Finding the best practices for managing restaurant FOGs (Fats, Oils, and Greases) is essential for maintaining any successful commercial kitchen. Improperly handling these FOGs can lead to serious sewer pipe clogs, backups into your restaurant, and even catastrophic environmental damage. Read on to learn about the most common sources of restaurant FOGs as well as the best practices for managing them to keep your pipes, and your business, running smoothly.
Commercial Grease Traps & Restaurant FOGs
FOGs (fats, oils, and greases) are found in most restaurant kitchens, whether used in the food preparation process, as part of the food itself, or even airborne particles that travel up through your ventilation hoods. Managing restaurant FOGs to find ways for safe cleanup and disposal is a big part of operating a commercial kitchen. In many cases, people assume they can simply flush these FOGs down the drains, so long as they are also flushing the drain with hot water. In fact, all this does is help fats, oils, and greases find their way to the sewer pipes. Once there, they will solidify and accumulate along the inside of the pipe, eventually creating a nasty clog that will allow sewage to backup into your business, onto the streets, or into the storm drains. This is known as a sanitary sewer overflow (SSO), and it can wreak havoc on your business and the environment alike.
To help prevent FOGs from making their way to the sewer pipes, commercial grease traps collect any grease that finds its way down the kitchen drains. They act as a holding tank for the wastewater that flows out of your restaurant’s kitchen, allowing the FOGs to rise to the surface while the wastewater leaves through a pipe below. Once the FOGs in the grease trap build up, a trusted grease trap maintenance company properly cleans the trap, usually once every 1-3 months, depending on how much grease your commercial kitchen produces. The grease trap will do a good job of preventing most of your commercial FOGs from finding their way into the sewer pipes. However, there are still best practices for managing restaurant FOGs that you and your staff will need to follow.
Restaurant FOGs from Food Waste & Preparation
Restaurant staff may falsely believe that the presence of a commercial grease trap means they don’t have to be too mindful about putting FOGs down the drain. However, it’s important to remember the grease trap acts as a safety net to catch the FOGs that, despite your best efforts, manage to find their way down the drains. They are not intended to be grease management systems for your commercial kitchen. Follow these best practices to help prevent FOGs from food waste and preparation from going down your drain.
Never Pour FOGs Down the Drain
This applies even if you flush the pipes with hot water. If they do not first clog your plumbing pipes, these FOGs will go directly into your grease trap, possibly overwhelming the trap and allowing FOGs to flow into the sewer lines. Instead, collect waste grease and oil from deep fryers, drippings from rotisseries and grills, and scrapings from the griddles into metal containers. Refrigerate until solid and then discard in your solid waste.
Scrape Dishes into Garbage Before Loading in the Dishwasher
Dishwashers, which should only be run when full, can be a big source of restaurant FOGs if you and your staff are not first clearing the dishes of food and grease. Scrape any food particles into the garbage and wipe out any grease residue before washing. Using in-sink strainers will also help catch any food solids before they enter your plumbing system.
Collect Used Cooking Oil
Some commercial kitchens make the catastrophic mistake of pouring cooking oil down the drains. Not only can this cause damage to the sewer lines, but it can also cost you potential earnings. There are many companies that will buy your used cooking oil and recycle or convert it for other purposes. The price, like any commodity, varies and is tracked by the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service. In December 2020, these prices ranged from $0.24-0.26 per pound, which adds up quickly in a commercial kitchen.
Unexpected Sources of Restaurant FOGs
Managing the most obvious sources of FOGs can be relatively easy once you and your staff have established routines and protocol for keeping them out of the drain. However, the best practices for managing restaurant FOGs also includes some methods for keeping often overlooked FOGs out of the sewer lines and storm drains.
Ventilation Hoods & Grease Filters
Ventilation hoods work to collect any airborne grease, steam, and smoke and direct them up to the grease filter, through the ductwork, and outside the building. Ventilation hoods keep your kitchen and restaurant clear of any unpleasant, heavy odors that can be produced during the food preparation process. As the ventilation hood moves this air up to the roof, FOGs solidify and collect along the inside of the ductwork. Properly maintained grease filters inside the ventilation hood collect much of this grease, but some still escapes into the ductwork and can even collect on your business’s roof. Rainwater can wash away FOGs that have collected on your restaurant’s roof, allowing them to enter the storm drains or nearby waterways. Proper maintenance of your commercial exhaust fan and ductwork, as well as routine cleaning of your grease filters, will help limit the amount of FOGs that collect on your roof. Be sure to clean these filters in a utility sink connected to your grease trap.
Floors & Floor Mats
Buckets and mops used to clean the floors in a commercial kitchen can contain massive amounts of FOGs. In many cases, kitchen staff empty mop water into floor drains, but the problem is these floor drains are rarely connected to the grease trap. Even worse, mop water is often emptied outside the restaurant, into nearby parking lots or ditches. In these instances, FOGs join up with the storm sewer or drain into nearby waterways, causing significant ecological harm to vegetation and wildlife. Always be sure to clean your mop and dispose of mop water in a utility sink that is connected to your grease trap. Similarly, floor mats, which also collect significant amounts of restaurant FOGs, should be cleaned in a utility sink connected to your grease trap, rather than sprayed off outside in the parking lot.
One of the most important best practices for managing restaurant FOGs is properly maintaining your commercial grease trap. Supeck Septic provides thorough grease trap cleaning services, leaving your grease trap completely empty, rather than simply skimming off the FOGs and leaving wastewater behind. We offer grease trap maintenance plans, giving you one less thing to worry about as you focus on running a successful business. Contact us today to learn more about our grease trap cleaning services.