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Local fryer management franchise makes life easier for fry cooks

Bart O’Connor spends his workdays making life a little easier for fry cooks across Lancaster, Berks and Chester counties.

Clad in Kevlar gear, O’Connor siphons out hot, blackened fryer oil from commercial kitchens, filtering the oil, recycling waste and scrubbing down kitchens.

As a franchise owner of Filta Environmental Kitchen Solutions, O’Connor extends the life of fryer oil, repurposes waste oil and keeps kitchens clean and ready for use.

He also keeps kitchen workers from having to undertake the uncomfortable and often painful task of changing out the 370-degree fryer oil themselves.

“In today’s world of understaffing, this is a morale thing,” O’Connor said. “I’ve actually been hugged by quite a few kitchen workers, they’re like, ‘Oh, great, you’re doing this now.’ We’re prepared to do this. Kitchen workers, they might not have all (our equipment). There could be burns, could be quite a lot of spills.”

O’Connor’s customers include large-scale commercial kitchens, such as the Manheim Auto Auction, Clipper Magazine Stadium, Cabrini University and Penn State Health St. Joseph Medical Center.

Focus on growth

Although he now manages a team that has recently doubled in size, O’Connor is still relatively new to the Filta franchise.

Filta brands itself as a pioneer in active fryer management and kitchen sustainability, servicing more than 8,500 kitchens in 13 countries.

O’Connor said he purchased the Lancaster Filta franchise in July from previous owner Frank Witman.

Cooking oil awaits recycling into biofuels in Filta's warehouse in Exton. (BILL UHRICH - MEDIANEWS GROUP)
Cooking oil awaits recycling into biofuels in Filta’s warehouse in Exton. (BILL UHRICH – MEDIANEWS GROUP)

In the months since closing on the purchase, O’Connor said he’s managed to grow his client base from 18 customers and 52 fryers to 33 customers and 110 fryers.

He also expanded the franchise into Berks and Chester counties, picking up clients like Albright College and West Chester University.

“The Filta brand was not something people knew about out here,” O’Connor said. “That’s been my goal, to really get Filta going. Last Tuesday I got Kutztown University; we’re doing 14 fryers a week up at Kutztown.”

O’Connor said Filta has national accounts with food service providers like Aramark that help secure new clients, although he also engages in other marketing strategies like cold calling.

He said 80 to 90% of new customers are from cold calling, sending postcards and packages and word of mouth.

“In the restaurant industry, there are a lot of people switching jobs,” he said. “We work to build relationships so that if they go somewhere Filta isn’t servicing, they think about (Filta).”

O’Connor said his previous experience as a Comcast Business franchisee also serves him well in his role at Filta.

“Fresh out of school, I’d go door to door outside Detroit against the first telecommunications overbuilder in the area,” he said. “If you were a Comcast customer, I’d try to get you to sign a new contract. If you weren’t a customer, I’d try to convince you to sign on. These skills translate.”

Filta representatives said they selected O’Connor as a franchise owner because of his proven skill in planning, organization, scheduling and routing, as well as sales.

“From the moment we first interacted with Bart we sensed not only his sales expertise but his business acumen,” Rob Totten, Filta’s vice president of franchise development, said in a release. “Because we’re an established brand, we can be a bit picky in our franchise candidates and Bart certainly met and exceeded all our qualifications.”

What Filta does

In his role at Filta, O’Connor said he and his co-workers visit clients for cleaning anywhere from one to three times a week.

The main service he offers, FiltaFry, involves grading oil on a scale of dirtiness, then draining dirty oil into a microfiltration machine, where impurities are removed.

“It usually takes about 10 to 15 minutes (to filter the oil),” O’Connor said.

While the oil is filtering, O’Connor cleans the fryer, removing carbon buildup and contaminants.

After the filtration process is finished, the cleaned oil is put back into the fryer.

Once the oil reaches a point where it can no longer be cleaned, O’Connor said Filta will remove the old oil and take it to be recycled and reused as biodiesel fuel.

“Usually, we’ll filter one time a week, and we’ll dump the oil and take it with us the second time a week,” O’Connor said.

Filta claims its filtration technique lengthens the lifespan of oil by about 50%, and its FiltaBio removal service ensures waste oil is recycled, creating an overall product that is more environmentally sustainable than conventional fryer management services.

“We’re making that oil last longer, and that can save (clients) money,” O’Connor said.

He said another unique quality of Filta is its focus on active fryer management.

“We’re really the only one that really does the active management, in terms of really scrubbing the fryer and making sure it’s clean,” O’Connor said. “We pay so much attention to it. We have the right equipment.”

As for the future of his Filta franchise, O’Connor said he aims to optimize his routes with new customers and new employees.

“Right now, I want to get maximum growth out of the three counties,” O’Connor said. “And I’m looking at growing into Montgomery County.”

His team consists of his son Jack O’Connor, family friend Jimmy Slavin, and two new employees who he brought on this week.

“I’m really looking to keep building routes,” O’Connor said. “A single technician can only do 10 to 15 fryers a day. I’m putting some capital in, with the new technicians, and a new van I just bought, I have three vehicles (now). Just looking to keep it growing.”

Source: Berkshire mont

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