Scent: the forgotten sense of customer service

Jon Lawson

Steve Martin explains the damage that these bad odours can do and how to combat this problem

Whether it is the perfume worn by a family member, freshly cut grass from a childhood spent on a football pitch or the haze of chlorine from summers spent lazing by the pool, scents can trigger vivid memories.

In fact, Walt Disney’s theme parks deliberately incorporate specific scents into certain attractions to enhance the experience.

However, what if the scent isn’t so pleasant?

Unfortunately for the hospitality industry, minimising bad odours is not as simple as keeping the kitchen clean and hygienic.

In a busy environment, it is all too easy for kitchen staff to pour leftover fats, oils and grease (FOGs) down the drain.

Left untreated, FOGs can block grease traps and drains and inevitably, will begin to emit foul odours when they start to decay.

It is not uncommon for restaurant, hotel or commercial kitchen managers to use artificial air fresheners in an attempt to cover bad smells.

However, all they do is mask the odour, rather than remove it completely.

What’s more, this method can lead to a sickly mixture of FOGs mixed with artificial perfume. This combination may not directly affect the food, but it is unlikely to create a positive dining experience for the customer, not to mention the fact that if the restaurant is in a hotel the smell will be carried through the plumbing system in to guests’ rooms.

Another method used by hotel managers and restaurant owners to tackle the issue of FOG odours is to use chemical enzymes to liquefy the waste.

However, this method has been heavily criticised for increasing the likelihood of problems including fatbergs further down in the wastewater system when FOGs solidify again. Chemical enzymes also do not reduce the lengthy tank drainage times that untreated FOGs can cause and these slow-draining water retention tanks can provide contaminants with the opportunity to gather and decay, further contributing to bad odours.

Digesting good customer service

As an alternative, wastewater specialists have developed new biological water treatments to digest organic matter without the problems associated with chemical enzymes.

Using strains of aerobic and facultative bacteria, this method will ensure that organic matter is fully digested by the bacteria. NCH’s FreeFlow liquid, for example, combats the foul odours associated with FOG build-up by digesting any organic matter in wastewater.

The FreeFlow bacteria outperforms sulphur-reducing bacteria and prevents H2S gas from forming.

Wastewater management will never be a pleasant act, however, new developments in science are providing hotel and restaurant owners with more effective ways to take control of their wastewater.

In fact, NCH Europe has also launched an automated dosage system for its FreeFlow liquid which delivers accurate measures of the company’s FreeFlow liquid, avoiding problems that can arise as a result of human error and incorrect dosing.

Recent studies have shown that cleanliness is the biggest underlying factor in negative customer reviews, having three to four times as much impact on customer perception as location or attitudes of staff.  Of course, cleanliness is not entirely based upon what can be seen.

More often than not, hidden odours such as untreated FOGs, can cause detrimental damage to the public perception of a facility. More so than any of our other senses, our sense of smell is closely linked with memory.

The aroma of freshly baked bread may create feelings of happiness for a keen baker and the stench of petrol can evoke nostalgia for a motorcycle enthusiast.

Similarly, bad odours can tarnish a memory or experience – especially in a dining environment. Regardless of the cleanliness of your facility, the attentiveness of staff or the standard of food on the menu, unpleasant odours are likely to deter customers from returning.

Steve Martin is projects director of wastewater and biologicals at NCH Europe.  

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