In a recent post, we talked about ecologizers, which are sometimes required to meet Vancouver’s building bylaws for kitchen exhaust.
In this post, we will talk about another element of your restaurant or food service location that is critically important, the ability to install a correctly sized grease interceptor.
The role of a grease interceptor is to capture fats, oils, and greases found in everyday foods. These may be present in cooking oils, butter, mayonnaise, dairy products, gravies, sauces, or even coffee beans.
Municipalities do not want grease dumped into sewers because it damages the infrastructure of city sanitary systems when it builds up. Public dollars are spent every year to remove the clogs and repair the damages.
Since 2012, the city of Vancouver has mandated grease interceptors for all food service commercial kitchens and any other type of business that is dumping what the municipality considers to be “grease” into the sanitary system.
A grease interceptor is also known as a “grease trap.” It is a device that separates fats and oils from wastewater.
A good analogy is to think of a gravy boat. The grease and the cooking fats can separate and float to the top, and the gravy on the bottom can be poured onto your food.
A grease interceptor must be appropriately sized to work correctly. To ensure it is adequately sized, you should collaborate with a mechanical engineer. This is one reason why the City of Vancouver requires a mechanical engineer’s input and approval on all restaurant submissions.
Although this topic has been part of a debate over the last decade, in April 2021, the city of Vancouver revised its sizing requirements for grease interceptors in a way that is more in line with industry norms elsewhere.
How Does This Pertain to Your Restaurant Location?
There are three options for installing a grease interceptor:
1. A single interceptor installed on the ceiling of the floor below you.
2. A single interceptor recessed into the ground.
3. A series of small grease interceptors.
Let’s discuss each of these in more detail.
The first and least costly way to install a grease interceptor is to mount it to the ceiling of the floor below you. This involves drilling a hole through the floor that your restaurant is on and tying the plumbing into the grease interceptor below.
This option requires you to have an accessible ceiling in the downstairs area. If you are located on the main floor of a building, access to the ceiling is often found in the parkade. It is critical to have a location approved by the governing body of the building where the grease interceptor can be mounted to the ceiling.
You can contract with a third-party environmental company to service your grease interceptor every month. That company’s job is to remove the fats from the unit to maintain its effectiveness in separating the grease from the water.
If the grease interceptor cannot be mounted to the floor's ceiling, it can be placed on the base of the floor downstairs. However, it is essential to keep in mind the required plumbing grade from the grease interceptor to the main sanitary line of the building.
The second way that grease interceptors are installed is recessed into the ground. If you are on the on-grade level of a building—meaning there is no floor below you—you must cut an extensive series of trenches and a hole for a properly sized grease interceptor.
Like the trenches, the hole itself will not be small. It is quite common for a 2,000–3,000 square-foot restaurant to require a 150-gallon permanent grease interceptor. The hole needed for that would be about 5 feet long by 4 feet wide by 4 feet deep.
To make that happen, you usually need structural approval to cut into the slab. You must dig, often by hand, because it is not always feasible to get machinery into the building to do it for you. You must then dispose of the material. Next, you need to have the applicable sub-grade plumbing roughed in to have inspected and then backfilled. Finally, the concrete must be repaired.
Even though we perform this work often—and quite often it is required—this is a more costly way to achieve a single grease interceptor for your restaurant. Keep in mind that the cover of the grease interceptor must be open and exposed; that is why it is usually located in the kitchen away from customers’ eyes.
Grease interceptors also need to be maintained monthly, so a company must park a vacuum truck outside and run a hose inside to suck the grease out of the unit. Those are all different things to keep in mind about how the location of your restaurant can impact the initial cost and ongoing maintenance requirements for your grease interceptor.
Another way to install a grease interceptor in your location is to mount a series of small grease interceptors instead of a single unit.
We sometimes run into situations where the first two options discussed above are impractical or impossible, e.g., for structural reasons.
We then get into a scenario where multiple smaller grease interceptors are designed to sit next to the unit(s) requiring grease separation.
Consider a commercial kitchen. Your dishwasher, prep sink, and bar sink all need to tie into the grease interceptor.
In this case, you might think of installing three smaller grease interceptors. One can be placed under the counter, another under the sink, and the third close to your dishwasher.
If your restaurant needs a total of 150 gallons per minute of total grease interceptors, you may be able to split that into three 50 gallon per minute units. Or, you could have one 75 gallon unit and three 25 gallon per minute units.
Even accounting for how expensive the second option we discussed can be (recessing a unit into the ground), installing multiple units is usually the least desirable option for installing grease interceptors.
One reason is that it takes up significant floor space. Another is that you need to consider the grade for plumbing each grease interceptor to the main drainage. So, it gets pretty complicated to make sure all your levels work.
If you want to have a floor drain in your kitchen, it will need to be tied into your grease interceptor. You cannot have a floor drain in your kitchen if you cannot have your grease interceptor below the grade of your floor.
If you have a mop sink, which you need for any commercial kitchen in Vancouver, you will have to raise the mop sink off the floor to get your grade to tie into that local grease interceptor.
Considerations involving grease interceptors can influence the functional use of your space.
A grease interceptor is mandatory when you are operating a commercial kitchen in Vancouver.
For these reasons, it is so important to have an experienced contractor inspect your space before signing the lease to help determine if it will be an appropriate location.
If you do not account for the installation requirements for a grease interceptor, an ecologizer, and other required components for your kitchen, the costs to build your restaurant and operate it may exceed your expectations.
Mercury Contracting can assist you in choosing a location that will minimize your expenses. If you have already settled on a venue, we can help you find the most cost-effective way to install a grease interceptor to satisfy the city of Vancouver’s requirements.