Your restaurant attracts customers because of its great food, not because of its great grease trap. Truth be told, you’d probably rather patrons not think about this decidedly unappetizing aspect of your establishment. However, if you don’t think about it, your grease trap could create conditions that wind up costing your restaurant its valuable reputation and customers!
Sometimes referred to as a grease interceptor, a grease trap is a plumbing device designed to capture fats, oils and greases (FOG) before they enter the wastewater system. There are two main types of grease traps. Interior traps are located in the kitchen near the sink or dishwasher, and hold smaller amounts of FOG. Exterior traps are located outside the building, underground. Exterior traps are much larger, holding thousands of gallons.
Grease traps work by blocking grease and oils from passing all the way through the plumbing system. The grease floats to the top of the container, where it can be removed. The grease-free water is then able to continue to the sewer system without causing harm.
Many cities require grease traps to be used in commercial kitchens, as they play a critical role in preventing such sewer problems as “fatbergs” – a massive blob of solidified FOG that incorporates other substances and items that don’t break down – such as baby wipes, feminine hygiene products, cotton swabs, etc. Our blog post – “Still Pouring Grease Down the Drain? Don’t Do It!” – discusses two infamous fatbergs in London and Detroit.
Why the Grease Trap is an Important Part of Your Restaurant’s Kitchen
Fatberg prevention is only one reason why your restaurant’s interior and exterior grease traps need to be clean and fully functional. The management of FOG is an important part of running a commercial or industrial kitchen. A properly installed, well-maintained grease trap is one of the essential features of this aspect of the business.
Modern Restaurant Management cites a fact sheet by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that reports the annual production of collected grease trap waste and uncollected grease entering sewage treatment plants can be significant and range from 800 to 17,000 pounds per year, per restaurant. Routinely cleaning and maintaining your grease traps helps preserve local waterways, as well as reduces the likelihood of sewer overflows. In addition, if it’s proven that your restaurant or commercial kitchen is improperly handling FOG, you could face steep fines from local, state and federal agencies.
What Happens When FOG Rolls In
Restaurants that don’t clean their grease trap set their business up for an epic sanitation fail that will soon drive customers away. Here are the main consequences of uncleaned, poorly maintained grease traps:
Foul odors – The grease in grease traps that aren’t cleaned on a regular basis will build up. As this organic material breaks down, it gives off a foul odor that makes your kitchen smell terrible. If the situation has advanced to this point, be assured that the odor will also waft out into the dining area itself, disgusting your customers – who will quickly become your former customers.
Seepage into other areas and risk of food contamination – As Mahoney Environmental explains the situation, “When your grease trap backs up into the kitchen, the materials end up on your floor, and leave a bacterial residue which can be transferred by employees simply placing a box on the floor and then picking it up to set on a prep area. This could ultimately be used as a surface for food prep – thus cross contamination occurs.”
Increased difficulty in cleaning – The longer you neglect your grease trap, the more difficult it will be to clean once you do get around to it. The grease and other solidified gunk at the bottom of the trap will harden and stick to its walls, making it very difficult to scrape off. When it reaches that point, the job becomes too hard for your employees to perform – at which time you’ll need to call a grease trap cleaning service. In addition, cooking fats, oils and grease coat the inside of your pipes and can lead to drainage issues or overflows, indicating that the incoming or outgoing line is likely clogged.
Damage to pipes and the trap itself – Grease buildup can damage your tank and connected pipes. Rotting food releases many gases, and these gases can turn into sulfuric acid. Sulfuric acid is a toxic substance, and it can damage your pipes as well as the concrete. Plastic grease traps can last longer, but they also eventually break down in the presence of sulfuric acid.
Grease Trap Maintenance – Why You Need to Call a Pro
Working grease trap maintenance into the duties of your kitchen staff is challenging, and could result in the ball being dropped. Also, some restaurant owners and managers make the mistake of scheduling cleanings by a professional on an infrequent basis in the interest of saving money. However, this is false economy, as vendors tend to charge overage fees if your cleaning takes significantly longer than expected due to a frequency lapse.
To keep your grease trap clean, you need to call a pro, and do so on a regular schedule. Our blog post – “Own a Restaurant? Why You Need to Build a Relationship With a Plumber!” – covers the numerous areas in which a good plumber can help your restaurant save money while raising the real – and perceived – quality of your customer experience.
Seeing your plumber as an essential, trusted vendor – rather than just someone you call when the toilets back up – will help your restaurant avoid expensive emergency repairs and stay up-to-date with plumbing fixtures, piping, etc. As with every component of a restaurant, the grease trap is but one aspect. If your grease trap is neglected, the chances are high that other aspects of your operation are being overlooked, as well. And that is not good for your customers, or your profitability – not to mention the future of your business.
Our master plumbers at Adams and Son Plumbing have proudly served Central Florida homes and businesses with the highest level of quality and experience for over 60 years. We are family-owned and operated, and all of our plumbers are state-certified master plumbers. Orlando is one of America’s most competitive restaurant markets, so you need every advantage you can get! Contact us today.