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November 7, 2019 Preventative Maintenance

At Your Service: The Need for Food Equipment Technicians

Service technicians are a critical piece of the foodservice puzzle.  From troubleshooting issues and conducting planned maintenance to making time-sensitive repairs, they help keep kitchens running smoothly.   With demand for service increasing, and as older techs retire, it begs the question:  What does the future look like for bringing in young new talent to foodservice service?

Service technicians are a critical piece of the foodservice puzzle. From troubleshooting issues and conducting planned maintenance to making time-sensitive repairs, they keep kitchens running smoothly so that operators can keep up with demand and meet guest needs.

The foodservice service industry might be essential, but that doesn’t make it invincible. Demand for service isn’t decreasing, and food equipment continues to advance technologically. As older techs retire, there isn’t enough young talent starting in the industry.

Challenges with recruiting service techs

A few roadblocks contribute to the difficulty recruiting the next generation of food equipment service techs: industry awareness and job understanding. 

Those of us in the foodservice industry are aware of the importance of quality service, but outside the industry, it’s a different story. Students may think of only restaurant roles, such as cashiers, wait staff or line cooks, when they think of the foodservice industry. They are unaware of the entire foodservice industry — both commercial and noncommercial — that is supported by service technicians.

Furthermore, there is still an association between a lucrative career and a college degree, but that is not necessarily the case. Service technicians, although a trained, skilled craft, do not need to have a college degree. Many service companies will even pay trainees, offering them the opportunity to learn a skilled trade that is in high demand and has great earning potential.

Making the case for careers in service

If the industry can overcome these challenges, service technicians find fulfilling careers in the foodservice industry. There is consensus that the work is challenging, but rewarding, as they address immediate issues but also try to prevent future problems. As the field evolves, it becomes more nuanced and requires technical savvy to grasp concepts — putting technicians at the forefront of what’s next.

Additionally, industry professionals note numerous other advantages to a food equipment service career, including:

  • The opportunity to be experts in a small field that will set them apart from other technicians
  • Skills that are transferable around the world, from big cities to small towns
  • Job stability —although no job is completely recession-proof, people will still need to eat, and food will still need to be prepared, supporting the need for equipment service technicians
  • Experience that can lead to opportunities in other parts of the industry, such as sales or management
  • Valuable benefits, such as company vehicle, retirement savings, vacation time, health benefits and other incentives

CFESA shapes the industry

Industry leaders also note that foodservice is a tight-knit community that builds relationships and problem solves together by sharing insights and best practices. Many food equipment service techs connect through the Commercial Food Equipment Service Association (CFESA). 

A leading industry organization, CFESA is committed to quality service, demonstrated through its training and certification programs. The organization also gives back to rising service stars through its CFESA Cares Scholarship Program.

Service technician success story

Dylan Bakker, service technician with Choquette CKS and a 2019 CFESA Cares Scholarship recipient, has found the food equipment service industry to be an exciting career path, filled with opportunity.

Bakker has a technical degree in HRAC and holds licenses in gas, oil and introductory refrigeration. He began his career in the HVAC industry, and as he wanted to pursue his refrigeration license, he was introduced to Choquette CKS. 

Bakker has learned the foodservice industry through his work with Choquette CKS and has been able to start his refrigeration apprenticeship, which has three levels of schooling and requires 9,000 hours of work experience in order to become R313A journeyman. Bakker plans to use the $2,500 CFESA Cares scholarship to further his education in refrigeration equipment with the goal of becoming a certified refrigeration mechanic.

“The team at Choquette made it easy for me to transition to working in commercial kitchens, and the potential for future opportunities with this company is really good to see as a young technician,” said Bakker. “I jumped at the chance to apply for the scholarship because it was a chance to learn a little more about this industry I am coming to love.”

Bakker lays out what students need to consider before starting a career in the food equipment service industry: “If you’re looking for a challenge — something that can make you better every day, make you fulfilled with the career choice you have — I would take on the foodservice industry. It’s never-ending learning, and if you have the right attitude to take that on, you’ll do great.”

Service and parts supplier partnerships

Service techs are well connected to other entities in the foodservice industry, such as end users, manufacturers and parts distributors. Heritage Parts has long-standing relationships with food equipment service providers and is committed to providing techs with tools to make their jobs easier. In addition to connecting with Heritage Parts Experts via phone, email, text and chat, service agents also have convenient 24/7 access to parts with the Heritage mobile app. With the app, they can quickly reference parts diagrams and equipment manuals and use Heritage’s Expert ID360 with state-of-the-art viewing technology that provides 360 degrees of rotation. This technology enhances the efficiency of repairs and the accuracy of part identification, providing a more seamless repair process.

To hear more on this subject, listen to a Special Edition of the Heritage Partscast, where CFESA leaders discuss all things foodservice hiring and training — from attracting and retaining top tech talent to how to approach the educational requirements needed to set techs up for a lifetime of success.

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