A hot water heater breakdown can be extremely inconvenient for a business. But for restaurants, on the other hand, a lack of hot water can be dire. Having an action plan for handling the situation can often prevent having to shut down your restaurant entirely. But this doesn’t answer the original question—how long can a restaurant stay open without hot water? The answer: longer than you might think.

Believe it or not, most states allow restaurants to operate without running hot water. Temporarily, that is. Restaurants can often work around the problem by using alternative methods of heating and storing hot water. In this article, we will discuss these alternatives. We will also discuss how Equips can help restaurants overcome challenges that come from broken water heaters and other equipment.

Keeping Your Restaurant Open During a Hot Water Outage

The best way to overcome a hot water outage is to have a game plan for how to manage the situation until your hot water heater can be replaced or repaired. This plan should be broken into two parts: (1) a list of supplies to have ready, and (2) a list of actions to be taken. You will thank yourself for being prepared in the event of a hot water outage.


Disposable Plates and Utensils:

It is awfully hard to properly clean dishes if you don’t have hot water. Sure, you could try, but trust us when we say it is easier to just use disposable plates and utensils. You might be averse to filling up landfills with more plastic and Styrofoam. I know we are. That is why we recommend using biodegradable utensils and plates. Your customers will thank you and so will the planet.

Hand Sanitizer:

All things are better cleaned with warm, soapy water, including your hands. However, if you lack hot water at your facility, some hand sanitizer is the next best alternative for your customers who want to wash up before they dig in. Buy enough bottles of hand sanitizer to have one at each hand-washing station.


Until your water heater is back up and running, you are going to have to find a new way of producing hot water. A stockpot on a stove is a relatively easy way to produce a large quantity of warm water very quickly. Of course, you can also use coffee machines or a combination of the two to get the job done.

Tea Urns:

To easily hold and dispense the warm water you create with your stockpots or coffee machines, we recommend using tea urns. They provide an easy way for your kitchen staff to clean their hands while preparing meals for your customers.


Heating Water

The biggest concern for how long can a restaurant stay open without hot water is sanitation. Unsurprisingly, the easiest way to spread bacteria is through unclean hands. For this reason, we recommend addressing handwashing first. To do so, begin heating water with your stockpots or coffee makers. Once at the proper temperature, fill your tea urns with hot water and place them throughout your kitchen so they can be easily accessible to your staff. In case you have extras, put them in customer restrooms so they too can wash their hands with warm water.


Next, fill your sink with hot water. While you can substitute utensils, cups, and plates with disposables, you cannot easily do the same with pots, pans, and other cookware needed to prepare meals for your customers. These will simply have to be washed as you normally would using water that you will heat yourself. Do not use a dishwasher at this time. Dishwashers must reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit to be effective.

Informing Customers

Lastly, you should make your customers aware of the situation. Odds are, your lack of running hot water is going to cause a bit of a slow-down in your kitchen. Meals preparation will take more time, requiring patience from your customers. We recommend that you place a notice of this on your door where customers come in so they are notified immediately. Inform them again when they sit down. Your customers may not love the idea of dining with disposable plates and utensils. If this is the case, apologize in advance—maybe even offer a small discount on the check.

 If you are a fancier establishment, make light of the situation with a joke. Inform your noble guests that they will be dining using the fanciest disposable (and ecofriendly) dinnerware on the market, hand-selected by an artisan manufacturer, and shipped directly to your restaurant from China. Who knows, they might just be impressed.

Water Heater Maintenance Checklist

My hope is that you never have to find out how long a restaurant can remain open without hot water. The best way to avoid this is to perform regular preventive maintenance on your hot water heater. We have prepared for you a preventive maintenance checklist that you can perform to ensure you never have to resort to disposable dinnerware, stockpots, and tea urns. Add this to your current preventive maintenance schedule.

Visual Inspection

First things first, perform a visual inspection of the device. Leaks in the tank can cause your water heater to malfunction or stop working. Ensure that there are no loose screw, nuts, and bolts that are leaking water. Also inspect the gaskets. Aged gaskets can often be a source of leaks. If you notice them leaking, or they are visibly aged, it might be time to replace them. Lastly, check for signs of rust or corrosion under the tank. If you find pooled water, it might be time to get help.

Tightening screws and bolts to prevent leaks is easy and can be completed without further help. However, if you notice corroded parts, be sure to get professional help to resolve the issue.

Flushing the Heater

It is a good practice to flush your water heater once every six months or so. Why? By flushing your tank, you are able to get rid of any sediment or debris that may cause issues. This is especially important if you are using hard water. According to Mr. Rooter Plumbing:

“Water that contains calcium carbonate (CaCO3) at a concentration of over 180 mg/l is already “very hard.” While hard water rarely causes health effects, heating it up leads to the formation of scale. This can then reduce the efficiency of your heater, cut its life short, and make your heating costs go up.”

By flushing your water heater twice per year, you can increase the efficiency of your heater and extend its lifespan. Doing so isn’t much fun, but it might just save you some bad headaches in the future.

Check the Temperature & Pressure Relief Valve

The temperature and pressure relief valve (T & P valve) is customary in all gas water heaters and some electric ones too. The T & P valve is a safety device that releases heat and pressure within the tank. If the temperature inside the tank reaches 210 degrees Fahrenheit or 150 PSI, the valve opens and releases the excess heat and pressure.

To check the functionality of the T & P valve, begin by turning off the gas and electricity going to the water heater. Next, place a bucket under the valve to catch water. There is no point in making a mess. Lastly, pull the valve’s trip lever. If water, vapor, and air come out, your valve is working. If nothing comes out, or the valve doesn’t open, it is time to get it replaced.

Inspect the Anode Rod

The anode rod is a device that prevents the inside of the water heater from becoming corroded. Placed at the top of the heater, the anode rod attracts elements that cause oxidation. An anode rod is only good for 3 to 5 years before it needs to be replaced. You can tell that the anode rod should be replaced if you find brown, rust-colored water in your tank. Also, be on the lookout for a metallic taste as this is also an indicator that the anode rod should be replaced. We recommend inspecting once per year.

Get Help Fast

Unfortunately, every business experiences an equipment or facilities breakdown at some point. One can only hope it isn’t too serious. But eventually, it will be your restaurant’s turn. Don’t worry, there are ways to make your life easier when this happens.

The biggest problem that occurs when equipment breaks down usually isn’t the actual fault, it is the communication that happens internally. In other words, businesses (restaurants especially) need a way to:

  1. Get help fast.

  2. Centralize all equipment and repair data.

  3. Keep everyone updated on the status of the maintenance being performed.

Using the Equips web application, you give your staff the tools they need to get help from a trained professional. Simply store all of your equipment and facilities assets in our cloud-based inventory database and assign a maintenance provider to each asset. When a repair is needed, simply place a service request and we will dispatch your provider to come resolve the issue for you. Equips automatically records every maintenance event and note, which we provide to your maintenance provider. This helps them fix the problem faster, resulting in more uptime, happier employees, and happier customers.

To get started with the Equips web application, be sure to book a demo below!

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