How long has it been?
When speaking with prospective clients, there is always an “interview” process to determine what individual needs are important. During this brief Q & A, we try to understand several things like location, size, and condition of the kitchen exhaust system. Inevitably, we ask the question, “How long has it been since the system was cleaned last?” There really aren’t too many answers we get to this question; more often than not, the informed restaurant manager has had the vent hoods on their normal schedule and the last cleaning falls within the last three to six months. On the other end of the spectrum, often times the restaurant will tell us the last time the hoods were cleaned was eight months ago, over a year, two years or, heck, we couldn’t tell you the last time the hoods were cleaned.
One main reason, we find, there has been such a long gap in the kitchen exhaust cleaning is that the restaurateur has recently taken over the space from another tenant. If this the case, congratulations. Getting the kitchen exhaust cleaning service set up should be towards the top of the list of things to do. From a safety standpoint, you shouldn’t do any type of cooking under a vent hood that has not been cleaned and inspected. Typically, when a restaurateur is on the decline, maintenance expenditures are not a high priority. He or she could have been neglecting that system, thus allowing unknown amounts of grease to accumulate in the system, and potentially causing a fire hazard for you, the new owner, that could arise the very moment the new cooking equipment is fired up. From a budgeting standpoint, your R&M budget is not complete until the KEC costs are determined. In many cases, the city may require that an agreement is in place with a KEC company before you will be given your CO. Prior to reopening an existing restaurant, or even if you are going through new construction, talk with a certified kitchen exhaust cleaning company to understand your costs and needs. Get several bids. There are several tips to finding a reputable company in many previous articles we have written.
Another reason we hear quite a bit as to why a restaurant has not had their hoods properly cleaned, is that the restaurant, “cleans them themselves.” Being a former restaurant manager, I always liked to hear when staff would go above and beyond they’re normal duties. Unfortunately, properly cleaning the kitchen exhaust system is not something that should be left in the hands of restaurant managers and employees. NFPA 96 code actually states: “The entire exhaust system shall be inspected for grease buildup by a properly trained, qualified, and certified person (s)…” Some consider cleaning the vent hood as taking out the baffle filters and cleaning them. That is half right. While you should be cleaning the baffles regularly, there is quite a bit more to the system than just the filters.
When it comes down to it, if we are doing any type of cooking in a commercial kitchen, our exhaust system needs to be on a preventative maintenance program. There are some costs that are, simply put, fixed into the budget. If you are opening or reopening a restaurant, have a talk with a kitchen exhaust cleaning company to understand the specifics of your restaurant. If you are reading this article and all this comes as news to you, please don’t wait until it is too late.