How Equipment Downtime Affects Your Bottom Line (and What to Do About It)

It’s every restaurant owner or manager’s nightmare: during peak rush hour, your equipment breaks down. Sound familiar? Malfunctioning or broken equipment is not uncommon, but it’s a real blow to QSR sales. Not only does it affect your revenue and frustrate your employees, but it also affects your brand, since disappointed customers now can’t get their favorite treat. It can also lead to negative online reviews as a result, which can severely impact your business. What is the true cost of restaurant equipment failure? And what can you do to avoid this scenario?   Why QSR Equipment Fails  When your equipment fails, it’s typically due to one of two common reasons:  Old or overused equipment  Is your equipment due for an upgrade? Is it a piece of equipment you use every day—say, a combination oven or a freezer? While most restaurant equipment is made for the gruel of commercial use, it will still wear out eventually (and much faster, without preventative maintenance).  Your team may also not be evenly using high-capacity equipment such as fryers or grills, causing portions of them to wear out faster than others.    Lack of proper preventative maintenance  Equipment needs constant care, including frequent cleaning, inspections, quality control checks and immediate replacement of missing or broken parts. For example, the most common reason freezers fail is because the condenser coils aren’t cleaned regularly. A combination oven often malfunctions because it’s cleaned with the wrong chemicals or not frequently enough. Fryer food quality drastically decreases when oil isn’t filtered or replaced when needed.  While it may take a bit of planning in between prep and rush hours, creating and sticking to a preventative maintenance plan for your restaurant equipment can save you thousands of dollars.   The Cost of Equipment Downtime  Did you know that the average restaurant owner spends between $500 and $2,500 every month for equipment repair and maintenance—and that’s per location! The same report reveals that only 46% of restaurant operators have preventative maintenance plans. Aside from costly parts and labor, you’re also bleeding money due to equipment downtime.   Let’s do some quick math. Let’s say your iced dessert machine is down for a day.  You could miss out on 200 or more item sales in a day equaling $600 in sales and $450 in gross margin profit.    That one equipment breakdown just cost you $625 in sales in a single day!  Of course, these costs could be less or more, depending on variables such as what time of the day it is (rush hour vs. slow), what your average number of orders is per hour, the average order amount, etc. Since the QSR environment is fast-paced, equipment breakdowns happen more frequently, which means you can have more than one malfunction across multiple locations—you could be losing thousands of dollars to downtime at any given time. The point is: if you’re not taking care of your equipment, you’re shortening its lifespan and wasting a ton of money on an emergency that could have been easily avoided.   The Snowball Effect of Equipment Failure  Think that broken espresso machine or warm walk-in cooler isn’t a huge deal? The truth is, equipment failure—especially if it happens frequently—has a real snowball effect, including: 
  • Loss of inventory. When a freezer or fridge is on the fritz, it could be a while before you can get a repair man out. Even if they come in time, it may be too late to salvage some or all of your food inventory.  
  • Strain on employees. Even your top employees feel the strain when dealing with irate customers during an equipment failure. The stress—especially if it happens a lot—may cause a higher turnover rate than you like.  
  • Negative brand experience. You don’t want to have your brand name be synonymous with broken equipment (McDonald’s ice cream machines, anyone?). But if you’re not keeping up with your equipment maintenance, your customers will notice. And if it happens too often, your brand suffers (and your Yelp page, too).  
How to Maximize Equipment Uptime and Lifespan   It’s not all bad news. In fact, most of the above can be avoided with a regular preventative maintenance schedule. Here’s how to make the most of your equipment: 
  • Look for signs of disrepair. For frequently used equipment like ovens, freezers, coolers, and coffee makers, this should be done daily. Inspect the equipment, looking for cracks, leaks, and other signs of damage or disrepair. Check the thermostat of your fridges, coolers, and freezers. Check the back of your equipment for broken or frozen hoses and pipes. Look for loose parts and other issues, and report any findings immediately.  
  • Clean frequently. Check the manufacturer’s PM list to note how frequently they recommend that you clean the equipment (this could be based on a calendar or on usage). Use the recommended cleaner for that piece of machinery. Clean your freezer’s condenser coils to keep it at a consistent temperature. Make sure to remove limescale from your dishwashers and deep cleaning them regularly (removing large food particles and other debris) so they properly sanitize dishes. Clean coffee and espresso machines daily, removing coffee particles that build up.  
  • Avoid improper usage. It may sound insignificant, but it’s the little things—a crank that’s overtightened, a freezer door that’s not closed completely—that sometimes cause the biggest equipment issues. Train your staff on how to properly use your equipment to avoid equipment mishaps (for example, teaching them to double check that the freezer door is completely closed after retrieving something).  
  • Schedule routine maintenance with a technician. You and your staff can only do so much. Having a qualified technician come in every so often (check your equipment manual for recommended frequency) can alert you to a small issue that can be fixed before it becomes an emergency. 
QsrSoft’s Equipment Management Solution is a one-stop software for all your equipment maintenance needs. It lets you create and customize your very own PM schedule for each piece of equipment. Easy to set up, this PM solution takes the guesswork out of taking care of your equipment. When a maintenance task is due to be completed, you’ll get an alert on your desktop or mobile app, and you or your staff members can simply check off the task once completed. And even with great planned maintenance, equipment can still break. With our PM solution, if your equipment does break down, you’ll get an immediate alert so you know what’s broken, and can fix it quickly to avoid loss of revenue. QsrSoft Equipment streamlines the repair process, helping you stay organized and providing visibility into the repair process at each step. With this solution, it’s easy to keep your equipment working at its best—and manage all your equipment across locations in one place. Schedule tasks and assign them to your employees, and get instant accountability with each completed task.   To learn more about our Equipment Management Solution, request a demo today.