This is a regular feature of my blog reviewing questions, tips and comments from around the internet and from my communication with my vending clients.
This question gets asked fairly often and I am usually surprised by the variety of answers. “What does everyone do with their used fryer oil?”
The first answers are (I hope) tongue in cheek suggesting pouring it over bushes or in the grass is the proper disposal method. Then again, I have seen unexplained oil pools left in the middle of event parking after the events have closed down.
There are two things to do with used fryer oil that will benefit the vendor or someone you know. First is recycling. Used oil is picked up periodically AND vendor is PAID for the amount of oil recycled. Understand the amount paid is very small but it is INCOME that helps off set the cost of new shortening. Search your area for “used fryer oil disposal” and you will get several companies that will provide a barrel or other holding unit for the used oil, as well as, pick it up and PAY YOU. Rates paid will fluctuate and are determined in part by https://thejacobsen.com/daily-bulletins/animal-fats-oils/ .
In the past rates have gotten so high that those storage barrels were actually emptied and the used oil stolen! Currently the rates are very low so no need to post security around your barrels. Still, a rebate is a rebate. Why not use it?
The second legal disposal method is using the oil as part of your diesel fuel for your truck. I know several vendors and diesel truck owners that use spent fryer oil (filtered, of course) to power their vehicles. I personally have not done this but here is a tutorial.
Speaking of used shortening, one person asked, “Does anyone use an oil filtration system? Is it worth the money?”
Everyone using a fryer should filter the oil at least daily. If you have multiple fryers and high enough sales you may need to filter them after each meal period. Skimming is a must throughout the day. Any particles you see floating on the oil should be removed as well as occasionally gently stirring the oil focusing on the bottom of the vat to bring up the sunken bits.
Every particle left in the oil will do two things: continue cooking and burning perhaps adhering to your next fried product. Burnt particles will look like pepper to your guests but leave a distinct bitter taste in their mouth. The second thing those particles do is break down your shortening faster leading to more frequent (and unnecessary) oil changes.
As for filtration systems, there are two basic types: build-in and portable. A built-in system is interconnected with your fryers and allows the oil to be filtered and refilled into the vats fairly painlessly. The major pitfall is clogging. The pipes connecting the fryers to the filter system will clog just often enough to be annoying. The filter unit tends to leave enough oil in the bottom under the filter pad that you will be making daily trips to your recycle barrel or risk clogging your sink system with grease.
A portable system uses the empty spout of the fryer dumping the oil in a container with filter power or papers at the bottom. Like the built-in units a pump recirculates the oil passing it through the filter straining the oil. After a manufacturer determined amount of time the operator takes a nozzles similar to a gasoline pump handle, flicks a switch reversing the pump and refills the fry vat. Since this is a more open system burns from splashing are quite prevalent. Just like the build-in systems about half an inch of oil is left in the bottom of the unit.
Portable units are on wheels and can be moved easily, but they take up a lot of floor space while in use. In the tight confines of a food truck they present a dangerous trip hazard.
My favorite system is a cone filter with a holder and a metal bucket. Slightly more exposure to hot oil but significantly faster than re-circulation filter machines. Of course, a skimmer is very helpful for all systems.
As far as is it worth the money? Not to me. Build-in systems are safer from burns but slower to use. After all time is money!
This one came up several times this week and will continue to be asked as we approach Square’s rate increase. “Credit card surcharges, minimums, convenience fees.” Invariably someone recommends these fees when asked what to do about the rate increase.
Taking credit cards is a COST of doing business just like buying a paper boat to present your food to the guest. I am sure you would much rather just hand your food straight to your guests rather than pay that 3.7 cents cost for the boat. How about the 7.8 cents each “green” appetizer plate? Save some money by not using them! Or maybe charging a “packing fee” or “recycling charge”?
Simply put for the 1000th time those fees are petty, against the T&C of card companies and illegal in 10 states. Just do a minute’s worth of research and stop asking Facebook groups. Start with this article.
When prices go up like Square you can either up your own prices or eat the cost. Simple. The problem here is most small-time vendors are stuck in the “even dollar” pricing model. They can’t raise the price of a soda a full dollar to make up for a 10-cent price increase. Ever hear of ‘quarters’?
If you are afraid of coins you may want to find another line of work. Coins do not slow down a great cashier and you should already be using some type of POS system to ring up sales anyway. Square increases 10 cents you increase 25 cents. Simple.
As for a minimum, charging one makes you look small and cheap. If I want to purchase a soda only and all I have is my debit card you will have lost a sale by enforcing a minimum amount. How many sales can you afford to chase away? What do you think my opinion is of your business? Typically, when I see a “$5.00 minimum” sign I also see a more run down, less clean, less guest-centric food establishment. I also shop elsewhere.
The solution is simple, assume every sale will be on a card and charge a price that covers the fees. Then when some pays cash you can smile to yourself at the extra profit.
Everyone gets very excited (and rightly so) when they pass their first health inspection. This comment got me to thinking. “I have had 5 inspections on my trailer .. first one was a 98.... This is my 4th 100... I accept nothing less from myself!”
A food truck, trailer or cart is a small operation that really should only get 100s on inspections. Several areas on the inspections don’t apply to mobile units and the points are either n/a or just granted to make the inspection sheets work.
A restaurant, on the other hand, has a larger footprint of floor & wall space, equipment and areas accessed by the public (bathrooms, trash cans, etc.) that have to consistently checked and cleaned. One messy guest in a bathroom just before the health inspector checks could be a “critical” loss of points. Pair that point loss with another guest dumping trash on the floor around a full trash can and the restaurant can only score 98 before the inspector even enters the kitchen. The sheer size and scope of even a small restaurant makes getting a perfect score a rarity.
Again, food trucks, trailers and carts should ONLY get 100s. Not because of “high standards” or “accepting nothing less” but because of the nature of the size and less complex operation. Be happy with and strive for a 100 but when you get one understand your mobile business is graded on a curve. A food truck 100 health inspection is little more than a participation award in the food service industry.
The sub 100 scores are the scary ones. How is it possible to miss points on a mobile unit? The best operators are the ones that do a self-inspection every day and multiple times a day if they operate long hours. They are the ones that can let a health inspector visit anytime and not be nervous. They also are the ones that brag about 5-star reviews rather than 100% inspections.
Finally, on Facebook a newbie asked “What are the average daily customers served? I’m working out my plan and want to be realistic is 100 orders a day to high? I live in a busy city.”
Big city or little city the answer is the same. A vendor gets two types of guests the impulse shopper that sees them open and stops to eat or the guest the vendor invites via marketing. Impulse shopper purchases are relative to the number of people that pass your operation. If they can’t see you, they can’t decide to eat your food. Position your self on a street with 1000 people walking by each hour and you may be too busy to handle alone. Put yourself in front of a store with 100 shoppers entering the store an hour and you may not be able to pay the bills.
The better questions are “how many sales are required to break even for the day?” And “how many guests can you handle an hour?” Both those questions work hand in hand to establish your daily sales goal.
For example, if it takes costs you $100.00 dollars in FIXED COSTS when you open and you have a VARIABLE COST goal of 45% that means you must generate $181.82 in sales just to BREAK-EVEN. If your average check is $9.00 you will need 20 guests BEFORE you should a profit on guest number 21. That has to be your first guest count goal.
Now compare that goal with your speed of service (SOS) ability. If your menu takes, on average, 5 minutes to produce you can only serve 12 guests an hour. Meaning you are not showing a profit until you have been open nearly two hours.
A three-hour lunch service using these numbers means you will serve 36 guests and generate $324.00 in sales. After expenses you will have $78.20 in profit. The question is – Is that enough profit for you?
If not, getting more guests is not the answer since you can only do 12 an hour. The real answer is improving your SOS to get more guests in and out in an hour THEN marketing to increase your guest count.
I have had a passion for helping people since an early age back in rural Kentucky. That passion grew into teaching and training managers and owners how to grow sales, increase profits, and retain guests. You’ll find a ton of information here about improving restaurant and food cart/trailer operations and profits. Got questions? Email me at Bill_Moore@live.com