Canadian Pizza Magazine

Pizza on Fire: April-May 2013

By Tom Stankiewicz   

Features Business and Operations Staffing

Equipment breakdown

Do you have a backup plan for a broken mixer during a busy rush?

Do you have a backup plan for a broken mixer during a busy rush?

It’s approaching the 6 p.m. rush for your pizza deliveries. You look around and see that everything is running as smoothly as a well-oiled machine. The phone is ringing off the hook, customers are waiting eagerly for their pizzas, and all employees are busy moving the orders along. You know that it’s going to be a good night for business.

Then, your pizza dough mixer breaks and refuses to start up again.


What is your backup plan if equipment unexpectedly breaks down? I imagine some of us have a backup plan in place or at least a simple strategy to follow until the problem is fixed. But, there are also those who don’t like to plan for the worst and who deal with problems when they happen. These are, of course, two totally opposite ways of solving problems. I always say that you should just go with whatever works best for you. However, the second approach is probably less desirable as it likely will take longer to fix the problem.
Recently, I had an experience with an unfortunate equipment incident at my pizza store. It was Friday evening and all of a sudden my dough mixer stopped working. You can just imagine what was going through my mind as I watched my pizza dough portions disappear one after another, unable to get more batches ready. Let’s just say that it was very nerve-racking and stressful. My strategy was to always have a list of equipment stores that can easily replace any part that breaks. So I do have a list, but inconveniently for me, none of them was open Friday evening. I quickly realized that unless I could find somebody to fix it for me on short notice, I wouldn’t be able to operate my business efficiently at all.

Out of desperation, I called another independently owned pizzeria that is located just a short distance from my store. Once I explained the predicament I was in, the owner offered to mix some dough for me. First of all, I was amazed that I had this incredible, quick solution. Then I realized that likely the owner responded so helpfully to my situation because we both run independent pizza stores. He could truly appreciate what a disaster this was and probably thought to himself, “What if I was in this situation and I needed help?”

It made me realize that those of us who are independent pizzeria owners look at the business competition from a slightly different angle than franchises. I very much doubt that if I walked into any one of the major pizza chains and asked them to mix some pizza dough for me, they would happily agree. Understandably, they have strict policies that employees have to follow, whereas the owner of an independent pizza store can adjust those policies anytime he sees fit.

After this unfortunate event, I can assure you that I have a better backup plan to follow in case of such emergencies. I have to admit that I got lucky this time, but I’d rather not push my luck any further. It’s always better to have at least a small plan in the event of equipment failure. I would ensure that your list includes equipment stores that can deliver the parts anytime, not just Monday to Friday. The list should include at least three individuals who are familiar with equipment maintenance and who can be called anytime to repair or replace what broke.

A copy of the plan should be placed where all employees can easily find it so the problem can be handled smoothly if you are not around. It’s essential for your employees to know that they should not operate any equipment with broken parts. It is simply too dangerous. Make it clear that in your absence there are specific steps that must be followed to resolve the problem as soon as possible. If you want to be the only one who executes the plan, then it’s a good idea to have all important phone numbers saved on your cellphone. This way, the information is readily available to you if it’s needed.

Of course, regular equipment maintenance will help prevent such emergencies. Maintenance is especially important if your existing equipment has been used for years and is old. Initially, it might seem as if you’re spending money on equipment that is working properly and you might wonder if it’s necessary. In the long run, you are saving money and time by having zero or very few equipment failures. Most importantly, you will have peace of mind that the equipment is checked regularly and that this strategy will minimize potential emergencies for you to deal with.

Tom Stankiewicz has been in the pizza business for more than 15 years. He has been the proprietor of Bondi’s Pizza in London, Ont., since 2000, and is president of the Canadian Pizza Team.

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