Maintenance: Plan for a Smooth 2023

A chef-turned-technician shares his take on planned maintenance.

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Keeping all your kitchen’s equipment working to specification is a time-consuming job. To take out the guesswork, consider protecting your most valuable equipment with a planned maintenance program.

You can’t plan for what you don’t know, but what every operator knows is that they don’t want key equipment to fail on a bustling Friday.

With so many to-dos already on the docket, planned maintenance assures essential pieces of equipment receive proper checks at the appropriate intervals. To start 2023 on the right foot, FER checks in with Cliff Kolinger, a technician (since 2004) and trainer with EMR in Salisbury, Md.

Kolinger’s maintenance advice abounds, but his No. 1 tip is this: Protect your refrigeration equipment with planned maintenance.

 


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Kolinger says he has seen the unfortunate flipside, with one EMR client acquiring a former restaurant site filled with equipment that was not maintained; the refrigeration equipment, just four years old, was “trashed,” he says.

“The condenser coils all had two inches of dust and grease, which causes the compressors to run hot,” Kolinger says. “So, we had a two-door reach-in freezer that’s probably about $15,000 to replace and the compressor was bad. For that customer to spend probably close to $5,000 to fix it? It’s not worth it.”

In hindsight, had that previous operator kept a planned maintenance schedule, coils would be cleaned monthly, among other standard checks.

Ice machines, too, are worth the planned maintenance investment, Kolinger says, as are combi ovens. But, if you can afford to protect the whole fleet, it cannot hurt to have trained hands and eyes safeguarding your investments.

“That’s important—to have a professional make sure that your equipment is performing at its peak and also to head off potential issues,” says Kolinger.

Here’s what he recommends:

GRIDDLES

DAILY

☑ Check that the grease chute is in place and inspect for grease in abnormal spots

MONTHLY

☑ Ensure griddle is heating properly

QUARTERLY

☑ Visually inspect the top and bottom of the griddle
☑ Check for stress cracks in the cooking surface
☑ Check gas pressure on gas grills and amp reading on electric grills
☑ Check knobs for wear, and replace as needed

ANNUALLY

☑ Check and calibrate the thermostat

COMBI OVENS

DAILY

☑ Clean gaskets daily with a mild detergent and replace biannually or as needed

WEEKLY

☑ Check for grease buildup
☑ Check for loose or disconnected pipes
☑ Clean air intake vent
☑ Test draining from oven cavity and check lines for leaks or clogs

ANNUALLY

☑ Change water filters
☑ Check heat exchanger for deformities
☑ For boiler-based combis, descale and then change gaskets
☑ Replace steam bypass hose
☑ Check drain lines and solenoid hoses
☑ Check knobs, handles and gaskets and repair as needed
☑ Tighten bolts
☑ Inspect electrical connections

SODA DISPENSERS

DAILY

☑ Pour hot water down the drain

WEEKLY

☑ Clean drain and trough

MONTHLY

☑ Clean ice bin
☑ Flush and clean syrup lines
☑ Test syrup/water ratio
☑ Clean connectors at the bag-in-boxes

DISHMACHINES

DAILY

☑ Check that water temperature and rinse pressure are within manufacturer guidelines
☑ Check for water leaks

WEEKLY

☑ Make sure drain valves are holding
☑ Descale as needed (weekly with hard water, monthly otherwise)

MONTHLY

☑ Check chemical dispenser is working properly

ANNUALLY

☑ If unit has curtains, change them if worn
☑ Check pump motor amp draw

WALK-IN COOLERS AND FREEZERS

DAILY

☑ Check the temperature at the front of your walk-in against readings on hanging thermometers

MONTHLY

☑ Check for any ice buildup on the evaporator

QUARTERLY

☑ Blow condensers out with nitrogen, or clean with chemicals
☑ Clean evaporators with chemicals, nitrogen or compressed air
☑ Check the fan motor is running properly
☑ Check the temperature at the front of the walk-in is reading properly
☑ Make sure drain lines are clear of dirt and debris
☑ Check space at the top of the door for proper alignment
☑ Check door hinges, floors and walls for signs of wear and replace or repair if necessary

REACH-IN REFRIGERATORS

DAILY

☑ Check unit temperature

MONTHLY

☑ Clean condenser coil
☑ Check for torn gaskets and inspect seals
☑ Clean evaporator fans

QUARTERLY

☑ Check temperature controls

CONVECTION OVENS

DAILY OR WEEKLY

☑ Inspect the blower wheel for debris (like foil)

MONTHLY

☑ Clean air intake vent
☑ Clean and remove obstructions from flue
☑ Check door seal for any damage

ANNUALLY

☑ Check venting system for possible deterioration
☑ Check thermostat and temperature probes for correct calibration
☑ On some models, lubricate the oven door chain with high-temperature grease

FRYERS

MONTHLY

☑ Perform a calibration check
☑ Power off fryer, pull it out and clean the back wall
☑ Clean controls to keep free of grease buildup
☑ Replace broken knobs
☑ Check power cord and connections
☑ Check that pilot light maintains proper flame
☑ Check O-ring integrity and drain pan connection
☑ Clean blower, vents and combustion components
☑ Check pump system, if applicable
☑ Inspect fry vat for leaks

SEMIANNUALLY

☑ Have a certified technician conduct a fire suppression inspection

ICE MACHINES

MONTHLY

☑ Clean or change air filters

QUARTERLY

☑ Remove and clean water distribution parts, and sanitize bin and machine
☑ Check quality and thickness of ice

SEMIANNUALLY

☑ Descale water system and change filters
☑ Clean remote- or air-cooled condenser coil

ANNUALLY

☑ Change hoses and O-rings as needed
☑ Inspect machines for misplaced water

Editor’s note: This checklist doesn’t address all daily cleaning routines and is not all-encompassing. Check manufacturers’ recommendations.

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