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The Guide to Becoming a Food Service Equipment Repair Rockstar

Service Technician working on an Alto-Shaam oven

By Michael Angello – Branch Manager, Tucson

So, you want a Rockstar job? You want a great income but want to avoid being burdened by college debt for the next 20 years? Then you have come to the right place! As a food service repair technician, the sky is the limit on what you can learn and how far you can go! This is a career that can take you all over the world and is always in high demand. Here are a few tips I can pass off to you that can help start your career and land you the position you are looking for.

Did you know it was the French revolution that started the restaurant industry? The royal chefs suddenly found themselves out of work and decided to offer their food to the people. Since that time restaurants have become more and more sophisticated. Restaurant equipment and technology have had to develop rapidly to keep up with demand and therefore there is a need for a sophisticated service technician. This is where we come in. The service technician is a highly trained individual.

How to Become a Food Service Equipment Repair Technician?

So, how do you get started in the industry? First things first, when thinking of a career in the industry you must ask yourself if you like working flexible hours outside in all types of climates and most importantly if you are slightly mechanically inclined. If you can answer yes to these questions, then you are a good candidate. This career may require you to work nights, weekends, holidays, and special occasions, so if you cannot see yourself working these shifts you may wish to turn back now. It is hard work and requires dedication but affords you a great income and a great career! If you are still in high school check if your school offers HVAC/Refrigeration or Auto repair courses. This would certainly give you a leg up in joining the industry. They will give you the basic knowledge for understanding both the principles of refrigeration and mechanics both of which are vital skills for joining our industry.

After you graduate from high school what next? The next step in becoming a service technician can vary as there is no structured training path but, there are options to further your knowledge. Some private colleges offer specific classes for HVAC and refrigeration. But wait, you said we do not need college and the debt it comes with. This is correct, but if you want to jump-start your career this will help you get ahead, and you will likely get hired right out of school. Another option is the military, I went this route and it provides instruction and field experience. The last option is getting hired on at a local company and getting hands-on experience as a helper.

Starting Your Career as Repair Technician Career

Once your training path has been completed you will start looking for your first job as an equipment repair technician. It may take several tries, but with perseverance, you will be hired on as a technician if you have the right attitude and can demonstrate good mechanical understanding. Once you start working your career has only just begun. You will more than likely start out by performing preventative maintenance. A lead technician will show you how to perform routine maintenance on a wide variety of equipment. You will be doing this for some time, it is a great way of learning how the equipment works and help with familiarity and how to interact with customers. You will also be the helper on equipment installation projects. When helping take this time to ask questions and learn as much as possible. The person you are teamed up with has proven themselves and knows what they are doing, they will have a vast knowledge of the industry.

This brings me to my next point, find a mentor! Someone you can call and ask questions to or just shoot the breeze about the industry. This person will help guide your troubleshooting skills and guide you through your first years. My mentor taught me so much about the industry and customer responsibility. He helped me with hard diagnostics and how to make sure I am billing the customer correctly. This person will lift you up but will help you keep your feet on the ground when you are on the wrong track. The latter is not much fun, but you will learn the most important information from those experiences. I remember once I had been working on an ice machine for almost 2 hours and was no closer to finding the issue. I reached out and my mentor asked if I had checked the float to see if it was scaled up, I had not and checked, and it was. In one simple call, I learned about how to properly troubleshoot and that every minute we are billing the customer. This person can be in your company or another one in the area and, sometimes they can be clear across the world. It is someone you will be talking with for years to come. I still talk to mine even though I am behind a desk now. Your mentor will make you a better technician. As time passes you will rely on them less and realize your skills have improved.

Get CFESA Certified & Expand You Skills

Now you are a full-fledged technician and running calls all on your own. Where do you go from here? One way to prove you are the best of the best is to get CFESA certified. There are four categories, Refrigeration, Steam, Gas, and Electrical. These tests are geared towards technicians that have been in the field for some time. You will prove to yourself and your employer that you are the best. Pass any three of these certifications and you will become a Master Certified Technician. This is one of the best accolades in the industry. This is the icing on the cake for any technician. Here at General Parts Group you are even financially rewarded for passing the tests!

Your journey does not end there in fact it never ends. Equipment continues to be updated, for example, automation and robotics seem to be the new trend. You will continue to learn new equipment and new skills. The biggest part of your journey is to keep the knowledge train alive. As a new member of that train, it will be your responsibility to pass on the information and become a mentor as well. The more you put in at the beginning the better a technician you will become. It is not easy by any means, but in the end, you can make upwards of $100K a year, all without a 4-year degree. I hope this helps you in your journey to becoming a Rockstar in the restaurant equipment repair industry.