December 13, 2006
By: Max Bowen
Source: Old Colony Memorial
It’s a dirty job, but someone’s chosen to do it.
Working with a deep fryer is a dirty job, and Walter Fonseca’s just the man to clean it.
In September, Fonseca became owner and operator for Massachusetts’s only FiltaFry, a business that gives the term grease monkey a whole new meaning.
“They are glad to see me,” Fonseca said, referring to the 21 restaurants and businesses in Norfolk and Plymouth counties that he has on his accounts list.
FiltaFry, a United Kingdom-based company for 10 years, opened its first United States franchise in 2002. Fonseca, a union laborer for three years, was looking for a new career when a friend of his turned him on to the oil-cleaning business. When his friend retired to become a police officer, Fonseca bought the business from him.
“l flew to Florida to check out the corporate office and here I am rolling,” Fonseca said, calling from the road.
Fonseca’s procedure is quick, efficient, and most importantly, clean. His first step upon coming to a restaurant is to make sure the equipment in the fryers is functioning properly. Next he removes the oil, where it is forced through a micro filtration cartridge similar to a water filter.
While the oil is cleaned, he vacuums out any residual sludge or chemicals and cleans the fryers. Fonseca prefers to work with the oil at its peak temperature of 360 degrees, which makes it easier to remove impurities. In a given week, the Plymouth resident Filters 3,200 pounds of oil.
“I leave notes about what was done and what they have left (for oil),” Fonseca, currently the sole employee of the area’s FiltaFry, said. “If you’re paying for a service, make sure you get what you pay for.”
The entire process takes roughly one hour and can be done even when a restaurant is busy. Fonseca works five days a week, although he reserves Mondays to give free demonstrations and expand his client base.
Mark Connolly, owner of The Cuisine of Mark Connolly on Sandwich Street, has been working with Fonseca since he started the business in September. Though a little apprehensive at first, Connolly said he was very impressed with the demonstration
“It just takes all the impurities out of the oil,” Connolly said. “Plus, you put a better product out.”
FiltaFry’s first year of franchising in the United States brought top rankings in the Entrepreneur Top 500 Franchise listing several categories, including Top Home-Based Franchises and Top Low-Cost Franchises.
Plymouth’s Bugaboo Creek is one of Fonseca’s many customers. Managing Partner Jim
Hanley attributed a savings of hundreds of dollars a month due to FiltaFry, which pays the restaurant a visit once a week.
“He’s directly influenced in a positive way the quality of our food,” Hanley said. “And he’s saved me money.”
Along with higher quality food, Fonseca’s clients see a drop in their expenses. The FiltaFry system extends the life and quality of the cooking oil, which saves money in fewer pounds of oil disposed. Often times cleaning crews will use chemicals to clean the fryers, a process which must be repeated several times.
“He has a different system,” Hanley said, referring to Fonseca’s cleaning methods. “He takes what they do and makes it better.”
Most employees are reluctant when asked to clean out the fryer, and Fonseca said his business helps others to retain their staff by eliminating the least-loved part of the job. Cleaning the fryers can be hazardous, and Fonseca estimates he saves the average business $3,000 a year in medical claims.
“People are concerned about the liability,” said Fonseca. ‘”Those non-slip boots are key.”
For the most part, Fonseca works in Norfolk County, cleaning the fryers at Outback Steakhouse, Wellesley College, F1 in Boston, and Newbury College, although Plymouth businesses like Bugaboo and the Cuisine of Mark Connolly have requested his services.
He hopes to hire employees in the future, leaving him free to bring in more customers through free demonstrations.
But his main goal? Clean the oil at Gillette Stadium.
“I know there are a lot of fryers in there,” Fonseca said, laughing.