How to keep your kitchen running smoothly

As any catering company will know faulty fridges and clapped out cookers can be an expensive drain on resources, which makes keeping catering equipment up to date and running as efficiently as possible a top priority for any busy, professional kitchen. However, it can also be an area that can often get overlooked.

Having worked in the service industry for over 18 years Adam Cattermole of Cattermole Group in the Midlands takes a look at top tips for keeping your kitchen running smoothly and preventing costly breakdowns.

“Prevention will always be better than cure,” says the service engineer who is based in Derby. “It may seem like an obvious thing to say but it is much easier to repair faults when they start than have to close a kitchen and completely replace a broken item.”

Where every second counts in a busy kitchen though it can be difficult to find the time to factor in additional checks. However, leaving regular maintenance to chance can be a costly mistake.

“Fridges are often one of the appliances people forget to service,” says Adam. “Most people concentrate on cooking appliances as they know if they aren’t running the business isn’t serving. However, with all the stock in a large commercial fridge a breakdown can easily run into thousands of pounds. I know firms who have lost up to £7,000 in wasted stock.”

So, what needs to be checked and how often to keep your kitchen running smoothly?

There are key legal requirements which need to be scheduled into the yearly running of any professional kitchen from regular gas safety checks to ventilation cleaning and PAT tests but there are also a number of daily activities that can support this.

Portable electrical items – PAT tests need to be carried out by a qualified electrician every three to 12 months depending on the business. However, did you know that around 80% of all items that are failed by the tester, fail on visual checks alone? These are broken casing, exposed wires or damaged covers that could have been identified early on and repaired. Don’t wait till the item breaks to get it fixed.

Gas servicing – A regular gas service needs to be carried out by law by a COMCAT 5 registered gas engineer. This makes sure that there are no faults and your appliances are working efficiently and safely. But, fail to keep up to date with your gas service and it invalidates your insurance. Even if you don’t think there is an issue it is important to keep your servicing contracts up to date so that if something was to happen you are insured.

Ventilation – Like with a gas service regular ventilation cleaning is a legal requirement to keep ducts working efficiently. The timings depend on the use and size of ducts but usually they need servicing, and possibly cleaning as well, between every six and 12 months as a rule.

Refrigerator – we have already mentioned this briefly, but cooling systems can often be forgotten. If your door seal fails, it will leave you with a money guzzling machine which is inefficient and likely to fail an Environmental Health Office inspection. Check the seals as part of your regular cleaning routine to check for wear and tear, rips or faults.

So, in short prevention is always the best way to reduce the risk of costly break downs. Faulty appliances can close your kitchen holding your business to ransom. Keep on top of maintenance so you can head off problems before they arise.

Top tips

  • Make regular checks of equipment as part of daily tasks. Put checking refrigeration seals on the cleaning rota.
  • Create a reporting system that encourages staff to make you aware of the small issues so that they can’t progress. Your staff are your biggest asset they use the kitchen daily, if there is a faulty wire, tear in the refrigerator seal or unusual noise coming from the oven they will know. If you catch things early, they are also less likely to cause expensive bills
  • Sign up to a regular maintenance contract so that equipment can be routinely checked by professionals
  • Make sure when buying new equipment you get long guarantees. Many companies are now offering 24 month guarantees on products
  • Make sure the people assigned to install equipment are fully trained.
  • If you haven’t got a maintenance contract talk to local service companies and see what they can offer. But do your homework! Find out what they offer, what you are liable for and how they work. Do they provide a 24 hour call out service? If there is an issue out of office hours do you have a direct line to someone who can put it right? Is there a contract in place? Don’t just go for the cheapest deal, look for the contract that is right for your business.

By Adam Cattermole, commercial and domestic catering equipment specialist at commercial appliance service and repairs company, Cattermole Group

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