Published in Food/Agribusiness

Report: Spiking equipment repair costs add to restaurants’ challenges

BY Sunday, July 10, 2022 01:50pm

Already pinched by an ongoing dearth of available workers, restaurants are also facing significant increases in their expenses tied to equipment maintenance and repairs.

An annual report released by Grand Rapids-based restaurant service provider 86 Repairs Inc. reflected this dynamic, showing that the average cost of repairing cooking equipment increased by 38 percent in 2021. 

The company partners with restaurant operators of all varieties, providing end-to-end service for equipment repairs and maintenance.

The company’s report, “The State of Repairs,” walks restaurant operators through the most common type of equipment failures, how to troubleshoot them, the cost of average repairs and the most reliable equipment brands. 

Released last month, the report is designed to help restaurant operators make informed decisions when it comes to repairs and maintenance work.

“There is a shortage of skilled trades labor,” said Daniel Estrada, co-founder and CEO of 86 Repairs. “Of folks qualified to fix equipment and infrastructure, one-third of them are retiring between now and 2030. Those jobs are not coming back. The macro issue is that the cost of getting things fixed is increasing because availability of that labor is decreasing. Which also means it takes longer for vendors to respond.”

Based on data collected by 86 Repairs, the average cost of repairing cooking equipment increased by 38 percent in 2021, Estrada said. For example, the average service visit to repair a fryer cost operators $735, and $1,000 for a walk-in cooler.

The longer lead times also mean more downtime, which ultimately limits a restaurant’s ability to produce menu items.

Restaurants nationwide spend $28 billion on equipment repairs and maintenance and $35 billion on new equipment each year, according to 86 Repairs.

“Labor shortages have definitely exacerbated the repair and maintenance problems for operators,” Estrada said. “One reason is that the staff don’t have time to be running through preventive maintenance checklists, for example. We do see operators leaning on vendors and more on us to manage this process for them. It’s been one of the reasons our business has grown.”

Meanwhile, 86 Repairs has flourished against this backdrop. Estrada said the company tripled revenue in 2021 as demand for reliable repair and maintenance service continues to rise.

As labor pains show no signs of subsiding, many restaurants look to technology to automate kitchen tasks to keep their operations running.

Estrada acknowledged this reality, saying that his team will need the capabilities to service higher forms of technology as they’re deployed into kitchens.

“I think we’ll see a lot more convergence of products that would be considered to be I.T. — software to run drive-thrus and point of sales systems and those kinds of things,” Estrada said. “Those are mission critical to a restaurant. The more service needs you have on that equipment, the more important it’s going to be to have the right vendors lined up.”

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