5 Common Equipment Mistakes to Avoid

Installation errors mark a leading cause of equipment failure.

It’s imperative that all foodservice equipment work reliably at all times. All it takes is one unit to fail for productivity to slow, or even grind to a halt. We reviewed more than two dozen stories service technicians recounted to us to find the most common errors operators make when it comes to equipment care and maintenance.

1. Installation errors. Hitting the on switch for the first time is exciting, but unfortunately that anticipation sometimes turns to frustration. Technicians have seen installations by people unfamiliar with the equipment. One individual hooked up a gas fryer to an electric power source and another tied an ice machine water line into the wrong compressor. Even when the equipment works at first, mistakes in installation can sometimes lead to leaks or small malfunctions that, over time, cause larger issues.

2. User mishaps. In the rush of a busy day, sometimes equipment doesn’t get the care and respect it deserves. Banging into equipment with dish carts or pots and pans can be detrimental, leading to wear on wires that eventually cause complete shutdowns. Improper training also can be a cause of damage. In one kitchen, an operator used a torch to light an oven, ruining the thermocouple.

3. Do-it-yourself gone wrong. In the same vein as user errors, operators will often cause a bigger equipment failure just by trying to fix a small issue. Replacing a blown fuse might be easy enough, but not figuring out what’s causing the fuse to blow hides—and even prolongs—a larger issue such as an overworked motor.

4. Overzealous cleaning. Hosing down a floor might be smart. But hosing down equipment puts unnecessary moisture in electrical controls, which can lead to rust and corrosion or cause equipment to short out. In one example, employees at a fast-casual restaurant took a hose to a double-deck convection oven every night as part of their cleaning routine. Eventually, the oven refused to start because moisture had gotten to the igniter and starting component. In another case, an employee used a pressure washer to clean a countertop fryer in the parking lot of a restaurant.

5. Neglect. It may be a dirty job, but it’s important to clean out drains. Backed-up grease and caked-on food can cause water leaks, excessive wear on the motor, and for one operator, it meant having to purchase a new dishwasher. Not properly preparing equipment for storage is another form of neglect, leading to complications when bringing it back online.

The Takeaway

The majority of issues service agents we interviewed saw occurred as a result of untrained people doing the work, either during installation or later. Be sure to hire a certified technician for installation, maintenance and repair work.

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