Effective Maintenance Management Improves Revenue

Episode 4

Planned Maintenance is Everywhere


About this episode

Peter Young who has worked with Weatherspoon, YO! Sushi, Wagamama and Byron shares the ins and outs of maintenance management in the hospitality industry. Maintaining Grills and Dishwashers is much more interesting than you think!


INTRO: Downtime, spreadsheets, technician problems, communications problems, maintenance management, maintenance budget, predictive maintenance, reactive maintenance, CMMS Software.

Matt: [00:00:30] Hi, everyone. Welcome back to the Comparesoft podcast. We’re back this week with a very special guest, Peter Young.

Peter started off studying a BA in Creative Writing from the University of Roehampton. His first steps in his career saw him move up the management ranks from Youngs Brewery, to Wetherspoons, to Mitchell and Butlers and finally at Yo Sushi where he was an Assistant General Manager. From here Peter focused in on his maintenance career, becoming the Maintenance Officer at Wagamama’s responsible across 130 restaurants, before moving to Monsoon Accessorize as the Maintenance Manager for all of the UK and Ireland. His last move saw him back into the restaurant industry, as the Maintenance Manager for Byron Burger.

Peter, welcome to the show. How are you?

Peter: [00:01:28] I’m fine. Thanks so much. Hello. Welcome to you. Thanks for having me, I guess.

Matt: [00:01:35] No. No problem. We’re excited to have you on. How’s it been for you recently during all this craziness? Has it changed any of the way that you work or business or anything for you?

Peter: [00:01:46] Yes, it’s been an interesting time recently. Obviously, COVID has hit the hospitality industry very hard. Lots of businesses went into complete hibernation for a number of months which has brought up its own challenges from a property point of view, making sure that all the taps aren’t dripping and all the lights are off.

Matt: [00:02:04] Right. Yes, of course. That’s one of the industries that’s been hit the hardest. Very difficult times. Moving on from that then, could you tell us a little bit more about what you do?

Peter: [00:02:21] My day-to-day is something that I refer to as maintenance escalations where jobs have got caught up in the labyrinth of capital software. Sometimes something can get really hung up between help desk goes to contractor or contractor goes back to help desk and it can really get stuck. Unpicking those difficult issues is one of the main things that I do.
I also do a lot of compliance and financial tracking and reporting. I’ve been in charge of just keeping a track on compliance, how compliance the company in terms of fire alarms, extinguishers, all of those statutorily required things. And then finally financial tracking budgets and P&Ls just keep making sure that we’re not spending too much money, although that is always the case.

Matt: [00:03:12] Always. How would you go about setting a good maintenance culture?

Peter: [00:03:19] I think maintenance culture, certainly in hospitality is very much about the relationships that you have with your managers, your site managers. When things don’t work, it causes them hassle, their stales, and it can demotivate their staff. There are lots of intangible costs there. I can look at P&L and say, site has lost this much money while this piece of equipment was down, but that doesn’t really speak to all of the additional damage that it’s doing to that business. So a maintenance culture for me is making sure that managers feel as comfortable as possible coming to you with issues. They’re coming to you, what is possibly the worst week of their life when additional show has broken down and it’s all hands to the deck and they need to be okay, come and see what that time and other times. I think that managers can be too helpful and can do more damage than goods.

So for me, it’s about making sure that managers know when to contact maintenance. A classic thing that I’ve seen many a time in the past is a grill will destroy itself. It’s been set on fire because the chefs have been lighting it with a match. You’re like, well, why they are lighting with the match? Because the ignition key is broken. I was like, that part costs 50 pounds to replace thing. But no, he is on fire, that’s how could it be like a 1200 pound repair. They say, we didn’t want to trouble you with something that costs 50 pounds. It was so low priority in our eyes and it’s about training them and making them appreciate that certain things are always important to know about, even if we’re not going to immediately jump on it.

Along that line, for me, training is key there. It’s very important that all your managers know not only how to use the capital system, but how to spot those red flags. You want them as little mini maintenance operatives in their sites, noticing things that are worth bringing to the attention.

Matt: [00:05:27] Yeah. I guess the managers would also have to then be trained and be aware on that to then be able to tell the team below them what to look out for as well. So it’s actually quite a big web that you’ve got there.

Peter: [00:05:40] Yeah, exactly. Along the same line of grills, a number of grills that I’ve worked with have a safety feature whereby if the desk drops out, you can’t turn that grill on for five minutes. But the chefs not knowing that they’ll either place to called out because they think that it stopped working or even worst-case scenario, they actually break the on switch because they’re trying to force it and not realizing that the machine is still cooling down and has a period where it can’t be turned back on. They didn’t break part of the machine, trying to force it back on. That’s a very expensive. Call-out and obviously that grill now is down for the rest of the day. Training is crucial to make sure that those little oddities get caught.

Matt: [00:06:22] Yeah. Kicking stuff doesn’t always make it work again. Does it?

Peter: [00:06:28] It certainly, sometimes makes you feel better. When talking about training, I’ve actually done two different tours of duty in terms of training. I’ve twice, I’ve gone around the whole country, visiting managers at their area meeting is the best insertion points I feel. They’ve got a lot of information there already on that day, but as long as you brought with you a presentation, they can take away from them. The manager for me is the insertion point for the training and then hope that they roll that down to their teams.
In terms of that anecdotes about the grill that doesn’t turn back on for five minutes, due to the turnover of staff, I wouldn’t try and train that issue out to the company. I’d make the manager’s aware of it, but then I’d actually back it up with something more helpful, like a permanent sticker that they could stick. A heatproof sticker that they could put inside the grill on the panel that says, if this isn’t working, leave it five minutes before you try and turn it back on again.

Matt: [00:07:28] Yeah. So simple, isn’t it, but not at the same time. How would you go about planning maintenance activities then?

Peter: [00:07:36] So for planning maintenance activities, it comes into flavours. You’re either planning the PPMs, like the maintenance that needs to happen every year, or you’re planning more holistic and optional maintenance.

Plan maintenance for me, PPMs, definitely goes very heavily to the capital software. All of the PPM schedules that I’ve run have been run by capital system. And when I do have a spreadsheet in the background that is mostly just fact-checking that everything is as it should be. On PPMs, the key point for me is not to bulk too many PPMs together. You can have a situation where if everything happens in the same month, you’re going to get a very big hit financially. It’s going to skew your figures for the next year because you’re going to get an increased spend in that month and you may not exactly know why or your successes may not know why, and that can make them tricky.

For planning, holistic maintenance, and this is something that was used to great effects in Wagamama. We would plan before and after heavy periods of sales. So just before summer or in March time, you want to be checking all to bear con and then before winter, you want to check all of the heating, but then during the busiest periods of the year, and this needs to be broken down into each site-specific because some sites will take 50% of their sales in the Christmas periods. Others with massive gardens will take all of that money in the summer periods. And it’s about knowing exactly when those particular peaks are. And then saying, right, before this site’s peak, we’re going to send in an equipment engineer and service all of your equipment to make sure that it’s not going to break down during your peak. And that’s a little bit trickier than just saying, once a year, every March, let’s go and service all the equipment, because that’s not going to be helpful every single site that you’ve got.

Matt: [00:09:35] Sure. How would you go on to implement an effective maintenance plan from that?

Peter: [00:09:43] So when coming to an effective maintenance plan for the year, every time I’ve come to a new budget or a new business, the first question is, which costs the most money? By an order of magnitude, at least in hospitality, grills or dishwashers are going to be the thing that you spend the most money on. And I will make a point to put some effort there before I slot everything else into place. So preemptive service visits, on those two pieces of equipment can save you thousands a year.

In terms of implementing the maintenance part after that, it’s about making sure that you’ve got a wide enough array of contractors to cover you securely with redundancy. It can be very tempting to just block in three or four segments of your business with one contractor and have them manage it nationwide. Certainly it’s going to be somewhat cheaper. However, if for some reason you overload that contractor and they can’t get something on certain amount of time, you may be ending up spending thousands of pounds in your sales and all of your perceived savings are out of the window. So for me, effectiveness is as much redundancy as possible.

Matt: [00:10:55] Okay. Moving on from that, do you think software tools are useful for managing maintenance activities?

Peter: [00:11:04] Absolutely. I think even if you yourself aren’t in this day and age using a piece of bank maintenance management software, you can guarantee that everybody else around you is. Even if you’ve just got help that’s function or you’ve got a spreadsheet, the people that you call up or the people that you then contact definitely using pieces of software. If you don’t have it yourself, then you’re just granting a lots of the control to them and into their systems. You won’t be aware of how those systems are configured or whether they’re configured to your benefit. So it’s absolutely critical to have it either in your own corner.

Matt: [00:11:48] What’s your actual take on using spreadsheets and your experience of using spreadsheets for maintenance management? How’s it impacted your workflow and the pros and cons?

Peter: [00:12:01] I am a self-professed nerd and have been for my entire 34 years of life. I have taught myself Excel over a number of years, probably to a much higher level than I’ve needed. I did quite enjoy using it as a program. It goes all the way back to my days of hospitality. I used to have a real passion for making sure that my rotors were planned effectively and my stock control was on point and I did that all with very large spreadsheets.

For me using spreadsheets for maintenance management, they were really good check to have backgrounds. A lot of these systems will give you raw data or the system itself will present you the number. It’s very important to have spreadsheets of your own device in background, confirming that number. I’ve come across a situation where a particular capital system was reporting 95% compliance. So of all of our statute PPMs, we were 95% compliance. When I actually plugged that into a spreadsheet of my own design, I got an answer of 55%. It’s because the way that the system itself was tracking what we thought was compliance, wasn’t actually tracking compliance. By finding that out, by putting it into a spreadsheet, I could then go back to the service that we were working with at the time and say, look, you need to tweak this slightly because it isn’t reporting the number that I want. It’s reporting A number, certainly, but it isn’t the number that I’m looking for. And then by using that check feature, you could eventually almost do away with all spreadsheets by holing and reprogramming and reconfiguring capital system you’re working for so that it’s giving you exactly what you want, but you definitely need to use a lot of spreadsheets together.

Matt: [00:13:53] Yeah. So it’s a massive difference, basically. The difference is huge, isn’t it?

Peter: [00:13:58] Absolutely.

Matt: [00:13:59] So how would you use maintenance as a competitive advantage in your work and in your business?

Peter: [00:14:05] I think that maintenance is often overlooked by the businesses that are having a large enough maintenance section, that it has its own capital system, and it has its own maintenance managers. In terms of customer experience. I am a firm believer that there are subconscious elements going on in a customer’s visits that they’re not really aware of, that it could affect them if something goes wrong.

So if I go sort of toilets at a restaurant and the toilet seat is loose, deal-breaker. That’s probably not even going to be noticed by most people, but I’m a firm believer that subconsciously it’s going to put a slight tick towards the negative of their perception of the venue. If something larger then happens, the food is incorrect or there’s a long wait for their cook for the food, they’re already in a negative mindset towards that site. That can really affect whether they then go, well, we had a bad experience, we’ll give them another try or we had a negative experience, you know what, we’re never going back. And I think there’s a lot that’s not really easy to measure that can be affected by maintenance.

Matt: [00:15:19] Yeah, absolutely. And it’s those small things that you notice, isn’t it? For example, like you’re saying, a restaurant, you’re eating, it’s a very personal, personal experience and seeing those small things certainly has a subconscious for me anyway. Definitely, I would say has a subconscious effect on the quality level of the establishment.

Peter: [00:15:40] Absolutely. And in terms of sort of talking about competitive advantage against competitors, I certainly think that it’s important that you take account of all the little ways in which maintenance can drive sales. It’s very, very important to define what you think is business-critical as realistically and logically as possible. I’ve seen signage in a site be down for eight months because the repair was going to be 800 pounds and it had been deemed non-business critical. But if you go back, looking hindsight is 2020, you look back over those six months of sales and that venue lost 10% of its sales in that time. You wouldn’t chalk all of that up to assign being down, but you could certainly put a certain percentage against that loss against sign being down and it works out to 10 times the cost of fixing that item. And while your competitors have working signage, they’re taking the money and their joint costs.

Matt: [00:16:48] Yeah, of course. Okay. That’s an interesting point there. And so moving on from that then, what would your top three tips be on effective maintenance?

Peter: [00:17:00] Although it really has nothing to do with the actual maintenance. I think my highest ranked tip is to keep a really close eye on the financials and know in-depth what they mean.

Time and time again, especially throughout my time in hospitality, I’ve seen the email go out that just says, from maintenance, we’ve run out of money, please only approve things or log any jobs that are out of business-critical because we’re going to have to wait for three months before we can spend any more money.

You want to avoid as much as possible ever getting to that point. And that may mean that you need to be controlling things from period one and making sure that you’re not overspending, don’t just let it all overspend, overspend, overspend to get to the end of the year and then find yourself in a bit of a hole.

My second one, very maintenance-related, if you know when to tap out of a piece of equipment, it can be a battle to get us quit and running. And it’s very important to know when to call it a day and make the suggestion to the higher ups, that it’s time to buy a new piece of equipment. Time and time again, I’ve seen a single part fail in a very critical piece of equipment, let’s say a dishwasher. And I know from experience that any reason that part has failed is because the whole thing is on the way out. And that is just the weakest part of the chain.

Once you replace that, all that’s going to happen is that the next part of the chain is going to break. And ironically, it may actually take both parts that one and the new one, you just replaced with it when it goes. So yeah, knowing when to make that CapEx call about a new piece is very important.

Then finally, I’d say, just have patience with your clients, be it office managers or restaurant managers, in my case. The most of these people, the only time they’re going to come and talk to you is when the S has well and truly hit the fan. And you’ve got to appreciate that in calling you, they are probably experiencing one of the worst days of their week, months, possibly the entire business year. So they are going to the aggravated and they’re going to be maybe a little bit impatient. You’ve got to have thick skins, just not take that personally and make sure that you are giving them the best result possible.

Matt: [00:19:18] It’s almost like customer service basically in a way, isn’t it?

Peter: [00:19:23] Yeah, it very much is.

Matt: [00:19:26] And so finally for our listeners, what is your favourite saying or quote on maintenance?

Peter: [00:19:34] So I’ve sent you a little image. I’m not sure if you can put it up when the whole thing goes live. For me, it’s definitely planned maintenance, planned maintenance, everywhere. It’s often fought against is that you don’t need to do these things, but in the long run, it’ll definitely save you so much money and hassle if you get there first, rather than waiting for it to break down.

I definitely agree with that point that the only time maintenance talks to people is when things are broken down. I think that it’s important to take the learnings from one specific situational breakdown or job and take those learnings and publish it out to the rest of the business.

I’m a great fan of monthly newsletters for maintenance, just to the larger business and say, Hey, we’re still here. You can include a little bit of financial information just so that everybody is aware that maintenance does cost money and just to keep it in the forefront of everybody’s mind that it’s important for them to have that maintenance hassle when they’re walking around in their business. And then while you’re putting out that newsletter, you can put out little reminders, like just to remind you, grills need five minutes to cool down if they’ve turned off. So please make sure you give them that time before you break them or call them out.

Matt: [00:20:52] Okay. Well, Peter, thank you very much for being on the show. It’s been great speaking to you and you’ve dropped some real fantastic advice there for our listeners. And yes, thank you very much for your time.

Peter: [00:21:06] Yeah. Thanks very much for having me. It’s been really good to have a chat and it’s definitely put a lot of, I’ve had some time to ruminate on my own thoughts on a lot of these questions and that’s been actually quite useful.

Matt: [00:21:16]
Okay guys. Well, this has been the Comparesoft podcast. We will look forward to seeing you next time. Thanks.

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