Anyone who has cooked a chicken, and let the fat cool, knows the answer to this question.
Cooled grease thickens, sometimes to a near solid state. It’s great for de-greasing the chicken stock to use in next week’s vegetable soup. But it can be problematic for restaurants and grease collection service providers.
Many restaurants use outdoor bins to store their used cooking oil until it can be emptied by their service partner. In cold winter months, this grease starts to gel, and can be difficult to remove from the bin. Some providers are ill-equipped to handle this efficiently.
At DAR PRO Solutions, our years of experience and our logistical network have made us weather Pro’s at powering through challenging storms.
Our modern fleet of service vehicles and plant equipment prove to be a critical advantage over many of our smaller competitors. Our plants that are subject to harsh winters utilize specialized trucks to pick up the grease from outside bins. The truck beds are divided into two holding sections – one section to hold the used cooking oil, and the other section filled with warmed water.
Jim Schmieder, DAR PRO’s Regional Sales Director, said, “In cold winter months, not only does the grease inside the outside bins freeze, turning them into big grease-cubes, but the bins themselves often freeze to the ground, requiring tools and wenches to break them free so they can be serviced." Once a bin is freed from any ice, a motorized arm on the truck hoists the bin into the warm bath, where the outside edges ‘melt’ so the grease can be emptied into the truck’s collection area. This holding area is also warmed to keep the grease pliable so it can be pumped out once it reaches our processing plant. The process is quick and efficient – collecting the full amount of used cooking oil in the bin, and avoiding spills or accidents that might occur by trying to force a hose thru the top layer of frozen grease to try to pump out any liquid oil below the surface.
Winter storms bring more problems than solidified grease bins. Icy roads, service vehicles blocked in from road closures, drivers snowed in at home, restricted access to outdoor corrals, rescheduling customer pickups. Situations like this will separate the long-surviving businesses from the ‘good-weather’ players.
Our Newark, NJ plant is typical of our locations affected by harsh winter weather, and preparations begin as early as October. Their snowplows are checked and readied and deicing materials are stocked. Brian Marks, Newark’s Plant Supervisor, leads the crew that helps keep the plant processing and the fleet running during the worst of the season. “Safety is a priority for our employees all year, but special attention must be paid during the winter. Our employees must act with safety in mind, and use good judgement.” Sometimes, that means leaving a piece of equipment buried in the snow until it can be removed safely without threat to our employees or our customers’ place of business. When a particularly harsh storm is forecast, it may mean temporarily moving our service vehicles, used cooking oil tanks, and other equipment off-site so they are readily available. In particularly severe storms, we have brought in employees from other locations to help get us through a backlog. “At Newark, and it’s the same at all our cold weather plants, we take great pride in knowing we can service our accounts with no or minimal disruption to their business and we have the logistics in place to weather through the storms,” said Brian.
Where a smaller service operator may face days out of commission, or in worst circumstances find themselves unable to sustain business thru a winter storm, our employees have historically demonstrated, time and again, that we are ready to roll as soon as city streets are open, ready to service our customers needs.
If you’d like to see more about how we handle major weather events, such as Hurricane Harvey in Texas, read our blog article on “Weathering the Storms.” Providing professional service is what we do – through rain, sleet, ice and snow.
And if you’d like to avoid some of these winter problems, consider switching your used cooking oil storage from a bin to an automated tank system. “Restaurants with higher volumes of grease that are located in winter environments should consider our automated tank options, that can be located indoors or outdoors in enclosed sheds,” said Jim. “We not only have specialized trucks to provide service in winter conditions, but we also have specialized tanks that make servicing in winter … a breeze!"