How to Find a Qualified Kitchen Exhaust Cleaning Contractor

The consequences of not using trained kitchen exhaust cleaning (KEC) technicians can be devastating. According the U.S. Fire Administration, nearly 6,000 restaurant fires are reported each year in the United States. And, of those, a percentage, around 21 percent, depending on the year, are caused by a failure to clean. But the concern is for one restaurant: yours.

Restaurant fires are often kitchen exhaust system fires. It’s easy to look at that big hood and hear that fan and think that everything dangerous is being blown straight up and away, but that simply is not the case. The kitchen exhaust system comprises the hood, filters, plenum, fans and what may be a labyrinth of horizontal and vertical ductwork – and the parts that you can see are likely only a small portion of the whole.

Getting the cleaning job done correctly starts with the bid process. It’s not about who will do it for the least amount of money. “Hiring a certified cleaning contractor who is familiar with the applicable standards is nearly always safer than using a certified cleaner who charges a lower fee,” says Richard Martin of Martin Thermal Engineering, a fire investigator and frequent expert witness.

Matt Mongiello of Interior Maintenance Company, Inc., a kitchen exhaust cleaning company located in Pennsylvania, says restaurant owners and managers should look for a contractor that specifically states they will perform a complete cleaning of the entire kitchen exhaust system, mentioning all associated components. A contractor who only talks about the hood and filters is throwing up a red flag and can seriously hurt your business in the long run. It is also important to confirm that the contractor has proper insurance and qualifications to perform the work, he adds.

Proper documentation of the job is key. This should include identifiable before and after photographs of the work completed. As Oliver Moore, Deputy Utah State Fire Marshal, mentioned, a sticker is attached to the hood showing the name of the service company, the name of the person performing the work, and the date of inspection or cleaning. You should also expect a written report that details the work completed and specifies any areas that were inaccessible or not cleaned and why.

“The managers that do take the time to have their system cleaned properly are the most knowledgeable, not only about the components of their system, but why it works,” says Mongiello. “They understand that a properly cleaned system not only removes grease-laden vapors and protects them from fire, but also removes smoke, improves air flow, and increases energy-efficiency in their kitchen.”

As a restaurant owner, it is imperative that you get to know the twists and turns of your system. One way to do so is to hire a reputable, kitchen exhaust cleaning company with certified staff members, who will not only thoroughly clean it, but will provide you with photographic evidence of the work done in each corner and each component.

“Regardless of who is ultimately found responsible for a fire,” says Martin, “a restaurant’s ability to keep their doors open, maintain profitability, and preserve their reputation may hinge on their ability to keep their exhaust ducts properly cleaned.”

To find a qualified commercial kitchen exhaust contractor, visit the ‘Find a Member’ section of the International Kitchen Exhaust Cleaning Association website, www.ikeca.org or email information@ikeca.org.

(This is an excerpt from the article, “What You Don’t See Can Hurt You,” which was published on the Retail & Restaurant Facility Business website. The complete article is available here.)

Read more from the Society Insurance risk control team in this blog: 8 Steps to Reduce the Risk of Fire at Your Bar or Restaurant.

-Randall Rauth

Author

Randall is the president of the International Kitchen Exhaust Cleaning Association and the owner of Hood Cleaning, Inc. He started his career in the restaurant service business. Email: information@ikeca.org.

Latest Articles

How Your Business can Adapt as Minimum and Competitive Wages Rise

In 2022, 25 states raised their minimum wages. Increases are expected to continue, with 13 states...

7 TIPS TO HELP PREVENT PIPE BURSTING THIS WINTER

Originally published January 29, 2019, updated January 18, 2023. Many parts of the country are no...

A Guide to Safe Keg Handling

At one time or another, almost everyone who works in the restaurant and bar industry has been...

2022 Year in Review

Society Insurance is committed to providing blog posts to help business owners optimize daily...

What To Do If Someone Falls in Your Business

When we experience a special event in our lives, we try to memorialize every second of it, because...

How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome at Work

What Is Imposter Syndrome? Imposter syndrome is defined as the persistent inability to believe...

How a Restaurant Closing Checklist Benefits Your Business

As a bar or restaurant owner, you know that your night isn’t over when the last customer leaves....

Creative Interview Questions for Finding the Right Candidate

Interview questions usually revolve around a candidate’s work history, experience and unique...

6 FACTORS THAT CAN DRIVE UP INSURANCE COSTS FOR RESTAURANTS

Have you ever caught yourself wondering why your business’ premium changes over time? Odds are you...

Stay up to date with industry updates by subscribing to the Society Insurance blog!