Preventative Maintenance…… “What are you Preventing”?


This question has been asked by Chefs and kitchen managers for years. When it comes to performing preventative maintenance on a piece of equipment in a commercial environment, there are a couple different perceptions of what is taking place. From the customer’s standpoint, the tech inspects the piece of equipment and does what is needed to ensure the unit will not go down. From the technicians point of view, techs clean up components and change basic parts needed as part of an extensive check list of tasks to perform; they do what is asked of them to keep the appliance in good working order. “Preventative maintenance” entails ensuring that …..  bad things are prevented from happening. Simple, right?  Well, this is not that simple.  The issue lies in the wording. People hear the word “preventative” and assume the company or technician is preventing the unit from going down during service. This is the goal, but not the guarantee.

When preventative maintenance (PM) is performed correctly, the unit is brought back up to (or as close to) factory specs as possible. This is not a wash, wax, and shine. It’s more to do with the mechanical side; components are examined and cleaned up. In refrigeration, the coils are cleaned, drain lines are blown out, fans, gaskets and electrical connections are tested. The same is true with HVAC, with the addition of the filters and belts and an occasional contactor or capacitor. With cooking equipment, orifices are cleaned, manual gas valves are checked and lubricated, gas pressure is checked and/or adjusted. So, in all cases of the PM Service, there isn’t much visually noticeable by the customer. Most of the components are enclosed behind a panel. But this disconnect starts the customer thinking, “What is he doing? What am I paying for?” “It doesn’t look any different!”

After the technician finishes the PM on the equipment, he informs the customer of any issues that may cause a problem later down the road to the customer. It is up to the customer to decide whether to go with the recommendations of the tech or to let it be for now. The usual replies are, “Well, is it running now?” or “How long before it could possibly go down?”. The decision to go with the recommended repairs is advisable for the longevity of the unit, but ultimately up to the customer.

In short, think of preventative maintenance like changing the oil in your car. You don’t notice the difference after it’s done, but you know if you don’t have it done your car will break down in the near future. The longer you go without service on your Commercial Restaurant Equipment, the more likely you are to have big problems that typically cost far more than the Maintenance Service would have cost.  As far as the wording of the service itself, whether monthly, quarterly, or yearly, Maintenance Service sounds more practical. In using the term “Preventative Maintenance”, when used, think of this as preventing a large repair bill in exchange for a smaller Maintenance bill.