By Wayne Tomassi, CECS, CESI
1. How and where did your company start?
In August 2010, my wife Eileen and I completed Franchisee Training at HOODZ International and started our HOODZ franchise in LaGrangeville within Dutchess County, New York, approximately two hours north of New York City.
2. What area does your company service?
As a franchisee, we are given a territory to manage; however, there are currently no other franchises surrounding ours in New York, so we also currently handle clients that are within 1 ½ hours travel from our location. Poughkeepsie, Newburgh, Kingston, Saugerties, Ossining, Mt Kisco, and Yorktown are major towns/cities in our territory. Outside our territory we service Middletown, Goshen, Monticello and other locations in Orange and Ulster County.
3. What did you do in your prior life before KEC?
I was a Senior Facilities/Equipment Engineering Manager at a major industrial semiconductor company, with experience in cleanroom design, equipment fit-up and maintenance of both the facilities and equipment. Eileen had over 30 years industrial experience, with nearly 20 years in safety and health administration.
4. How did you get started in the KEC industry?
When the company closed the plant moving operations overseas, I lost my job 8 months before full retirement, thus losing 60% of my pension. As Facilities Manager, I was one of the last out the door overseeing the closing of the plant by BELFOR Property Restoration, who at that time was starting the BELFOR Franchise Group under its management. As Facilities Manager in a semiconductor plant, I oversaw maintenance of toxic, solvent, acid and corrosive exhaust systems – doing the same for grease, didn’t seem too far an extreme. Coupled with Eileen’s safety background, HOODZ was a perfect fit.
5. What does your company stand for?
HOODZ is a kitchen exhaust cleaning company, and like all IKECA members, strives to be recognized not just as a hood cleaner. We like to say, “HOODZ Cleans from Roof-Top to Cook-Top!” With my experience in the design and maintenance of major exhaust systems, I strive for my franchise to be recognized as a technically competent, professional, high quality service provider that not only cleans exhaust systems, but can perform preventative maintenance to keep them in top condition. In doing so, I strive that my business also positively reflects on other HOODZ Franchises and IKECA KECs.
6. What surprised you most when you started in the KEC industry?
That other KECs, the real ones, like other HOODZ Franchisees and IKECA KECs, should not be competitors, but work together to keep commercial kitchens safe and compliant. Our HOODZ franchise was given a list of 2,000 restaurants in our territory, which did not include schools, industrial facilities, hospitals, nursing homes and other kitchens in that count. Simply requiring each to be cleaned twice a year (reality is that many could also be quarterly or monthly), that’s more than 4000 cleans a year, almost 11 per day. Reality is that there are not enough capable and quality KECs to do them all. Therefore, there is enough work for all, we shouldn’t be competitors, and we should work together.
7. How did you get your passion for KEC and describe your passion for the industry in words?
As a lifetime engineer, I’ve always had the passion to evaluate, and try to improve everything that I am challenged with. So taking my engineering experience, I prepared a “Hood Cleaning 101” course that was certified by NY State for AHJs to obtain CEUs to maintain their certifications. We enjoy working with AHJs and fire suppression companies to keep establishments safe and compliant.
8. How did you go about making the quality control changes that brought your company to where it is today?
The HOODZ Picture Perfect process is an invaluable process to evaluate your crew’s quality by checking their before/after pictures. I also shared my phone number with numerous fire suppression company technicians which service the same localities as my HOODZ franchise. I request that if they ever find poor workmanship from my teams, to take a couple of pics and text them to me immediately. As a result, my HOODZ franchise also receives many referrals from those same fire suppression companies.
9. What were some of your goals that IKECA helped you to achieve and how did IKECA help you achieve them?
The CECS, and especially the CESI certifications complement my facilities engineering experience to make HOODZ of the Hudson Valley the recognized, best quality KEC in our service area.
10. What do you think is the greatest value of being an IKECA member?
IKECA’s members live up to the goal to advance the quality of cleaning, inspection and maintenance of commercial kitchen exhaust systems worldwide. Being recognized as a member can only be a strong benefit.
11. What would you most want to say to the AHJs about our industry?
Non-qualified, poor quality KECs could actually be more dangerous to commercial kitchens, giving a false sense of security that their systems are clean and safe when they are not. This is demonstrated by localities like Boston, the state of Massachusetts, New York City and others requiring the certification of KECs.
12. What would you most want to say to the restaurants about our industry?
You get what you pay for. Finding the cheapest KEC could actually be more dangerous giving you a false sense of security that your systems are clean and safe when they are not. You want correct and quality cleaning to be performed by a professional the areas that you cannot do yourself.
13. What is your favorite hobby?
Eileen and I enjoy maintaining our koi pond and flower gardens. We frequently enjoy vacationing where we can do some bass fishing, or try to catch some prize sized fish while deep sea fishing. Whenever possible, we like to visit and enjoy the experience of our four grandsons.