How does a restaurant or foodservice business choose a used cooking oil service partner when, at first glance, they all seem the same? There are telling differences between time-tested, reputable partners and short-term, opportunistic companies. 

We’ve put together a list of questions that every wise business manager should ask prospective grease service partners before signing any contracts or exiting agreements with their current partners. If the service company you are considering can’t answer these questions in a transparent manner, it may be a sign to look elsewhere, no matter the promises they are making.

Questions to ask your potential grease management partner:

  • Where were you when the markets were low?  Most businesses want a service partner who will be there when they are needed. How long have they been in business? Be on the lookout for startup businesses when markets are positive. Too often, even those businesses with good intentions do not survive when markets are down. 
     
  • What’s different about your service from my current service provider?  Do they offer anything that your current provider doesn’t offer besides intangible promises? Do they offer additional ways to store your used oil that could protect the value of your oil (automated, enclosed, theft-proof collection systems, for instance)?  24/7 customer service? Trained and licensed drivers and technicians?
     
  • How will you make my life easier and help my restaurant/supermarket/hotel, etc.?  Listen carefully; if they can’t answer this question in a way that resonates with you, they probably don’t understand your business.
     
  • Will a partnership with you help me market our recycling efforts to our customers?  Do they have a history of sustainable operations? Do they have a foothold in social media that can support your social efforts?
     
  • You claim my oil will become biofuel, but how do I know that for sure? Where do they take the UCO they collect? Do they have company-owned facilities that produce biofuel? Do they take the grease to reputable biofuel producers? Or do they hedge on this question and just promise it will become biofuel?
     
  • What kind of investments has your company made in biofuel production?  A follow-up to the previous question; is this company investing in the growth of the biofuel industry by investing in research and building the infrastructure to convert UCO into biodiesel or renewable diesel – and can they prove it? (company financial filings, press releases, tour a facility, etc.)
     
  • When are customer service reps available?  Your business is likely open late into the evening and on weekends; will they be available when you need to talk to them?
     
  • How are you helping to prevent grease theft?  Is the company aware of and concerned that grease theft is a growing problem in today’s marketplace? Do they work with local law enforcement to educate officers that grease theft truly IS a crime? Do they offer suggestions on how to protect your business?
     
  • If I need a grease pickup outside my usual schedule, can you handle that?  How responsive are they to requests for an earlier pickup than normal?
     
  • Do you own your processing facilities or fleet? If the service provider is invested in their facilities, they have money in the game and are less likely to cease operations when it’s opportune to them.
     
  • Will your own employees be servicing my store?  Employees tend to have a vested interest in providing good service and should be trained and licensed, while non-employee workers may move from job to job at a moment’s notice. Which service rep would you prefer to be handling your account?
     
  • What kind of insurance do you carry? Grease collection can be a messy business if the workers are improperly trained or the equipment or service trucks are not up to par. If their worker damages your property, or causes harm to your employee or customer, can they cover the cost?
     
  • Do you keep up with grease trap regulations?  If you are also needing a provider that offers grease trap service, be aware that every state and locality has regulations on grease traps. You are responsible for the material removed from your trap, including where it is taken for disposal. Make sure your trap service provider knows and complies with all regulations.
     
  • What kind of rebates do you offer and what are they based on?  A reputable service provider will have a method to determining rebates. Can they explain their method in a way you understand? What do they offer you beyond the rebate?

And don’t forget the merits of gut instinct. If it doesn’t feel quite right, or if they are promising a rebate that is significantly higher than the long-established businesses are offering, you may want to investigate a bit further before signing an agreement. Like so many other deals, if it sounds too good to be true, it likely isn’t.

To learn more about the market impact on your used cooking oil, read our whitepaper Beyond the Rebates.  And call us 24/7/365 at 855-DAR-PRO1 (855-327-7761).