Back Story: Karate Kid
“We were working in the kitchen of a large, upscale convention hotel, trying to figure out a problem with the doors on one of their convection ovens,” says John Schwindt, V.P. of Hawkins Commercial Appliance Service in Englewood, Colo. “The door were bifold, the type where when you pull one, the other opens automatically. The problem was, those doors kept going out of adjustment. They were starting to buckle and even bend a little. None of our repairs seemed to ‘stick.’”
“The operator was blaming the equipment and assuring me that ‘no, we’re not abusing that oven,’” Schwindt says. “I was mystified—those convection ovens are everywhere [so we’d worked on similar units many times], and the hotel’s equipment was relatively new.”
Some detective work was in order. Schwindt arranged with the hotel’s facility maintenance director to set up a stakeout just outside the kitchen doors during afternoon prep time.
“We stood there for about two hours, watching the convection oven through the windows,” Schwindt says. “Suddenly we saw one of the younger cooks swing around and use a karate-style back-kick to close the oven doors. He kicked the doors shut a couple more times, showing off for one of his buddies. That was what caused the doors to break.”
But more revelations lay ahead. “The hotel kitchen had also been having steam table repair issues,” Schwindt says. “They used a big steam table unit that had a 2-ft. by 5-ft. opening where they’d set pots into the hot water to keep food hot during plate assembly. For some reason, the heating element on the unit kept breaking.”
“We watched that same young cook take a pot full of food and instead of carefully lowering it into place, he was dropping it from about a foot up. Hot water and food would splash everywhere. It’s amazing that no one got burned. That heavily dropped pot was what kept breaking the heating elements.”
At that point, the maintenance manager had seen enough. “He walked in, found the kitchen manager, and together they grabbed the kitchen employee and fired him and his buddy on the spot,” Schwindt says.
“Any decent service technician can fix a problem, but you have to find and fix the cause, too,” Schwindt says. “A lot of times, the issue will be a bad component, but a good tech should always do some detective work, too.”
Copyright FER February 2013