In my last post I talked about a few select parts that you could keep on hand to repair your gas restaurant equipment. I would like to take this opportunity to talk about a few tools that could make a big difference in keeping your restaurant equipment up and running. The costs of these tools are minimal but it could have a BIG effect on some holiday weekend when something goes down at the worst possible time.
My job is to keep the equipment in the kitchen working! The chef I work for is a wonderful guy, but when he reaches to use the equipment, he expects it to work! I have a responsibility to do everything reasonably possible to make sure that happens. I have many thousands of dollars worth of tools and a large supply of parts to make sure I keep the chef satisfied. As a restaurant owner/manager you probably don’t have the tools I have or the parts I keep on the shelf to make every repair yourself.
I want to share with you a FEW tools you CAN have that will help you with the repairs you CAN make and you are most likely to need. This will represent a small investment of money for your restaurant, but most of all it will represent an investment of time for you to educate yourself about your equipment and how it works. If you are happy with your current system of calling someone in for every repair and paying the price in dollars, that’s OK. I am attempting with these articles to give you and your restaurant a few alternatives on the simple repairs. I don’t have to tell you that repair companies cost a lot and will not always be able to get your equipment up and working in a timely manner.
I recommend you put together an “equipment toolbox” that is customized for your kitchen equipment.
Tools: Tools are the easy part. You can buy them almost anywhere and the varieties are endless. Buy tools that are not the cheapest but are not the most expensive. Sears brand (Craftsman) are pretty good tools and you can take them back if you break them (you won’t break them, you will lose them—LOL). I would pick up a metal tool box with a lock that is big enough to hold parts and tools but also small enough to put in a convenient place that not everyone has access to. Although I have thousands of dollars worth of tools, I use only a small number of those tools everyday.
Here is a list of some of tools you will need to do simple repairs:
Pocket knife: You can buy a “multi-tool” that has a knife blade like the Leatherman.
Crescent wrenches: You will need a 4 inch (small) and a 6 inch (medium). Don’t buy the cheap brand; get Crescent brand or at least Craftsman.
Channel Lock pliers: There is a small one made by Channel Lock that is 7 inches long.
Wire strippers/cutters: Klein tools makes a good one that you can buy at Sears.
¼ inch socket set with deep and shallow sockets: You can buy a complete set of these at Sears that comes in it’s own molded case for under $50. You will almost never need anything bigger than a ¼ inch drive.
Allen wrench set: Get a set that has a holder or you will lose the small wrenches!
Screwdriver set: You will use a #2 Philips head the most, and you will also need a good quality “jeweler’s” screwdriver.
Small flashlight: I recommend a good brand like a “Mag-light” that holds AA batteries.
Note: Some of these tools will come in “standard” (or “inch”) and metric. Most restaurant equipment is in “standard.” I do run across metric from time to time and I have my tools in both but I have no idea if you will need metric. The socket set I recommend from Sears will have both standard and metric. The Allen wrenches are often sold in sets with standard and metric. You will have to decide if your equipment is metric (ask the salesman, he can find out).
Multimeter: This is a small meter that will read the amount of voltage you have on electric wires. You can use tool a lot, but if you are not going to read the small manual that comes with it and educate yourself on how to use it, don’t waste your money. This meter doesn’t cost much and has many uses but you will have to educate yourself on how it is used.
Voltage Check (also called VoltAlert): This is a device you really must have. It looks like a pen and will tell you by just touching a wire if there is electricity going through the wire. These came out a few years ago and are great time savers. You can just touch it to the cord and find out if there is power to the equipment. I carry one of these with me while at work and can often diagnose a problem with just this tool. The one Fluke (a electric tool company) makes is called VOLTALERT. You can know almost nothing about maintenance and still use this tool. Easy to use and less than $20!
These are the BASIC tools I would recommend. There are a lot of other tools you might want depending on how far you want to go in repairing your equipment (and how much you like tools—LOL). Don Walker has a more extensive list he recommends in his book Keeping Your Gas Restaurant Equipment Cooking. You should buy and read what he has to say on the subject. You might be surprised to find out that working on equipment is something you actually enjoy doing. I work with one chef that I believe would make a GREAT equipment technician!
As always, if you have any questions, please leave a comment below and I will answer them as soon as possible.