In the restaurant business, maintaining comfortable conditions is a must. It’s never okay for your dining room to be too hot, cold or humid. You can’t have equipment noise disturbing your customers. You can’t have drafts or kitchen smells being pulled into the dining room by a poorly-functioning restaurant HVAC system.
These problems cause you to lose customers and impact your bottom line. If your service provider makes you wait days, sends technicians that can’t fix the problem, or problems keep coming back, it’s time to find a better option.
Read on for some advice about choosing a new service provider you can trust with your restaurant HVAC system.
Restaurant HVAC is challenging and requires an experienced service provider
Keeping your restaurant consistently comfortable can be more difficult than for other types of businesses. For example:
You have varying occupancy in the space (hour to hour and day to day), you have doors opening and closing all day long (letting all your conditioned air escape), and you have kitchen appliances adding heat into the space and exhaust sucking air out of your space. It’s a complex problem with many variables, and it takes training and experience to get it right.
You have acoustical requirements. Nobody wants a restaurant HVAC fan blaring while they are trying to enjoy a meal, yet fans are necessary for cooling. They add conditioned air where it’s needed, and help maintain the proper air balance to prevent migrating odors. The trick is understanding how to position ducts and fans, and run them at the right speeds so they won’t disturb patrons.
You have refrigeration equipment (walk-in coolers, low boys, blast chillers and freezers) that put out a lot of heat and can wreak havoc on the performance of your restaurant HVAC system. And the reverse is also true: if your restaurant HVAC isn’t working right, it can affect the temperatures inside your refrigeration equipment. That can endanger your health inspection status and the health of your customers.
Learn more: Neglected Commercial Refrigeration Equipment is a Recipe for Disaster!
It’s important to choose a service provider for your restaurant HVAC that understands your needs and how to design and maintain your system accordingly.
7 things to look for in a restaurant HVAC service provider
How can you tell if a heating and air conditioning company has what it takes to install, repair and maintain restaurant HVAC equipment? Look for these signs of expertise and commitment to customer service:
1. Experience with restaurant HVAC
Ask colleagues in the restaurant business (especially in your neighborhood) who does their restaurant HVAC work. It’s a good sign when you see the company’s trucks around your area frequently. If your neighbors are using them regularly, chances are they’re doing good work.
Before you hire anyone, make sure they can demonstrate a history of successfully working with restaurant HVAC systems. Ask for references from satisfied restaurant owners and managers. Call those references and ask how long the company has been working for them and what type of service they performed. Ideally, you want to hear about installations, preventative maintenance, and repairs.
2. Refrigeration & kitchen expertise
Did you know that some restaurant HVAC companies also have expertise in refrigeration repair and maintenance as well? There are several reasons you’re better off with the one service provider handling your restaurant HVAC and your refrigeration needs:
- They can evaluate the impact of all your systems on one another. Here’s an example: if your AC is not maintaining the set temperature, your open air cases may be running constantly as they actually attempt to cool the surrounding space. You need someone with an eye on the big picture.
- You get one trusted point of contact that understands your equipment, your business and your needs
- One provider means less paperwork with combined work orders and billing.
EVEN BETTER: look for a restaurant HVAC company that repairs and maintains kitchen equipment, too.
3. Prompt and reliable
It’s a good sign when the restaurant HVAC company’s sales rep shows up when expected. Guarantees about response time are all well and good, but will they keep those promises? When you speak to references, ask how long it takes to get a technician there in an emergency and their track record for arriving on time for appointments AND fixing problems fast.
4. Technicians are certified and well trained
- Make sure all technicians are licensed if required in your state.
- Especially in states like New York that do not require licenses, look for MSCA or NATE certifications, which prove that a tech has completed a rigorous training program, passed certification exams, and receives ongoing education.
- Ask about EPA 608 certification, which is required for any tech who handles refrigerant.
- Find out how the company provides training for its technicians. When an HVAC company invests in regular training, it shows a level of commitment to quality and customer service.
5. They guarantee their work
Here’s another sign of a commitment to quality. A restaurant HVAC company should guarantee their installations, repairs and maintenance work for a period of one year.
6. Access to parts
A quick response time is not always an indicator of how fast you’ll be back up and running. What if it takes 3 days to get the parts to complete a repair?
Look for a service provider that has a large inventory of parts, as well as relationships with numerous parts suppliers in your area.
7. They maintain the equipment they sell and install
Stay away from restaurant HVAC companies that only want to sell you equipment and install it, then walk away. Instead, choose a company that will take responsibility for ongoing maintenance. That way you can be more confident that the installation was done right.
Speaking of preventative maintenance: how often you do it is just as important as who you choose. Regular maintenance of your restaurant HVAC and refrigeration equipment keeps everything running reliably and keeps repair expenses down.
The right provider can work with you to come up with a maintenance schedule based on your equipment and usage, and pricing that works for your budget. You’re probably familiar with maintenance agreements for HVAC, but here’s a great source of information if you’re new to refrigeration maintenance plans.