The deck is stacked against restaurant operators. For one, there is the labor crisis that is forcing brand leaders to get creative in order to find new employees. Then there is the fact that the industry lost 20 percent of its revenue last year, as was widely reported, but now diners are flocking back to restaurants ill-prepared for their presence. The list goes on, but suffice to say running a restaurant has never been more difficult.
These challenges, and others, have forced operators to take a fresh look at ways to build efficiencies into their business model. One reason Daniel Estrada, the CEO of 86 Repairs, is confident that his company’s repairs and maintenance tech-enabled service has been a part of the solution for restaurants during this difficult time is because of the fact that when revenue was down last year, his company’s retention rate remained sky high, checking in at over 99 percent. In fact, 86 Repairs doubled the number of restaurant clients it works with year over year from the beginning of 2020 to the beginning of 2021 and now takes care of repairs and maintenance for hundreds of restaurant locations across 37 states and counting.
Here’s how 86 Repairs works: When a piece of equipment goes down, the restaurant manager sends a text, call, or email identifying what the issue is and which piece of equipment is malfunctioning. A troubleshooting process is initiated in order to helps ensure maintenance is necessary. This step helps avoid 18.7 percent of service requests before they happen, because an 86 Repairs team member is able to give instructions to frontline staff to remedy any simple issues, such as if the equipment isn’t plugged in. But if further action is required, a service provider from the customer’s preferred vendor list—or 86 Repairs network—is called to come in and address the problem.
Because it is a subscription service, 86 Repairs works hard to save clients money rather than create problems that might not exist, says Estrada. The company estimates that it saves restaurant partners between $3,000 and $15,000 annually per location, depending on the size of the restaurant.
“The biggest challenge when it comes to repairs and maintenance is keeping track of everything going on in a restaurant,” Estrada says. “It’s a lot to ask of a restaurant manager to try and troubleshoot, to schedule maintenance, and then see the repair through—all of this in addition to everything that is already on their plate.”
Brands find that when repairs and maintenance are no longer management’s responsibility, those store and area managers are able to return to the tasks they’ve been hired to conduct in the first place, like being the point person for customer service and back-of-house operations. This leads to happier managers and more efficient restaurants. In fact, brands that have teamed up with 86 Repairs report that management loves the solution so much that they would “revolt” if it ever went away, because those managers remember how much time they used to spend dealing with repairs and maintenance. This is one of the major ways the solution helps: freeing up management to help offset the gaps created by the current labor shortage.
“Another bit of feedback we frequently receive is that we help brands achieve their growth goals,” says Joe Gallagher, head of product at 86 Repairs. “Maybe you’re a private equity office in Ohio, and you see an opportunity to buy a 15-unit franchise across the country. It’s something you don’t want to pass on, but it’s hard to imagine managing 15 more stores and all of the headaches that can be created as a result of that. It’s far less daunting when you’re one of our clients, because 86 Repairs is built to help ownership strategically scale, and we take a whole bunch of the problems instantly off your plate when you open or acquire new locations.”
While much of the industry has begun to rely on data and analytics for things like insights into customer behavior, repairs and maintenance remained largely untouched from that movement. 86 Repairs sees itself as filling that void. Gallagher says that because the system is so user-friendly and efficient, sometimes it’s easy to forget the massive amount of data and analytics that 86 Repairs integrates and helps turn into actionable insights.
“Data is cheap, but incredibly illuminating,” Gallagher says. “There is software out there that can say, ‘Hey, you spent 23 percent of your maintenance dollars on cold-side repairs.’ That’s one piece of the equation. We’re able to create context to what that means and if it’s too high or not. We can turn it into an anonymized insight that says, ‘This is how much other brands spend on cold-side repairs, and it’s 5 percent lower than yours.’ And that can help diagnose if there are mechanical issues that are costing you over time, or if equipment needs to be replaced in order to eventually bring costs down.”
Here’s a real-life example of a time when an actionable insight saved an operator a lot of money: Estrada reports 86 Repairs noticed that a multi-brand franchisee group based in Texas had 40 percent higher refrigeration usage in stores under one specific brand umbrella. 86 Repairs was able to pinpoint that the restaurant locations belonging to the one brand required more deep frying, and grease was beginning to clog the condenser fans, causing the compressors to overheat and then fail, leading to a bevy of refrigeration costs. Once the ownership group knew this information, they added a simple cleaning step to the nightly closing checklist, which ended up saving them $60,000 a year in unnecessary refrigeration costs.
“Restaurants are really hard facilities to manage because there are so many different service categories, and things can get lost in the shuffle,” Estrada says. “We’re tracking everything behind the scenes for our client operators, letting them know how much money they are spending in different areas or when things are in or out of warranty and generally making sure that their R&M is running as smoothly and efficiently as possible.”
While the 86 Repairs platform may cost more than competitors that offer straight monthly software subscriptions, Estrada and Gallagher say they help brands save money in the long run, cutting costs and increasing revenue with these actionable insights and data that lead to meaningful change in their brand’s approach to repairs and maintenance.
“Our rivals are the airline that has the cheapest ticket, but by the time you pay all of the carry-on bag fees and other built in costs, it ends up costing you more than a ticket that appeared to be a slightly higher cost, and it’s a way worse experience,” Gallagher says. “Think about how much it costs quick-service brands to pay a regional manager, a facilities team, and third-party service providers. Many operators know the strain this causes, because they deal with it every day. We confidently say we are the cost leader of choice in this field when you’re looking at the entire landscape, and we offer the most cost effective approach.”
To check out how much you can save making the switch, visit the 86 Repairs website.