Simple automation strategies help restaurants find ways to survive.

With more areas of the country feeling the impacts of COVID-19 daily and various cities and states passing lockdown orders, the foodservice industry has been rapidly turned on its head. Not only are many brands pivoting to delivery and take-out only models on the fly, but they are also navigating challenges arising from a serious economic downturn, dwindling traffic due to shelter-in-place orders, employee health concerns, and rising costs. This means restaurant leaders have to work hard to both balance the budget and keep the strain of a quickly changing market from overwhelming their teams or operational cash flow.

Many restaurants were already turning to automated technology as a way to reduce strain on kitchen staff before the most recent crisis. But now that restaurants are upending their business models, operating with reduced staff, and managing call ins and health risks, it’s more crucial than ever to automate in order to reduce the back-of-house workload and keep staff focused on their most important tasks: cooking and managing orders.

Known for making commercial kitchens safer and smarter, Restaurant Technologies brings such automation to operators across the country, starting with one simple and important kitchen task: oil management. Though critical for ensuring employee safety and product quality, changing oil is often frustrating, time-consuming, messy, and physically demanding when done manually. But this manual task of oil changing is no longer necessary.

Restaurant Technologies’ Total Oil Management automates the entire process—from the ordering and receipt process of delivering fresh oil all the way to storing, handling, and recycling of used cooking oil. This saves time over hand-operated processes, so employees can get back to other duties faster, but it also keeps workers from touching hot oil to prevent workplace injuries, spills—which cause people to slip and fall, and back injuries from lifting heavy containers of oil.

“Companies that demonstrate a commitment to creating a safe work environment are recognized by their workers and tend to be rewarded with more loyal employees,” says David Eha, director of national accounts at Restaurant Technologies.

Eha estimates that 60 percent of restaurant injuries can be attributed to the manual handling of hot oil. And though it has always been vitally important to keep employees safe on the job, it’s more crucial now as restaurants operate on skeleton crews. Additionally, reducing injuries can reduce expensive workers comp claims and help restaurants improve the bottom line.

“That’s something that really gets employees’ attention: When they see one of their coworkers get burned from oil,” Eha says. “That’s something that other employees notice. And nobody wants to do that job. For us, that really is low-hanging fruit—an opportunity to take that worst job in the kitchen that nobody wants to do … and you completely remove it.”

Another challenging task is managing airborne grease throughout the hood and flues over cooking surfaces. The cleaning of the kitchen exhaust system, which is required by national fire codes, can also be easily automated. As restaurants work hard to survive the economic downturn and dwindling numbers of customers, kitchen downtime for these types of necessary routine cleanings is costly. Meanwhile, allowing grease and grime to build up could ultimately create conditions prime for an even more costly fire.

Timing is important, and operators’ renewed focus on efficiency no longer allows them to hire, schedule, and manage third-party cleaners. Restaurant Technologies solves for airborne grease starting with eliminating it on a daily basis with its automated cleaning system—–AutoMist. This specialized hood and flue cleaning sprays a mixture of detergent and water into the kitchen exhaust system regularly throughout the day. It is designed to both eliminate the hazardous buildup of grease and the need for third-party cleaners. This reduces the risk of fire and ensures hoods are constantly cleaned without creating additional work for the kitchen.

“Safety in the kitchen is a big concern for operators, and when a third-party service cleans the exhaust, there’s a lot of uncertainty around that,” says Laura Griffith, product director for Restaurant Technologies. “The process of keeping the kitchen exhaust system clean is one of the biggest pain points in a restaurant kitchen.”

Though the industry is facing an unprecedented crisis, simple cost- and labor-saving strategies such as these can help restaurants survive.

”We’re really focused on trying to help our customers navigate these challenges during this difficult time,” said Griffith. “It’s an unprecedented crisis impacting the foodservice industry but together we can tackle their biggest pain points and by way of automation, try to make their lives a little bit easier.”

To learn more about how restaurants can automate routine tasks, visit RTI’s website.

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