Fats, oils, and grease (FOG) are food industry byproducts that can cause significant issues for the originating businesses and surrounding communities if not well controlled and disposed of properly. Fortunately, modern restaurants have many FOG management solutions to consider and implement.

Provide Ongoing Employee Training

Quick-service restaurant kitchens are naturally busy environments. A distracted worker could make one mistake and block the waste pipes or the commercial sewage system. However, a well-trained employee is much less likely to make slip-ups.

Focus on options such as:

  • Dry clean-up methods: Ensure staff use scrapers, food-grade sheets or paper towels to remove, soak up, or wipe off FOG before using water-based cleaning approaches. If they only use water, the FOG will mix with the faucet liquid, eventually going down the drain and accumulating on pipes.
  • Appropriate cleaning intervals: People must use suitable FOG maintenance methods to match the equipment and a restaurant’s needs. An enterprise serving many fried foods will have a stricter and more frequent cleaning regimen than one with fewer.
  • Suitable containers: Instruct workers never to pour FOG down the drain or use drains as food scrap disposal mechanisms. Provide numerous appropriate and user-friendly containers for capturing this kitchen byproduct, especially if partnering with an external party to recycle or dispose of it.
  • Triple-compartment sinks: People need three separate sinks to work with soiled dishes, all discharging to the restaurant’s grease traps. They will use the first for hot-water prewashes, the second for scouring and the third for rinsing. Prewashing the dishes with detergent-free hot water removes non-emulsified oils and greases.
  • Proper cleaning methods: Although restaurant managers should rely on professionals to clean large hood filters, they must teach employees how to address other equipment. For example, spray detergents and damp cloths are ideal for the exterior parts of small hoods. Then, people should maintain those filters by spraying them with hot water while holding the components over a trapped sink. Using few or no detergents during this step usually suffices.

Follow Local Laws

Fats, oil, and grease can gradually build up and contribute to fatbergs. These occur when FOG materials combine with non-biodegradable solid waste, such as wet wipes that people flush down their toilets. The fatbergs become huge, rock-like masses — some of the biggest were the size of several blue whales, emphasizing how this issue can quickly become uncontrolled.

Some areas make restaurant owners take responsibility for appropriate FOG management and fatberg prevention, so they become liable for flooding caused by water infrastructure blockages. City legislators usually require restaurant owners to prove they have appropriate preventive measures before the relevant establishments can open. Then, those restaurants will undergo periodic inspections to ensure they have retained appropriate FOG control measures.

Some people must get operating permits or register all grease interceptors and traps with a local authority. The requirements may also specify that at least one worker knows the best practices for equipment maintenance. Since many inspectors want to see histories of the appropriate measures, the local laws may mandate the cleaning and disposal logs of grease traps and other related products for a minimum time.

Restaurant owners concerned about complying with local legislation should consider hiring an external firm to perform a FOG audit. The timing of such inspections varies depending on an establishment’s size, and the number of appliances and sinks connected to a drain system. However, once those examinations happen, the outside experts will detail what a quick-service restaurant is doing well and how it should improve to avoid future legal problems.

Many people do not realize a grease trap may be only 25 percent full when it starts overflowing. The external company’s audit results and insights may reveal similarly surprising information. However, it is better to know those things before disaster strikes.

Encourage People to Think Before Acting

Even when workers have thorough training, they may unknowingly contribute to FOG buildup. Sometimes, that happens when restaurants purchase more perishable products than it can use. It only takes milk three days to move through the entire supply chain due to the product’s short shelf life.

A quick-service restaurant that serves coffee or shakes may regularly need large quantities of milk. People may assume the easiest thing to do if the milk expires before use is to pour the liquid down the drain, especially because it is OK to do that with other beverages, such as soda. However, spoiled milk can result in fatty deposits that could clog pipes.

Similarly, hot fudge, honey and ketchup can cause drain clogs over time. Besides resulting in plumbing backups, these issues can cause foul smells from the drains. That is a particularly unappetizing problem to have in a quick-service restaurant.

Teach people how the fats, oils and grease categories are more extensive than they might realize. Additionally, some things poured into drains can enter local waterways, harming fish and wildlife.

One of the best approaches is to have people err on the side of caution when unsure if a consumable item or cooking byproduct can safely go down the drain. It is safer to put those things in the garbage rather than make a potentially costly mistake. Although a single blunder probably will not cause a massive clog, other workers could see the first one’s error and follow suit.

It helps when employees have well-balanced workloads, too. Quick-service restaurants can have sudden busy periods, but when people can handle their duties despite them, they are less likely to rush or feel under pressure, and make poor FOG management decisions.

Take FOG Management Seriously

These tips show effective FOG management requires a dedicated approach covering multiple areas. People need specialized equipment to capture FOG, but they must also show adherence to local laws while ensuring staff receive periodic training and follow best practices.

Besides covering these foundational areas, decision-makers should review their current processes and practices once or twice a year to check if they’re still working well. Otherwise, people could gain a false sense of security about insufficient approaches. Different cooking approaches or menu items can change how much FOG restaurant staff members must manage, so they should never automatically assume current practices will remain sufficient for future needs.

Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized Magazine. She has over five years experience writing for the food and beverage industry.

Outside Insights, Restaurant Operations, Story