Maintaining Pub Equipment

Tips from the Experts

Running a bar may seem straightforward. You serve beer and food. You can enjoy a flexible schedule, your customers have a good time, and you make money. What could go wrong?

The answer is plenty! Any slip in general maintenance can result in defective equipment. Luckily, there are lots of ways to save a few bucks on maintenance, and The Publican spoke to experts in the field who were willing to share some industry secrets.


Don’t Take the Heat for your Fryer

Gregg Hamm is the president and chief “Fryer Oil Guy” of Nu-Life Fryer Oil Management, a company that supplies equipment and guidance to pubs, restaurants and major chains across BC.

With 15 years of experience in sales and service, he says there’s one important way to maintain your deep fryer:  “Thermostats on deep fryers are rarely accurate. Some kitchens will set the fryer temperature to about 350°F and leave it. However, it could be out, and actually be operating at 360°F or 370 °F.”

You will not only save money on oil, but also gas – running at a higher temperature means you’re paying more on fuel costs.

Hamm recommends performing a temperature test every week:  “At higher temperatures, the oil is broken down more rapidly. You will not only save money on oil, but also gas – running at a higher temperature means you’re paying more on fuel costs.”

Glasses Need a Clean Bill of Health

Steve Riley, “Chief Beer Guy” of, has worked in the restaurant business for about a dozen years.

His accumulated know-how of draught beer systems has taught him that there is one fundamental way that publicans can not only ensure that they serve a better drink, but also save a few bucks: making sure that glasses are clean. He says that there are four main causes of dirty glasses:

1) Fingerprints on the inside, which can occur when they aren’t scrubbed during sanitization.

2) Residue from sugar-based drinks left by a dishwashing machine.

3) A greasy film left from serving dairy products in a pint glass.

4) Napkins stuffed into pint glasses when clearing tables.

“Dirty glasses have a dollar cost. The bartender pours a pint and the head will collapse. The server has to double handle the pint and add an extra 2 ounces of beer to give it a head,” says Riley. “The bartender is wasting time, the bar owner loses money, and the customer is dissatisfied. Also, the beverage may not taste right because CO² is added to give it a head.”

Riley recommends that you should avoid anything that can transfer grease. For example, don’t wash glasses in a machine that’s used for kitchen utensils, and be sure that no coffee cups go through the glasswasher, as any residual cream will be transferred and recycled through it again and again.

Riley also shared a neat trick to tell if a glass is clean: Take a glass, fill it with water, pour it out, and then sprinkle it with salt. If grease is present, the salt will stick to it. It’s like dusting for prints at a crime scene, where the victim is your profits.

Avoid Refrigeration Dust-Ups

Vince Caleca, service manager for Broadway Refrigeration Co., was a mechanic for fifteen years and serviced a wide range of machinery. When it comes to refrigeration equipment, he’s seen it all:  “There are many different types of refrigeration units, and what they have in common is a coil. As air is blown across it over a period of time, it starts to accumulate dust, which can affect its performance.”

His tip? “Keep it clean! Great care must be taken not to damage the fins or to get the components wet. If the wrong type of cleaner is used, it will leave a sticky residue. This is a magnet for dust; it will end up collecting dirt twice as fast.”

Caleca points out that refrigeration units use differences in temperature to work; in other words, the greater the heat difference between the condenser coils and the surrounding air, the more efficiently things are kept cool. Dirt on the coils means that they won’t work as efficiently, and can cost you not only in repair fees when the unit breaks down, but also spoiled food.

He recommends using a gentle brush to remove any dust off the surface, and to use an air cleaner or special duster to clean inside the coil itself.

Hard Water is Easy to Deal With

Jennifer Cave-Browne-Cave is a category leader for Gordon Food Service. Based in Delta, BC, she’s picked up a lot of experience dealing with beverage equipment during her years in the business.

One of Cave-Browne-Cave’s top tips to save on maintenance costs is to make sure that equipment such as dishwashers dispense the correct amount of cleaning fluid. This means that you save money by not replenishing stocks more often than you should be.

Another factor in your maintenance routine is knowing how hard your water supply is. Scaling in water heaters can change the flavour profile of coffee, or cause equipment to malfunction. She asks, “Do you have the right water softener in place? The city can confirm the mineral content of the water, and your food service supplier will have the right solution to deal with it.

Dirty glasses have a dollar cost. The bartender pours a pint and the head will collapse.

“You’ll also need to make sure that water filter cartridges will need to be replaced more often if your water is harder. This can be done yourself if you have the right plumbing experience. It’s not that complicated—the filter is usually at the source of your water supply.”

These measures are important if your establishment is in the midst of a construction project. “Even if there is main road construction blocks away, dirt can get into your water line and affect all of your equipment,” explains Cave-Browne-Cave. She also cautions against using some common cleaning agents to clean equipment:

– Salt and ice can damage surfaces and are not effective de-scalers.

– Vinegar will taint the taste of coffee.

– Baking soda doesn’t work well as a degreaser.

Her final tip? Although it may be tempting to run coffee equipment through a dishwasher, don’t do it. The seals will perish and you’ll have to buy more. She advises, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”