— Interview with Tom Dunn —
R&R: Where are you based and how long has the company been in business?
Tom Dunn: Filta Environmental Kitchen Solutions is the U.S. franchise system for UK-based Filta Group Holdings PLC and has been based in Orlando, Florida, since our inception here in North America in 2002.
R&R: What is your name and title, and how long have you been with the company?
Dunn: Tom Dunn, CEO of The Filta Group, Inc. I’ve been with Filta since 2009.
R&R: What trades/services do you offer retailers and restaurants?
Dunn: Filta is a green company that offers fats, oils and grease (FOG) management. We extend the life of cooking oil by micro-filtering instead of dumping it; this saves labor costs, makes food taste better, and increases kitchen safety when Filta technicians instead of restaurant employees clean and maintain the fryers. Further, and perhaps most importantly, Filta helps the environment by recycling the oil at the end of its useful life, and having it converted into biodiesel. We offer Certified Green Frying and an Environmental Impact Report for any customer — to date systemwide we have recycled nearly 1 billion pounds of cooking oil.
R&R: In what regions of the country do you conduct most of your business, or are you nationwide?
R&R: What makes your company’s “signature service” stand out in the industry?
Dunn: We invented our service and created the oil management industry. We save commercial kitchens money and make them safer. In fact, our company was born after our founder had a close friend burned while draining hot oil out of a kitchen deep fryer. We’ll do a free site analysis to prove our benefits and kitchens that use our service can show they’re using certified green frying. We are enormously proud of our environmental focus, and, in fact, we just launched an aggressive environmental, social and governance commitment for a net zero operational impact on the environment across all our businesses by 2035.
R&R: What kind of feedback do you receive from clients?
Dunn: Of course, clients appreciate us stretching the life of oil with micro-filtration because that offers obvious and immediate cost and safety benefits. They also appreciate the positive effect of green frying — this increased focus on eco-responsibility resonates across many sectors and the public, and our clients’ customers are beginning to demand it.
R&R: Why should owner/operators choose your company to be their next vendor partner?
Dunn: Cooking oil prices are high and there is a challenge to finding labor. We can help with both, while also giving customers the environmental benefit of reducing their resources and practicing proper FOG management.
R&R: How many retail/restaurant clients do you have, and is that sector growing for you? Would you like to name any of your clients?
Dunn: Our 150 franchisees work in thousands of commercial kitchens in both single and chain restaurants as well as commercial kitchens inside casinos, hospitals, hotels, groceries, universities, business facilities and NFL, NCAA, MLB and NHL stadiums. Examples include Legoland, Hershey Park, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Dairy Queen and Whole Foods.
R&R: How did your company keep clients engaged and their facilities maintained during COVID? How did your company navigate most client facilities being closed during spring 2020?
Dunn: Filta has a diverse mix of customers and while COVID undoubtedly provided a challenge to the entire industry, our business actually increased in certain sectors like healthcare and grocery stores. We were also able to pivot quickly to help customers with a new service, FiltaShield, to disinfect and sanitize their kitchens, seating areas and drive-thrus.
R&R: In light of a very tumultuous 2 years, what trends are you seeing in the industry now? What is your advice for FM vendors reacting to this post-COVID climate?
Dunn: The best advice I can offer is to stay flexible and understand some of these trends may very well be the new normal. The pandemic has given people time to think about their lives, where they live, work and play, and how they approach business. Cost pressures should begin to settle down in 2022, but customers will still be looking for FM vendors that provide great value in an environmentally responsible manner.
R&R: What predictions do you have — for your company, your industry or both — in 2022? Are things finally looking up?
Dunn: COVID gave everyone cabin fever and, while we all appreciate our favorite foods delivered right to the door, the experience is not the same. People are back to eating at restaurants as well as attending school, football games and concerts. 2021 was a good year for our company and I am personally very optimistic about 2022 and think that trend should continue. At Filta, we have been working on new lines of FOG management devices and services which have been very successful in the UK and Europe, and we hope to be able to offer these to the North American market shortly.
— Tom Dunn is CEO of The Filta Group, Inc. This Q&A originally was published in the December 2021/January 2022 issue of Retail & Restaurant Facility Business magazine. For more information in having your company profiled in a future Signature Vendor Spotlight, please contact Scott Royal at [email protected].