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    How to Keep Cloud Kitchens Running Smoothly

  • Don't overlook the maintenance.

    Kitchen United
    Kitchen United is one of the segment's fastest-growing companies.

    The online food delivery business is an extremely lucrative market right now in the U.S. According to Statista, the industry has exceeded over $22 billion in revenue during 2019 and over 95 million people turn to online food delivery for their meals. To take advantage of this growing user base, many restaurant owners have turned to cloud kitchens.

    This type of business model is perfect for restaurateurs looking to break into new markets without a hefty investment. For example, if a restaurant that is doing exceptionally well in Brooklyn is looking to tap into the Manhattan market, they no longer need to spend millions to open in midtown. With a cloud kitchen, restaurateurs can rent space in a location that is not designed for customers, but has the right location for them to service delivery to guests in their target area via online delivery services.

    There are two major options for business models of a cloud kitchen. The first option is a restaurateur opening their own cloud kitchen by taking a small space for only a kitchen and filling it with their own equipment. The second is renting space from a cloud kitchen operator where all the equipment will be provided. The first option requires a more substantial investment and can be cost-prohibitive.

    Typical Equipment Needed For A Cloud Kitchen

    • Reach-In Refrigerators
    • Range
    • Oven
    • Grill
    • Deep Fryer
    • Exhaust Hood
    • Sinks
    • Tables
    • Counters
    • POS System for online delivery companies

    Unless a restaurant choses to offer additional products, it doesn't typically need additional options, like water and soda fountains, to manage a cloud kitchen model business. What is obvious, in these spaces, is that restaurants no longer need typical front-of-house staff anymore. By choosing a cloud kitchen, restaurateurs will have a new answer to the question of how to reduce restaurant operating costs.

    How to Maintain a Cloud Kitchen

    Maintenance of a cloud kitchen can be done in two different ways. The first way would be in implementing a preventive maintenance program, which is perfect for rented space cloud kitchens. The goal of a preventive maintenance strategy is to increase equipment lifetime by preventing untimely breakdowns and excess depreciation. By focusing on maintaining equipment to avoid breakdowns, cloud kitchen operators can manage maintenance needs in a controlled and scheduled way. This can be done easily by starting off with a time-based preventive maintenance program, and then can be adjusted depending on the specific maintenance needs of an equipment.

    The other way to perform maintenance tasks in a cloud kitchen, which is popular in the smaller independent cloud kitchen model, would be to work on a reactive maintenance basis. This model of maintenance is to wait until there is a problem with a piece of equipment and then fix it at that point. While this model seems to save money on a daily and weekly basis, it tends to be the least cost-effective model of maintenance management. Untimely and corrective repairs are the most costly type of maintenance because it takes a piece of equipment out of operation when a restaurant may need it the most. It would be much better for restaurateurs to spend the money needed to implement a preventive maintenance schedule and follow it, as it would reduce the time and investment needed to deal with costly breakdowns of equipment.

    Adherence to a preventive maintenance plan is important. One way to do this is by creating checklists of maintenance tasks that need to be completed on a schedule. Having a CMMS can create reminders of a cloud kitchen’s preventive maintenance schedule for each piece of its equipment. A CMMS can be extremely effective because it provides consistency by standardizing all the tasks a maintenance staff needs to complete. Additionally, it allows the owner to be able to go back and retrain staff based on the results because the owner knows who completed the task last.

    Cloud Kitchen Maintenance Checklists

    There are some maintenance checklist items that should come standard with any equipment while there may be others that need additional tasks based on its usage. Keep in mind these sample maintenance checklists are not exhaustive.

    Refrigeration Unit

    • Clean and degrease condenser coils
    • Check condition of door gaskets
    • Monitor thermostat operation and adjust
    • Clean drain pans and tubes
    • Inspect door hinges
    • Check suction line insulation
    • Check and adjust defrost timers
    • Check refrigerant level

    Range Unit

    • Clean and scrape off crusted-in food
    • Remove grates and boil them in a grease solvent
    • Clean clogged burner ports with a stiff wire brush
    • Check burner adjustments and connections for efficiency
    • Keep burner valves greased
    • Adjust air shutters

    Oven Unit

    • Check the door hinges
    • Check the thermostat
    • Wipe lining and bottom of oven with a damp cloth
    • Clean crumbs and encrusted from door openings
    • Make sure oven is level
    • Look for warped sides and bottoms
    • Clean air intake weekly

    Fryer Unit

    • Drain fryer and filter fat in commercial filter
    • Test if the oil needs to be changed
    • Wash with alkaline solution
    • Pack fat around tube-type fryers  

    Exhaust Unit

    • Clean and degrease unit
    • Check exhaust system condition
    • Inspect and adjust exhaust fan belts
    • Inspect Electrical Wiring and Cords
    • Balance Fan Blades
    • Lubricate Fan and Motor

    Warren Wu has years of restaurant experience from being a waiter at Common Theory Public House in San Diego, California. He now leads growth for UpKeep.