In the past, the word “casino” might have only triggered visions of slot machines and $6 steak buffets. But today, the term is more likely to reflect high-end games, extravagant shopping and world-class food. In fact, food has become a key selling point for many casinos.

But it’s not enough to have the celebrity chef. Casinos must carefully manage food operations to provide the quality their guests expect, along with the margins the casino requires.

Enter automated oil management: one of the most overlooked process improvements a food-service business can make. Automated oil management is not a new concept; it has been proven for more than a decade in quick-service chains. More than 10,000 McDonald’s, Jack in the Box, Burger King, KFC and White Castle locations and thousands of other food-service outlets have made the change from manual to automated oil management.

And casino operations can benefit too.

The most common benefits of automated oil management include a better return on oil investment, more consistent food quality, safer environments for employees and cleaner kitchens. Used oil can also be recycled into biofuels. While some casinos already do this manually, an automated oil management system can make it even easier.

 

SHORTENING BOTTOM LINE STRAIN

Automated oil management can decrease the amount of oil used in the cooking process, which cuts cost and improves margins. One noteworthy case is Wild Wing Cafe, a South Carolina-based wing chain. The chain reduced its annual oil use by almost 14,000 pounds, saving the company $150,000 across 13 company-owned stores. At the same time, food quality improved because the oil was properly managed.

“It’s not too often where you can improve your quality and increase your profitability at the same time,” said Joe Sciortino, procurement director of Wild Wing Cafe. “But that’s exactly what happened for us.”

 

LESS SLIPPING, MORE SAFETY

Casino kitchens are traditionally hidden away in the lower levels of the casino which makes transportation of new and used cooking oil potentially treacherous. Even for those operators on the ground level, oil handling is a manual, time-consuming and dirty process involving grease carts and slippery jugs of new oil or vats of hot used oil. There’s also a large volume of plastic containers and cardboard packaging that must be carted to the outdoor trash. All of this creates an environment where employees are at risk for oil burns, slips and falls, back strains or other injuries.

Apple American Group, the largest Applebee’s franchisee with approximately 337 Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill and Bar restaurants, found a way to eliminate all these hassles. Apple American’s automated oil management system from Restaurant Technologies eliminated both the oil-handling task, and the potential risk to employees. The oil management system is composed of two oil tanks—one for fresh oil and one for waste oil—and a secure fill box mounted to the exterior of each restaurant. The system provides turn-key oil management including oil delivery, storage, handling and disposal, and a web-based reporting portal. Employees use an oil filler wand to add new oil to fryers, and simply press a button to filter and/or dispose of used oil. Because the fill box lives outside, lines can be run from any location to the kitchen, even a casino kitchen located underground.

 

FULL OF FLAVOR

Oil is an essential element of flavor and having consistently good flavor is critical to driving repeat business. Research shows that customers are more likely to be loyal to restaurants, and spend more, for high-quality food. The same statement can apply to foodservice within casinos. While guests are there to spend money on the games, having a positive food experience creates a stronger bond to the casino brand.

To maintain consistency, organizations need to create and manage a schedule of fresh oil, oil removal and filtration. Popular casino menus and buffets, which serve a diverse range of items, have become more complex as customer tastes expand. This means that oil is used more often and for more types of fried foods. It must be monitored and filtered regularly to maintain a high quality of food taste, no matter what is being fried.

“We thought we were doing a good job filtering for the proper length of time,” said Jeff Lingel, area manager for Apple American Group. “Once we installed the oil management technology, we found that we were not executing for the proper amount of time, and there were times we weren’t filtering at all. Using the system, we are able to extend the life of the oil.”

 

SIZZLING SAVINGS

A number of casinos are already recycling used cooking oil for biodiesel and feedstock. This can provide a source of income and support sustainability efforts. In some cases, refining companies provide totes or bins for used oil—others vacuum it out of grease pits. While this is a positive step, it relies on the old, dangerous method of manual oil handling to get the used oil to the containers. With an automated oil management system, casino employees never touch oil. When it comes time to recycle, the used cooking oil is simply removed from the outdoor tanks.

Automated oil management is gaining in casino adoption. So, no matter which benefit you are looking for—cost savings, kitchen cleanliness, employee safety or sustainability—your best bet would be to start looking at how you manage your oil now, before your competitor does.