Restaurants are as varied as the types of customers they attract. However, whether it’s a diner dishing up bacon and eggs or an upscale eatery featuring a fried calamari appetizer, they all have at least one thing in common.
Foodservice operations produce kitchen food waste in the form of fats, oils and grease that wreak havoc on drain lines. A drain that is clogged or backs up can lead to an interruption in business resulting in escalating repair costs and lost revenue.
From restaurants, bars and B&I operations to hospitals, schools and universities, no facility is immune to this problem. Drains that are not professionally treated can result in additional costly problems such as employee slips and falls, health code violations and municipal surcharge fines.
Costs of Ignoring Drain Line Maintenance
If the answer to any of the following questions is yes, it’s time to consider a drain management program:
• Do you have a drain odor problem?
• Do you have a drain fly problem?
• Do you have a plumber coming routinely to service your drains?
• Do you have drain backups that require an emergency visit from a plumber?
Operators who have not been addressing drain maintenance have been dodging the bullet. For those who are not treating their drain lines with an ongoing program, it’s only a matter of time before these problems do occur due to the buildup of food waste.
Any restaurant operator can attest to the fact that emergency calls to handle backups can lead to expensive plumbing bills. F. Greg Coker, a franchisee for Atlanta‐based Huddle House, says he had to call a plumber every 3 to 4 weeks to take care of stopped‐up kitchen drains. “In the first 9 months of last year alone, I spent $1,115 on plumbers to clean out our drains,” Coker says.
Bleach is Not the Answer
While bleach is instrumental in controlling foodborne illness, it is not the solution for healthy drain lines.
Using bleach does not create free-flowing drains and only masks foul odors temporarily rather than getting rid of them. Furthermore, bleach mixed with products such as ammonia can create a lethal gas that could be harmful to employees and guests. Bleach and other harsh chemicals also kill “good bacteria.” Drain lines — not unlike the human body — need these good bacteria to function properly. In addition to bleach, more anti-bacterial products such as hand soaps, dish detergents and degreasers are being used to treat drains. These products are also killing the good, naturally occurring bacteria that are needed to maintain drain lines.
Maintaining a “Clean Kitchen”
Restaurants can implement a clean kitchen program to support a restaurant atmosphere that keeps guests coming back frequently, but will have health inspectors visiting only for routine inspections. A quality clean kitchen program is comprised of four components that promote a cycle of clean:
• Essential solutions ensure hygiene and cleaning necessities are always in stock.
• Protect solutions keep floors safe and employees clean.
• Deep clean solutions remove buildup from floors and make daily cleaning easier.
• Maintain solutions provide the basic tools and cleaning chemicals to keep kitchens clean and up to code. An integral part of the maintain solutions is a drain line maintainer (DLM) service.
A DLM program puts good bacteria into drain lines to degrade organics, eliminate odors, reduce drain flies and maintain free-flowing pipes. The formulation is a 100% live bacterium, not an enzyme or soap.
Designed specifically for the foodservice industry, the DLM “hungry bacteria” eat kitchen food waste that accumulates in drain lines using a solution of beneficial microorganisms. This also encourages more favorable bacteria to grow, which in turn multiply, treating the entire drain and pipe system. When the bacteria die with the DLM, they are turned into carbon dioxide and water.
An automatic DLM system can be installed in a matter of minutes and consists of a 3.5-gallon pail placed under a three-compartment sink or next to a dishwasher. The system dispenses four doses of product into the main floor drain every 24 hours, 7 days a week.
In addition, a quality system will come with a representative who will spray all side drains with the formulation on a weekly basis to prevent them from becoming stagnant, which can result in unpleasant odors. Weekly floor drain treatment and inspections also prevent solids from entering drain lines and causing backups.
Eliminate Health Code Violations
Backed-up drains and overflowing water are major contributors to slips and falls, which are the single largest cause of accidents in restaurants according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Standing water caused by clogs can also contribute to the outbreak of drain flies, which cannot be restrained by pest control companies. Routine pest control visits do not get to the source of the breeding ground, which is in the drains where the eggs are laid. A DLM service rids a business of these hazards, resulting in the elimination of these health code violations.
And the watchful eyes of the government and states do not stop with clogged drains.
Wastewater regulators monitor municipal lift stations to determine if a volume commercial customer is releasing grease-laden water. If not corrected, the user could be fined and repeat offenders shut down. Further, if the issue has been treated with bleach or another harmful chemical and is then flushed into the water supply, this can also pose an issue for operators.
The DLM contains no emulsifying agents and complies with most municipal discharge ordinances.
Approved by the EPA
In addition to the day-to-day issues facing foodservice operators, now they must find green products and services that are gentle for the environment while being strong enough to get the job done.
To improve the sustainability of operations, restaurants should use programs certified by the EPA’s Design for the Environment (DfE) program. This indicates that the program uses biological commercial kitchen drain line treatments that demonstrate a more preferable human health and environmental formula profile.
The DfE works with stakeholders to reduce the use of “chemicals of concern” by implementing products that are formulated from the safest ingredients possible. While the DfE has placed its logo on more than 1,500 certified products, only about a dozen drain line maintenance products are on that list.
Least Expensive Employee
The DLM service is a weekly “employee” who never stops working even after everyone has left the building. The minimal weekly service fee can save restaurant operators from costly health code violations and plumbing expenses.
That’s the lesson Huddle House’s Coker hoped to learn when he decided to try the DLM service to cut his costs of routine plumbing visits and emergency pump outs. He was able to pay for the service with money he saved by switching from another service.
“I wasn’t sold at first, but in the past 2 months since we have had [DLM] installed we have not had to call the plumber once,” he states. “I plan to realize huge savings now that I have installed this system.”
“Our representative also brought to our attention that the drain line maintainer product would help control drain flies, which were causing a problem for us,” notes Coker. “Within 2 months of installation, the flies were also gone,” he says.