Roughly 11,000 commercial kitchens are damaged by fire annually, per the International Kitchen Exhaust Cleaners Association (IKECA). Many of these fires can be prevented through proper maintenance and cleaning. Simply conducting an internet search for "Texas kitchen exhaust cleaning companies" and clicking on the top one in the search results doesn't guarantee top tier service that meet federal standards.
In fact, there are currently no licensing requirements or laws that govern who can start a kitchen exhaust cleaning company in Texas. That means anyone can secure a truck and a power washer, print off some business cards and get started. These small cleaners often offer their prices for a steal, which means savings for restaurants, at first. That's until a customer comes inside to let the owner know there's a fire on the roof. In the end, restaurants can pay more through thousands in damage.
It's Up to the Owner to Conduct Due Diligence
A burden to conduct in-depth due diligence falls on restaurant owners in states without licensing or laws regarding commercial kitchen exhaust cleaning. When that due diligence is not conducted, it endangers the safety of restaurant customers and employees.
In Utah, kitchen exhaust system cleaning concerns and inspections must be licensed by the Office of the State Fire Marshal (SFM). “No person or concern shall engage in the business of selling, installing, servicing, repairing, testing or modifying any kitchen exhaust system without obtaining a license from the SFM, pursuant to these rules expressly authorizing such concern to perform such acts." Having the SFM's seal of approval puts clients at ease. But what about states without such licensing?
By failing to do their due diligence or by cutting corners, restaurant owners risk not only the loss of their building and insurance claim exclusion, but also serious liability and litigation for the fires created by kitchen exhaust systems cleaned in an irresponsible manner. This kind of negligence can put a company out of business.
3 Tips for Screening Kitchen Cleaning Companies
What should restaurant owners look for when vetting kitchen cleaning companies? Here are three tips to tighten your screening process:
1. Require a Certified Cleaning Company
The Code of Federal Regulations (NFPA 96) states, “The entire exhaust system shall be cleaned by a properly trained, qualified and certified company or persons.” Accredited agencies ensure higher standards of continuous education and rigorous testing. However, for-profit agencies do not.
IKECA members represent the best in the kitchen exhaust cleaning industry. They are proud to have made significant contributions to the decrease in commercial kitchen fires. The current membership is approximately 500 worldwide. Guardian Services was a founding member of IKECA and has been a proud member since it was founded in 1989.
IKECA members live up to the challenge of providing qualified and certified professionals that are committed to clean to the highest standards in the industry. They are passionate about doing the job right the first time and providing the restaurant and insurance industries an integral component of their fire protection and public safety programs.
Many companies tout themselves as highly-qualified cleaning companies, but some are little more than small one-to-two-man operations that don’t have the specialized equipment, tools, and expertise to adequately clean the entire system. Many times, they lack the responsible insurance coverage as well. The dangers of such an approach can be costly in terms of risk of fire, loss, as well as potential liability and litigation.
2. Locate Experienced Cleaning Specialists and Verify References
You must protect the safety of your employees and customers. Steer clear of code violations and catastrophic damage incurred as a result of a serious fire in your restaurant. Stay away from fly-by-night cleaning firms with no documented track record of cleaning kitchen exhaust systems to code.
It is important to verify the company has been in business for a credible amount of time and that they have provided services to multiple customers such as yourself.
3. Ensure That the Cleaning Company Is Insured
Is the company insured? An owner who invests in their company and its protection is serious about the service they provide.
In 2016, the legendary Goff’s Charcoal Hamburgers of Dallas suffered a vent hood fire that could have been prevented with a proper cleaning by a certified and insured company. Unfortunately, businesses nearby also endured major water damage and had to close as a result. An insured cleaning company will have no issue with providing photo documentation of the cleaning process from start to finish to prevent such disasters.
Until state licensing and laws are established regarding commercial kitchen exhaust cleaning in Texas, it is up to restaurant owners to conduct due diligence in screening and vetting experienced and insured cleaners. Don’t cut corners. Instead, come out on top with the reputation as a restaurant owner who prioritizes the health and safety of your customers and employees.