This week we packed up our bags and headed off to the annual PS3 conference hosted by the California Water Environment Association. It was a great week full of learning and you won’t be surprised to hear that we particularly enjoyed the FOG workshop. So much so that we thought we’d share some insights that most resonated with us. A clear theme emerged for FOG program managers and inspectors – the importance of Communication.

City of San Jose – Print, Cross-Department, and Hauler Communication

Mary Morse and Ben Nguyen of the City of San Jose presented an insightful presentation into their Proactive over Reactive initiative plan developed in 2010, with the top focus point being…you guessed it communication.

Print Communication
San Jose’s print communication has taken two main routes over the past 9 years. First, towards the community with the FOGWASTE Public Art Program. This includes manhole markers, door hangers, and wrapping the entire DOT truck fleet with bold vinyl graphics. Second, towards FSE outreach with simple fact sheets translated to 5 languages and targeted ‘fix it tickets’ for grease control device violations.

Cross Department Communication
The FOG team also realized they should start using resources other than their small department to spread FOG awareness, so collaborated with collections to share processes, data, and understand goals. By getting on the same page they spotted problem areas sooner to reduce Sanitary Sewer Overflows. They also trained more people to conduct Grease Control Device inspections, which take less time than full FOG inspections, meaning farther reach and faster results.

Hauler Communication
Finally, San Jose engaged another stakeholder, grease haulers. They showed value for the haulers time by offering to come to their offices, kept training under two hours, and personalized topics for the individual company’s needs. All participating companies are now featured on their city website as free marketing to new FSEs. The city and haulers who participated now have more open communication overall, and some companies have updated their manifests based on San Jose’s recommendations.

Sticky Situations FOG Issues Panel – FSE Communication

To close the day, P3S held a panel discussion with Stephen Aguiar from the City of Livermore, Ralph Palomares of El Toro WD, Alison Piccoli of the California Restaurant Association, and Joe Jenkins of EEC Environmental.

The big takeaway? ‘Sticky situations’ arise from lack of communication with Food Service Establishments, often due to language barriers and high turnover. Alison suggests providing concise, multilingual collateral that can be posted in break areas, rather than big binders that get hidden in management offices and never seen by kitchen staff. And Ralph agrees, noting ‘Restaurants are our customers, so we should do what we can to bend over backward and help them’.

SwiftComply – Digital Communication

Our very own Mick O’Dwyer kicked off the festivities with a talk which focused on digital communication to Food Service Establishments (FSEs) and how it can streamline compliance tracking. Mick highlights a few key steps for success: 

1. Provide a clear, simple call to action. Request contact and equipment information or pump out manifests through a simple website form.

2. Reach out through the right channel. Email. Restaurant managers use smartphones, and once you collect their contact information (in step 1), use it!

3. Automate requests and reminders. FSEs definitely don’t think about FOG every day, so set up automatic email notifications and remind them when service is due.

We believe that SwiftComply is the best way to embrace digitalization and take your program to the next level, however, you can also utilize some great free tools like Google Forms or SurveyMonkey to make big strides quickly.