Oil Systems Go
Vats of hot oil were used as weapons in medieval warfare, so why should hotel staff be transporting large, unwieldy, dangerous vessels through a back-of-house obstacle course? Burns, spills, back injuries, and the costs accompanying issues merit rethinking how hotels handle frying oil.
“One of the nastiest and most dangerous jobs in the kitchen is getting the oil to the fryer, getting it into the fryer, getting the hot waste oil back out of the fryer, and transporting it to the back dock,” observes Mark Copeland, CMO at Restaurant Technologies. “That oil is coming out at 300 degrees or hotter, and often at a hotel, you’ve got a long distance from the fryer to the back dock, down narrow corridors, through busy kitchens, up and down stairs. You’ve got to get it out to an unpleasant rendering tank out back, and there’s a lot of things that can go wrong on that journey. Employees can spill oil on themselves and cause burns. They can spill it on the floor and cause a slip-and-fall. They get nasty back strains carrying the hot pots all the time. Employers want to get their employees out of that process completely.”
Injuries and Costs
The statistics are staggering. Sixty percent of workers’ compensation claims in kitchens are linked to oil, according to a Restaurant Technologies customer study. The status quo of how most properties handle oil creates a high risk of injury for employees and mounting costs for owners. Copeland sees hoteliers looking for a “complete end-to-end solution,” eliminating much of the opportunity for big problems.Worker’s comp is getting more expensive all the time, especially as labor rates, medical costs, and OSHA fines keep going up.”
Factors such as high turnover of millennial employees and the inexperience of younger, newer staff only heighten the likelihood of danger in oil handling, Copeland says. Designed with hotel customers in mind, Restaurant Technologies’ portable oil system is especially suited to large properties where staff may have to traverse multiple floors to get from a kitchen to the disposal area. The system allows the carrying of fresh oil and waste oil in one contained unit, completely sealed for safety. Otherwise, a staffer may have to tote hot waste oil unsafely on one trip, then haul fresh oil on another.
Scalding oil certainly has become more top-of-mind for operators, because of the extreme and sometimes fatal injuries it can cause, but Copeland says back strains are another very significant, unsung injury caused by moving large vessels of oil. Soft tissue injuries are common, he says, and can be among the most expensive injuries, running around $20,000—requiring time off work and rehab for weeks or months.
Besides keeping employees out of harm’s way and containing worker’s comp costs, oil systems must produce great-tasting food and not break the bank on the food cost side.
David Creamer, executive chef at the Renaissance Arlington (Virginia) Capital View Hotel, says he’s seen $400 to $500 a month in food cost savings by using Restaurant Technologies’ systems, not including savings resultant from cutting waste and fees for cleanup/removal.“The Restaurant Technologies system is fully contained, so we never see any waste or have any damage in the back,” he says. “There’s no extra labor.”
Creamer says his overnight cleaners used to spend about three hours cleaning the fryer. “Now they spend a half hour or 45 minutes tops,” he says, “and that’s just every other night, because they’re filtering the oil. We easily get two full days, sometimes three, out of the oil. Other oil would last a day or day and a half and break down on us. Now, it stays consistent, the color doesn’t change, and there’s no flavor transfer. We get a lot of neutral flavors. We can do potatoes in there as well as desserts.”The hotel already had a Gold LEED rating before the system was put in place, and the system has only helped with sustainability, says Creamer. “It’s a closed system, so we don’t see any waste, and we also got rid of the footprint for our recycling and trash bins and our waste on the dock. We were going through six to eight 35-pound containers a week, and now we go through zero.”
Copeland finds that many hoteliers either do not filter their oil at all and instead just dump it out each day, resulting in waste and frying in completely new oil each day. “That’s not what you want to be frying in,” Copeland says. “You want to fry in oil that’s been seasoned for a while.” Cooking oil is often the key ingredient with the power to change the taste, texture, and appearance of the food restaurants are frying, he observes.
Though other operators may say they do have procedures requiring filtering once or twice a day, Restaurant Technologies’ web-based fryer filtration monitoring system hooks up to fryer’s own electronics. Data goes to the cloud, gives web alerts by phone when filtering is not being done, and staff can correct problems in real time. Copeland says the company will put its system in “under the radar” to measure how often filtering actually occurs; this often reveals that employees are doing it very infrequently or not at all. The system allows management to see what’s being done when they’re not there; Copeland says he’s seen properties that were filtering 30% or less of the time before using Restaurant Technologies jump to 80% with the system in place, resulting in frying in cleaner, well-seasoned oil that’s not spoiling the bottom line.
CONTACT: 888-796-4997, www.rti-inc.comRelated Infographic: Beauty is in the Fry of the Beholder: Are You Getting Golden Results From Your Cooking Oil?