Most jan/san distributors do not aggressively market their product lines to restaurants because they typically inventory very few food service disposables and carry no food items; therefore, many feel there is not much opportunity in this sector.

Many restaurants buy dozens of cleaning supply items from their full-service food distributor because it is convenient, but I have yet to see one train their sales representatives on how to use them. Product knowledge and application is where the jan/san sales professional shines. It is the tool we use to build our business in other markets, so why not use the same strategy to enter this market?

The question now is how do we get started? Here are three ideas for breaking into this market:

First, many restaurants have carpeting in their dining areas. Managers often use upright vacuum cleaners to clean it because they are easy to use and relatively inexpensive. However, grease is constantly tracked from the kitchen onto the carpet and eventually the vacuum motor will overheat and burn out as grease clogs and freezes the impeller.

Show the operator how to solve this problem by using a backpack vacuum. Backpacks are built without impellers, so grease does not clog them. They are also fast and easy to maneuver around chairs and tables, and are versatile enough to use on hard floors and for overhead cleaning. Some manufacturers feature models designed for restaurants with a hose design that allows large items like chicken bones to pass through without clogging.

A second problem you can address when working with a restaurant is how to clean greasy kitchen floors. Greasy floors not only cause slip-and-fall accidents, but they also soil the rest of the facility.

Many managers teach their employees to clean greasy floors using a mop, cold water, and whatever cleaner happens to be available. The grease is only partially removed from the floor and it is deposited into the bucket, so the mopping solution is quickly saturated and it no longer cleans.

Suggest that operators use a high quality degreaser. Show them how to mix the degreaser properly in a pump sprayer, like one might use to spray weed killer or insecticide. Consider installing a chemical mixing dispenser, ensuring maximum cleaning efficiency and cost control.

Begin by sweeping the floor to remove debris and then spray the floor with degreaser. Allow a few minutes of dwell time, then agitate the floor near the fryers and ovens with a stiff deck brush. Next, fill the mop bucket with clean, hot water and begin mopping.

This method is more effective because it keeps the degreaser from losing its soil load capacity and also provides a clear water rinse that reduces filming and soil redeposition.

Third, have you ever noticed how black the concrete outside the back door of a restaurant is? Grease and dirt become layered and are difficult to remove through conventional methods. A pressure washer can be used but few businesses own one. Show the operator how to remove this build-up by pouring half-strength liquid oven cleaner onto it. Give it a few minutes for dwell time and then agitate with a deck brush and flood rinse.

These three techniques — encouraging the use of backpack vacuums, teaching the end user how to properly clean a floor and cleaning the areas directly outside of the facility — will likely be foreign to the restaurant operator and will make an impression. Teaching these valuable cleaning procedures will help separate you from the food service distributor rep and show the value of your knowledge and expertise.

Louie Davis Jr. is a 25-year veteran of the jan/san business, having worked on the manufacturing and distribution sides. He is currently a sales representative for Central Paper Co., in Birmingham, Ala.