The Ultimate Guide to Preventive Maintenance for Restaurants

04.19.22 | Preventive Maintenance

Just like your car or your body, you need to take care of your commercial kitchen before things go wrong. You can’t expect your business to continue running smoothly without taking preventive measures and, when necessary, placing work orders. The kitchen is the heart of your business: when your kitchen stops beating, so does everything else. Procrastinating and waiting until it’s too late will only make life more difficult—and costly. In this article, we’ll discuss why your kitchen needs preventive maintenance and work order management.

You may have heard of CMMS or Cloud Maintenance Management Systems, and with good reason. As we previously discussed in our article about digital restaurant checklists, many establishments are still using paper and pens to keep track of managers’ and staff’s essential tasks. If you don’t want to waste time and money— let alone lose faithful customers— you need the ability to update what needs to get done in real-time. Here at MaintainIQ, we can help you do just that.

Whether you’re just starting out in the restaurant business, have a decades-old mom-and-pop eatery, or manage a multiple-location franchise, we know what you’re up against. At MaintainIQ, we want to make your professional lives easier so that you can better enjoy your personal time. With our preventive maintenance and work order management software, you can ensure that your restaurant is a well-oiled machine so that you’re never left stranded (or in violation of code).

What is considered preventive maintenance?

Like any business based on satisfying the customer, the hospitality industry can be tough. We’re here to help you streamline your kitchen so that you can focus on the rest of the restaurant. The main part of simplifying restaurant operations is performing preventive maintenance. In other words, your equipment and surfaces should be cleaned and maintained regularly so that you avoid problems before they happen. The kitchen continues to run smoothly, clients are served delicious, uncontaminated food, and everyone goes home on time.

Failing to maintain your equipment can lead to temporarily closing your kitchen, thousands of dollars in repairs, violating code, and throwing out your entire refrigerator’s contents. The consequences are grave, but the good news is that our preventive maintenance schedule makes it easy for everyone to keep the kitchen working optimally.  

Preventive Maintenance Schedule for Your Restaurant

Preventive maintenance in your restaurant kitchen can be a major hassle, but our user-friendly repair and maintenance software can make it a seamless process. It eliminates confusion, improves communication, and clarifies everyone’s responsibilities in real-time. For example, cleaning your coffee machine or scrubbing down the grill can easily be done by in-house staff, but you’ll need to hire a professional to perform pest control services every month.

MaintainIQ helps you and your staff keep track of the many moving parts so that they’re always serviced before an emergency arises.

When implementing a preventive maintenance schedule for your restaurant, you’ll need to keep in mind that certain equipment needs to be serviced more often than others. If you’re looking into starting a restaurant, it may come as a surprise that you can’t simply do a six-month or one-year plan for your commercial kitchen. Everything has its own timeline, requirements, and level of importance. Let’s take a deeper look.

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Commercial Kitchen Preventive Maintenance Checklist

Basic-Level Kitchen Maintenance

Machines and Filters

Water Filters:
Preventive Maintenance for Water Filters

Commercial water filters should be replaced every 3 to 6 months. If your staff fails to stay on top of this, your water flow will begin to taste foul and slow down (wasting time and energy). This is due to the accumulation of sediment, pesticides, and bacteria. Failure to complete this facility maintenance step can lead to sick (and enraged) customers.

Ice Machine:
Preventive Maintenance for Ice Machine

Perhaps the most important preventive maintenance task in this category, ice machines, are easily overlooked, but the consequences of neglect can be dire. To stay up to code and avoid your customers getting ill, deep clean your ice machine every 3 to 6 months. Your staff should be able to do this—working from the interior out—cleaning off all the built-up ice, and spraying everything down with an ice machine cleaner, sanitizer, and nylon brush. Don’t forget the compressor, storage bin, and exterior. Replace water filters at the same time. In between deep cleaning, regularly wipe down the ice machine and check for mold. 
Average cost:
Ice machine cleaner: $115 per gallon
Ice machine sanitizer: $16 per 16 oz.
High-flow water replacement cartridge for ice machines: between $75-$150. (Check 3M brand).

Soda Machine:
Preventive Maintenance for Soda Machine

Staff should clean the soda machine once a day with hot water. Hose down the machine drain, soak and scrub the nozzles, and thoroughly clean the bar gun. Make sure that the entire exterior of the machine is wiped down.
Since fountain soda is comprised of carbonated water, syrup, and ice, it’s important that the ice machine’s water filter (see above) is kept fresh. How often you change the carbonation tank depends on its capacity and the frequency with which the soda machine is used. As a rule of thumb, for every 20 pounds of CO2, you should have enough carbonation for five 5-pound bags-in-box of syrup. Regularly check the pressure regulators for your CO2 tank to make sure that you don’t have a carbon dioxide leak. The low-pressure gauge should be set at 65 PSI and the high-pressure gauge between 95 and 105 PSI, depending on the type of your carbonator. 
If you don’t keep this up, the best-case scenario is that your customers are drinking flat, tasteless soda. The worst-case scenario: cockroaches and mold are making a cozy home in your soda fountain while your leaky carbonator is slowly making everyone suffocate.

Ice Cream Machine:
Preventive Maintenance for Ice Cream Machine

Depending on your local food safety laws, your ice cream or frozen yogurt machine should be cleaned as often as every day, but ideally three or more times per week. Be sure that your ice cream machine is completely empty before dissembling it. Wash all parts with hot, soapy water and a kitchen brush. Rinse with hot water, and soak in a tub of hot water with soap and bleach for approximately 30 minutes. Rinse thoroughly and reassemble when the parts have cooled.
Every 3 to 6 months, parts like gaskets, drive belts and pulleys, and beater blades should be replaced. Also worth noting is the condenser coil, which can be washed with water or a degreaser, depending on the type of build-up.   

Surface Cleaning and Sanitization

Walls:
Preventive Maintenance for restaurant Walls

When it comes to facility maintenance, the kitchen area surrounding your staff is just as important as the actual equipment. Food, grease, dust, and dander easily gather on the kitchen floor, ceiling, and walls. The walls should be cleaned every day—preferably after each shift, and deeply cleaned/sanitized once per month. Basically, your kitchen should always be as sanitary as possible and ready for an impromptu inspection.

Floors:
Preventive Maintenance for restaurant Floors

A dirty, slippery floor can be a health hazard on many levels. Keep your staff safe by regularly checking for tripping hazards like cracks, holes, or misplaced products. Remove mats from the floor and thoroughly sweep and mop once or twice every day. To remove the heavier, greasier substances that mops won’t pick up, use a degreaser and/or buffer the floor every week.

Ceilings:
Preventive Maintenance for restaurant Ceilings

It’s easy to have tunnel vision while cleaning your kitchen surfaces, but you need to look it up. Since the ceiling sits above everything in the kitchen, it gets dirty faster than you’d imagine. And, depending on its material—popcorn finish and plaster, for example—it could be absorbing hazardous bacteria and fumes. A dirty ceiling can affect the kitchen’s air quality, promote food-borne illness, and become a fire hazard. While it’s important to clean and wipe down the ceiling every three months, we recommend hiring a professional to deep-clean and sanitize your kitchen at least once per year. It’s a lengthy process that could be done by staff, but it’s best left to the experts.

Behind and Under Equipment:
Preventive Maintenance for restaurant behind and under equipments

Every month, the stove, fryers, and oven (aka hotline) should be moved for a thorough cleaning of dirt and grease, which are both fire hazards. All other moveable parts, like walk-in refrigerators and freezers, holding cabinets, and ranges should be moved monthly to clean bacteria buildup and remove dust.

Heating Devices

HVAC:
Preventive Maintenance for HVAC

Although an HVAC system is comprised of heating, ventilation, and AC, we’ll discuss this here under heating devices. Its main purpose is to improve indoor air quality, as well as monitor temperature. While the HVAC filters can be cleaned, the best option is to have a professional replace them monthly to maintain a sanitary, debris-free atmosphere with clean air.

Brick Oven:
Preventive Maintenance for Brick Oven

If your restaurant has a wood-fired brick oven for pizza, it should be cleaned every day. Simply scrape off residue or food remnants and brush them out with an oven broom or hand brush. If there are grease spots or stubborn debris, wipe them down with a warm, wet towel. See here for more information on maintaining other types of pizza ovens.

Broilers:
Preventive Maintenance for Broilers

There are four main types of commercial kitchen broilers: Infrared, lava rock, chain, and radiant. While they each are powered and function differently, all broilers should be cleaned daily. Be sure to scrub down both sides (if possible) of the grates with a grill brush. Failure to do so can result in thick debris collection, producing uneven heat distribution, affecting the food’s flavor, and making your burners give out. To extend your broiler’s life span, make sure that broilers are turned off when not in use. Staff should easily be able to take care of broiler maintenance, but this can easily turn into a costly work order.

Fryers:
Preventive Maintenance for Fryers

While the fryer should be cleaned after every shift, this is not enough if you want to save energy and money. Depending on your fryer’s capacity and frequency of usage, a boil-out is required as often as once a week, but normally once a month. To do this properly, remove all oil from the fryer. To remove residual debris and built-up grease, boil a commercial fryer cleaner solution with water in your fryer for 20-30 minutes. Failure to do this limits your fryer’s operating capacity, wastes money, and can ruin the taste of your food.

Grills:
Preventive Maintenance for Grills

To avoid cross-contamination and food-borne illness, scrub the grill each time you switch from red meat to fish or poultry. Clean the grills after every shift according to the manufacturer’s suggestions. In general, the grill should be cleaned while still hot. Using an appropriate cleaner or oil and vinegar, scrape the surface with a heat-resistant rubber tool. Eliminate built-up debris, food, and carbonated particles with a grill brush, using circular motions. Wipe down the burners with a clean cloth. After rinsing the grill with low-pressure water, wipe it down with a clean towel dipped in cooking oil.  

Commercial Oven:
Preventive Maintenance for Commercial Oven

As the pillar of the kitchen, an effective and well-maintained oven is a must. Throughout the day, clean up spills immediately. Once a day—preferably at night—clean the oven by removing the racks and placing them in hot, soapy water. Scour until all debris and food particles are gone, rinse, and spray with non-toxic sanitizer. Clean the oven’s interior with a warm, damp cloth and an oven cleaner. Be sure all debris is gone from the fans, so airflow isn’t limited. If you can, leave the oven door open overnight to dry properly.
While cleaning your commercial oven daily is a good measure for facility maintenance, schedule a monthly professional cleaning to maintain top performance. Ignoring your oven can lead to foul-tasting food, heating inadequacy, and low performance (resulting in higher energy bills), as well as the risk of fire.

Hot Holding Cabinet:
Preventive Maintenance for Hot Holding Cabinet

Hot Holding Cabinet: If your holding cabinet is properly cleaned and maintained, it should last an average of seven years. Every day, clean the inside—removing and cleaning all racks—with soap, water, and sanitizer. Clean the outside as well, using spray detergent and a product like Windex for the glass. If your holding cabinet generates humidity, you will need to descale and delete the interior approximately once a week. If your holding cabinet is not properly cleaned, the combination of heat and moisture can easily breed bacteria and food-borne illnesses.

High-Level Kitchen Maintenance

Cooling Equipment:

Swamp Cooler:
Preventive Maintenance for Swamp Cooler

While your kitchen’s hood exhaust system takes away foul odors and hot air, the commercial swamp cooler plays an essential part in bringing fresh, cool air into the kitchen. Also known as MUA, or “Make Up Air,” the swamp cooler needs to be serviced by a professional at least once every six months. Because it is situated on the roof, if your restaurant is located by the beach, the salt water may require you to have it serviced more often. As it’s placed outdoors, your commercial swamp cooler is also predisposed to gathering more dirt and debris. Not servicing it on a regular basis can lead to the swamp cooler pumping contaminated air or exhaust fumes into the kitchen. If the MUA has become moldy, the air in the kitchen could become smelly and unsanitary.

AC Unit:
Preventive Maintenance for AC Unit

While we touched on HVAC services above, your commercial air conditioning unit requires a bit more preventive maintenance. Depending on the size and location of your restaurant, the AC unit should be serviced by a professional between 2-4 times a year, preferably right before summer and winter. Ignoring your AC could spike electricity bills if it’s not working properly, but there are other consequences. High temperatures could affect the quality of food in the pantry, wasting even more money. No customer wants to eat in a restaurant while they are sweating, and this could severely affect your restaurant ratings. A faulty AC unit also puts the safety of your staff at risk since they are already working near very high temperatures.

Refrigerator and Freezer Walk-ins:
Preventive Maintenance for Swamp Cooler

Refrigerator and Freezer Walk-ins: Restaurant operators commonly waste an exponential amount of money on electricity due to refrigeration. Since refrigerators and freezers keep food fresh (and prevent food-borne illnesses), it is vital that your walk-ins are kept in optimal shape. To cut down your electric bill and avoid throwing out food, check the temperature every day. If the temperature is off, something may not be working properly and require repair.

Any spills should immediately be cleaned in your refrigerator and freezer, and a basic wipe-down did every day. After unplugging the units and emptying all contents, clean both every week with soap and water. Make sure that you remove all food remnants, dirt, and icicles/frost—removing any panels if necessary.

The condenser should be checked every few days at a minimum. Ensure proper airflow around the condenser and evaporator by making sure that the vents aren’t blocked. Never leave garbage, boxes, or other large, dirty obstructions by your units.
Perform a thorough inspection of your walk-in refrigerators and freezers every three months. This includes cleaning evaporator fan coils and blades and checking for any damage or excessive wear. Door seals and hinges should be lubricated so that the doors always shut completely. Replace any parts as necessary. If you’re not sure exactly what to look for, hire a professional refrigerator technician to inspect your units and explain the best preventive maintenance for your walk-ins.

Drains and Traps

Drains:
Preventive Maintenance for Drains

Since they are out of immediate view, drains often are ignored in commercial kitchen preventive maintenance until it’s too late. Every month, you should flush out the drains with hot water to remove food debris, grease, soap scum, and other potential blockages. If you’re experiencing slow drainage, use vinegar and baking soda to prevent any cloggages. If your drains are already clogged, you can try clearing them with a drain snake or place a work order for professional assistance. Schedule an inspection of your drains once a year with a licensed plumber. Maintaining clean drains is essential for preventing horrendous odors and sewage overspills. Out-of-service drains also keep your staff from being able to use the sinks to wash food and dishes and maintain a sanitary kitchen.

Grease Traps:
Preventive Maintenance for Drains Grease Traps

Grease traps are environmentally mandated to prevent fats, oils, greases, and solids (also known as FOGS) from getting into the city’s sewage system. Depending on what kind of restaurant you run, the grease traps should be professionally cleaned approximately every 1-3 months. When it is one quarter full, your grease trap needs to be emptied. Best practices for preventive maintenance include using sink grates, disposing of food particles in the garbage or compost, and never pouring grease down the sink drain—as grease will solidify and cause major drain problems. Failure to properly handle FOGS and maintain grease traps can result in a large fine from your municipality. It’s also a major fire hazard.

Fire Protection

*If you have any doubt in regard to how often to clean equipment that could lead to fires, please check the NFPA (National Fire Prevention Association) website for more specific information.

Hood Exhaust System:
Preventive Maintenance for Hood Exhaust System

The restaurant hood must be cleaned in-house at least every 90 days and professionally 1 to 4 times per year. The frequency depends on your fuel usage, the capacity of your kitchen, and how greasy the foods you cook are. Built-up dirt and grease can limit your ventilation system and air quality, as ducts become breeding grounds for bacteria. This makes the hood work harder and essentially will cost you more in energy. The worst effect of an untended kitchen hood is the cause of flash fires.

  • Grease Filters: New grease filters in the exhaust system can catch up to 80 percent of the grease passing through. However, a saturated filter is essentially useless. Without a working filter, your exhaust system becomes filled with highly flammable grease—right above the flames from the stove or oven. It’s a recipe for a major fire disaster. As such, grease filters should be cleaned or replaced by staff once or twice a month.
  • Ansul System: Your kitchen hood’s fire suppression system needs to be inspected by a fire technician at least every six months. You will need to shut down the kitchen for the inspection. If there are any problems, you will need to submit a report to your local fire department and have them fixed immediately. If not, you will receive a compliance report. Always keep your records and service tags updated. Failure to service your Ansul system can not only lead to a hefty fine but also approximately $60,000 in damage should a fire break out.
Fire Protection System:
Preventive Maintenance for Fire Protection System

While the Ansul system is the main hub for fire protection, other measures should also be taken. Your restaurant needs an escape route for staff and customers, and all exits must always remain unobstructed. While sprinklers and fire alarms are not mandated in every kitchen, if your building requires them, they should be checked with the Ansul system every six months.
Class K fire extinguishers should be visually inspected by the restaurant manager once per month and professionally once a year. During the monthly inspection, ensure that the extinguishers are full, leak-free, and in the correct location. The pull-pin needs to be intact, and the pressure gauge indicator should be in the appropriate range. Make sure that all staff is aware of your restaurant’s Emergency Action Plan (EAP) in case of a fire.  

Best Preventive Maintenance Practices

The commercial kitchen preventive maintenance checklist is certainly lengthy and can be overwhelming. While we have gone in-depth regarding most aspects of the kitchen, there is other equipment that we have skipped over for brevity’s sake. Equipment like dishwashers and 3-compartment sinks should be self-explanatory. Perhaps your restaurant has additional equipment, like a range or a boiler. If you have any questions about the best preventive maintenance practices for your kitchen, please contact us.

Preventive Maintenance is an ongoing practice that will help you save money, keep your kitchen running smoothly, and ultimately run a more successful business. As you can see by the length of the list, keeping your system on paper sets you up for uncompleted tasks, confusion, and miscommunication between staff. With our CMMS program, preventive maintenance in your kitchen becomes streamlined. As a restaurant manager, you can delegate exactly who is responsible for each task and ensure that they know exactly how to complete it to your standards. Consistency is key, especially if you’re running a multi-location franchise. The flavor of the food your kitchen is producing isn’t just a product of the recipe—it’s also due to how clean the equipment is.

Unfortunately, no matter how tightly you manage your calendar for professional servicing and keep up preventive maintenance, you will still encounter problems. Hinges break, refrigerators stop running, and ovens stop heating over time. This is one instance in which work order management can save you time and money.

To see how our app can save your restaurant thousands of dollars and countless hours, schedule a Zoom demo with us today.

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