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09/19/2022

How Data-Driven Restaurant Repair Improves Customer Experiences and Reduces Costs

On-demand repairs of refrigeration and kitchen equipment top the list of full-service restaurants' annual spending on service.
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a person cooking in a kitchen preparing food

While the pandemic accelerated tech adoption for front-of-house restaurant operations, including mobile ordering and contactless payments, the restaurant industry remains hesitant to adopt technology to help streamline repair and maintenance (R&M) operations. According to ResQs 2022 State of Disrepair report, the majority (81%) of restaurant owners surveyed said their hesitancy in adopting this type of technology stems from perceived difficulties in rolling it out.

But, as inflationary pressures persist, it’s time for restaurateurs to embrace any and all available technology to keep their kitchens up and running at maximum speed. Restaurants need to turn R&M management from an afterthought to a strategic advantage.

Prioritize preventive and routine maintenance, and limit on-demand repairs

Restaurant R&M is typically defined as routine, preventive and on-demand. Generally, restaurants budget between two and three percent of annual revenue for routine and preventive maintenance, and four to five percent for on-demand maintenance. This might seem like a small percentage, but the unseen cost of maintenance is equipment downtime, which equates to lost revenue during a time when restaurants may be struggling to stay afloat. 

To put this into perspective, repair and maintenance of kitchen equipment is a $28 billion annual expense industry-wide. Equipment downtime adds another $46 billion in annual lost revenue. According to ResQ’s 2022 State of Disrepair report, on-demand repairs of refrigeration and kitchen equipment top the list of full-service restaurants' annual spending on service. One way to reduce the costs associated with repair and maintenance is to prioritize preventive and routine maintenance plans, and limit on-demand repairs.

On-demand repairs come with the possibility of spending thousands of dollars to quickly get a piece of equipment repaired or replaced, as well as lost revenue and/or temporary closures while waiting for repairs or replacements. While insights from ResQ’s State of Disrepair Report showed restaurant operators setting up more preventive equipment maintenance measures compared to the prior year, most survey respondents underestimated how the right technology partner can help increase operational efficiency.

Make sure service technicians are equipped with the right diagnostic tools

According to a recent survey done by Service Council, nearly half (46%) of respondents were still working in a reactive service model, while one-third of respondents indicated they were in a predictive service transformation. The same goes for restaurants; the majority are still taking a reactive approach to their R&M strategy, but this economic climate calls for building out a more prescriptive service plan.

Transitioning to a predictive service model is easier than ever before—restaurant equipment repair and maintenance has completely changed thanks to artificial intelligence and machine learning tools.

For example, there are AI-powered tools, such as service intelligence, available today that will capture and analyze data sourced from millions of service tickets, technician notes and subject matter expertise. This technology gives appliance repair technicians the data-driven insights needed to identify customer issues before they escalate, so they can solve an issue before a restaurant owner recognizes there was one in the first place. With the help of AI, service intelligence can also walk a technician through a step-by-step diagnosis to resolve issues on both cold-line and hot-line appliances. With all troubleshooting knowledge available at their fingertips, technicians are able to get to the root of the problem, order the parts they need and get the kitchen equipment back into operation as soon as possible.

It also equips technicians with the knowledge, educational edge and skills required to arrive on site at the right time, with the right parts to seamlessly get the job done. Restaurant owners should make sure the service technicians who are coming in to fix their equipment are equipped with the right technology and diagnostic tools to solve the issue on the first visit. Any additional time to resolve the equipment will not only result in financial loss due to additional service costs but also longer downtime. 

R&M tech can help address challenges associated with labor shortages

Labor shortages and skills gaps have led to longer wait times for technicians to diagnose a piece of equipment and resolve a problem, subsequently leading to longer downtime for restaurants.

To make matters worse, the majority of the workers contributing to the labor shortages are some of the best, most experienced technicians in the food equipment repair industry. Analysts at Goldman Sachs note that, of the five million people who have exited the workforce since the start of the pandemic, a strikingly large number are 55 and over and likely won’t return.

With veteran service technicians leaving the field and taking their knowledge with them, it’s critical that the less-experienced technicians have the technology that will provide them with the knowledge and resources to solve an issue without the skills and experience of a service pro.

Restaurant and other hospitality groups should ensure their service partners are equipped with the right data-driven technology to help combat labor shortages and stay one step ahead of their customers’ repair and maintenance needs. Furthermore, access to this repair and maintenance data helps inexperienced technicians take jobs they wouldn’t have previously been able to get, as jobs previously required years of experience on specific pieces of equipment. This highly increases the pool of available job candidates.

Customers come to restaurants for a reason—good food and great service. Ensuring their kitchen is fully operational will go leaps and bounds for what they can accomplish. In order to decrease unnecessary repair and maintenance expenses, restaurants need to partner with service organizations that use AI-powered tools to ensure their kitchen appliances run smoothly at all times, so they are always set up for success with customers.

About the Author

Sidney Lara is currently the Service Principal at Aquant, a software company focused on bringing service intelligence to field service organizations through AI and data-powered platforms. Sidney is passionate about eliminating waste from business processes and focusing on the activities creating value for customers.