equipment
Just like an older automobile, at some point, the cost of repairing faulty foodservice equipment will cost more than purchasing new restaurant equipment. Because cost is one of the top barriers when considering new purchases, it’s also important for operators to consider the costs of not purchasing new equipment.
“Careful planning and forecasting of equipment budgets each year can assist in these inevitable occurrences. Of course, there are normal repairs that need to be completed to keep equipment running,” said Hall. “And after a period of time, it becomes necessary to start planning for repairs. However, when production is routinely interrupted, delayed or normal processes need to be altered due to failing equipment, it becomes time to consider and plan replacement.”
So, if a restaurant is spending several thousand dollars a year to maintain existing units, at some point, it becomes more cost-effective to purchase new equipment to avoid the cost. And when you factor in the lack of revenue caused by downtime and the rising costs of service due to parts and labor shortages, purchasing new equipment becomes a smart business decision.
The Benefits of Purchasing New Foodservice Equipment
Once an operator decides to move forward and replace restaurant equipment, it’s possible to realize savings and a significant return on investment sooner rather than later. An oven created 25 years ago doesn’t have the same features as the ovens produced today, and they don’t have the same benefits either.
“Often, there is a new, more beneficial replacement piece that can benefit or offset the lack of back-of-house staff,” said Hall. “Also, newer equipment will most likely reduce utility costs and benefit the operations bottom line in other ways. In my experience, a fully functioning piece of equipment that is not compromising food quality, not interrupting or delaying service periods, and providing the reliability of supporting an ever-changing culinary team is beyond compare.”
As mentioned, the service costs go away, and at the same time, newer technologies can result in greater energy efficiency, reduced water consumption, higher-quality food cooked with consistency, and even automation features that can help reduce strains on labor. Helping foodservice businesses on multiple levels, including staffing issues and bottom line costs.
Find out if your restaurant equipment is due for a tune-up or an overhaul.
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