5 Ways to Prevent Restaurant Plumbing Emergencies

If your restaurant has a plumbing emergency, expect the world to know about it as soon as your customers or your employees start posting pictures and comments. Take the following five steps to both prevent and prepare for a plumbing crisis.

1. Address All Plumbing Risks Before Trouble Strikes

Have you completed a recent plumbing-related risk assessment of your restaurant? Did you replace or repair all high-risk plumbing components? If the answer to these questions is no, your plumbing system needs an inspection and evaluation of potential risks the system poses to your facility, food, and patrons. Possible risk factors leading to restaurant plumbing emergencies include:

  • Poor grease management
  • Faulty or neglected grease traps
  • Poor food-debris management
  • Old, corroded pipes
  • Improperly sized pipes
  • Aging water heater
  • Exposed pipes and fittings
  • No backflow inhibitor

If you don’t feel qualified to make such a risk assessment of your restaurant, call in the experts. Your plumbing company will inspect your system and give you a list of your risky plumbing components. The plumbers can explain bad workplace habits that lead to flooding or other serious issues in your restaurant.

2. Avoid a Restaurant Flood With Clog Control

The most common cause of restaurant flooding is a clogged drain. Clogged drains aren’t merely a nuisance to your dishwashing crew. Clogs can also cause bacteria-laden wastewater to seep over floors in your entire facility. Imagine having to replace carpeting, furniture, and other fixtures because you neglected a clogged drain. Your drains may be clogged due to:

  • Food debris jammed in sink
  • Grease buildup in drain
  • Foreign object flushed down toilet
  • Weather-related flooding
  • Backed up sewer drains

Dry ingredients can easily be contaminated if water rises high enough in storage areas. Moist, waste-covered floors also promote insect infestation and mold growth in your restaurant. All of these issues are more trouble to correct than fixing your faulty grease traps and drains.

3. Control Food Grease

The most common reason for a drain clog is trapped grease. If you don’t have grease traps and lines cleaned routinely, clogs are a certainty. Train your staff thoroughly on grease management including:

  • Which drains are suitable for grease
  • How to manage dishwashing and grease
  • Which drains are off limits for grease
  • How to clean and clear grease lines

If your restaurant hasn’t had a grease-related checkup in a while, have your grease traps and other grease-handling equipment checked out by a qualified plumber as soon as possible. Your plumber will advise you on a routine maintenance program to keep grease from destroying your restaurant.

4. Create Plumbing-Emergency Guidelines for Your Staff

Restaurant employees who are trained in emergency responses remain calmer during a plumbing emergency. Employees don’t waste precious time trying to figure out what to do next or whom to contact while water rises on the floor. Sit down and make a list of agencies and others who must be contacted in the event of a restaurant plumbing crisis. Carefully list the steps your employees should take in the event of a plumbing crisis. Include instructions on how to safely evacuate and interact with customers during a plumbing situation. Explain the difference between:

A. Plumbing issues that force restaurant closure

If floodwaters or backed-up sewage are in contact with (or will soon be in contact with) food storage zones, prep areas, or service spaces, you must close your restaurant with no exceptions. Flood water exposes patrons, staff, and assets to diseases from bacteria, rotting food, fecal matter, and chemicals. Flooded floors can also cause electrocution, slip-and-fall accidents, and even drowning if water is high enough.

B. Plumbing issues that can be solved without closing

If a clogged drain or another issue can easily be resolved, and that issue is confined to a small area, your restaurant may remain open. However, there’s no way to tell exactly which plumbing issue will lead to a big plumbing crisis. A clogged toilet or bathroom sink could potentially flood your dining areas. A frozen pipe that bursts may only spew a little water at first, then release a deluge as the force of the spray further degrades the pipe. When you make your list of plumbing-crisis responses, include simple, clear instructions on how to cope with all of the potential problems you can imagine, including:

  • Non-functioning or leaking water heater
  • Leaky sprayers and faucets
  • Burst supply and drain pipes
  • Clogged sinks and toilets
  • Clogged floor drains
  • Flooding from outside of structure

Post the plumbing-emergency instructions prominently in your restaurant message area. E-mail and hand a paper copy of the instructions to each employee upon hire. Hold group or individual meetings with staff to make sure each employee has a complete grasp of the protocol.

5. Create a Response Team

Every restaurant needs a response team to develop and monitor emergencies of all sorts. One of the most compelling reasons to have a team is to designate your media contact person. When you only allow one spokesperson to inform news channels and social media accounts about your crisis, you reduce the risk of false, inflammatory, or proprietary information being shoved in the public eye. You control the message about your plumbing problem and how you’re resolving it. Contact the commercial division of Magnolia Plumbing, Heating & Air today for emergency plumbing repairs or a full inspection of your restaurant’s plumbing.