The care & keeping of your commercial church kitchen

By Rhonda C. Proctor

In much the same way that you care for your vehicle to keep it running properly, the equipment in a commercial kitchen needs care and maintenance as well.

Don’t worry — it doesn’t require a technical degree; it just takes some organization, a schedule and basic information about when to do it yourself or call in the experts.


Create the preventive maintenance program (PMP)

Whether formal or informal, you need a PMP, a collection of information assembled in an organized way so your building superintendent, kitchen staff or volunteers can easily access details about equipment care. 

We often refer to the PMP as “the Black Book” simply because it’s easy to remember. A light-duty PMP contains manufacturers’ operation manuals and warranties with all the basic information about preventive maintenance, if you’re willing to dig for it.

A more robust PMP requires a little more time and organization to complete. But, with 98% of the information and manuals already available (or online), it’s not hard to do. The tradeoff? You get a simple-to-use reference guide that serves as a roadmap to maintenance protocol, is the basis for your volunteer training and saves time and money spent on service calls.

Figure 1

We call this part “PM-at-a-Glance.” It’s the ‘meat’ of “the Black Book” and includes: 

  • WARRANTY PAGE: Adding model / serial numbers now will save you time later. Adding dates might help identify the timing of a repair that could be completed prior to warranty expiration.
    (See Figure 1)
  • PM PROGRAM: This details key maintenance activities by piece of equipment in short paragraph form.
  • PM MATRIX: We love this tool because it shows the recommended scheduled maintenance routine for all equipment, to help with scheduling. (See Figure 2)
  • AUTHORIZED SERVICE AGENTS: Research and preparation of your church’s preferred authorized service agent list can reduce frustration, and honor relationships that are important to you.

Prepare for training

The PM-at-a-Glance contains all the foundational information your volunteer team needs to be trained on preventive maintenance … but it’s not enough. You need to get hands-on.

Figure 2

Younger people have become acclimated to self-directed learning via training videos, and almost all manufacturers have posted PM videos to their website or to YouTube. Other churches might prefer to identify a point person — maybe a facilities manager — who can meet in the kitchen and review the PM Matrix do’s and don’ts on the spot.

Regardless of how the training is conducted, two things will make life easier: (1) knowing the physical location of “the Black Book,” and (2) posting a PM Matrix nearby for quick reference.

But remember, training alone won’t ensure preventive maintenance will get accomplished; someone has to “own” it. Make a schedule, assign the duties and follow up.

In the end, an effective PMP ensures the safety of those served by the kitchen, improves performance and extends your equipment’s life expectancy. It’s just good stewardship.


Rhonda C. Proctor is president of KECdesign, a kitchen equipment contractor and design firm headquartered in Champaign, Illinois. KEC’s 30-person team works with foodservice operations across the country to design, equip and install commercial kitchens on time and within budget.


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On warranties & service agents

Warranties are limited, meaning they don’t cover everything. Often, they start on the production date, not the install date. They don’t cover normal use, and some require owners to ‘show reasonable care.’ An effective preventive maintenance program (PMP) will ensure this isn’t a problem.

Note the term authorized service agent. Some warranties will be voided if a well-meaning handyman starts tinkering around beyond standard maintenance.

Warranties in this industry do not cover consequential damages. This means if the freezer goes down and it’s full of food, that’s on you. Effective PMP is your best bet for catching issues before equipment fails.

Service Agent fees might DOUBLE if the technician has to be onsite outside normal business hours. Self-diagnose before you call the service agent by checking plugs, breakers, GFIs and manufacturer reset protocols. Be prepared with serial numbers and any noticeable service indicators (beeps, flashing lights).

Not sure? Call. Often, problems can be resolved over the phone without a service agent dispatch.

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