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Marketa Ruttova

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Marketa Ruttova has eight top tips to keep the school kitchen up and running at all times

Posted by Stephanie Broad | March 01, 2016 | Facilities & buildings

A professional school kitchen has an important job to do on a daily basis. With hundreds of young tummies to fill in a relatively short time frame, staff need reliable and efficient kitchen equipment, or at the very least the reassurance that an engineer is just a phone call away if an oven or a fridge breaks down.

Service and maintenance contracts to ensure the longevity of your catering equipment are an essential ingredient for any busy professional kitchen. Once an appliance’s warranty has expired, repairs or replacement parts are no longer covered by the equipment manufacturer, so to ensure operational efficiency in your busy kitchen and that repair costs are kept to a minimum, choosing the right service and maintenance contract for your needs is crucial.

This is the situation likely to be currently facing many primary schools as the warranties on any new equipment they purchased back in 2014 to support the Government’s free school meals initiative for the under-eights will soon expire.

So to avoid costly labour charges and spare parts and to ensure the kitchen remains fully operational, what key considerations should schools make when signing up for a service & maintenance contract that they can rely on?

1. What sort of package do you need? - Call out and labour? Regular maintenance or just replacement parts? They are a number of different support packages available so it’s important to carefully consider your needs and the level of cover you require. 

2. Credentials check – Once you’ve decided on a supplier, before entering into a formal agreement with them check their credentials to ensure they are reliable and that they offer a safe and effective level of service. Also check that they have the relevant skillsets to deal with your equipment e.g. if it’s a gas appliance, do they have the necessary qualifications to deal with it. What if you have a plumbing emergency – can they handle that too?

3. Replacement parts – Check that your chosen supplier is able to provide a quick and efficient parts replacement service. Today, most suppliers will have an online portal that is accessible 24x7 giving access to a variety of services including asset management tools and parts and training manuals along with a manned service desk.

4. Limescale – As part of the service offering, some suppliers will deep clean the appliances and get rid of any limescale. If left to accumulate, limescale can prevent an appliance from working efficiently.

5. Gas safety checks – All professional kitchens are obliged to have regular gas safety checks on their gas appliances. If a fault was to occur and it caused a fire or an explosion you might not be covered by your insurance. Does your service & maintenance contract cover this type of check?

6. No time to source a supplier? Finding a supplier that meets all your needs can be a time consuming job. Some professional buying organisations (PBOs) work with schools and offer frameworks that include the provision of service & maintenance contracts, giving you access to a list of suppliers whose credentials and costs have been vetted by a public procurement team. All the work you would normally have to put into a tender process has been done for you; all you need to do is chose the supplier that is the best fit for your needs.

7. Don’t underestimate the cost of repairs – The annual cost of a service & maintenance contract may seem steep, but the price of not having one in place could be even more costly. Imagine the scenario: the fridge freezer has broken down over night, the day after a full stock delivery. Hundreds of pounds worth of food has been ruined and not only will the stock need to be replenished, the fridge freezer can’t be repaired and needs replacing and you have no food to cook for today’s lunch service so you have to pay for contract catering. These costs and the huge inconvenience could easily be avoided if a service and maintenance contract was in place.

8. Give kitchen equipment the same respect as your car – Regular servicing helps ensure cars remain in optimum condition and the same is true of the equipment in a professional kitchen.

The impact of the breakdown of an important piece of kitchen equipment can be massive. The inconvenience it can cause can be both costly and very time consuming so having the right service and maintenance contract in place can prevent delays to service and small tummies from going hungry. 

Marketa Ruttova is Procurement Officer at ESPO


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