Monday, July 2, 2012

Catering and Hospitality Businesses in Town Centres Need to Think About the Neighbours

Copyright (c) 2012 Alison Withers

In many parts of the UK, particularly in areas that are attractive tourist destinations, restaurants and hotels are housed in conservation areas and often within ancient and beautiful listed buildings.

Locations within town high streets often mean that their neighbours are also businesses and also using historic buildings for a variety of activities from banking to retail outlets. . Part of the charm of these older streets is often their narrow and winding nature, but this also causes added difficulties when a fire breaks out.

A recent fire in a restaurant housed in a Grade 1 listed building in the centre of a very beautiful and ancient East Anglian town has not only virtually destroyed the building but also affected at least eight buildings as well as residents in the same and two adjoining lanes.

At least seven neighbouring businesses, including two banks and a pharmacy, were still closed two days after the fire while contractors made the building safe, including dismantling two chimneys literally brick by brick, and fire services continued to damp down the still-smouldering building.

It must be made clear that at the time of writing the cause of the fire is not known as investigations are still to be carried out but the incident illustrates how far-reaching the consequences can be not only for the business itself but also for neighbouring businesses.

Research by the fire service on fires in restaurants has shown that in the majority of cases the seat of the fire had been in the ductwork leading from the kitchen extraction system.

In many cases there was no regime of kitchen extract cleaning in place, allowing the build-up of often grease impregnated dust that can ignite from the smallest spark particularly in sections closest to the cooker and its overhead filtratation hood.

In the example cited it is not yet clear how much damage the fire may have caused to adjoining buildings but it is likely there will be a good deal of negotiation between the various business insurers over who will be liable for repairs. Repairs are likely to be expensive and difficult given that historic buildings are involved.

Add to this the loss of business revenue for all those who have had to remain closed as a result, not least the restaurant business that was the seat of the fire.

The moral of the tale is that while professional kitchen extraction cleaning may be a business cost that a business may wish to keep to a minimum, it does need to be carried out regularly to protect not only the restaurant or hotel but also its neighbours.

How frequently this should be done can vary from every three months to once a year, depending on the nature of the food being cooked and the volume of trade it does each day, but at the very least regular checks and maintenance of the extraction system ought to be given a high priority.

Kitchen fires in restaurants housed in listed buildings or town centre conservation areas can have a devastating impact on adjacent businesses, making regular extract cleaning important. By Ali Withers.

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