OPINION: Don’t let your perfectly-planned kitchen disappear down the drain

ACO Building Drainage 1

Drainage might be out of sight but it should never be out of mind. Taking the time to plan this aspect of your kitchen and get it just right can prevent a business disaster, writes Andy Buchan of ACO Building Drainage.

What’s the worst thing that could happen in your business? A key employee is seriously injured, your kitchen has to be shut down for essential maintenance work or a customer has a serious case of food poisoning?

All these things are either undesired or at worst business-threatening, so the foodservice sector understandably takes hygiene, safety and operational costs extremely seriously. Yet the impact of key areas, such as drainage, is not fully understood and often there’s much that can be improved regardless of the size of a foodservice establishment.

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So why is drainage so important? One of the key reasons has to be hygiene. It goes without saying that food hygiene and public health is critical to the success of any foodservice business — and drainage has a critical role to play.

Thanks to recent research and many independent studies, it’s now widely accepted that poor hygiene can be caused as a direct result of bacteria that’s present in drainage. Obviously bacteria can come from inside a kitchen but it can also migrate from the outside world into a kitchen environment via the drainage system.

So it’s critically important that drainage is designed to be as hygienic as possible in order to minimise the risk of it harbouring harmful bacteria such as campylobacter or salmonella. Good drainage also prevents the spread of bacteria by removing surface liquids, particularly from areas on the floor. This has the added benefit of improving employee health and safety because it also removes a potential slip hazard and the major cause of workplace injury.

Drainage clearly has a huge role to play in the hygienic and safe operation of a commercial food processing environment and the key to ensuring you have the right drainage system is to design out as many potential problems as possible by ensuring your drainage has the right specification.

When it comes to specification, there are a number of factors to consider. Steel is widely acknowledged to be the material of choice but there is a common misunderstanding that steel is inherently clean. That’s not the case. A more accurate statement is that steel is cleanable, so specifying a steel drainage system is only half of the story. Your drainage also needs to be hygienically-engineered and designed to ensure it minimises the build-up of harmful bacteria and it can be effectively and easily cleaned.

Approach drainage specification in the same way you would approach a food preparation area”

For example, sharp corners are hard to clean, particularly if they’re situated at a right angle or bend. And it often means there’s a very real risk that the corner won’t get cleaned effectively. As a result, drainage should have rounded component features and corners with minimum radii of 3mm. So even if you choose steel but have an ‘inappropriate design’ then the outcome will not be optimised.

When it comes to operational considerations there are three areas to consider: optimising the health and safety of your employees, cleaning and related costs, and the need to ensure your drainage is designed specifically for the needs of your commercial kitchen.

Some very basic requirements include the specification of slip-resistant products, ensuring the design allows accessibility for easy and quick cleaning, and ensuring the drainage is planned in a way that works with the layout of your kitchen and the location of key pieces of equipment.

You need to approach drainage specification in the same way you would approach the specification of a food preparation area. Write your specification so it covers the key areas of construction material, design and manufacturing criteria.

aco_16Finally, make sure the drainage you’re specifying is ‘future-proofed’ to cope with rapidly changing trends in food and potential changes in use over time. Construction and refurbishment of a foodservice outlet is a major, long term investment, but in today’s market food trends are changing rapidly and continually. In contrast, the infrastructure of a building, and particularly areas such as floors and drainage, are hard to change and having to do so can be both costly and disruptive.

If you want to guarantee a good outcome ensure you work with a drainage company that is experienced in the design and manufacture of hygienic drainage for the foodservice sector. They will be fully conversant with your needs and if they have an in-house technical design team they will be able to provide expert advice and the guidance you require.

There is undoubtedly more to drainage than meets the eye and only by considering every aspect of your drainage specification — and doing so at the start instead of the end of the kitchen design process — can foodservice operators get the drainage system their businesses require and save a great deal of money and inconvenience in the longer term.

6 key questions to ask

1.     Can drainage be properly installed to avoid causing damage to the flooring?

2.     What are your drainage capacity requirements with regard to hydraulic flow rate?

3.     Do the specified gratings have the right load capacity?

4.     Are the foul air traps properly designed to tackle bacterial migration from the outside world and prevent the build-up of unpleasant odours?

5.     Is the drainage designed to work with the flooring being specified to avoid standing pools of water?

6.     Are the sumps completely drainable with sufficient slope to prevent the build-up of stagnant water, smells and microbial growth?

Andy Buchan is divisional managing director of ACO Building Drainage, a specialist in the development of corrosion-resistant drainage systems.

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