Learning to Say Goodbye: When to Replace Restaurant Equipment

Replacing Commercial Kitchen Equipment

Anyone who owns restaurant equipment knows it’s a far different experience from having appliances in a home kitchen. The upfront cost is higher, the products are more sophisticated, and there’s just more to think about when it comes to knowing how to maintain them and when to replace them. After all, if the oven at your home gives up the ghost, it’s only a pan of meatloaf that’s lost; you order some pizza, replace the oven, and move on. However, if the double deck convection oven your restaurant depends on stops heating in the middle of meal prep, you’re in a real bind.

Proper maintenance might be able to help you avoid that situation, but sometimes a unit has just come to the end of its useful life. The real trick is knowing when to order new equipment so you don’t end up in a jam. While there is no foolproof way to predict the eminent demise of a commercial refrigerator or fryer, there are some signs you can watch for that should indicate when it’s time to replace your kitchen equipment.

Is Your Restaurant Equipment Failing?

  1. Equipment repair costs are adding up.

    If you reach a time when doing a repair to keep a unit running will cost more than just chucking it and getting a new one, that’s an obvious sign it’s time to replace. But what if the numbers are just adding up without one individual issue getting to that level? As an example, one KaTom customer recently faced replacing two heating elements in his griddle, a project that would cost $400 per element. That would mean he has $800 invested - not including the expense of having the service company out - in a unit that could be replaced with a better-quality product for maybe another $400.

  2. The need for costly work is a good sign you would be better off trading in that piece of kitchen equipment for a new one. While the individual restaurant equipment repair projects may not cost as much as a new model, they add up and may mean it’s time to consider a replacement that doesn’t have those issues. A new unit may also come with a warranty, which will often mean you'll have no repair costs at all to worry about for the next few months to a year or more.

  3. The unit has become woefully inefficient.

    Not every good reason to look at buying new is related to how long that commercial equipment will last. Sometimes it just makes sense to replace because you’re losing so much in utility bills in comparison to running a new unit. With thousands of ENERGY STAR-rated pieces of restaurant equipment, KaTom has the ability to set you up with kitchen equipment that could pay for itself just in utility savings over what you’re currently using. Life cycle and energy cost calculators can help you determine how much you will save in utilities with a new piece of equipment.

  4. It’s just not working like it used to.

    Sadly, nothing lives forever. Even if you are meticulous about maintaining your kitchen and use your equipment perfectly, at some point everything falls prey to the elements. Rust, power surges, and careless cooks are just a few of the usual dangers that might cause your kitchen equipment to deteriorate or stop working altogether. Sometimes the door gaskets on your commercial refrigerator no longer create a complete seal, meaning the unit stops holding temperatures cold enough, and griddles sometimes quit maintaining ideal cooking temperatures.

  5. There’s an opportunity to combine two functions into one unit.

    For instance, if you’re using both a commercial food steamer and a convection oven, you might be able to combine both operations with a combi oven. That could not only open up some space in a crowded kitchen, it could also save you money because you’re no longer powering two units.

Why Isn’t There a Standard For How Long Restaurant Equipment Will Last?

It would certainly make things easier if there was a set rule for how long each piece of kitchen equipment should last, or perhaps a countdown clock in each piece that tells you how much longer you can expect it to last. Unfortunately, no piece of equipment is that predictable and no such hard-and-fast guidelines exist.

The simple fact is the lifespan of each piece of restaurant equipment is completely unique. You may buy a model that is supposed to last about seven years (or 77 in refrigerator years), only to have it clock out after three. Alternately, kitchen equipment may live for decades. There’s just no way to predict and the time you have with any piece in your kitchen isn’t always directly correlated to how you maintain it.

Having said that, usage can greatly impact the lifespan of any commercial equipment. If you’re opening and closing the door of your commercial refrigerator 100 times a day, it’s typically going to need replacement much sooner than one that may only be used a few times a week. Obviously, things are going to wear more under more regular usage.

Below are some warning signs to look for in each specific type of equipment:

  • If your commercial refrigerator is nearing or more than 10 years old, start keeping close tabs on what it's costing you in repairs and energy usage. If key components like the door seals, hinges, and interior liner are showing excessive wear, it may be time to consider replacement, as the commercial refrigeration repair will likely cost more than a new unit.
  • A ventilation system is an important part of any kitchen. If yours is showing grease buildup that professional cleanings aren't removing or if you notice your HVAC costs going up, possibly due to improper air flow, your ventilation is likely nearing the end of its life. If your system is older and you're doing a kitchen remodel, that's always a good time to consider replacement, so you can get a hood configured properly for any new equipment.
  • A commercial warewasher breakdown can leave a restaurant kitchen in a panic, so keep an eye out for water leaking from the tank or boosters, as this is often a sign of failed welding due to age. Also watch for items not coming out clean and controls not working properly.
  • When a griddle is nearing the end of its life, it may begin heating more slowly, but the more obvious signs will be visible. Corrosion, pitting, or rust on the surface can have a negative impact on how your food turns out and generally means it is time to look for a replacement.
  • When you think your ice maker may be not long for this world, keep track of its production to make sure it is making what it should. If you notice the machine having trouble harvesting the ice it has made, this is generally a sign of a warped evaporator. That particular ice maker repair is typically so expensive that you are likely better off shopping for a new machine.

Trust KaTom When It’s Time to Replace

If you’ve determined one of your pieces of restaurant equipment is nearing its end, we offer condolences for your loss and hope for your future. KaTom carries all the top brands you need, from commercial ice makers to salad dryers and everything in between, all at great prices thanks to our position as a high-volume dealer. KaTom also has the knowledge and expertise to help you make the right buying decisions, whether you turn to one of our helpful customer service representatives or the Learning Center section of our website.

When you’re ready to talk to someone about your commercial kitchen’s needs, please contact us at 1-800-541-8683 or sales@katom.com.