With buffetware, caterers should be able to get a minimum of three to five years out of smaller, single units. That said, the larger custom units have a much longer life expectancy. Proper maintenance of the equipment always plays a huge role in determining the life cycle of these pieces.
If properly maintained during operation, buffet-related equipment should not require extensive cleaning. Daily cleaning is simple and requires no more than using a noncaustic cleaner and wiping buffetware down after each use or shift change. Ensuring the removal of all food debris and that there is no baked-on food left on items and equipment is important. If there is heavy debris, use a light scrubber from the dishroom to perform a thorough cleaning. When the establishment is done serving food for the day, drain all water in this equipment and wipe it down. During any cleaning, it is also important to make sure hot units are cooled down, powered off and unplugged.
Quarterly or semi-annual preventative maintenance is advised and provides an opportunity to make sure that the equipment continues to operate at peak efficiency.
The number one action to take to assist in maximizing the service life of buffet and serving equipment is to ensure that it is being operated properly. Units that require water to heat the product cannot be run when dry. Caterers should periodically check the water level during usage to keep the pans in good shape and free of burn-through holes, which would require replacement. Regularly clean and maintain refrigerated unit condensers to ensure that the cooling systems run at peak efficiency. Keep compressors cool to extend the life of the equipment.
Call a service agent to address such safety issues as leaking, sparking, sharp surfaces, smoking, etc. If a unit stops heating or cooling, use a qualified service technician to evaluate and repair the problem.
Lower-cost single units are often not worth repairing once they are no longer under warranty or have served several years because the cost would exceed the price of a new unit. On larger units with multiple wells or custom-designed serving counters, an operator would want to look for reduced heating or cooling capacity, any cracked or split wells, or a deteriorated overall appearance. Big equipment with four or more wells is often worth repairing, even if extensive work is needed.