Grease is the word

Tony Simpson of Al Fardan Trading Company gives a lot of thought to what goes down a restaurant’s plugholes. Here he tells Hotelier Middle East why it’s about time the region’s hoteliers did the same

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By  Sarah Gain Published  September 10, 2006

|~|Simpson,-Tony.jpg|~|If you just sell a product, you become a souq trader and there’s no value in that.|~|Grease. It’s messy, gooey and smelly… End of story, right? Not according to Tony Simpson, sales manager at Al Fardan Trading Co, the company that distributes the Grease Guardian grease trap in the UAE. He knows exactly how much hassle grease can cause in a commercial kitchen, and he says it is time for hotels in the region to start taking the issue more seriously.

“Grease will cause blockages and foul odours if left untreated, and having a bad smell lingering around the hotel is not good for your image — it’s not the lasting impression you want your guests to have,” Simpson points out. “Grease can cause all sorts of health and safety problems, and your grease may even cause someone else trouble, so all hotels need to make sure they think about their wastewater disposal carefully.”

There are various ways of treating grease. A static grease trap can be installed under ground and collects grease over a period of several weeks. The trap then needs to be emptied to maintain efficiency. In the past, according to Simpson, hotels and other commercial kitchens have used expensive enzymes and other chemical treatment systems to help breakdown fat and grease molecules in this type of trap.

This type of treatment works by dosing solutions down pipes at regular intervals. The cleaning agents involved can be extremely harmful to the environment, and to make matters worse, the procedure does not even solve the problem entirely, says Simpson.

“These systems do not mechanically remove fats, oils and grease. They might break down the grease, but it will reform further down the pipeline causing problems to pumping stations and treatment plants further downstream,” he explains. “Automatic grease removal devices, such as our Grease Guardian product, perform the task of other grease traps but also remove the grease on a daily basis, providing far greater efficiency if looked after correctly.”

Grease traps have been around for over a hundred years, and the concept is quite simple. Wastewater containing fats, oils and grease (FOG) enters a receptacle. As the FOG is lighter than water, it rises to the top and is trapped by a baffle, while the water is free to continue through the pipes. Traditional grease traps need to be opened at least once a month so that the FOG can be pumped out.

“The bad odours that come from the conventional grease traps are awful. If you open one, you can smell it from miles away, and up close the stench is overpowering. It’s like leaving a bin bag lying around for a week or two in the sun,” Simpson describes.

Rather than dealing with such unpleasantness themselves, most hotels choose to employ a third party specialist to empty all their grease traps on a regular basis. However, because it is such a disgusting job, the companies that offer this type of service charge a premium, according to Simpson.

“A large, five-star hotel with around 350 rooms would spend in the region of AED 70,000 (US $19,000) a year on cleaning their conventional grease traps,” he says. “So, while the Grease Guardian might be a more expensive one-off purchase than a conventional unit, it will save a hotel a lot of money in maintenance costs in the long term.”

When water enters the Grease Guardian any stray solids are first collected in a strainer basket. The wastewater then flows through to a second chamber where, like in a traditional trap, it separates into clear water and FOG and the water passes under a baffle and out of the unit.

However, unlike in the old-style units, when the grease and oils rise to the top of the chamber, rather than simply collecting it and allowing it to go stagnant, the Grease Guardian uses a system of periodic heating and skimming to remove and collect the FOG in an external container that can easily be taken away and emptied.

“No enzymes or chemicals are used in the process, so it is environmentally friendly. The product is CE rated, which means that it complies with the latest European safety standards. Also, instead of having the heating element running all day and all night, the system will conserve energy, and yearly costs, by only heating the grease for approximately two hours per day.

“Another advantage is that the grease collected by Grease Guardians can be collected with all the other waste oil in the kitchen, along with the used cooking oil, the fat from the fryer and so on, and given to grease rendering companies to be recycled.”

Aside from emptying the plastic grease container into the waste oil drum on a daily basis, a Grease Guardian requires only a small amount of basic housekeeping. The removable solids basket must be emptied in the food waste bin every day, and the wiper-blades and other internal surfaces should also be wiped down regularly.

A remote monitoring alarm kit can be connected to the unit’s digital panel to ensure that the necessary daily housekeeping is carried out. The alarm can be installed at a distance from the unit, allowing it to be positioned in the engineer’s office, and the unit has an inbuilt maintenance reminder as well as a fault detector.

“Because the Grease Guardian is so hygienic, and because it only has a small footprint area, it can be fitted directly in the kitchen. It can be safely installed right underneath the pot-wash sink, for example. This means it can easily be accessed and cleaned as part of the kitchen’s daily clean down, and it also gives our customers an opportunity to see exactly how efficient it is,” Simpson says.||**||Seeing is believing|~|Simpson,-Tony---AL-FARDAN--.jpg|~|Unlike a conventional grease trap the Grease Guardian collects grease in an external container.|~|The proof of the pudding may be in the tasting, but the proof of the grease trap is in the emptying. The Al Qasr hotel, part of the Jumeirah Group’s Madinat resort in Dubai, replaced two of its conventional grease traps with Grease Guardians in March, after having had problems with a number of blockages caused by a build up of grease.

Initially, Al Qasr only opted to install one new unit in its pot-wash area. However, when the hotel saw the amount of debris the Grease Guardian collected, it quickly upped its order, says Simpson.

“After we installed the first Grease Guardian at Al Qasr, they were quite amazed at the amount of debris the trap was taking out. It was taking between half-a-kilo and a kilo of food and oil waste a day. So within one week of the first installation they came back and asked us to do the second, this time at the offshore seafood restaurant, Pier Chic,” he says. “Then they immediately came back and asked us to install another three, in various areas, including in their private dining kitchen.”

Although Simpson admits that installing Grease Guardian units is a simple job, he says that Al Fardan’s team of technicians and engineers are kept busy with the growing demand for the product.

“We’re still in the process of introducing the product and the concept to this market and educating hoteliers about the importance of safe grease disposal, but already we’ve had a lot of interest. There’s a big market for this product, with all the new hotel contracts up for grabs. And there’s already a lot of work to be had, retrofitting these units, because a lot of people have problems with their existing equipment,” he explains.

“I have no competition at the moment — there are people that sell conventional grease traps, but we are offering an engineering solution rather than just selling a product,” Simpson continues. “If you just sell a product, you become a souq trader and there’s no value in that. Our strength is that we believe in our product. We’re actively involved in the upkeep of the product for its lifetime, and we offer a genuine solution to a real-life problem. That’s what sets us apart.”||**||

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