Hello, an introduction and a few questions
Just let me make a quick introduction and tell you a little about myself. My name is Al and I have worked in the rail industry for the better part of the last two decades. Most of the time in passenger rail for major carriers and car builders on both the engineering and technician side. I have a very strong electrical background and had to get good at HVACR "under fire" so to speak.
To make a long story even longer; last year we had to relocate from south Florida to the Mobile, Alabama region for family reasons. I resigned my position and we packed up the kids and pets and hit the road. Well, with the economic climate being as it was the job trail ran cold pretty quickly (too old, over-qualified, made too much) all the usual turn down responses. My wife quickly formulated a plan to go into our own business (she has all the answers...whether I like them or not...lol). We settled on HVAC as a business due to me being a problem solver and needing a constant challenge and her contacts in the real estate business. After jumping through what seems like a thousand hoops we are finally an established little operation doing service and repair calls for the residential market.
Now for my question(s), My wife and I have been discussing the direction we want the business to go and I am leaning towards the commercial end. I've been reading the posts on this board and find the problems encountered in the food service equipment area to be interesting. I'll be honest here, I don't like doing the residential work. It seems to be an uphill battle of trying to educate the masses on the right way of doing things. The situation appears to me; if you are dependent on the equipment to make a living you will want it done right and won't squawk about spending a few extra bucks. Am I off base with this line of reasoning? Are commercial accounts just as much of a PITA as residential or just a different flavor?
Any help or tips would be appreciated.
10 years + doing food service repairs, hot side, bakery equipment, meat processing equipment, ware wash. Never had a days layoff, always 40 hr+, never a dull moment. The main difference between commercial and residential (to me anyway) is cost of equipment. I can buy a nice dishwasher for my house for well under a grand. No chance of that flying in a restaurant though. 2 grand + buys you a dishwasher that makes a neat noise when you kick it off the back of the truck at the scrap yard. A commercial account is more apt to pony up to a high dollar repair then a homeowner. I despise working on residential anything, ask my wife...
Commercial what? fryers,grills,toasters,etc? Freezers,coolers etc? What kind of equipment would you be servicing if you went commercial?
At this point, I'm really not sure what I would service. I guess I'm looking for ideas. What is there a need for? Is it a good idea to be a "one stop shop" type or is specialization the way to go?
I have experience with a wide variety of equipment everything from slicers to ice makers. I really like troubleshooting and if I haven't been exposed to the equipment it just becomes another adventure to me.
It's difficult to delineate boundaries in the nature of food equipment service. When I started I did HOT side - which included cooking, food prep equipment, warewashing and hot beverage. THAT, in and of itself, covers a very broad spectrum of equipement you won't find in a home. Your electrical background is a must but has some unique components and applications involved that won't be found in domestic appliances. You'll need a strong knowledge of natural gas and propane gas systems too.
COLD side is self explanatory but applications are broad there too - beyond your simple refrigerators, freezers or ice machines.
I've seen some folks who chose for hot beverage service exclusively and have been busy with that. Coffee and capaccino service is always needed these days.
The nature of the work is very demanding. If you go for hot or cold side restaurant work, be prepared for an intense and demanding work environment, employees stepping all over your work area or bumping into you, that special stench of a restaurant floor, etc.
Have you searched the internet for commercial equipment. There are many manufacturers.
There are several manufacturers names that cover a broad list of equipment categories. Two off the top ofr my head are Hobart & Manitowoc. Up until recently, the latter was only ice machines - but that has changes with a broad aquisition.
Other names: Pitco, Blodgett, Cleveland, Garland, Victory, A.J. Antunes, Pince Castle, Middleby Marshall, Market Forge, Bakers Pride, Delfield...
My list of manufacturer's tech support phone numbers - is in the hundreds...
I could go on but gotta go. Take a look around.
With little experience in the trade, you'd have many obstacles facing you without someone experienced to work with and get you going.
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Thanks for the insight EC, I have looked into mfr's documentation from a wide variety of sources and have amassed quite a collection of documentation over the past few weeks. It is amazing how much variety is out there, the HOT side sounds very intriguing but you are right I would have to brush up on natural gas and propane operations as most of my dealings in the past were with electric heat elements.
I'm pretty well versed in dealing with tight and dirty or greasy spaces and having people trip over me while I'm working. I've done a lot of work on moving rail cars with full service galleys and dining cars; ooh brother is that a trip. Some things that I have learned about food service employees over the past few years are that they get very creative for their convenience factor, wherever a machine needs airflow somebody will place something to block it and anything that can reasonably support the weight of a wet cloth will become a drying rack.
Thanks again for the info and we will be researching more on both the marketing and technical side.
Originally Posted by AlJen
How about super markets? Now that's a real job full of fun and excitement and a little OT.
It's funny that you mention supermarkets, we were over a friends house for the holiday and we met somebody that manges a a number of stores for a local chain. So of course we gave him our contact info and he will be calling us to look at some of their problems. I think they have a team of maintenance guys but they're busy doing remodeling of some of the stores. Anyway it seems like a good opportunity.
OT at 1:00 AM when the rack is alarming and everyone else is asleep.
Originally Posted by crackertech
I think if you have the skills, resturuants are one of the easier ways to break in. I am Journeyman Electrician (10 years) and broke in doing residential, then resturuant, now supermarket refrigeration.
Difference in resturuant and residential is that most people will clean up if they know you are coming.
Resturuants are always short staffed and well.... Better left unsaid as the resturuants work got me through a lot.
If you are able to do hot and cold as well as minor plumbing stuff you will have more work than you can handle and will be able to pick your customers according to your liking.
Do not rule out HVAC on roof tops, every resturuant wants that dining room A/C, heat fixed now and they will pony up for it. It only takes one customer saying its too hot and walking out the door.
Originally Posted by james122964
Well that is true. I would not give up markets for anything I love it and hate at the same time.