What it takes to be successful in the restaurant industry skills, long hours, calm in chaos, and well-trained staff in food preparation, presentation, safety and sanitation. And that’s just the lunchtime shift. By all measures you are a rock star of hospitality.
When it comes to the most important part of your kitchen safety — the kitchen exhaust hood/duct/fan system — are you relying on amateurs? To be sure, here are 8 essential demands you want from your kitchen hood cleaner:
1. Perform a complete kitchen exhaust hood cleaning.
Sounds strange? Unfortunately, it happens all the time that kitchen hood cleaners will only clean the visible elements of your kitchen hood system, skipping the more difficult yet critical components such as horizontal duct-work and rooftop fans.
They get away with it because most restaurant staff will not check the kitchen exhaust hood system after a service, or they don’t know what to check. You can solve this by taking the following simple measures:
• Remove a grease filter and shine a flashlight up the plenum to see if it’s clean.
• Request a complete set of time-stamped photos of each cleaning (see next item).
• If possible, go on the roof and tip back the fan to check that the duct and the fan blades are clean.Remember, a complete kitchen exhaust hood cleaning in accordance with the minimum standards NFPA 96 2014 requires that your entire kitchen hood system (from fan to flue and plenum area) be cleaned/scraped to bare metal. Demanding anything less can result in fire, kitchen odors, reduced kitchen airflow and catastrophic loss.
Beyond this, a good kitchen exhaust hood cleaning company will polish exposed kitchen exhaust hood so that your morning crew will walk into a sparkling clean kitchen exhaust hood.
2. Provide detailed job photos.
If your kitchen hood cleaning company is not giving you time-stamped pictures of each cleaning, I’m betting you have grease buildup in your hoods. Any respectable kitchen hood cleaner has a “Photo Inspection Program” to manage quality, improve transparency, and document service and safety compliance.
These pictures are made available to you and your insurance company online the morning after service and stay accessible to you for 3 years.
Typically each cleaning requires at least 7 pictures documenting any existing conditions and the real kitchen exhaust hood cleaning including: Access panels, fan units/intakes and surrounding roof area; vertical duct-work from rooftop; horizontal duct-work from hood; hood with filters out and after filters are back in kitchen hood.
3. Courteous, equipped staff.
We’ve all heard the horror stories of a kitchen exhaust hood cleaning gone bad. What matters most is that your kitchen hood cleaner responds immediately fix the problem.Your customers expect a good experience from you, and you should demand the same from your kitchen hood cleaner. This means your hood cleaner should honor the following courteous protocols:
• Coordinate your cleaning schedule with restaurant management at least 3 days in advance.
• Give you a courtesy call (or email if you prefer) the day before service.
• Crew to check in with your GM on time (or 10 minutes early preferred), dressed in company uniform with company truck equipped for the job.
• Leave your kitchen exhaust hood polished, floors mopped and new hood certificate sticker applied.
• Invoice that accurately reflects the service provided.
4. No Identity Fraud!Demand evidence that your hood cleaner is really who they say they are. If I could collect a nickel for every hood cleaner that claims to be “the leader,” or “NFPA 96 certified” — and whose mess we had to clean up… Here are some of the best ways to weed out the fakes:
• Your hood company may claim they are “certified” because someone in the company passed a written test administered by an industry association. This is not enough evidence that the technicians actually performing your cleaning are qualified.We certainly agree that certification is important, particularly quality-process certifications like ISO 9001:2008, which we worked hard to do and very few service companies have accomplished. But, training and experience is the true test of qualified technicians.
• Get a Certificate of Insurance (COI) from your kitchen hood cleaner sure they have the proper insurance coverage, and have them send you a renewed certificate annually. Proper kitchen hood cleaning provides fire protection and is a major fee for kitchen hood cleaners.
If quoted a cheap kitchen exhaust hood cleaning price, chances are the company has inadequate insurance coverage, will become your worst nightmare.
• Ask your hood cleaner so they can present you with an NFPA 96 compliance inspection, and sketch diagram of your kitchen hood system and grease duct-work to include access panels, bends and turns.
• If you are looking for a new kitchen hood cleaning company, contact at least three references to make sure they keep up satisfied customer relationships.
Also consider how long they have been in business. While longevity isn’t a guarantee of quality or reliability, it lets you know whether they can run a business and satisfy clients.
5. Your satisfaction guaranteed.
Reputable kitchen exhaust hood cleaners know that this is a referral-based business, every kitchen hood cleaner receives the occasional complaint, how they respond is the difference.
If you experience a problem following a service, or your exhaust fan is making noise, or there is grease dripping from the hood, ask a call back and expect a quick response.
6. Environmentally friendly – proper waste water disposal.
Congratulations, you are environmentally friendly and have adopted programs for energy conservation, waste reduction and recycling programs in your restaurant.
You abide by mandated federal environmental protection programs like the Clean Water Act and other local municipality regulations because you care, want to avoid hefty fines, and understand it is just good public relations.
Did you know you are also expected to adhere to environment exposures resulting from your kitchen exhaust hood cleaning? Make sure that your kitchen hood cleaner is properly disposing of waste water accumulated during the cleaning process.
If not, your held liable for the damages. Ask them about their waste water disposal (FOG) methods. Only approved grease interceptors and filtering drains will be used during cleaning so that liquid by-products are not endangering public water sources.
Determine whether your restaurant’s drain pipes led to a storm drain or sanitary sewer system. Recent building codes require all inside drains be connected to a sanitary sewer and outside drains exposed to rainfall are connected to a storm drain. However, some older building may not be up to date.
7. Risk Averse – Safety First.
• Fire Safety: Your kitchen hood cleaner is your partner in fire protection and safety. Grease is easily ignited in any form — solid, liquid or vapor. It burns very hot at approximately 1,400 degrees and spreads rapidly.
A simple spark in the cook line could become a catastrophic fire if it ignites grease fuel buildup in the kitchen hood, exploding through the duct-work to the roof fan in a matter of seconds.Statistics from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) report that over an average year, approximately 5,000 restaurant fires are reported with property loss of $190 million.
• Safety Program: Your hood cleaners should be taking safety precautions while at your facility, on your rooftop, performing under wet and slippery conditions. They should be willing to share with you there OSHA safety program and Fleet safety program.
8. Rooftop Grease Containment.
Grease travels through your kitchen exhaust fan can leak on your roof. If grease is left on the roof it can void your roof warranty and damage the roof.
We recommend that all leaking grease be captured by a grease containment system, or your kitchen hood cleaning frequency should be increased to prevent accumulation of grease inside of the kitchen exhaust fan.
If you do not have one, if there is grease collecting around your kitchen exhaust fan and surrounding area, have your kitchen hood cleaner provide you with a written recommendation for a grease containment system.
Ultimately it is your responsibility, not your kitchen hood cleaner, to protect your roof. Grease and tears in your roof will lead to costly water damage as well. Have them repaired ASAP — a small repair today will save big dollars tomorrow.