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Apple American Group Makes Fried Foods Tastier, Employees Safer

Restaurant oil management isn’t something the average consumer thinks about every day, but oil is a critical component in every foodservice business, so it’s top of mind for most restaurant managers. When Apple American Group LLC, the largest Applebee’s franchisee with approximately 337 Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill and Bar restaurants, was looking to improve its oil handling process, it wanted to reduce the potential for employee injuries associated with oil handling, and decrease operating costs. What it found with Restaurant Technologies, Inc. (RTI) closed loop automated oil management system was so much more.

Employee Safety and Restaurant Cleanliness

Apple American Group LLC is the second largest franchisee of any restaurant concept in the world. It has remained dedicated to making every Applebee’s location a true neighborhood experience, responsive to
the needs of each guest, employee and community. As part of this dedication, Apple American Group strives to ensure that its food quality, operational efficiency measures, safety, cleanliness and sustainability efforts are top-notch. The traditional oil handling processes is a manual, time consuming and dirty process. Frying oil is poured from heavy jugs into fryers (often being added to hot oil), used and then discarded in collection bins outside on a regular schedule (again, often while the oil is still hot). It creates an environment where employees are at risk for oil burns, slip and falls, back strains or other injuries.

“We never want to put our employees in a situation where they might get injured,”

said Jeff Lingel, area manager, Apple American Group

“But with our old, manual oil handling process, accidents that involved hot grease, slick floors and strained back complaints from lifting heavy jugs of oil, were more common than we liked.”

The RTI closed-loop automated oil management system was the solution to eliminating both the oil handling task, and the potential risk to employees. The RTI oil management system is composed of two oil tanks – one for fresh oil and one for waste oil – and a secure fill box mounted to the exterior of each restaurant. The system provides turn-key oil management including oil delivery, storage, handling and disposal and a Web based reporting portal. Employees use an oil filler wand to add new oil to fryers, and simply press a button to dispose of used oil.

Goodbye to the Grease Shuttle

Grease shuttles and disposal tools that help employees transfer hot oil to waste bins are difficult to keep clean, require space for storage, and can invite unwanted pests. The need for storage and handling of new and used oil in jugs and boxes can also impact a restaurant’s cleanliness, both indoors and out. With the RTI oil management system, Apple American Group was able to eliminate grease shuttles completely, eliminating a safety hazard from the kitchen, and decrease waste by 4420 pounds per month by not utilizing plastic jugs with cardboard packaging.

“We’re saving time because we don’t have to drag shuttles around,”

said Lingel.

“But cleanliness has also improved; our floors stay cleaner and safer, the back dock is cleaner without the grease bin and the equipment itself is cleaner. The removal of the grease shuttle was a big win for us.”

Cutting out oil packaging waste is important for restaurant sustainability efforts. By decreasing the amount of plastic and other materials that go into landfills, restaurants like Applebee’s are showing how they can be more sustainable and environmentally friendly. RTI also recycles many of its customers’ used cooking oil into biodiesel and feedstock, directly supporting corporate sustainability initiatives.

Better Filtration Practices Improves Food Quality

The fry stations at restaurants like Applebee’s, which serve a diverse range of menu items, have become more complex as customer tastes expand. This means that oil is used more often, for more types of fried foods. It must be monitored and filtered regularly to maintain a high quality of food taste, no matter what’s being fried. Despite this need, restaurant managers often find that employees skip or short-change parts of the oil filtration process.

To maintain accurate filtration practices, Lingel’s team chose to add RTI Filtration Monitoring to its oil management system. The RTI Web-based Total Oil Management (TOM) portal provides Applebee’s store managers and decision-makers with real-time store level visibility into oil related activities, such as oil usage statistics, oil quality, filtration data, deliveries and more. Data for individual or multiple locations is delivered via a dashboard, which is accessible by managers anywhere they have Internet access.

The Applebee’s filtration policies and SOPs are programmed into the system, allowing it to track events and flag instances outside of the SOPs. The filtration summary report shows Expected Successful Filtration Events compared to Actual Successful Events to track filtration data. And an alerts summary notifies managers when activities are out of scope, including both oil usage or filtration events. To stay on top of any change in activity, alerts can be delivered to managers via email or text message. With the portal and the alerts, managers know right away when procedures are being met or missed. If a procedure isn’t followed, it creates training opportunities for staff, improves adherence to standards and improves overall business practices.

“The new fryer filtration monitoring system has helped us to do a better job monitoring the maintenance of our oil,” said Lingel. “Using the oil test kits RTI supplies and the dashboard, we are able to extend the life of the oil and improve the quality of our fried foods.”