Grease is an inevitable byproduct of your restaurant’s kitchen. Unfortunately, grease doesn’t disappear when it gets washed down the drain. Instead, it tends to build up and stick to the sides of pipes and drainages, just like cholesterol in diner’s arteries.
And just like cholesterol, that buildup over time can cause some serious problems. Best case scenario, your kitchen smells like a rotting cesspool. Worst case, you floor drains start spouting the soupy mix that can only be created when the drains of your dishwasher, pot filler sink, and pre-rinse sink combine.
The resulting food safety nightmare would make any health inspector shudder. The damage is usually measured in the thousands of dollars. You definitely don’t want that to happen in your restaurant.
Local codes usually require some sort of grease management system for commercial kitchens. Otherwise cities end up with thousands of dollars worth of damage to municipal water lines. But just because someone stuck a grease trap in the cellar 20 years ago doesn’t mean your restaurant is safe from the doomsday scenarios I lined out above.
Effective grease management means committing to an ongoing process that is usually unpleasant and never in the cleanest parts of your kitchen. Some tips to make sure grease waste isn’t creating problems in your restaurant:
Evaluate your grease output. Some restaurants produce more grease than others, plain and simple. If you already have a grease trap system, check it once a week for a month and see how quickly grease builds up to the point where a cleaning is needed. If you don’t have a grease trap, install one right away, then check it regularly to see how often it’s going to need to be cleaned.
Grease traps work by using a series of baffles to prevent grease from flowing from one end of the system to the other. Since grease is lighter than water, it collects at the top of the trap. Sooner or later so much grease will collect that it starts to flow over the top of the baffles, and the trap ceases to trap grease. You want to clean your system well before this happens.
Use this information to formulate a regular cleaning schedule. You might also want to rotate the poor sucker who gets this thankless task. You may want to install smaller undersink traps on the biggest grease producing drains in your kitchen that are more accessible than the main trap, which makes cleaning easier and reduces the likelihood of plumbing system damage.
Many restaurants use a professional service company to clean and care for their main grease trap. This can get expensive, but depending on the size of your establishment and the amount of grease you produce, it could be a worthwhile investment. Some services even convert the grease they recover from your trap into biodiesel, adding a renewable element to the process. It’s probably still a good idea to use undersink traps to supplement your main system even if you use a cleaning service, since this will reduce the frequency of their visits.
In general grease traps are pretty indestructible, especially if you clean them regularly, but eventually they will need to be replaced. Look for damage to the baffles in the trap and cracks or excessive gunk buildup in the inflow and outflow pipes. Canplas grease traps are one of the best in the business and my personal recommendation if you’re in the market for a new one.
The most effective way to manage grease in any commercial kitchen is to be proactive about it. Don’t wait to clean traps and don’t assume the problem will take care of itself. Otherwise your restaurant might look like this: