Not only was manual oil handling a safety risk for employees at Wild Wing Café, but it also impacted cleanliness. For example, all locations had grease caddies that were unwieldy and caused oil spillage. In one location, employees were transporting pots of hot oil down a flight of stairs each night to the grease trap. Joe Sciortino, procurement director, of the chain, decided to look into new options.
"In real estate, it's location, location, location. "With frying, it's filter, filter, filter," said Sciortino. "You can lower the consumption of frying oil with efficient and consistent filtration. With increasing poultry costs – plus drought conditions driving up commodity prices (e.g. corn and soybeans) – optimizing oil management is even more urgent."
Making automation pay
The South Carolina-based restaurant installed a new automated oil management system from Restaurant Technologies, Inc., after unsuccessfully attempting other approaches to improve filtration and increase profitability. With RTI, the chain reduced annual oil use by almost 14,000 pounds and $150,000 across 13 company-owned stores, offsetting some of the cost of rising food prices.
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"Before RTI, we couldn't achieve the filtration consistency or food quality we needed," said Sciortino. "Equally important, we couldn't provide metrics or statistics on our filtration practices, time, frequency, oil usage, etc. – data we needed to change employee behavior."
The RTI Total Oil Management online portal, by comparison, collects oil-monitoring data from fryer sensors and sends it to a Web-based site, accessible by managers online. Restaurant and regional managers can track oil usage, real-time filtration frequencies and durations. This determines if employees are following proper restaurant procedures to maximize oil usage and food quality.
Employee safety and training improvements
The automated and closed-loop RTI oil handling system includes a fresh oil tank, a waste oil tank, filtration monitoring and a secure fill box mounted to the restaurant exterior. Restaurant operators never touch hot oil while adding, filtering and disposing. Employees fill the fryer with oil using a wand, the closed-loop system removes used oil and RTI empties the used-oil tank, said Sciortino, who also noted that eliminating manual oil handling has solved restaurant cleanliness, safety and manpower issues ranging from pressure washing oil spills to struggling with the grease caddies.
"Our employees love non-greasy floors and not cleaning up oil splatters and spills," said Sciortino. "We even eliminated messy outdoor grease dumpsters. No more overflowing pots catching the rain if someone forgot to dump the pots or close the lid."
Working with Wild Wing Cafe, RTI streamlined a multi-store implementation and staff-training program. The system works – but sometimes employees need convincing to trust that the system won't fail.
"It was a very robust process that worked," said Sciortino. "RTI sent a service team member and installer to each restaurant to put systems in place and train managers and staff. I appreciate that they didn't simply come for a day and then leave. They stayed as long as necessary and they trained both day and night shifts."
Ultimately, the training has paid off. Employees now realize that the filtration-monitoring system, combined with new processes, makes their jobs easier while decreasing oil usage and improving food quality, Sciortino said. It also makes the fryers easier to clean because old oil isn't building up residue in the fryers. Through the portal, managers can receive alerts if filtration processes are missed. This gives them an opportunity to have conversations with staff on why and how to fix the problem.
"Wild Wing Cafe is a compelling demonstration of trusting the economic benefits of automated oil management – shortening cost, reducing employee safety claims, time on the job, etc.," said Jeff Kiesel, chief executive officer, RTI. "Sciortino understands that increasing your bottom line while improving employee safety and food quality is possible with the right oil management system."
Cover photo:GRAHA TRISTAR1