Author : Tommy Yionoulis

HomeArticles Posted by Tommy Yionoulis (Page 12)

The Ugly Truth about Dirty Restaurants and Yelp

yelp-300x225

Would you eat in a restaurant if you knew that the week before they got several people sick? You would be a fool if you did.

Yelp is going from a review site to the first line of defense in foodborne illness outbreaks. We’ve been very supportive of Yelp posting health inspection scores on their restaurant pages, and we would like to see more cities using the Yelp platform as a way to post those scores.

ebook_remarketing_funny_square

Yelp is going beyond just partnering with local governments to gather and distribute health inspection score data. They are working on an open source datatype that will standardize how health inspections could be uploaded and distributed. Standardizing the scoring data allows for better analysis and quick apple to apple comparisons.

As you read the article below from Food Poison Journal, you will see that people who were affected by the Salmonella outbreak were very vocal themselves about what happened to them.

OpsAnalitica will continue to support more transparency of health inspection scores whether it be on yelp or letter grades, etc.; because we believe that it is good for the restaurant industry as a whole.

With transparency comes additional responsibility for health departments and Yelp. Health departments must make provisions, even if there is a cost associated with expedited service, to reinspect quickly.  A restaurant that get’s a C on their health score that quickly remediates their issues should be able to get a reinspection quickly even if they have to pay.

Yelp needs to be aware that fraudulent reviews can destroy a business and need to put in place ways for restaurants to prove when they are being wronged and to quickly remove fake reviews.

Please enjoy this article from the Food Poison Journal.

Yelp to the Rescue in Los Angeles Salmonella Outbreak at Don Antonio’s
POSTED BY PATTI WALLER ON MAY 3, 2015

Over the last week, Marler Clark was been retained by two friends who both ate together at Don Antonio’s in mid-March and developed Salmonella.

According to Yelp, a lot more people did as well.

Hannah:

My co-workers and I have been fans of Don Antonio’s lunch specials for years, until now.

We had lunch there Thursday, March 19. One of my coworkers got so sick that she spent three days in the hospital. My other coworker and I got hit with the illness a few days later and not as badly, but we’re still miserable. I am shocked to read the other reviews of people getting sick and am so upset that this was preventable. I will avoid Don Antonio’s at all costs now. It’s not worth the risk of a trip to the hospital.

Jose:

Don’t go there . On Friday March 20 2015 5 of my co-workers and my self we went to have lunch together and now we all have gone to emergency room! Because of diarrhea vomiting head ache fever and much more! But the worst part is that we went so see the doctor and we are still the same! Now I don’t know what to do because I have tried everything and nothing work.

Scarlett:

Is management aware that several customers, including myself got very ill? I went here on March 20 for lunch. Shortly after I got very sick. I went to my doctor and then to the hospital. It is salmonella. I am so angry.. I read the other reviews here so I’m wondering if management is aware? !

Dionne:

BEWARE! I see others have already posted but my daughter and I ate here on 3/19 and she got salmonella. As of 4/3 she is still ill. I’m horribly upset to see others wound up sick too; I am posting in hopes no one goes there.

Golden T.:

FOOD POISONING!

As with the other Yelp reviewers that recently went to Don Antonio’s for lunch, my two friends and I also got sick. We ate there on Friday, March 20th. I ended up in the ER for several hours, went through two bags of IV for hydration, took pain medication, anti-nausea medication and antibiotics. I just recently started to feel a little better but still not 100%.

My friend took food home for her family. Her 3 y/o and 14 y/o also got extremely ill. She and her 14 y/o went to Urgent Care and she took her youngest to a pediatrician.

Our other friend, who has a new baby, was also very ill and is struggling to recover.

This is worthy of a Department of Health investigation. For my sick compatriots, I hope that all of us can fully recover from this.

Cassandra S.:

My boyfriend recently got food poisoning or so we thought it was just food poisoning after he ate lunch at the restaurant last Friday. He’s been bed ridden since Friday and it’s now Wednesday. We’ve been to the hospital twice and to the doctor’s twice. Finally, we received a call from the Dr. that he got salmonella. Not freaking cool Don Antonois. Really disgusting.

Veronica L:

My Husband and 3 of his co-workers all ended up with Food Poisoning after having lunch at this place. We spent the weekend at Urgent Care, my husband had diarrhea, vomiting , and temperature of 103.4. Him and his co-workers all have missed work due to the same. I would not recommend this place at all! We all think they recycle their salsa.

Andrea M.:

Salmonella! My friend are here on March 20, 2015 and became very sick. The sickness lasted for one week. Had to go to the hospital multiple times. Test came back as salmonella. Beware – don’t want this happening to anyone else.

Todd H.:

Salmonella! To everybody who has been sick from eating at Don Antonio’s, go to the hospital immediately because it is Salmonella. It was the worst week of my life. Hopefully, nobody else has to go through what I went through.

Leonel Z.:

Warning do not go to this restaurant…

My friends and I came to this restaurant last week on Friday March 20 2015 and we all ended up at the emergency room with a really bad bacteria and didn’t know what it was… They gave me the results today and they said i have salmonella. Eat at your own risk.

And, one from Trip Advisor:

Ms. L:

“SALMONELLA POISONING. Don’t go here”

We have eaten here over 15 years and I was horrified to find out my friend and I got Salmonella poisoning there on March 20, 2015. It’s unacceptable that a Los Angeles restaurant with an “A” rating can be delivering salmonella to its customers for several days. I’ve just discovered others online reviews (see Yelp) confirming the same thing. It’s a disgusting illness, worse than standard food poisoning and serious. Whatever they did, too many people got sick so they should be investigated to find out what’s going on there. It’s an extremely popular restaurant, very successful and there is no excuse for such an incident. Shame on you Don Antonio’s, what happened to all of us who ate there that week could have been life threatening, words cannot describe my disappointment.

Salmonella: Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of Salmonella outbreaks. The Salmonella lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of Salmonella and other foodborne illness outbreaks and have recovered over $600 million for clients. Marler Clark is the only law firm in the nation with a practice focused exclusively on foodborne illness litigation. Our Salmonella lawyers have litigated Salmonella cases stemming from outbreaks traced to a variety of foods, such as cantaloupe, tomatoes, ground turkey, salami, sprouts, cereal, peanut butter, and food served in restaurants. The law firm has brought Salmonella lawsuits against such companies as Cargill, ConAgra, Peanut Corporation of America, Sheetz, Taco Bell, Subway and Wal-Mart.

If you or a family member became ill with a Salmonella infection, including Reactive Arthritis or Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), after consuming food and you’re interested in pursuing a legal claim, contact the Marler Clark Salmonella attorneys for a free case evaluation.

250X250 SI Ebook Download

Letting your Why guide your actions

Check out this video on what makes Chipotle’s pork different.

Chipotle stopped serving pork in hundred’s of it’s stores back in January because one of their suppliers wasn’t living up to Chipotle’s animal care standards. I’m assuming that this cost them quite a bit in profitability as pork is a higher contribution margin item than chicken or steak.

I think that Chipotle’s corporate culture and commitment to selling humanely raised animals is a great example of understanding yourself as a company and what your customers value.

So often companies market their corporate responsibility but when the rubber meets the road, and they have an earnings call coming up, they cave and go for profits and alienate their customers and damage their brand. It is refreshing to see Chipotle practicing what they preach.

250X250 SI Ebook Download

#chipotlerocks

 

Sexy Thermometer Calibration

Thermometer

 

Shame on you if you clicked on this because you saw the word sexy; you need to get some.  We found this great article on Kitchen Thermometer Calibration from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  Here are some of the points that I found most interesting and the full article is at the bottom of the blog post.

  • Use distilled water, the minerals in tap water could significantly affect the freezing & boiling point.
  • Determine the calibration method by what the thermometer is used to primarily temp.
  • You should calibrate thermometers: at least once a month, when dropped, or if  health department regulations call for it.
  • Thermometers must be calibrated within +/- 2 F (1.1 C), discard thermometers that don’t calibrate.
  • Altitude affects boiling points, see chart at bottom of post to determine what your true boiling point is.

Calibration in Ice Water

  1. Add crushed ice and distilled water to a clean container to form a watery slush.
  2. Place thermometer probe into slush for at least one minute taking care to not let the probe contact the container.
  3. If the thermometer does not read between 30° and 34° F adjust to 32° F. Non-adjustable thermometers should be removed from use until they have been professionally serviced.

Calibration in Boiling Water

  1. Bring a clean container of distilled water to a rolling boil.
  2. Place thermometer probe into boiling water for at least one minute taking care not to let the probe contact the container.
  3. If the thermometer does not read between 210° and 214° F adjust to 212° F. Non-adjustable thermometers should be removed from use until they have been professionally serviced.

250X250 Thermometer.001

 

Thermometer Calibration

HACCP based food safety programs require accurate record keeping to be successful. Temperature is often the parameter of interest when monitoring a critical control point (CCP). To assure that a temperature dependant process is under control a calibrated thermometer must be used to record temperatures. The majority of thermometers can be calibrated following a few basic procedures.

To be considered accurate, a thermometer must be calibrated to measure within +/- 2° F (1.1° C) of the actual temperature. Actual temperature can be determined in a variety of ways including measurement with an NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) certified reference thermometer or simply through using an ice water solution or boiling water. Another option is the use of sophisticated, and often high cost, calibration equipment that is increasingly becoming available commercially.

The simplest and cheapest way to calibrate a thermometer is through either the use of ice water or boiling water. Distilled water should always be used as dissolved solutes in tap water can significantly affect both freezing and melting points. Another important consideration is the altitude (Table 1) at which calibration is being performed. At sea level, pure water boils at 212° F but at 10,000 feet above sea level it boils at only 194° F. Barometric pressure also has an effect on boiling point but the effect is much less than that of altitude.

You may visit WorldAtlas.com to determine the altitude of your city.

Thermometers intended for measuring higher temperature items, such as cooked product, should be calibrated in boiling water while those used for taking lower temperatures should be calibrated in ice water. When calibrating in ice water both the water and ice should be composed of distilled water. In either case care should be taken to prevent the thermometer from contacting the container being used as this could result in erroneous temperature readings.

Calibration in Ice Water

    1. Add crushed ice and distilled water to a clean container to form a watery slush.
    2. Place thermometer probe into slush for at least one minute taking care to not let the probe contact the container.
    3. If the thermometer does not read between 30° and 34° F adjust to 32° F. Non-adjustable thermometers should be removed from use until they have been professionally serviced.

Calibration in Boiling Water

    1. Bring a clean container of distilled water to a rolling boil.
    2. Place thermometer probe into boiling water for at least one minute taking care not to let the probe contact the container.
    3. If the thermometer does not read between 210° and 214° F adjust to 212° F. Non-adjustable thermometers should be removed from use until they have been professionally serviced.

Thermometers that are found to be inaccurate (i.e. do not measure within +/- 2°F of the actual temperature) should either be manually adjusted or serviced by a professional. Thermometers that have a history of deviating from actual temperature measurements should be discarded and replaced. To assure accuracy, NIST certified thermometers must be re-certified annually.

Thermometers that cannot be easily calibrated through direct immersion in boiling or ice water can be calibrated by comparing readings with another calibrated thermometer. Thermometers that may be calibrated in this way include smokehouse probes and room temperature thermometers. When doing this it is important that the thermometer used for the comparison has been calibrated recently. All thermometers should be calibrated regularly with those used for monitoring CCP’s being calibrated either daily or weekly, depending on the volume of your operations. Any thermometer that has been subjected to abuse, such as being dropped on the floor, should be immediately recalibrated to assure accuracy. Hard to calibrate thermometers could be compared directly with NIST reference thermometers but this may be undesirable as many of these reference thermometers are glass and mercury and could present chemical and physical hazards in food production areas.

Table 1 – Relationship of Altitude to Boiling Point of Pure Water

Feet Above Sea Level

Boiling Point

Feet Above Sea Level

Boiling Point

0

212° F

4,500

203° F

500

211° F

5,000

203° F

1,000

210° F

6,000

201° F

1,500

209° F

7,000

199° F

2,000

208° F

8,000

197° F

2,500

207° F

10,000

194° F

3,000

206° F

12,000

190° F

3,500

205° F

14,000

187° F

4,000

204° F

 

 

 

 

New guidelines require calorie count for food and drinks

An article from WIVB 4 in Buffalo highlights the upcoming federal requirements to post calorie counts on drink and food menus. The federal requirements only target restaurants and bars with more than 20 locations.

The restaurant/bar owners quoted in the article don’t feel that it will affect their business negatively. They feel that most people realize that they will be consuming more calories when they go out to eat and look at it as more of a treat. I think there can be a negative affect in that average check per person will go down and that deserts will be the first to get ignored more often than they already do now. Depending on the type of restaurant that can significantly hurt profitability.

The hope from the government is that this will help with the obesity problem in the US. I don’t see it having much of an impact. There’s a lot more education that needs to go into eating healthy than just looking at calorie counts. Plus all this info is usually available now online and people that care about it look it up prior to going out to eat. But most of us just go out to eat and order what we want then deal with the consequences.

What are your thoughts? Do you see this having a negative affect on your business? Do you think it will make a positive impact on obesity in the US?

I have posted the full article below:

250X250 Sign-up Ad.001

UFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — New federal guidelines will soon require many restaurants nationwide to post calorie counts for food and drinks on their menus. The menu labeling rule is part of the Affordable Care Act.

The FDA wants to make you more aware of the calories that you are not only eating, but drinking.

At Gramma Mora’s- a Mexican restaurant on Hertel Avenue, the message is: “It’s fun to go out to eat- and it’s even more fun to have a margarita with your meal,” says Owner, Liz Giovino.

Come December, many restaurants nationwide will be required to post calorie counts on their drink lists. It’s something some restaurant go-ers say they plan to ignore.

Irinia Arias from Buffalo says, “I think they put it there for a reason, but i don’t think anybody is really going to pay attention to it.”

The regulations will apply to all chain restaurants and bars with at least 20 locations. But Giovino doesn’t believe it will impact Buffalo’s restaurant industry.

“There are going to be people who are watching calories, but when most people go out to eat they are going to realize there are going to be calories they are going to have. You just have to be smart to decide what choices you’re going to have,” she said.

Health experts say these new requirements will help combat the country’s obesity epidemic by showing just how many calories lurk in your favorite food and drinks.

Owner Charlie Giovino says the impact should be minor, since people who eat out already know they’re indulging.

“If people are going to go out to dinner and they are going to come to our restaurant, I don’t know if they’re really going to be interested in that,” he says.

New York City began requiring chain restaurants to post calorie counts on menus in 2006, and now the rest of the country will soon follow suit.

Whether menu labeling has any effect on health is still an open question; some studies have shown it has no impact. But a 2008 study at Starbucks showed a drop in average calories purchased after calorie content was posted.

linkedin_follow

Busy Work the Profit Killer

close up of stack paper

Everyday restaurant managers transcribe data from one system into another manually. This manual busy work is a massive waste of time, it keeps manager’s off the floor where they belong, it is soul-crushing and incredibly expensive.

Here are some common examples:

1. Take labor numbers from the register system and enter them into a labor or expense tracking spreadsheet.
2. Conduct inventory on printed inventory forms and data enter them into a program or spreadsheet.
3. Data entering restaurant inspections or temp logs into a spreadsheet for scoring and record keeping.

250X250 Sign-up Ad.001

A lot of people think that because managers are salary employees “who cares” if they do a little busy work, it doesn’t cost any extra. That is a short-sighted way of looking at things.

You need to look at manager’s time from an ROI perspective. Every minute I’m paying this manager I should be getting a return on that investment. If there are two things, and there are always ten things in a restaurant, that need attention, then you should have manager’s focused on the activities that drive the most ROI in sales and guest satisfaction.

Use our Busy Work Calculator to determine what an activity is costing you and then determine if there is a solution that costs less than what you are paying for your manager’s time over an acceptable time period. If there is than you have found a positive ROI.

All of these individual 5 and 10-minute tasks add up over time. A restaurant that has 20 minutes a day of busy work built into their processes is wasting 121 hours or 3 weeks of manager work time over the year.

Here is another quick example, three waiters that stay on-the-clock 10 minutes longer than needed three shifts per week cost the company 78 hours of pay a year. Do you see how small things add up fast in restaurants?

We have a client, an area manager; that inspects his restaurant’s every month. He was spending an hour per inspection transcribing notes and scoring the inspection; we have found this to be a pretty common measure in transcribing inspections.

Because he conducts 16 inspections a month, that hour is actually two days a month of busy work or 24 days a year, at a cost to his company of $5,352 per year. With our system, he was able to save that hour. Imagine what you could do with an extra 24 days a year to focus on important stuff that drives sales and increases guest satisfaction.

Calculate how much your company is spending on you to do busy work by clicking here and using our Busy Work Calculator.

Not Going Paperless Costs Money Too

It was 4:30pm on a typical weekday around our house and we had no idea what we were going to have for dinner. So my wife decided to go online and order Garbanzo. Garbanzo is a Colorado chain; they are like the Chipotle of Middle Eastern food. They make their pita bread fresh to order and their falafels are delicious. She placed the order and I went to pick it up.

When I arrived they had our digital order printed out, like most restaurants they only have a desktop in the back office, so they have to print out the online orders. Websites are hard to print from in general, and their printer was low in ink, the order page was very hard to read.

linkedin_follow

The order being hard to read caused them to make one of our plates wrong and when they realized it they tossed it in the trash. The manager was viewing the order on his smartphone telling the cook what to make on the second go around.

The entree’s price is $7.49 assume a 25% food cost and that is $1.87 of food that was wasted. I think it is fair to say the paper bowl and labor cost of the manager and the cook cost .13 cents, and we are looking at a $2.00 loss. Assume that happens once a day at their 25 locations, and that is an annual cost of $18,200.

I get that purchasing tablets and cloud apps cost money, money that restaurants aren’t necessarily used to paying. Don’t believe for a second that restaurants aren’t incurring other costs today by not going paperless or investing in technology.

Moneyball for Restaurants. It ’s Here. On Your Tablets and iPads. Part III

Here’s part three, the final installment, of the Moneyball article. Part one was posted on Monday, click here to read. Part two was posted on Wednesday, click here to read.

Make no mistake, daily line checks and temp logs are important. But they are not the only thing that a restaurant manager should be looking at. In fact, a great deal of that data is collected on a CYA basis, and it doesn’t really affect the bottom line of the operation.

However, every day, every restaurant generates data points that can be recorded and measured. So, our SMART Pre-Shift Inspection Protocol covers all of the basics of an operations review and captures key data points that can provide deep insight into operations…all in an expedited fashion that provides ample opportunities to look for operations issues before they become issues.

Here’s a sample of just one of the protocols from our SMART Pre-Shift Inspection Protocol, but you have to imagine this running as an app on a tablet or iPad. The app itself walks the worker through the paces of a “pre-flight ” inspection.

Sanitation

  • Sanitizer buckets
    • Number of
    • Location
    • Rags present
      • How many
  • Signs of cross contamination
  • Chef and prep staff drinks put away
  • Hand sinks free and clear
    • Soap present
    • Paper towels present
  • Chemicals stored safely away from food prep areas
  • Dishwasher
    • Sanitizer ppm
    • Rinse water >= 180 degrees
  • Sign of pests
    • Yes/no

250X250 SI Ebook Download w Border

Just that list will prepare you to pass more than half of the most common health inspection issues, where a “fail” – which is a matter of the public record – can doom your sales for weeks, or maybe tank the restaurant entirely.

Want another example? Here ’s another pre-flight protocol, for management:

Management

  • Pre-shift staff meeting
    • 86 ’d Items/Substitutions
    • Wait Staff ready to go
  • Drawers

Accountability

  • FIFO
    • Day Dots – Ensure that food online is stocked to par
    • Ensure that food items that have a longer remaining shelf life are not being used first.

Now imagine this level of thoroughness – checked multiple times a day; as often as you desire – were also applied to your kitchen readiness, readiness for guests, building, server stations, kitchen, dining room, host stand, and temperatures. The list of sub protocols is only limited by your imagination, because custom protocols for SMART Pre-Shift Inspection Protocol are easy to create and “app-ify” on your staff’s tablets or iPads.

As data is collected, it is time-date-location stamped. And that ’s where the real force and power of big data can be brought to bear. The data can be reviewed in correlation to such data points as labor cost, food cost, Yelp reviews, TripAdvisor comments, or even the weather and road work or the frequencies of area traffic jams. By gaining perspective, using data that can be sliced and diced and compared, restaurants can optimize their operations…and their profits.

Why not bring the same rigors to a pre-shift inspection that airlines bring to flight safety? The same type of approach that surgeons bring to pre-op review, that NASA and SpaceX run with their flight crews? Given the complexity of restaurant operations (which just might be so complicated as to baffle the best NASA engineers!) we are really well situated to make data, big and small, work for making our locations cleaner, smarter, and more profitable.

linkedin_follow

Moneyball for Restaurants. It ’s Here. On Your Tablets and iPads. Part II

Here’s part two of the Moneyball blog. Part one was posted on Monday, click here to read part one if you haven’t already.

SMART Pre-Shift Inspection Protocol™ is a checklist system, not unlike the pre-flight checklists that pilots run through to ensure safe operations. Except that the restaurant data that’s captured is not viewed in isolation, nor just logged and stored and never looked at again.

With the SMART Pre-Shift Inspection Protocol, you can leverage your workforce to collect data, which will let you draw correlations between operations, sales, and costs. That will help you determine your shortest path to optimized profits.

The SMART Pre-Shift Inspection Protocol is performed by your workers at any skill level, using a tablet or iPad to log in the restaurateur’s most valuable assets: “in-game data.”

Since this approach is a protocol (a programmatic workflow, based on a pre-established critical path), the SMART Pre-Shift Inspection Protocol is not dependent on the skill levels of your workers. The intelligence is embedded in the protocol itself. Literally anyone can run the protocol.

linkedin_follow

Baselines are covered first. The SMART Pre-Shift Inspection Protocol captures data that is essential to operations and inspections (fridge temps, food temps, locations of sanitizing buckets… everything you need for CYA moments and health inspections).

But the SMART Pre-Shift Inspection Protocol also collects the seemingly extraneous data that could be far more telling than the fact that the cooler maintained a <41F temperature, as required, or that cleaning chemicals were safely separated from potential contact with food.

“Seemingly extraneous data.” What’ s that?

Well, we all know that restaurants succeed and fail as much on human interactions / human discretion as on the wholesale price of a salmon steak or a plate of wings. Much depends on the intangibles, which are really not intangibles at all, if they are recorded and examined.

Imagine if you have a protocol checklist for how well dressed the wait staff is. (Crisp shirt? Check. Spotless tie? Check. Clean apron? Check. Finger nails clean? Check. Tattoos covered? Check.)

Or if the protocol checklist checked that the side work has been done.
Or if you had a check-off system to ensure that your workers didn ’t take all the parking spaces nearest the entrance, when that act alone could attract (or deter) enough customers to get a solid second turn at brunch.

Or that you were aware that the ice machine is undersized for the required volume of glasses, which delayed the refills, which caused half of your patrons to skip dessert, which triggered spoilage, which made your dumpsters full one day too soon, which turned away another 30 diners who thought the establishment just looked filthy when they circled around back to park.

250X250 SI Ebook Download w Border

Click here for part III.

Dozens sickened at banquet

So probably not the best banquet to have a foodborne illness outbreak at considering the attendees. With 100 of the 250 attendees being lawyers and law students this is not going to go away anytime soon.

This article from Philly.com will be forever and will pop up decades from now if you Google search “foodborne illness Philly” (I just searched and a version of this article shows up as number 5). There are social media and Yelp! reviews that are out there as well, but there are ways to get those “expunged” if you will, but news articles don’t go away.

Although it appears from the article (copied below) that the restaurant providing the food has a track record of violations with the health department. The health department legally can’t publically talk much about the restaurant other than posting the publicly available information, but the lawyers and law students aren’t holding any punches.

It doesn’t appear that this restaurant is practicing a due care approach to their health and sanitation standards and it could wind up costing them their business this time. More and more data and apps are available to consumers to check on restaurant scores etc. Now more than ever, restaurateurs need to make sure that they are running safe operations. There is so much competition that most can’t afford to bear the cost of the brand damage that results from this type of press.

There are tools available that are simple to implement that can help drive accountability and prove to health inspectors that you are taking a due care approach to health and sanitation. It’s worth investing some time investigating what’s available. It could wind up saving your brand.

I have copied the full article below:

In one of the largest outbreaks of suspected foodborne illness in Philadelphia, nearly 100 lawyers and law students were sickened last month after attending a banquet celebrating the Lunar New Year in Chinatown.

But even though the restaurant has a history of food-safety problems stretching back several years, the city Health Department says it cannot publicly discuss details of its investigation, citing a 1955 state law.

That law hasn’t silenced the outbreak’s victims.

About 250 people attended the feast Feb. 27 at Joy Tsin Lau, the venerable dim sum restaurant at 10th and Race Streets. Dozens of the diners reported that they felt the first symptoms two mornings later.

Chi Mabel Chan, who has owned Joy Tsin Lau for more than 30 years, denied that the diners had suffered food poisoning from the banquet.

“It was not a problem with my restaurant,” she said, theorizing that chilly weather or festivities at a karaoke bar after the dinner might be to blame.

“Maybe they got cold or drank too much,” she said of the victims.

The eight-course dinner – well-documented on social media – was a fund-raiser for a group of Temple University law students, the Asian Pacific American Law Student Association.

“This was the worst case of food poisoning I’ve ever witnessed,” Antima Chakraborty, a Philadelphia assistant district attorney, wrote on Yelp, a restaurant review site. “Many individuals had to go to the ER.”

City inspection reports show that Joy Tsin Lau has long had a problem maintaining food-safety standards.

Just 17 days before the banquet, a Health Department sanitarian was at Joy Tsin Lau to check back on an earlier problem. In a report dated Feb. 10, Kyria Weng wrote “that current management practices have allowed unacceptable public health or food-safety conditions.”

An Inquirer analysis of city inspection reports found that the average eat-in restaurant in Philadelphia last year had 2.3 risk factors for foodborne illness, the more serious of the two main categories defined by the Food and Drug Administration.

Weng cited Joy Tsin Lau for five such risk factors. Several of those – dumplings held at a bacteria-friendly 57 degrees, and a lack of soap and paper towels in the employee restroom – were noted as repeat violations. Weng also found nine lesser violations, called “lack of good retail practices.”

But that was an improvement over Weng’s Dec. 22 visit, when she cited the restaurant for seven risk factors for foodborne illness (including a chicken held at unsafe temperatures) and 13 lesser violations.

Back in 2010, the city Health Department filed suit against Joy Tsin Lau after deeming it a “public nuisance” and issued a cease-and-desist order for “failure to ensure that public-health standards for a safe and sanitary operation . . . are being maintained.”

City legal officials did not respond to questions asking if the city ever acted on the order or if the restaurant ever was forced to close.

David S. Haase, a Center City lawyer, said he began to feel nauseated about 30 hours after the banquet. Contrary to Chan’s theory, he said he was warmly dressed and did not go to the karaoke bar.

A combination of nonstop puking and explosive diarrhea kept him bedridden for four days.

“It was freaking terrible,” Haase said. “I’d crawl back into bed and curl up into a ball, moaning like a child with the cramps.”

Organizers, in a post-banquet e-mail to attendees, said multiple guests had sought medical attention.

Thursday, nearly four weeks after the banquet, Health Department spokesman Jeff Moran would say only that a “food source” had been identified for the outbreak.

“We are not permitted, by law, to publicly release the findings of outbreak investigations,” Moran said.

He cited the Pennsylvania Disease Prevention and Control Law of 1955, which prohibits health authorities from disclosing reports or records of diseases. Though the law primarily addresses patients with venereal diseases and tuberculosis, its confidentiality clause keeps secret the details of all health investigations.

Most states have similar laws, according to Scott Burris, the codirector at Temple University’s Center for Health Law, Policy, and Practice.

“It’s pretty typical,” Burris said. “Pennsylvania is not an outlier.”

Investigators need some secrecy to collect sensitive information, he said, but the laws may go too far when it comes to alerting the public of potential threats.

“That’s a price we pay,” Burris said of secrecy laws. “It’s probably worth working on our privacy laws to see if we can find an approach that lowers that price.”

But there is no law silencing the sickened.

“If you enjoy being on your back for the 48 hours post-dinner writhing in pain, burning up, and exploding out of all orifices, then this is the restaurant for you,” wrote Jack Jiang, a University of Pennsylvania researcher who attended the banquet with his girlfriend.

In an e-mail to a reporter, Jiang said he had been bedridden for three days and suffered lingering effects through the end of the week.

Haase, who missed his daughter’s championship track meet due to the illness, said he had contacted a Health Department coordinator, who told him the outbreak was likely brought on by norovirus.

Norovirus, the most common cause of foodborne illness, sickens about 20 million people a year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The pathogen is often spread by contact with an infected person or by ingesting food or water contaminated by fecal matter. Acute gastroenteritis strikes usually between 24 and 48 hours after exposure to norovirus.

Caroline Johnson, director of the city’s division of disease control, said she couldn’t talk specifics, but in general said the goal of investigations “is to find out what happened, correct that problem, and move on.”

As for the secrecy, she said, “We don’t want to drive underground the facts we want to uncover.”

Her agency told Haase about the norovirus because “we feel that by telling them, they won’t need to have the wrong antibiotic prescribed to them or have unnecessary testing. It’s the right medical thing to do. I wouldn’t withhold information from them because it might have medical significance to their situation.”

Foodborne illness outbreaks in Philadelphia are relatively uncommon – about 10 a year – and when they do occur, they usually strike fewer than 20 people, Johnson said.

“They’re not always as impressive as this one,” she said.

“These foodborne outbreaks can happen to the finest of restaurants and it doesn’t necessarily mean that the restaurant did anything wrong,” Johnson said.

None of the lawyers or the Temple group said they were planning to sue Joy Tsin Lau. They have two years before the statute of limitations runs out.

Haase, whose law firm sponsors a table at the banquet each year, said he would continue attending under one condition.

“It will have to be at a different place,” he said.

In the meantime, Haase said he won’t collect the two raffle prizes he won at this year’s banquet: two dim sum dinners at Joy Tsin Lau.

Banquet Menu

Full menu for Temple APALSA’s 8th Annual Lunar Banquet, Feb. 27, at Joy Tsin Lau:

Chicken sweet corn soup

Walnut shrimp

Stir-fry beef celery

Peking duck

Spare ribs

Deep-fried fish Hunan

Veg fried rice

Veg spring rolls

Sautéed string beans

Black bean eggplant

Braised bean curd

5-spice bean curd bean sprouts

Kung pao vegetables

Lo mein

Chinese vegetable with hearts of greens in light gravy

Fresh oranges

Fortune cookies

Tea

250X250 SI Ebook Download w Border

Moneyball for Restaurants. It ’s Here. On Your Tablets and iPads. – Part I

Ever wish there were a Moneyball approach  to managing multi-location restaurants?

It would be a business model where we would field dozens of scouts ” who could fan out across multiple locations, logging in data, observing and recording in-game activity, ” and making note of even the smallest thing … like the fact that the day the dumpster was overflowing, the location sold 23 fewer desserts.

Or that when the men s room was dirty, the bar take was down 29%.

Or that at Saturday lunch (when the young wait staff looked as though theyd come directly from an afterhours party) you got only two table turns and not three.

Just like in Moneyball, an overlord ” manager would sit at a computer and view a dashboard of data, some of it raw, and some of it synthesized, based on algorithms. Hed make decisions based not on guesses. Not on theories. But on facts, gathered in real time in the field.  It would be a Big Data solution for multi-location restaurants.

250X250 LI
 Impossible to put in place, right?  Too expensive!

Heck, you ’d need to field a team of scouts out there walking the floors of your locations.

(Wait, don ’t we have that now? Aren t our managers walking the floors and building grounds already?)

And they ’d all have to be carrying tablets or iPads.

(Wait, everyone ’s got tablets or iPads now. If not, the costs are minimal.)

And the data would have to feed a system that analyzed it.

(That exists today as well, and plus, these days, customizing analysis of data streams is not cost prohibitive, especially given the amazing ROI thats achievable.)

So, with the workforce in place 

And the technology in place 

The only thing missing is a protocol, a process, a workflow that would prompt the workforce to start collecting data.

The question is: Which data? What things should our Moneyball scouts  be looking at?

That ’s where SMART Pre-Shift Inspection Protocols come into play.

With the SMART Pre-Shift Inspection Protocol, you can leverage your workforce to collect data, which will let you draw correlations between operations, sales, and costs. That will help you determine your shortest path to optimized profits.

Old Pilots Don’t Crash. Old Restaurants Managers Do. Ever see an old pilot skip a pre-flight checklist? Nope. That ’s why so few planes crash. Ever see an old restaurant manager (over confident that he knows it all) crash a restaurant? Yup. Happens all the time. That’s why we have to bring the rigor of the preflight inspection to the management of restaurants.

250X250 SI Ebook Download w Border