Oil Management Helps Run a Tight Ship

The Queen Mary is a hotel with a storied history. Once a glamorous ocean liner equipped with swimming pools and grandiose ballrooms, the ship first departed in 1936 and carried notable passengers such as Winston Churchill, Bob Hope, and Clark Gable. At the onset of World War II, however, the Queen Mary was stripped of its luxury amenities, painted a camouflage gray, and reset as the “Gray Ghost” to serve as one of the fastest troopships. Once the war ended, the Queen Mary was restored to its original glory and resumed passenger service for two decades, until it was permanently docked in Long Beach, Calif., in 1967. Today, the ocean liner functions as a floating attraction and 355-room hotel.

But with the ship’s old age came a unique set of operational challenges, including a faulty kitchen plumbing system. The hotel tasked William Murray, who joined the crew as director of facilities in 2014, with solving the kitchen maintenance issues that plagued the ship. The hotel was experiencing clogged pipes due to fryer oil being poured down the drain. Instead of whisking oils away, the plumbing backed up into the kitchen and grand salon just one month into Murray’s time at the hotel, resulting in $100,000 worth of damage.

“I quickly learned that kitchen employees had no process in place for [used cooking] oil containment,” he says. “As we used hydro-jet to clean our main plumbing lines, huge chunks of used cooking oil came out. The system’s used cooking oil traps were working, but it was evident that they weren’t being maintained properly.”

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Employees could hardly be blamed for the improper maintenance, though. Disposing of the oil was a cumbersome job that involved draining and cooling cooking oil in a bucket in the kitchen, then carrying the oil a few hundred feet down stairs and in outside conditions to the designated disposal container. Thus, many employees opted for disposal via sink rather than the long trek out to the container.

“It was a cumbersome process, and the bucket was often bumped around during transport, spilling oil,” Murray explains. “It caused a safety issue.”

Seeking any kind of help he could find to remedy the hotel’s serious kitchen issues, Murray attended a trade show in November 2014 where he was introduced to Restaurant Technologies (RTI), and, subsequently, an oil management system—something the kitchen desperately needed to continue its food and beverage operations. After clearing the plumbing and waste lines, the system was put in place to improve cleanliness, safety, and sustainability, while also eliminating any future mess.

“The oil management system gives us end-to-end control over how the oil comes in and is disposed of, there are no more cardboard and plastic containers to deal with; and that means less handling for shipping and receiving and better sustainability,” Murray explains. “The system can be drained and filled while the oil is hot, so we no longer have to wait until it cools down. RTI just backs up the truck, picks up the oil, fills the new oil, and then they are gone.”

With the new system in place, the ship is saving up to 30 percent of what it used to spend on cooking oil, and weekly oil usage is down 40 percent, saving thousands in annual costs. On the sustainability front, the elimination of cardboard and plastic containers has allowed the hotel to work toward a LEED certification. And, best of all for guests, the hotel’s food quality has improved due to regularly filtering the oil properly. “In this instance, we hit a home run on all accounts,” Murray says.

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