It’s safe to say that kitchen drainage is not the most glamorous of subjects, but it’s one of the most vital things to get right. Jackie Mitchell examines current thinking
When designing a new commercial kitchen, drainage tends to be at the bottom of the list because the focus is on the appearance and functionality of the kitchen. Effective drainage is vitally important to improve hygiene and if it isn’t installed properly at the outset, it can be difficult to put it right later.
Duncan Hepburn FCSI of Hepburn Associates says: “Drainage needs to be planned as part of the building process. It needs to be installed in the correct location and fit for purpose. If it has to be added later, the floor has to be dug up and there will be all sorts of complications.”
Clearly, it’s easier to install drainage in a brand new building, compared with an existing one. Hepburn says: “In an existing building, we would design the kitchen around the drainage that’s already there. For example, in the case of a warehouse being converted into a kitchen, a third of the floor would be dug up and channels cut in concrete to install drainage. If a restaurant kitchen is being built on the fifth floor, for example, drainage would probably be accessed from the floor below.”
Historic buildings with ancient drainage systems may also be problematic – even more so for a Grade II listed building. “This would involve digging up the floor to install the drainage,” says Hepburn, “and maybe resorting to drilling through the walls.”
Effective drainage is crucial from a hygiene point of view, according to Andy Buchan, Divisional Managing Director, ACO Building Drainage. “Good drainage mitigates the risk of bacteria coming into the premises. People are eating out more these days and poor hygiene can cause major food poisoning outbreaks. Environmental health officers will immediately shut down restaurants for poor hygiene standards. Drainage gives kitchens an outlet for a lot of gunk. Restaurants have to ensure drainage doesn’t harbour bacteria – it must be able to be cleaned effectively so it isn’t a host for bugs.”
Kitchens won’t function properly without good drainage and crucially, HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) food safety management systems may be difficult to implement without adequate drainage. Hepburn explains: “In order for HACCP to work, hands must be washed to prepare food, raw and cooked food must be kept separate. If there isn’t enough drainage in the kitchen to facilitate this, it becomes difficult to carry out these tasks.”
Buchan believes drainage should be part of the HACCP programme. “Have the HACCP plan in mind from the outset so the drainage design isn’t in the wrong direction. The HACCP plan must specify how the drains should be cleaned at the end of every shift.”
Staff training is an important aspect of hygiene control in the kitchen. Buchan believes everyone in the food industry should attend a basic hygiene course, run by the local Environmental Health Officer. “Everyone must have a basic understanding of hygiene.”
Grease, oils and fats are a cause for concern when it comes to drainage. Hepburn says: “There needs to be staff training to minimise the amount going in drains as it will cause blockages. Grease, oils and fat need to be taken out at the source, put into a container and disposed of another way.”
Greasy floors can lead to slips, trips and falls, says Peter Jennings, Technical Director, ACO Building Drainage. “Good drainage mitigates the risk of these accidents. If there is efficient drainage, any grease, fats or oils which are put down the drain will be less likely to stick and there’s no spillage and overflow.”
Hepburn feels it’s critical that when foodservice consultants provide clients with the proposed layout of the kitchen, they highlight the need for drainage so they can talk to their contractors and builders. He says: “Include drainage requirements in your proposal with layouts, even specifying the type of drainage required.
“When we get involved in projects, we always ask what drainage is available. Is there only drainage for one sink in the corner? If you need a sink in another corner, more drainage will be needed – it can’t all be provided in one location.
“We need to educate clients about drainage so they understand that different types of connections, channels and gullies are needed at or below floor level.”
The choice and location of kitchen equipment also has an impact on drainage. Dishwashers, combi ovens, bratt pans and tilting kettles, for example, all require adequate drainage. “This needs to be taken into account,” says Hepburn. “You can’t have this type of equipment if there’s no drainage, so you need to make sure the equipment is located wherever drainage is, or can be made, available.”
So what does the future hold for hygienic drainage? Sustainability is at the forefront, with manufacturers looking at reducing the size of drainage and pipes so less water is used.
“Everyone is looking at reducing water including catering equipment manufacturers,” says Hepburn. If less water is being used, the flow rates of drainage pipes will have to be examined.”
Staff training will continue to be vitally important. As Buchan points out: “Although the reality is about reducing the amount of water in processes and the amount of energy used to heat water, you still need to reach the barista who left the tap on for 15 minutes while serving a queue of customers.”
Food waste disposal
It’s vitally important that food waste is disposed of in an effective, environmentally-friendly way. Several manufacturers have created systems that will break down food waste, thus eliminating problems with sanitation, odours and pest control.
As Lin Sensenig, general manager, Stero and Somat, ITW Food Equipment, says: “Food must be diverted from landfills because rotting food in landfills creates methane gas, one of the worst greenhouse gases. In addition, complying with ever-increasing government regulations can be one of the biggest challenges. The days of just throwing food waste in the trash and forgetting about it are gone.”
He thinks foodservice consultants can help this issue by educating clients about on-site equipment which deals with food waste. “Most clients want to do the right thing, but don’t know what solutions are available,” he says. “You need to understand the life cycle of food waste.”
Cutting waste, cutting costs
Consultants need to spend time learning about new technologies in food waste treatment, says Jim Slanina, president of EnviroPure. The future of food waste, according to Slanina, is converting it into a byproduct that can be used for other purposes in an economic way. “It makes no sense that vehicles have to pick up and deliver the waste to have it converted, that’s why we designed our technology to convert waste on site,” he says.
How does the EnviroPure system work? It breaks down food waste using a micro nutrient product – there are no enzymes. It extracts water from the waste, which goes through a treatment process similar to the way a municipality treats sewer waste. Depending on whether it’s a dry or wet EnviroPure system, the result is either clean grey water which can go into municipal waste water systems, or a nutrient rich compost material suitable for reuse in landscaping and agricultural applications. “There are immediate and significant savings through reduced pickup, hauling and disposal costs,” adds Slanina.
According to Sensenig, the Somat system, combining pulping and dehydrating, reduces food waste by 90% in both weight and volume. “If you put in 1,000lb, you will end up with less than 100lb of sterile biomass that can be stored indefinitely (without refrigeration) provided it isn’t rehydrated,” he adds. How does the system work? Food waste is macerated in a stainless steel pulping chamber into a slurry which is transported via pump to an extraction system that removes and dewaters the solids. Sensenig says: “If you combine the pulping and dehydration processes you can dramatically reduce your hauling and handling costs and end up with a product that can be put back into the land or for rapid composting in a commercial facility.”
What does the future hold? Sensenig sums up: “That it comes full
circle and is put back into the earth to improve the quality of our soil.”