Rising equipment repair costs add to restaurant challenges

Already pinched by a persistent shortage of available labor, restaurants are also facing significant increases in their expenses related to the maintenance and repair of equipment.

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

The company partners with restorers of all kinds, offering end-to-end service for equipment repair and maintenance.

The company’s report, “The State of Repairs,” guides restaurateurs through the most common types of equipment failures, how to fix them, the average repair cost, and the most reliable brands of equipment.

Released last month, the report is designed to help restorers make informed decisions about repairs and maintenance work.

“There is a shortage of skilled labor,” said Daniel Estrada, co-founder and CEO of 86 Repairs. “Of those skilled in repairing equipment and infrastructure, one-third will retire by 2030. Those jobs will not come back. The macro problem is that the cost of repairs increases because the availability of that labor decreases. Which also means suppliers take longer to respond. »

Based on data collected by 86 Repairs, the average cost to repair kitchen equipment rose 38% in 2021, Estrada said. For example, an average service visit to repair a fryer costs operators $735 and $1,000 for a cold room.

Longer delivery times also mean more downtime, which ultimately limits a restaurant’s ability to produce menu items.

According to 86 Repairs, restaurants nationwide spend $28 billion annually on equipment repairs and maintenance and $35 billion on new equipment.

“Labour shortages have definitely exacerbated repair and maintenance issues for operators,” Estrada said. “One reason is that staff don’t have time to go through preventative maintenance checklists, for example. We see operators relying on suppliers and more on us to manage this process for them. This is one of the reasons our business has grown.

Meanwhile, 86 Repairs has thrived in this context. Estrada said the company tripled its revenue in 2021 as demand for reliable repair and maintenance services continued to rise.

With labor pains showing no signs of easing, many restaurants are turning to technology to automate kitchen tasks to keep operations running.

Estrada acknowledged this reality, saying his team will need the capabilities to maintain more advanced forms of technology when they are deployed in kitchens.

“I think we’ll see a lot more convergence of products that would be considered computing — software to run drive-thru and point-of-sale systems and that sort of thing,” Estrada said. “These are essential missions for a restaurant. The more service needs you have on this equipment, the more important it will be to have the right vendors lined up.

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