You can avoid equipment installation nightmares by using common sense, good communication and a professional installer.
Almost any tradesman will tell you, “measure twice, cut once.” That holds true for foodservice equipment installation, too.
Stories of installations gone wrong abound, but by following some best practices you can make sure that jobs are not only done right, but also go as smoothly as possible. It starts with these seven important steps:
- Work with a Pro
- Define the Scope of the Project Up Front
- Communicate Openly and Often
- Measure Twice, Install Once
- Stick to the Schedule
- Have the Right Team in Place
- Double-check the Work
This content was written by the editors of Foodservice Equipment Reports/FER Media, LLC fermag.com
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1. Work with a Pro
You might be tempted, especially if you’re just ordering a replacement piece of restaurant equipment, to let your cousin or the neighbor down the street install it to save you some money. But if they don’t do it right, your warranty will be voided, and it will cost you a lot more in the long run to fix any problems.
“There have been many cases where a customer has tried to do an install and called us in after the fact,” says Patrick Lindstrom, service manager at Central Restaurant Products in Indianapolis. “It costs them many times more to fix it because often we have to rip everything out and start over.”
There are lots of reasons to leave installation to professionals besides avoiding negative consequences. “We have vast knowledge of a wide range of equipment,” says Lindstrom. “So, there’s no limit to what we can install. And our focus is on providing the best customer service possible.”
The Benefits of Hiring a Professional
Licensed and bonded
Professional installers are licensed to perform the types of work they do, and in the case of a company like CRP, have years of experience. They know how to assess projects and avoid potential problems.
Professionals know the ins and outs of local building and food safety codes, and they will make sure installations meet or exceed those standards.
Installers understand how to work with municipalities and building inspectors to make the permitting process timely and efficient.
2. Define the Scope of the Project Up Front
Spell out the details of the project for the equipment installer, both in terms of your objectives and scope of work. Discuss with the installer who will be responsible for what, so the project team on both sides can take ownership of the areas they oversee. Then, get it all in writing in a contract that makes clear what happens if things don’t go as expected.
“We really start with the Product Reps at CRP. They’re experts not only in the equipment we carry, but also when different pieces need to be delivered during the installation process,” Lindstrom says.
“On new construction, for example, the walk-in and hood need to be installed first during a particular phase of construction before kitchen equipment comes in. I get involved early and work with the Product Rep to make sure customers know what to expect from our end.”
Pro Tip: Build some flexibility into the contract.
Setbacks are inevitable. Allow flexibility to accommodate delays in construction, if it’s a new build, or subcontractor work—plumbing, electric, millwork, fabrication, etc. Foodservice equipment and furnishings are made to go in a finished space, for the most part, and if the site’s not ready, the installers can’t do the work you’ve contracted them to do.
3. Communicate Openly and Often
Good communication is key to the success of any installation project, and it should start even before any agreements are signed. Ask a lot of questions of your foodservice equipment installer about how they intend to work with you on the project. And expect the installer to ask you even more questions about the project and your operation.
“We ask as many questions up front as possible,” Lindstrom says. “Often, a small piece of information that seems unimportant to the operator is a huge deal to us—things like door sizes or a table bolted to the floor that might prevent access to the area where a piece of equipment should be placed.”
There should be no surprises on either side of an install project if you keep those lines of communication open. At Central Restaurant Products, project teams—starting with your Product Rep—are available by phone, email, text or personal meetings.
“We had a stadium project headed by a client in a hurry to get the facility finished and open,” Lindstrom says. “When we got there, things like plumbing weren’t completed, so it cost them a lot more in duplicate trips to the site. They weren’t up-front about the site condition, and we had to come back several times.”
4. Measure Twice, Install Once
If you’re replacing a piece of restaurant kitchen equipment, your installer may be able to get all the information needed over the phone, but that will require you to take accurate measurements of not only where the equipment goes but of doors and hallways providing access to that spot.
Larger projects, especially new construction, often involve mechanical drawings, and these should be provided to the installer. Just make sure you’re sharing the most accurate and up-to-date versions of the drawings. Problems commonly occur when conflicting or outdated drawings are circulating.
Installers also are likely to do site visits ahead of time if the job is complex.
Pro Tip: Share photos as well as drawings.
“We actually like pictures,” says Lindstrom. “Take photos ahead of time, so we know what might be a problem in terms of measurement or access. If there’s a question of what or how to measure, hold a tape measure up to the item and photograph it.”
The Central Services Team works closely with school officials to ensure proper installation of this commercial range.
5. Stick to the Schedule
With good communication, your project is more likely to stay on track. You’ll want an installer who can help you stick to the schedule by letting you know ahead of time exactly what to expect and when.
“Once we have a good idea of what the project entails, we then look at lead times, the logistics of the deliveries involved, availability of delivery trucks and whether equipment is in stock,” Lindstrom says. “Then we work with our logistics department to schedule deliveries, install dates and equipment start-ups.”
If issues come up during the construction process that will cause installation delays, be sure to contact your installer. Time is money, and so you don’t want to waste either having the installer arrive when the work isn’t ready to be done.
6. Have the Right Team in Place
On some projects, like installing replacement equipment, the team may be as small as an owner/operator. On larger projects, it might involve kitchen designers, equipment specifiers and purchasers, architects, project managers and store managers. Make sure you have key stakeholders involved at all stages of the process.
“We want to extend the relationship our Product Reps have with our customers,” Lindstrom says of the project team at CRP, which includes logistics and his department as well.
“I like to establish personal relationships with installation customers because it helps us build open and clear lines of communication. We also want key decision makers on site when we do an install so we can get any questions answered right away.”
7. Double-check the Work
The installer you choose also should be able and prepared to demonstrate the quality of the work done during equipment start-up and demo.
Equipment manufacturers or their reps often will take responsibility for these sessions with you and your staff, but in some cases, installers will conduct the equipment start-up and even train the staff.
In either event, installers should be on site during these sessions to help answer any questions you or your staff have about the installation and operation of the equipment.
Need a new product installed? Central Restaurant Products offers installation services to customers in the Central Indiana area. Contact your product consultant at 800-215-9293 or email us at [email protected].
Success! Lindstrom tests the range to ensure everything is working smoothly.