Kistner Concrete Products manufactures 20,000-pound, 2,000-gallon gravity grease interceptor for expanding prepackaged food operation in western New York.
By Mason Nichols
There is an allure in having a meal prepared for you. When someone else does the cooking, the most difficult decision typically is what to pick from the menu.
Dining out remains extremely popular in the United States. Even with the limitations owners and operators faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. restaurant industry still ended 2020 with more than $650 billion in sales.
Americans love to eat. And we love it even more when there is no stress, mess or work involved.
What most do not realize is that, for any food service operation – including restaurants, caterers and meal subscription companies – there’s a lot going on behind the scenes to get food from the kitchen to your plate or home.
A key step in the process is the grease interceptor, a piece of equipment designed to remove fats, oils, greases and other byproducts generated during food preparation before graywater enters the wastewater treatment system. This ensures that wastewater meets acceptable effluent standards before being discharged into a sanitary sewer system.
Much like customers seeking dining establishments to simplify eating a meal, business owners in the food industry seek sanitary solutions that are up to code and make their lives easier by offering one less thing to worry about.
Precast concrete gravity grease interceptors (GGIs) fit the bill perfectly, providing the ideal combination of performance, strength, resiliency and ease of installation.
Pulling the plug
Meal kit delivery has become incredibly popular in the United States. Industrywide revenue is expected to grow to $7.6 billion by 2024. While companies such as Hello Fresh and Blue Apron dominate the market, many others compete, including businesses with a more targeted focus.
In western New York, 95 Nutrition has developed a meal program that seeks to help customers with their weight loss goals by modifying their eating habits through portion control.
As part of 95 Nutrition’s expansion efforts, the company sought to retrofit an office building in Amherst, N.Y., for food service operations. To adhere to state and town of Amherst plumbing standards, the facility had to include an exterior gravity grease interceptor to handle all food service waste. 95 Nutrition partnered with Kistner Concrete Products, an NPCA certified producer member in Lockport, N.Y., to manufacture and install a 2,000-gallon precast concrete GGI at the facility.
For about a decade, Amherst pre-treatment engineers and officials experienced severe issues with grease plugging major sanitary sewer arteries in the town, particularly during the holidays when large numbers of people would visit restaurants along major thoroughfares.
Mike Kistner, vice president of Kistner Concrete, worked with the town pretreatment engineer and helped revise the town specification to require GGIs, resolving the longtime problem. The change also effectively eliminated under-the-sink products, which had shown to be inefficient as a grease mitigation solution.
“Amherst is very progressive and at the front of the curve for requiring GGIs at every food service establishment,” Kistner said. “By implementing this specification, they’ve totally eliminated costly and untimely sewer plugs.”
Orders up for precast
Depending on applicable standards, GGIs are manufactured using a variety of materials, including precast concrete, fiberglass and plastic. But precast concrete tanks generally are the preferred solution.
“None of the competitive materials possess the attributes precast has, including strength, durability and availability,” Kistner said. “In addition to being economical and sustainable, precast gravity grease interceptors are locally manufactured and have an inherent capacity for handling traffic loading.”
Such was the case for the precast GGI produced for Nutrition 95. Kistner Concrete manufactured the 2,000-gallon two-piece tank that is 12 feet long, 6 feet wide and 5 feet tall with a 4,000-psi concrete mix design. The structural design meets AASHTO HS-20 specifications, allowing for the tank to withstand highway traffic. Additionally, the Kistner Concrete GGI features a shoebox-style bottom with monolithic walls and baffle wall and a tank slab top that is sealed to the base using preformed flexible joint sealant during on-site installation. Gasketed, resilient, watertight inlet and outlet pipe connections also are included in the design.
Kistner’s company has been manufacturing high-quality precast concrete GGIs for decades. Because of the increasing need for these products across the region, Kistner Concrete makes sure the product is always in stock, allowing for a quick and easy installation for both business owners and general contractors. Product availability has been crucial for Kistner Concrete’s tight-knit relationship with Kimil Construction, the contractor that performed the Nutrition 95 Amherst installation, as well as for Kistner’s entire customer base.
Tanks are manufactured and inventoried at Kistner’s manufacturing facility. Thanks to the ability of immediate delivery, once the order was placed, the installation process was straightforward. A specialized loading and unloading rig on Kistner Concrete’s delivery truck loaded the GGI at the plant, delivered it and set the GGI into the excavation at the job site. Then Kimil Construction made the simple pipe connections into the watertight gaskets in the GGI, backfilled the tank and completed the work.
According to Nick Pfender, site foreman with Kimil Construction, the entire process took just one eight-hour day to complete. The most difficult part of the installation was obtaining access to an adjacent property that the team needed to cross to deliver the tank. The actual truck setting and installation of the GGI took less than 45 minutes.
While some food service providers choose to select a plastic gravity grease interceptor in these situations, Pfender noted a few drawbacks with that approach.
“With the plastic products, you first have to pour a concrete pad that sits overnight,” he said. “Obviously, you can’t set the tank on wet concrete the same day. So then, you have a deep open hole that needs to sit overnight.
“In my experience, holes that deep and that big don’t always hold up.” It also poses a potential safety issue and extends the project duration.
Both Kistner and Pfender also noted the rising costs of plastic as another reason to opt for precast. By installing a precast concrete GGI, the customer receives a cost-effective solution that will last for decades to come.
Reliable, flexible and cost-effective
Kistner was on the project site in Amherst during the installation. On the day of the work, he and Pfender talked about their collective effort.
I said, ‘Hey Nick, how are we doing?’ and he told me, ‘You guys are great! I call you up, you bring your truck in when you say you will, and we install it. We’re in and out. That’s how we make money.’”
Because the installation process is streamlined, Kimil Construction quickly completed the work and headed to its next project.
“With precast, you know what you’re getting,” Pfender said. “It’s not going to leak, crumble, collapse or float. The products have been around so long that, as long as they are installed properly, they are proven to work.”
Pfender said that, when working with plastic, in some cases his team must make adjustments if everything doesn’t line up perfectly according to the project plans. In those situations, they cannot always be sure if the connections are watertight because of the need to drill or cut a hole during installation.
But with precast concrete, even if adjustments must be made, his team can create the necessary holes, then install resilient connectors to ensure watertightness. In essence, in addition to strength, resilience and cost-effectiveness, precast GGIs offer the flexibility that alternative products simply cannot provide.
Nothing but concrete
To keep the food preparation industry running strong, precast concrete GGIs are the ideal choice. With resiliency, a long service life, strength, traffic-rated designs and a slew of other benefits, going with a precast solution just makes sense. Much like restaurants offer customers a chance to sit back, relax and enjoy a meal, precast GGIs offer business owners and general contractors alike an opportunity to focus on what they do best – serving their clients.
Throughout the years, this choice has become obvious for Pfender and Kimil Construction.
“If I had a choice, we would use nothing but precast concrete,” Pfender said. “I know what I’m getting, it’s faster to install and I know it’s going to last.”
Mason Nichols is a Grand Rapids, Mich.-based writer and editor who has covered the precast concrete industry for nearly a decade.