With oil prices sky high and the labor crisis spiraling, managing oil can be a challenge. Zack Palazzo, director of sales at Frontline International, says that an industry-wide paradigm shift is taking place.
“In the past, oil has been viewed as a commodity,” Palazzo says. “Restaurants were purchasing the lowest-cost option, whatever was available. But what we’re seeing now are brands who are treating oil as an important ingredient—really diving into the different flavor profiles. They are investing in quality oil and the resources to help better manage oil life, and these brands are the ones with the most cost-efficient oil programs.”
Frontline International recently teamed up with Cargill and created Kitchen Controller, an automated oil management system that gives operators more control over their oil costs. It also allows brand leaders visibility into each kitchen by aggregating information onto a central dashboard that shows how well each store is managing its oil.
The system works by gathering oil quality information via fry-vat sensors. The data is analyzed by the Kitchen Controller software and an employee-facing touchscreen display that prompts employees to filter, skim, or change the oil. If the oil needs to be changed, the employee simply presses a button and the oil is replaced without an employee ever lugging a hot vat of oil out of the restaurant.
Kitchen Controller ensures that oil management is no longer a guessing game conducted by a back-of-house employee, but rather a science-based process that even the most inexperienced employee can excel at because the system gives clear, concise directions about what to do and when. It displays how much life is left in their oil at any given time, going from 100 percent, on down to 0 percent.
“Longer oil life equals greater oil savings, and Kitchen Controller optimizes oil life like never before possible,” Palazzo says. “Plus, given where the labor market is at, here’s a way to automate a really critical job that will end up saving you money and allow you to get more done with fewer people.”
Operators and employees using the Kitchen Controller system begin to recognize degradation patterns and learn the importance of protecting frying oil through skimming and filtration. The system’s directives help unlearn costly behaviors, like changing oil on a fixed schedule, or changing it based on subjective measurements such as the color of the oil. The new system brings data and analytics to a segment of the quick-service industry that is in need of a makeover.
The overall result leaves brands more in control of an increasingly expensive ingredient. Palazzo breaks down the savings into a few different buckets. There’s the fact that if oil usage is reduced, oil costs go down. But there are other, more intangible benefits, such as the brand loyalty accrued by consistent, better-tasting fried foods, as well as the reduced risk of employees interacting with hot oil, or cleaning fryers. Finally, the employee retention from automating a process that used to be tedious and potentially dangerous can’t be understated during times like this, he says.
“Even before the cost of oil started to skyrocket, we were seeing big returns for brands implementing Kitchen Controller,” Palazzo says. “For a small investment you’re getting so much back. This has really revolutionized what was an antiquated system, giving data starved brands direct visibility into each of their kitchens, showing where money can be saved and efficiencies created. What wouldn’t you pay for that?”
For more on the Cargill and Frontline International Kitchen Controller system, visit the Frontline International website.