Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Emergency Breakdown Service in the Catering Trade

Trapped like a rabbit in headlights
My experience of 'Catering Technicians' being called out to service or fix equipment in the field over two decades ranged from being royally ripped off to being promptly and politely served at reasonable cost but rarely ever being told precisely what the problem was or how to avoid a repeat... Fixing equipment, drainage, mechanicals and electricals for bars, pubs and restaurants is a clandestine trade almost everything supplied in the catering industry to single sole trader run outlets is subbed out to highly qualified independent 'technicians' i.e. usually people who cannot hold down any other form of employment but have not yet fallen quite as far as the dad in Shameless.

It's a closed shop, governed by the fact that glass washers and kitchen equipment always break down just before the busiest shift of the week and you never have the freedom to make choices about who you use to keep your business open in the face of serious equipment breakdown - your preferred people are almost always out on emergency work already as most of their client list has emergency breakdowns to sort out too and by the time they get to See You it'll probably be Next Tuesday. So you're at the whim of fate - you have to call people on secret numbers and leave messages using code words to get them to respond and then come in under emergency conditions like a shock troop SWAT team of one man... Then there's the exchange of symptoms and blank looks as the expert fails to understand a word you're telling them while you are thinking 'I've got three hundred punters and fifteen staff out there with everything backing up until this git gets it sorted out' and 'this is going to be expensive, I bet all he really needs is a bottle brush and plunger'... and then you have to listen to unintelligible gibberish about what's going to happen to save the day... so your business can continue to run.

Solutions usually involve sucking teeth, great incredulous gasps of air, tutting, head scratching, frowns, nervous ticks and fearful thousand mile stares peering into dark canvas bags full of oily tools before the 'engineer' leaves the premises without saying why, with panels hanging off machinery, screws left on draining boards, from where they are supposed to roll into plugholes or floor grates, forcing you to call spares departments so you can close the things in future, and exposed electrical wiring under dripping water pumps, capacitors about to blow up, an imaginary off piste journey to an undisclosed specialist spare parts store (the diy shop along the road) or if it's night time - a journey round the corner in the van - pulling up along a kerb for a fag or to read a paper while you the client is left on tenterhooks totting up the calamitous costs of NOT getting the emergency breakdown sorted out.

It's finger biting stuff worthy of the big screen

And then... when you ask for a breakdown of the work, a job sheet or an invoice they look at you as if you're stark raving mad and say 'you want to pay VAT on it?'

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