Service Bundling Is a Key to the Long-Lived Success of Grease Masters

Metro St. Louis cleaning company continues to wage a war on fats, oils and grease with efficient disposal and recycling strategies

Service Bundling Is a Key to the Long-Lived Success of Grease Masters

John Remstedt, left, supervises Zach Benoit during a grease trap service.

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During the last decade or so, a lot of things have changed at Grease Masters. But two important things have remained constant for the multi-million dollar-a-year company located in suburban St. Louis: An unerring focus on service diversity and annual double-digit growth for the last 13 years — even during the pandemic and without expanding the company’s service area.

What’s the company’s secret sauce for growth?

“We’re pretty good at what we do,” says John Remstedt of the St. Charles-based company, which cleans grease traps, collects and sells used cooking oil, cleans sewers and even rents portable restroom trailers. He co-owns the company with his wife, Pam. The couple and their business were featured in Pumper in 2010, and their success prompted a profile update.

“I know that sounds super basic, but we’re at the point where we don’t do any advertising anymore, except for our website, because our word-of-mouth referrals are so strong,” he says.

Of course, there’s more to it than that. Here are some other principles to which Remstedt firmly adheres: Don’t ever underestimate the power of great customer service. Don’t say no to customers. Bundle multiple services for customers, which allows for price discounts. And don’t be afraid to raise prices high enough to cover overhead costs, he says.

“If I can’t do something that customers need, I’ll at least offer to serve as a general contractor for them and hire contractors that can do the job,” says Remstedt, age 59, explaining his never-say-no philosophy.

“Bundling of services also is critical because it allows us to discount our services to restaurant chains,” he explains further. “If we can clean a kitchen exhaust hood and a grease trap at the same time, we can discount the grease trap service because we don’t have to send a separate truck to do that.

“And if someone adds cooking-oil collection, we can discount the hood cleaning and further and also discount the grease trap cleaning,” Remstedt adds. “Providing so many services makes it convenient for many of our customers and convenience is key.”


As for pricing services, Remstedt says he periodically increases rates, most recently during the pandemic to cover the rising costs of labor, fuel and insurance.

“Sometimes customers stick with us and sometimes they don’t,” he notes. “And if they don’t want to stay with us because of pricing, they’re probably not the kind of customers we want, anyway.

“We’ve followed a philosophy for the last two or three years of ‘firing’ bad customers,” Remstedt continues. “We don’t have any problem doing that.

“We want customers who understand the value of what they’re getting. … We always explain to customers that we’re in the business to make money because that’s how we can afford to buy and maintain good equipment and pay good employees a competitive wage and keep them on board.”

In addition, the company’s revenues have grown because some competitors have retired, the company picked up some national restaurant accounts and new restaurants keep moving into the company’s service territory. Moreover, frequent turnover among restaurant managers tends to keep Grease Masters as their vendor of choice when they move to new jobs, he says.

“If you do a good job, they’ll take you with them wherever they go,” he says.


The company employs more than twice as many employees as it did when Pumper took a snapshot of Grease Masters in 2010 — 30 now versus 15 then. The company also owns a larger fleet of service vehicles and equipment and added services like cleaning sewer lines, tanks and lift stations for area municipalities (including a five-year contract to clean sewer lines and provide emergency sewer services for the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District). It also now pumps out commercial septic tanks and offers portable restroom trailer service, Remstedt says.

Furthermore, the company has more than doubled the amount of business accounts, to more than 3,000 from around 1,300, and de-emphasized its range hood cleaning service.

“Hoods have taken a backseat to other services,” he says. “The labor shortage plays a big part of that.”

At the same time, collecting and selling used cooking oil from restaurants — a service Grease Masters started in 2010 — will account for about 20% of the company’s revenue by the end of this year, Remstedt estimates. The company processes the oil to remove impurities, then sells it to a business that makes biodiesel fuel.

“The price we get for the oil fluctuates because it’s a commodity,” he explains. “Three years ago, we sold it for 22 cents a pound. Last year it went up to 72 cents per pound. It bounces up and down and we don’t know how much we’re going to get until we send in a load.”

Doesn’t that affect cash flow? “No, because we base our pricing on $0.22 per pound,” he says.


To service grease traps, Grease Masters relies on two 250-gallon vacuum trailers made by Dyna-Vac Equipment, each equipped with a Masport pump. For customers with less accessible traps, the company uses three 55-gallon wheeled Dyna-Lite mini-vac pumping systems, also made by Dyna-Vac, plus two Conde ProVac portable vacuum units from Westmoor Ltd. The company also uses Crust Busters tank agitators.

The company also runs a Ram 5500 built out by Dyna-Vac for cleaning grease traps and sewers. It features a 700-gallon waste/300-gallon freshwater tank and a water pump (3,000 psi at 12 gpm) from General Pump and a Masport vacuum pump. It also carries a Conde ProVac unit. The company also owns about 100 oil-collection bins made by Wastequip, ranging from 100- to 300-gallon capacities.

Grease Masters also invested in three Peterbilt trucks to clean grease traps, collect used cooking oil and clean commercial septic tanks and portable restrooms. Each unit from Satellite Industries carries a 4,000-gallon aluminum Imperial Industries tank, a 150-gallon water tank and a waterjetting system from Advance Pump & Equipment (5 gpm at 3,000 psi). The trucks feature pumps from Jurop and National Vacuum Equipment.

To collect used cooking oil, the company also owns a 2005 Mack equipped with a 4,000-gallon steel debris tank built by National Truck Center. It carries a full-tilt bed, a 150-gallon water tank, a waterjetting system made by Advance Pump & Equipment (4-1/2 gpm at 3,000 psi) and a Jurop/Chandler pump.

The company also relies on two other trucks for cleaning sewers. One is a 2015 Isuzu NPR with a Hackney box body and a water jetter from US Jetting, featuring two 100-gallon water tanks and a hydraulically driven pump (10 gpm at 3,100 psi); the other is a Nissan NVE van.

The company also relies on a 2023 Vac-Con Titan LHAP combination sewer-cleaning truck with a hydroexcavation package. It features a Freightliner chassis, a 10-cubic-yard debris tank, a 1,200-gallon water tank, a Giant Industries water pump (60 gpm at 3,000 psi) and a Roots blower (a brand owned by the Howden Group). It also owns a Vac-Con PD4216 hydroexcavation truck built on a 2016 Freightliner chassis with a 10-cubic-yard debris tank, a 1,000-gallon water tank and a Roots blower. The rig is used for municipal treatment plant cleaning and exposing utility lines for contractors.


To clean drainlines, Grease Masters owns machines made by Spartan Tool, RIDGID, Electric Eel Manufacturing, General Pipe Cleaners and Valor units made by DCD; and RIDGID SeeSnake pipeline-inspection camera systems.

Rounding out the fleet are two International 24-foot box trucks primarily used to clean hoods. Each truck features a 600-gallon steel slide-in tank made by Dyna-Vac, a 200-gallon water tank, a Masport vacuum pump and a hot-water jetting system made by Hotsy (3,000 psi at 8 gpm).

In 2022, the company invested in a portable restroom trailer from Satellite Suites when a customer needed long-term restroom rentals for a local concert amphitheater. This year the company bought a second trailer; it also will be used at the concert venue as well as other special events, such as NASCAR races and weddings, Remstedt says.

“We plan to buy three more in the next two years, along with a restroom-service vacuum truck,” he explains. “It’s my retirement exit strategy because it can be a one-man operation.

“When the time comes to say goodbye to Grease Masters, the restroom trailer should be paid for – at least that’s the plan, anyway,” Remstedt continues. “I’m not going to retire and sit around or play golf. I want to stay busy.”


Speaking of the future, Remstedt says he’s trying to figure out how to slowly transition away from the business, which could involve selling it to his son, Brandon, age 40.

“He’s been with us since the beginning, so he knows the business as well as I do,” he explains. “Brandon pretty much runs the day-to-day operations, while I step back and look at more of the big-picture stuff — deal with equipment, lawyers, bankers and regulators.”

As for growth, Remstedt isn’t interested in tapping on the brakes and slowing down.

“Standing pat is not my style,” he says. “I want to keep growing the used cooking oil side of the business and continue to grow the municipal side.

“So I expect to keep pushing forward,” Remstedt continues. “If you slow down and become stagnant, someone else will come in and take over and I can’t have that. My pride won’t allow that.

“You can’t be an entrepreneur and throttle back and play things safe,” he concludes. “That’s not what entrepreneurs do.”


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