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What to know about: service contracts

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Every restaurant operator’s nightmare is a Friday night turning sour when a critical piece of equipment goes down—like the charbroiler used for the wildly popular signature dish—right before the doors open for the first seating. The one-year warranty has just run out and a makeshift solution will not suffice for the entire evening. Having a service contract in place, though, can make the headache of emergency repair service a little easier to bear. A service contract is an arrangement for a company to perform repairs and maintenance on foodservice equipment that is no longer covered under warranty. Contracts vary in terms and length, but generally are based on size and quantity of equipment, 24/7 or standard 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. service, restaurant location and credit rating. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when seeking out potential service agents.     

1. Location, location, location
Service companies factor in the distance between their dispatch centers and your restaurant when figuring out the fees for a service contract. Look for a local service agent that doesn’t have to travel too far in an emergency situation to ensure a quick response time—and lower transportation costs added on to the fee.

2. One-stop shopping

Select a service agent that has ties to several manufacturers. This arrangement has several advantages, says Gina Schlanger, associate service manager for Protek Service. “Most of all, it minimizes the number of trips that technicians have to make,” she notes. Extra trips take more time and cost more money. Matthew Sher, director of sales and marketing for Day & Nite All Service, suggests choosing service agents that provide large amounts
of warranty service. “The technicians for these service agents will have the most up-to-date training provided by the equipment manufacturers,” he explains. “Plus, having one service contract is easier for accounting and builds a stronger relationship as a premier customer.” Additionally, choose a company that covers all of your equipment servicing needs, including refrigeration, cooking equipment, stainless steel finishes and hood and duct cleaning.

3. An ounce of prevention

Routine preventive maintenance is vitally important to the longevity and efficiency of equipment. “An active service program for cooking equipment has the same effect as an oil change for a car,” Sher claims. Over the long run, money is saved, there are fewer emergencies and equipment runs more efficiently.   

4. Proper set-up
Ask a potential service contract company if it will also include new equipment start-ups as part of the package. “Many service issues are a result of improper installation,” says Joe Pellicane, corporate chef for B.S.E. Marketing, who conducts training sessions on new equipment for companies like Alto-Shaam, Perlick and Amana. Proper start-ups and calibrations done when equipment is first installed eliminate many of the issues that can develop into potential emergency problems.

5. Check references

Ask service agents for the names of other similar-sized establishments they are under contract with, then call to see if the companies really perform preventive maintenance. At the same time, verify overall performance.

6. Overtime
Most standard service contracts cover work done during normal business hours. Under these contracts, service agents can be called out for emergency, same-day service after hours, but overtime rates apply. Make sure these rates are spelled out in writing.

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