Thursday, May 23, 2024

It’s a dirty job…and Filta wants to do it

Helping commercial kitchens fry faster, greener, safer and cleaner

by Wendy Grant

Corn dogs. Churros. And French fries, of course! Fried food is a delicious part of a visit to any theme park. Cooking all that food requires oil and fryers. The used oil has to be removed and the fryers have to be cleaned – over and over again.

Enter Filta Environmental Kitchen Solutions. Filta is happy to take on the dirty job of cleaning your fryer. While they’re at it, they can also help food and beverage operations save money and reduce their environmental impact while serving tastier chicken tenders and more delicious doughnuts. “Our mission is to make commercial kitchens faster, greener, safer, and cleaner,” says Tom Dunn, CEO of The Filta Group, Inc.

Amusement and theme parks across the US currently using Filta’s services include LEGOLAND, Trader’s Village in Houston, Wild Waves Theme and Waterpark in Seattle, Louisville’s Kentucky Kingdom & Hurricane Bay, several Fun Spot locations in Florida, and numerous other parks. Filta’s customers also include restaurants and commercial kitchens in stadiums, hotels, casinos, hospitals, and more, in North America, Australia, the U.K., and throughout Europe.

Extending the life of oil

Filta provides a proprietary method of micro-filtering cooking oil that extends its life. That means the oil can be used longer, to cook more funnel cakes and fried chicken, and the food tastes better. It also means that Filta staff clean and maintain the fryers, which spares park employees from that time-consuming and potentially dangerous job. When the oil can no longer be filtered, Filta can give it a new life by responsibly removing it directly from the fryer and then having it recycled it into biodiesel.

Tom Dunn, CEO, The Filta Group, Inc.

“We know that themed entertainment destinations are looking to be more sustainable and to save on costs by extending the life of their resources. We’re able to remove the vast amount of impurities by filtering cooking oil, so oil that potentially would have been thrown out can be used again,” Dunn says. “It extends the life of the oil and it’s perfectly healthy and safe to use. When our customers can reuse their oil, they don’t have to buy more, which saves them money. And while we micro-filter the oil, we also do a vacuum-based deep-cleaning of the fryers.”

Michelle Phy, Revenue Manager at Alabama Adventure & Splash Adventure, says, “Filta has been cleaning our fryers for over two years. It has been wonderful to not worry about cleaning them. Filta comes in, gets the job done and leaves the restaurants cleaner than when they started.”

Dunn notes that through the FiltaFry service, “Our goal is to extend the oil’s life by up to 50%.” Whether or not that goal can be reached depends on factors such as what’s cooked in the oil and how heavily the fryer is used. Because each location’s usage and needs differ, Filta provides a free site evaluation and a customized program for each prospective customer, whether they’re frying onion rings or Oreos.

Filta saves Hersheypark time and money

David Hoover, a Filta franchise owner in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, began working with Hershey Entertainment and Resorts by servicing the GIANT Center hockey arena in 2018. A year later, he added Hersheypark to his client roster. “We started small, with just one concession stand,” explains Hoover. “That went well, so the next summer, we serviced 16 fryers in three stands – the biggest and messiest ones!”

Meanwhile, Hersheypark’s maintenance department had been tasked with fixing fryers and cleaning up oil spills. They did an audit of the park’s fryers and then recommended to the food and beverage department that Filta take over all of the fryers. Now Hoover services 91 fryers throughout Hersheypark.

Olivia Haist, Concessions Manager for Hersheypark, says that the park is able to maintain oil quality for longer periods of time thanks to Filta’s services. She says they see great savings of time and money. “Having trained professionals handle one of the most complex and impactful cleaning tasks in our kitchens gives our team members more time to focus on the cleanliness of other aspects of the operation, as well as more time to prepare for the next day,” Haist shares.

Starting with safety

When Filta’s trained technicians safely clean and remove oil, that helps keep food service and maintenance employees safe from oil-related burns and slips. In fact, Filta was started in the U.K. after co-founder Jason Sayers’ friend was severely burned in a cooking oil accident. Sayers knew there had to be a better way to handle cooking oil, so he set out to make commercial kitchens safer. He and his partner, Victor Clewes, created the fryer management service industry in 1996 and then developed it as a franchise model expanding to the U.S. in 2002. Today Filta has more than 450 service vehicles on the road in the United States alone.

Restaurants serving everything from eggrolls to mozzarella sticks were quick to take advantage of Filta’s services. The client base grew to include zoos and waterparks. More recently, theme parks and amusement parks like Lagoon Park in Farmington, Utah, have seen the benefits of Filta’s services.

Aaron Small, Lagoon Park’s Food Division Manager says, “I really like the service because we no longer have oil spills and we serve a better quality product.”

Going green

Another benefit Filta offers is annual sustainability reporting. Haist says she enjoys “seeing the environmental impact that comes with working with Filta by reducing our usage of oil.” She notes, “At the end of each year we get to see how our partnership has had a positive impact on efforts like reducing greenhouse gasses and savings in packaging.” For example, in calendar year 2021 simply by using FiltaFry, Hersheypark was able to save 55,293 pounds of oil, which has been estimated to have the carbon offset equivalent of planting 1,770 trees.

Filta’s process of micro-filtering can add significant life to cooking oil, improving it from a viscous, cloudy solution to something more resembling the clarity of apple juice.

Hersheypark also uses Filta’s biodiesel recycling service, FiltaBio. While FiltaFry can extend the life of oil, at some point it can no longer be used for cooking. Filta provides an alternative to the practice of storing that old oil in waste drums. Instead, Filta collects the used oil directly from the fryers so that kitchens no longer need to store it. Filta brings the oil to specialized biodiesel manufacturing companies that then purify it and reprocess it into biodiesel, an environmentally friendly alternative to petroleum diesel. In 2021, Filta collected 8,545 gallons of oil from Hersheypark. Turning all that used cooking oil into biodiesel yields a carbon offset reportedly equivalent to planting 8,695 trees.

In 2020, Filta’s FiltaFry services helped their U.S. customers keep frying chicken wings, chimichangas, and cheese curds while saving 2.5 million gallons of cooking oil. Filta’s annual Environmental Impact Report (EIR) calculated that producing that amount of cooking oil would normally emit over 5,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2). Filta’s FiltaBio service collected 2.3 million gallons of waste oil in 2020 and converted it into biodiesel, generating a CO2 offset reportedly equivalent to planting more than 1.1 million trees. For destinations looking to reach a zero-waste goal, recycling used cooking oil is a big step toward that goal.

Expanded services for kitchens

While FiltaFry is their signature service, Filta continues to expand its offerings to meet their clients’ needs in the kitchen, from deep fryers to walk-in coolers to drains.

• FiltaGold is a service that delivers fresh oil directly to customers’ fryers, saving them storage space while providing a full-service solution.

• FiltaDrain is a probiotic solution that consumes fats, oils, grease and sugars to improve drain performance.

• FiltaCool provides and maintains special panels that help control the moisture levels of refrigeration units and walk-in coolers by absorbing excess humidity and gas molecules. This helps perishable items stay fresher, smell better, and last longer.

Filta technicians service kitchens, micro-filtering cooking oil and vacuum-cleaning fryer units of all sizes and providing cost-effective grease management.

Dunn is looking forward to a new product and a new service that will soon be added to Filta’s menu of services. He shares, “We are developing FiltaSteam to provide commercial kitchen cleaning services, which we’ll offer on a quarterly, semiannual, or annual basis.” He also hopes to introduce The FiltaFOG Cyclone in 2023, a grease recovery unit that functions as an environmentally friendly, energy-saving alternative to the in-ground grease trap.

Site evaluation and customer support

Filta participates in the annual Amusement & Theme Park Food Service Conference. This invitation-only conference organized in Sandusky, Ohio, by Cedar Fair and taking place in September this year is a valuable opportunity for F&B professionals to engage in dialogue. “We love to say hello to current customers and talk to future customers there,” says Dunn. “But we can be reached anytime on social media, or at (866) 51-FILTA or on our website,” The website’s live chat resource is staffed 24 hours a day.

Dunn encourages potential customers to request a free site evaluation. He says, “If we can’t help you, we’ll tell you that. If we can, we’ll tell you how.”

Hoover agrees. “We’re here for our customers,” he says. “And our customers are great.”

“Having worked with Filta for the last four years, there hasn’t been a moment where we have questioned our commitment to partnering with them,” says Haist. “There is great consistency in the quality of service they provide and they are always a pleasure to work with.”

“Hiring is tough right now and park staff is best used elsewhere,” Dunn points out. “Food and beverage managers can outsource the fryers to us and concentrate on what they’re best at: guest service and guest satisfaction.” And keeping the deep-fried deliciousness coming. • • •

Wendy Grant
Wendy Grant
Wendy M. Grant has worked in marketing for more than 25 years. She served as Director of Marketing and Communications for San Diego’s Fleet Science Center, home to the world’s first IMAX Dome Theater, where she directed marketing for all exhibitions, films, shows and events for 13 years. She served on the Marketing Committee for the Giant Screen Cinema Association and she was a board member for the Giant Dome Theater Consortium. Prior to working in the museum field, she was Director of Marketing at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar where she helped to produce the annual Miramar Air Show. Since 2019, Grant has worked as a communications consultant, writer and editor, with clients in the education and entertainment fields.

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