Critical Requirements For Restaurants When Finding a Commercial Refrigeration Company

by | Commercial Refrigeration

Blue Moon Brewing Company-PRSMLet’s be honest, finding a commercial HVAC and / or a commercial refrigeration company for your restaurant is no easy task.

Your restaurant space is being used and occupied in a variety of manners.  That includes cooking on hot grill tops, pulling food out of scorching ovens, keeping staff comfortable to allow them to work optimally.  And, finally, having paying customers enjoy the setting, while not being too hot or too cold.

That’s not an easy task for any commercial HVAC company.  That’s, what you probably call, a “tall order”.

Below, is a list of critical characteristics or requirements that you should use when interviewing a restaurant HVAC company.  And, keep in mind this is just a starting point.  As unique as every restaurant business is, you bring your own uniqueness to the table as well.

Therefore, you should use these suggestions as a starting point to your search for a commercial heating and cooling company.

Do They Have A History With Restaurant HVAC?

RFMA Allied Member LogoAs silly as it may sound, but it’s not unheard of for commercial refrigeration and commercial HVAC companies to do restaurant work… when they don’t even have experience in that field.

Let’s face it.  Restaurants are a completely different breed because the food being cooked makes the kitchen extremely hot.  Couple that with a dining room that needs to stay cool for guests.  You also have ice machines, dish washers, open doors in the back, customers coming in or leaving… and everything else in between.

All of these factors need to be taken into account before hiring a commercial HVAC and refrigeration company.

But, a good start is to ask fellow restaurant owners, managers or facilities managers for recommendations.  As restaurant reviews can sway new customers from trying their food, the same applies for commercial heating and cooling businesses.

Another option to simply do a few Google searches in your area for commercial refrigeration in [insert city] or commercial HVAC in [insert city].  Now, that does not guarantee you’ll find the best mechanical company, but it will give you a starting list.

From there, call them up, and basically “interview” them.  Asking for references is completely normal.  When you call their references, make sure to verify how long they have been providing service, maintenance and repair for their location(s).  And, what type of work they have done for them in the past.  Usually that will give you an opportunity determine if their expertise falls inline with your restaurant HVAC needs.

Is The Restaurant HVAC Company Trusted, Reliable, and Punctual?

Refrigeration Life-Cycle SolutionsWhy this is even “critical requirement” is crazy. But, the mechanical HVAC industry has a reputation for the complete opposite.  Which makes it challenging for commercial refrigeration companies that have a successful reputation.

None the less, when an HVAC technician shows up when expected, that shows a high level of professionalism.  Especially in the restaurant business.  Every minute spent with a broken HVAC unit can cost you hundreds of dollars per hour.  If not more.

Response time is another factor that many restaurant owners, managers and facilities managers should take into account.  Several CMMS and property management software companies use the “response time” KPI as a key element of success.  Commercial HVAC and refrigeration companies that are able to respond within 60 minutes (or less) typically receive the highest scores.  Even though the standard is 4 hours.

Finally, the longevity of company plays a role in this characteristic.  Some of the most successful mechanical businesses have been around at least 3 decades, if not more.

Does Your Restaurant HVAC Company Also Handle Commercial Refrigeration?

Commercial RefrigerationNot all commercial HVAC companies also handle refrigeration service, maintenance and repair. Not only is it a different type of required certifications but understanding how refrigeration works is critical.

In addition, your goal is to find a sole provider that manages both HVAC and refrigeration.  Mainly because this allows the mechanical team to see your restaurant all working as one.  By having 2 types of vendors can create confusion, miscommunication, and possibly conflict.

However, having one mechanical vendor that can handle your HVAC and commercial refrigeration will save you time and money in the long run.  And, your facilities manager or general manager will be happy they need to deal with one company.

Is Your Mechanical Company Hiring Certified and Licensed HVAC Technicians To Handle Your Restaurant?

Commercial HVAC InstallationEvery state has their own laws and requirements about HVAC certifications. And, though, most commercial HVAC businesses only hire certified and licensed technicians.  That is not to say there are some that do not.

Depending on your location in the United States, you are going to make sure you do your due diligence.  Verify if your state requires HVAC technicians to be certified and licensed.

Common certifications in the mechanical industry are from MSCA or NATE.  These organizations prove that a technician has completed the necessary course work – just like college transcripts.

Are their technicians EPA 608 certified?  This is vital for your restaurant, especially if you expect the heating and cooling company to perform commercial refrigeration service, maintenance, repair or installment.

Ask if the proposed restaurant HVAC vendor has a continuing education program for their technicians.  Let’s face it… technology continues to evolve and grow, and if your HVAC vendor does not invest in their employees, more then likely they will cut corners on their service in your restaurant.

Finally, do they have a design engineer on staff.  Now this is not a deal breaker.  Many commercial HVAC companies don’t keep them on staff, however, they have their “go-to” person or company that can validate all areas of HVAC system designs.

Is The Commercial HVAC Vendor Aware Of Local City & County Building Codes?

Commercial HVAC Project ManagementBuilding codes are in place for a reason, for the safety of your customers, and the safety of your staff. And, every district has their own building codes.  If your commercial HVAC vendor is not well versed with the local building codes, then you are going to need to continue your search.

Many times, a well accomplished commercial HVAC company will bring up the required code standards for certain projects.  If they do that, they obviously understand your location.

Does The Restaurant HVAC Company Guarantee Their Work?

CMI Mechanical HVAC and RefrigerationThis is a tough one, however, a highly reputable HVAC company will stand behind their services, including labor. Any parts or units used should also have a manufacturer warranty.  And, an ethical commercial HVAC organization will help you through that process in replacing parts that are still under warranty.

At the end of the day, we all want to make sure the work being performed for your commercial refrigeration and restaurant HVAC is done right.  The first time.  Typically, when you do your referral checks, a simple question of “was the job done right the first time?” can help.  But, let’s face it.  We are dealing with mechanical units, and stuff happens.  That’s why a guarantee is simply nice to have.

Will They Maintain And Service Any Equipment They Install In Your Restaurant?

HVAC Preventative MaintenanceThis is severely important because if a commercial HVAC business just wants to sell you parts and equipment, they may try to avoid any type of guarantee, mentioned in #6.

To put it fairly, all commercial heating and cooling companies should want to maintain your newly installed equipment and any other service they provide. Yes, it’s more sustainable revenue for them.  But, the more important issue is that they should have knowledge on how the parts and equipment operate, since they are installing them.

In addition, this is an opportunity for you to establish a preventative maintenance program, if you don’t already have one.

Essentially, you are looking for your preferred commercial HVAC and refrigeration vendor to simply perform a quarterly (maybe more, maybe less) checkup on your HVAC unit.  That involves filter changes, belt replacements (if necessary), coil cleaning, and any other maintenance needed.  This will help prolong the life of your investment, as well as ensure that your commercial HVAC system will operate efficiently.  This could also help in saving your restaurant with saving money and untimely costs / replacements.

In addition, your preferred provider will evaluate your restaurant business, usage of all equipment that involves heating and cooling, and make suggested recommendations.

Thus having a commercial HVAC partner maintain and service all installed parts has added value and upside.

Do They Have The Trust And Dedication To Servicing Your Restaurant HVAC Needs Quickly?

Restaurant Commercial HVAC/ROne of the biggest challenges to deal with in the mechanical industry is timeliness of accepting a work order, followed by diagnosing the problem, and finally coming up with a solution.

You want a commercial HVAC and refrigeration partner to understand how important your restaurant’s up time is. Therefore, they should be willing to accept work order requests with 1 to 2 hours.  At the max, 4 hours.  Many CMMS and facilities management software programs use the 4 hour response time as a key KPI.  And, that’s great.  But, if a HVAC vendor has even better response times, that is a huge benefit for your restaurant.

Next, you want to make sure that not only the company, but their HVAC technicians are dedicated to performing the job well.  That means, understanding how valuable every minute your heating and cooling system is down or commercial refrigeration needs repaired.  Minutes lost can cost your restaurant thousands of dollars.  And potentially ruin your location’s reputation with unruly customer experience.

What Will Your Restaurant HVAC Partner Charge You For Services?

Commercial HVAC Preventative Maintenance Program - Cost vs MaintenanceThis is a very sticky and gray area to discuss. Let’s be honest.  Every business is in business to make a profit.  Otherwise, staff will be losing their jobs, businesses will be closing, and customers won’t be served properly.

With that said, do not solely focus on pricing.  So many restaurants and multi-site locations try to negotiate on pricing as the only driving factor, that they exclude the 8 other points mentioned above.

Keep in mind that you want a commercial HVAC company to charge a fair price.  Now, what is fair?  That is a difficult word to define.  But, you do not want to focus on getting the least expensive commercial heating and cooling company to service your restaurant(s).

Why?  Here’s an example.

If you are an upscale restaurant selling more than expensive meals, you probably do so because you offer higher quality products, better service, amazing experience, and a 2nd to none environment.  Granted, a customer can easily go to a fast food restaurant and find ANY meal to fulfill their hunger, but they would be missing out on the other elements.

The other aspect to think about is that, lets say you have an NTE (Not To Exceed) budget of $1,000 for a certain job to be done.  If commercial HVAC company A is offering services at $75 / hour (even though the normal rate is roughly $95 to $105 / hour), they may be charging you less hourly.  But, they may perform a work order in 13 hours, which is still below your NTE budget.

Commercial HVAC B may charge $100 / hour, but are skilled enough to diagnose and fix your HVAC unit in 5 hours.  Yes, they charge MORE per hour, but you are truly getting what you pay for.

With that said, by strictly focusing on pricing, you are potentially putting yourself, your restaurant, your staff and your customers in a bind.

At the end of the day, paying a fair value for commercial refrigeration and HVAC service is difficult to evaluate.  But, if you followed the previous 8 steps above, pricing should be a non-factor.

You want your commercial HVAC partner to make a profit so they can continue to service your restaurant at the highest level possible.  This ensures that you are well taken care of, along with other outstanding restaurants and multi-site retail shops.

About CMI Mechanical HVAC and Refrigeration

CMI Mechanical Stacked LogoCMI Mechanical has been guiding restaurant owners, managers and facilities managers – like yourself – with their commercial HVAC and refrigeration needs, for over 4 decades.

We’ve encountered nearly all of your common (and uncommon) challenges with your HVAC unit.

And, customers continue to hire CMI Mechanical, not because we’ve been around since 1980, rather we’ve been doing high quality and reliable work  that make our customers extremely satisfied, since our inception.

That means we make sure you experience the following when you decide to hire CMI Mechanical.

  • Offer a Fair Price – We don’t believe in overcharging (or under charging) just to win your business. We believe you offering the highest value and experience, while charging a fair price for the commercial HVAC service you are requesting.  Stand assured, we promise to take care of you, every step of the way.

In addition, you’ll benefit from our:

  • 24 / 7 emergency service – We have staff members, on-call, around the clock. No need to wonder if you can get an HVAC technician on site at 2:00 AM.
  • Industry best response time – CMI Mechanical prides themselves at having one of the best Corrigo and Service Channel (to name a few) response times in the industry.
  • Licensed, Permitted, And Insured HVAC Technicians – Our entire team have the necessary certifications for your project. No matter how in-depth it is.  And, we pull all permits for your installations and replaces.
  • Asset Management Customer Portal – All customers of CMI Mechanical will have the ability to store your commercial HVAC assets and information in our centralized database. No more wondering what type of unit your restaurant has.

Are You Ready To Move Forward With CMI Mechanical?

If you want to make sure you’ll be guided through the process of your commercial HVAC system decision making, then CMI Mechanical is the perfect solution for your restaurant business.

Here are our steps to evaluating if you’ll be a good partner with our team of highly qualified and trusted technicians.

  1. Setup a Strategy Call – Yes, we need to schedule a strategy call to review your current operations. This allows us to understand what you need for preventative maintenance, service, repair, and either replacement or new installation.
  2. Access To All Your HVAC Units – If you have information about your units, that makes things a lot easier on our end, and saves you money. Otherwise, we’ll need to send a technician to record your assets so we have a baseline for our team.
  3. Requirements And Special Instructions – As we mentioned previously, every restaurant business operates a bit differently, and that means that your standards and requirements may be different. By sharing this information a head of time, we’ll be able to provide the best service to not just YOUR requirements, but also to your staff and customers.

Once you set up a strategy call, we’ll walk you through the other steps.  Again, this ensures that there is open communication between both parties.

So, what are you waiting for? Setup a time to chat with our National Director of Business Development.

Trust us, you don’t want to keep pushing this off.  You want to be in good hands immediately.

 

DoubleTree Hotel - CMI Mechanical Customer

They perform better than other mechanical businesses I have worked with.

Brian Wilske

General Manager, DoubleTree Hotel