Foodservice Equipment Reports

BACK STORY: Margarita Madness

A service call came in about the margarita machine at a Mexican family-dining restaurant about three hours away from Refrigerated Specialist Inc., located in Mesquite, Texas. RSI had leased the machine to the restaurant owners about 10 months earlier.

“They told us the machine had been making a squealing noise when it was running, and then suddenly it wouldn’t turn on at all,” recalls RSI Owner Scott Hester.

Hester suspected neglect rather than equipment failure. “The restaurant owner had been through a couple of managers,” Hester says. “The turnover led to a breakdown in communication when it came to equipment upkeep, including the margarita maker.”

When the RSI service agent arrived at the restaurant, he found a sadly neglected machine. The compressor had burnt out for a second time because “someone had plugged the margarita machine into the same circuit with another high-amperage appliance,” Hester says. “Starting and restarting the machine with too-low voltage fried the compressor’s motor windings.” The ironic thing: An empty dedicated circuit was nearby.

But the story gets worse. “The margarita machine hadn’t been broken down, lubricated and cleaned in about six months,” Hester says. “The night bar staff would switch it off at the end of the evening, and the morning crew would turn it back on. It wasn’t as bad as some I’ve seen, where sugar from the drink mix actually ‘welds’ the machine to the counter surface. But this one was close.”

“We had supplied the restaurant with a laminated instruction sheet showing how to do the breakdown, lubrication and cleaning routine each night and put it back together in the morning,” Hester adds. “You just drain the unit, disassemble it and leave the parts to soak and sanitize overnight, then reassemble and lubricate in the morning.”

Additionally, the machine was missing its faceplate O-ring, and without lubrication, it led to the high-pitched squealing noise the operator had complained about before the unit stopped working.

“Without the spacing created by the O-ring, the dasher was spinning against the back of the faceplate,” Hester says. “If that goes on for too long, you’ll be putting plastic shavings into people’s drinks.”

“The machine was still within warranty, but this was total user error,” Hester continues. “The owner seemed embarrassed and was very interested in learning how to avoid future problems.”

The RSI service agent replaced the compressor, plugged the machine into a dedicated outlet and added a new O-ring with proper lubrication. He also left a spare tune-up kit and an extra tube of food-safe petro gel lubricant for good measure.

Hester has developed a quick test to separate good bar operators from mediocre ones. “I’ll ask the bartender to show me the bar’s petro gel and sanitizer liquid or powder. If they can, it’s good. And if they can’t...well, I’ll play it safe and just order bottled beer.”

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