As businesses and restaurants slowly begin reopening, we cannot help but reflect on the resilience of kitchen exhaust cleaners and the restaurant industry. You see, Omni Containment Systems is a little different than other companies who have distributors in their networks; this is because we actively try to work with our distributors shoulder to shoulder. Our goal here is to create solutions that will help keep restaurants safe, are easy-to-use, and efficient. As kitchens were shutting down by the masses a year ago, it was no secret that restaurants around the globe were suffering. Kitchens shut down, restaurants transitioned to curbside pickup, and many scheduled kitchen exhaust cleanings were cancelled.

Abrupt closings of full-service restaurants across the United States caused most of these businesses to immediately cancel all upcoming services, including hood cleanings and fire suppression inspections. One of our distributors, Clarence and Erica Dorsett, owners of First State Hood & Duct, was facing a harsh reality that revenue was down 50%. We are happy to report that the Dorsett’s were able to survive the pandemic even when their clients were struggling. This month, we are going to relay their remarkable journey in partnering with Omni Containment Systems.

First State Hood & Duct

Prior to the pandemic, the Dorsett’s were eleven years into the kitchen exhaust industry and had become self-sustaining. Clarence had worked in lawn maintenance for the city and originally

started with a small lawn care business. However, Clarence met with a friend who invited him to go get certified as a hood cleaner in Tennessee. After, he and Erica decided to start First State Hood & Duct.

Even with their experience as entrepreneurs, they quickly learned that the kitchen exhaust cleaning industry presented new, unique challenges. When they first started First State Hood & Duct, they realized that the two established hood cleaning businesses in Delaware, at the time, had been there for decades and offered more services. In addition, many of the businesses knew these companies and were loyal to them. That is when they first learned the value of collaboration and partnerships.

Collaboration Over Competition

One day, shortly after their business had launched, Erica received a call from one of her customers asking if they installed kitchen exhaust hoods. This was not a service that First State Hood & Duct did at the time, but she remembered a business owner who had denied their hood cleaning services because they wanted to stay with the company who had installed the system. Luckily for her current customer, she had received the name of the company who installed the hood system. She referred her customer to this company for the installation. Erica did this several times for other customers who needed a new hood installed.

The action of collaboration over competition caught the attention of Mike Woodie, owner of Quality III Fire Protection, who had received several referrals from the Dorsett’s. He reached out to meet with the Dorsett’s and began to mentor them in the beginning of their entrepreneurial journey. They formed a deep friendship over the years. Mike would refer some hood cleaning business to First State Hood & Duct, and the Dorsett’s would refer some ANSUL and fire protection services to Quality III Fire Protection. After working together for five years, Woodie retired, and First State Hood & Duct blossomed into a self-sustained small business. From that day forward, Woodie and the Dorsett’s have maintained their friendship.

The Pandemic

Then, COVID-19 hit. Restaurants immediately began cancelling their kitchen exhaust cleaning services and fire suppression inspections that were scheduled to be cleaned between March and May. First State Hood & Duct first felt it in New Jersey where the government started shutting down businesses immediately, and then it started to trickle into Delaware. Like so many hood cleaners at the time, First State Hood & Duct, as a partnership LLC, did not qualify for the Paycheck Protection Program and they did not qualify for unemployment when it was opened to sole proprietor business owners.

At this point, they did not know what to do; they only knew that closing was not an option. Luckily, the NFPA recognized an even more detrimental crisis—the operational status of kitchens and buildings were at risk. The NFPA 96 fire code for hood inspections and cleanings was declining due to low occupancy status. The NFPA issued a press release in response, stating, “The National Fire Protection Association® (NFPA®), a global leader in fire, life and electrical safety, is urging officials to ensure that fire protection and life safety systems be maintained in all commercial and multi-occupancy residential buildings throughout the global pandemic. NFPA further urges that the personnel and vendors that service those systems be deemed essential.”

With hood cleaners deemed as essential, First State Hood & Duct was able to operate. This helped a little and jobs slowly started trickling in for them, but the Dorsett’s knew they had to pivot if they were going to survive. Germs became the new grease. First State Hood & Duct met with their chemical supplier, began a cleaning business, and started to clean  locations for COVID.

As the Dorsett’s navigated through the pandemic, they reached out to form partnerships and collaborated with new ones. They were eager to learn new ways to increase their revenue by being more proactive. The Dorsett’s learned how to change motors and install grease containment systems.

Partnering with Omni Containment Systems

During the pandemic, Omni Containment Systems and First State Hood & Duct formed a partnership. As  Omni Containment Systems works shoulder to shoulder with our distributors, First State Hood & Duct gained a new mentor on NFPA 96 and IKECA code compliance. This broadened their knowledge base to add to their expertise. First State Hood & Duct installed their first fan motor in April, and after that they started installing the Grease Gutter and the Grease Box. As a result, First State Hood’s business revenue was up 125% from 2019, leading into its biggest-ever month in October 2020.

Clarence and Erica are constantly looking for ways to improve and they researched different styles of hinge kits. They learned about the Omni style of hinge kits and why it is important to use the Omni brand. They began installing the Omni line of Super Hinges to help restaurants stay NFPA 96 code compliant. In addition, they reached out to Omni to discuss a particular issue they were experiencing with a national franchise chain. That is when they learned of the Tegras Concept, their new partner in hood cleaning. Clarence and Erica started utilizing the iFoam to tackle kitchen exhaust system grease!

First State Hood & Duct enjoys Omni’s partnership and collaboration. Clarence stated, “We’re glad that we purchased the iFoam. It’s helped us become more efficient and makes our cleanings easier. Gary has been great with helping assist with problem solving and being available for whatever issues that we have. He’s very hands on and patiently does what is needed to see things through.” If you’re interested in the Tegras concept, Omni Containment Systems’ team member, Gary, would be happy to assist you. Contact him, here.

At Omni Containment Systems, we consider ourselves lucky to be able to work with kitchen exhaust cleaners to offer them the best solutions for their rooftop grease containment systems. Working shoulder to shoulder with our distributors is how we prefer to operate. What are you waiting for? Reach out to Omni Containment Systems and collaborate! Our goal is to create solutions that will help keep restaurants safe, are easy-to-use, and efficient. Invite us to be a part of your hood cleaning solutions!