Restaurants have always been price sensitive when it comes to goods and labor, but high costs due to inflation are putting substantial pressure on the bottom line. With most businesses seeing costs rise nearly or greater than 10% year over year, their operational budgets are under immense strain. Reluctant to pass costs on to the customers, many restaurants are looking to cut costs out of other areas of the budget.

And one of the first budget casualties has one of the most outsized impacts on customer satisfaction: facilities maintenance.

Facilities maintenance affects employee productivity and the overall customer experience. No matter how good or reasonably priced the food is, a location with dirty, broken, and uncomfortable environments detracts from the dining atmosphere. Beyond its direct, visible benefits, preventive maintenance contributes to soft benefits, such as customer perception and satisfaction, carry weight, according to FacilitiesNet.

Preventative maintenance is a proactive approach to managing and maintaining the physical assets of a restaurant, such as equipment, facilities, and systems, to prevent breakdowns, prolong their lifespan, and ensure their efficient performance. While it may seem like an additional expense, investing in preventative maintenance can actually result in significant cost benefits for restaurants in the long run.

Reduces emergency repairs

Regularly scheduled maintenance checks and inspections can help identify potential issues before they escalate into costly emergency repairs. For example, identifying and fixing a malfunctioning oven burner during a preventative maintenance check can save a restaurant from having to deal with a breakdown during peak hours, leading to lost sales and dissatisfied customers.

Extends equipment lifespan

Restaurant equipment is expensive, and replacing equipment can be a significant cost burden. However, with proper preventative maintenance, the lifespan of the equipment can be extended, delaying the need for costly replacements. This can result in considerable cost savings over time and help restaurants get the most out of their investments.

Improves energy efficiency

Energy costs are a significant expense for restaurants. Preventative maintenance can help optimize the performance of equipment such as HVAC systems, refrigeration units, and kitchen appliances, ensuring they operate at peak efficiency. This can result in lower energy consumption and reduced utility bills, leading to long-term cost savings.

Reduces downtime and lost revenue

Unplanned equipment breakdowns can lead to costly downtime, resulting in lost revenue and dissatisfied customers. Preventative maintenance helps identify and address potential issues proactively, minimizing downtime and keeping operations running smoothly. This can save restaurants from revenue losses and maintain their reputation among customers.

Key components of preventative maintenance in restaurants

To reap the cost benefits of preventative maintenance, restaurants should implement a comprehensive program that covers key components. These may include:

  1. Regular equipment inspections: Schedule regular inspections of all equipment and facilities to identify any signs of wear and tear or potential issues. This may include checking for leaks, cleaning filters, calibrating thermostats, and lubricating moving parts.
  2. Planned maintenance tasks: Develop a detailed maintenance schedule that includes routine tasks such as filter replacements, equipment cleaning, and system calibrations. Follow this schedule diligently to ensure that maintenance tasks are carried out on time and as per manufacturer recommendations.
  3. Staff training: Train restaurant staff on basic maintenance tasks and best practices to ensure proper handling and care of equipment. This may include proper cleaning and sanitizing procedures, safe handling of chemicals, and identifying signs of equipment malfunction.
  4. Partnering with professional service providers: Work with qualified service providers for complex equipment or system maintenance, such as HVAC systems or commercial refrigeration units. Regular professional maintenance can help identify and address potential issues early on, preventing costly breakdowns.

Monitoring and measuring the success of preventative maintenance

To ensure the effectiveness of a preventative maintenance program, it's essential to monitor and measure its success. This can be done through advanced performance metrics and maintenance logs.

  • Establish performance metrics, such as equipment uptime, energy consumption, and maintenance costs, to track the effectiveness of the preventative maintenance program. Regularly review and analyze these metrics to identify areas of improvement.
  • Maintain detailed records of all maintenance tasks performed, including the date, nature of the task, and any issues identified and addressed. This can serve as a reference for future maintenance and help track the history of each piece of equipment.

Better brand image and customer relations

Perhaps one of the greatest advantages of a maintenance program is reduced downtime. In a restaurant, for example, preventative maintenance can keep equipment working as planned which results in keeping the food and business running. In a retail store, maintenance heads off electrical malfunctions before they interfere with business. Consider that 95% of shoppers say that unclean restrooms and unpleasant odors influence their shopping decisions along with dirty floors, spills or stains, and other factors.

A run-to-failure model looks like better financial sense given that costs are only incurred when something fails. However, the additional costs of unplanned downtime, customer dissatisfaction, and potentially higher fees for emergency repairs outweighs any potential cost savings. Look to establish a preventative maintenance program to better manage your restaurants’ maintenance costs and driven down and stabilize these costs over time.

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