Kieran Lynch is all too familiar with the warewashing challenges that confront multi-site operators.
His background working for organisations such as Starbucks, Whitbread and Pizza Hut has placed him at the heart of such environments during their busiest times, when the plates are piling up and staff are at their wit’s end trying to keep the operation running smoothly.
In that scenario, the one thing that is guaranteed to make an already stressful situation worse is a dishwasher or glasswasher malfunctioning or breaking down.
But in his new role at Winterhalter Service, which he joined last year as managing director, he is now in a position to propose solutions for such problems and hoping that operators can be persuaded to think differently about how they manage their warewashing equipment estates in future.
Traditionally speaking, when warewashers have broken down a call will go into a service provider to send out an engineer. It could be hours before a machine is back up again, sometimes days if a part needs to be replaced. Lynch is keen to turn that model on its head.
“Our objective is to get alongside the customers and say that waiting for a machine to break down is pretty awful, why don’t we fix it before it breaks down and stop it breaking. We are just trying to flip that coin and say that response times and first-time fixes are an old way of doing it. Let’s stop it breaking down in the first instance.”
We are just trying to flip the coin and say that response times and first-time fixes are an old way of doing it”
Over the last six months Winterhalter has invested in adding nearly 20 engineers to its service division, which it claims has made a huge difference to its ability to reach customers before close of business the next day. That, according to Lynch, has created fresh optimism on the operators’ side and created an opportunity to explore their appetite for working with it on a closer basis to achieve better operational results.
This includes giving them the option to rent the machine off Winterhalter for a fixed period and have all their needs taken care of — the only obligation on their part being that staff are trained on using it, cleaning it and servicing it on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.
“That is proving to be quite a powerful little model to change the mindset, so we are going to use that to go forward and try to move away from just chasing after broken dishwashers that have been out in the field,” he says.
This dovetails neatly with a wider product strategy heavily based around ‘connected’ warewashers that allow operators to gain a more comprehensive picture of warewashing performance and status than before. It now has the tools to be able to provide detailed breakdown analysis and equipment profiles, so that operators can better manage their costs and replace equipment at the right time.
The hidden costs associated with breakdowns should be enough for operators to realise it is simply not sensible to leave things to chance, says Lynch. “It’s the cost of manually washing dishes and glasses, the excessive use of hot water and detergent, the extra electricity and, more than that, the stress and frustration in the restaurant when a machine breaks down. If you’ve got two people who used to be serving front-of-house manually washing dishes, they don’t want to be doing that. Plus you have customers complaining because it takes longer to get the service or they see the crockery is not up to standard.”
Lynch insists customers are coming round to the idea of letting its service team take greater ownership of their warewashing estate and receiving detailed information that allows informed maintenance and replacement decisions to be taken.
Even things like being able to track detergent outages through error codes can provide vital insight into how machines are being used. One large high street chain has already switched to an all planned maintenance model going forward. Although Winterhalter won’t reveal its identity at this stage, it fully expects the data it collects over the next six months to reveal that the group has seen far fewer breakdowns.
Of course, nothing will ever completely stop call-outs given that machine issues in commercial kitchens are routinely down to bad operating practice or a failure to adhere to manufacturers’ guidelines around maintenance and daily care.
Agrees Lynch: “More than 50% of all the call-outs that we get are what I call avoidable — they wouldn’t have happened if the staff had been instructed in terms of what to do. I hate calling it misuse because it is suggesting that somebody has beaten it up, but in many cases staff haven’t been trained on how to use it or somebody new has come in and the time hasn’t been taken to show them.”
Lynch might face a big challenge to change mindsets, but his own experience of the issues that end-users encounter tells him it is a cause that deserves perseverance.
Connectivity a turn-on for operators
Winterhalter insists that connectivity is really beginning to gain traction among group operators. It recently launched Connected Wash versions of its PT passthroughs and UF utensil washers to the UK market and marketing manager, Paul Crowley, insists they have gone down well. “The technology’s potential is turning foodservice operators onto the prospect of lower running costs, virtually zero downtime and 100% first-time fix rates,” he says.
Warewashing is a bit of a Cinderella in the kitchen, adds Crowley. “People want to fit and forget, and with Connected Wash they can — because their service provider can take over looking after the machine by monitoring it remotely. Of course, if they prefer, customers can monitor the Connected Wash dashboard themselves. Or they can share the access, so both the operator and their service provider can monitor it. Increasingly we are working in partnership with our customers, and connectivity plays a significant role in cementing that relationship.”
Another key element to the importance of connectivity when it comes to warewashing is that many sites only have one dishwasher in the kitchen, and maybe one glasswasher in the bar — so if either goes down it’s a huge issue that can have dramatic knock-on effects to the whole operation. “Operators are starting to get that connectivity can minimise breakdowns, maximise the prospect of a
fast first-time fix, reduce running costs and even improve staff morale.”