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Feds roll out new way to analyze food outbreak data

Interesting article from the University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy about the US Government improving methods for sifting through data to estimate which foods are contributing to outbreaks. They focused the report on the four main outbreaks: Salmonella, Escherichia coli O157, Listeria monocytogenes, and Campylobacter.

It’s great that the government is focusing on these issues and trying to use data to draw correlations to try to minimize these outbreaks, but what I found most intriguing were the breakdowns of the various food groups by outbreak. Here’s what they found:

  • Salmonella: seeded vegetables (18%), eggs (12%), fruits (12%), chicken (10%), sprouts (8%), beef (9%), and pork (8%)
  • E coli O157: beef, 46%; vegetable row crops, 36%
  • Campylobacter: dairy foods, 66%; chicken, 8%
  • Listeria: fruits, 50%; dairy, 31%

Salmonella spans quite a variety of food groups and dramatically more than the others. The full article is below:

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US government agencies today reported on what they billed as an improved method for sifting foodborne disease outbreak data to estimate the contributions of different foods to outbreaks sparked by four common types of foodborne bacteria.

The report, focusing on outbreaks involvingSalmonella, Escherichia coli O157, Listeria monocytogenes, and Campylobacter, estimates the percentages of such outbreaks that were related to various foods from 1998 to 2012.

It was developed by the Interagency Food Safety Analytics Collaboration (IFSAC), a partnership of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration, and the Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, according to a CDC statement today.

In general, the analysis found that Salmonella outbreaks were caused by a wide range of food categories, with no particular one predominant, whereas just two food categories were dominant contributors to outbreaks of each of the other three pathogens.

“The new estimates, combined with other data, may shape agency priorities and support the development of regulations and performance standards and measures, among other activities,” the CDC statement said. “The recently developed method employs new food categories that align with categories used to regulate food products and emphasizes more recent outbreak data.”

Four leading pathogens

The CDC estimates that the four pathogens cause 1.9 million cases of foodborne illness each year.

The 12-page report says the four pathogens were blamed for 2,655 foodborne outbreaks between 1998 and 2012, but the study focused only on 952 outbreaks for which the implicated food or foods could be assigned to a single food category. Of the 952 outbreaks, 597 were caused by Salmonella, 170 by E coli O157, 161 by Campylobacter, and 24 by Listeria.

The report describes various statistical methods used to refine the estimates, including steps to smooth variations in outbreak size and reduce the influence of outliers. In the interest of timeliness, the model gives greater weight to data from 2008 through 2012 than data from the earlier years. The agencies divided foods into 17 categories.

Among principal findings, the authors found that seven food categories accounted for 77% ofSalmonella cases: seeded vegetables (18%), eggs (12%), fruits (12%), chicken (10%), sprouts (8%), beef (9%), and pork (8%).

In contrast, for each of the other three pathogens, just two food categories accounted for the majority of cases, as follows:

  • E coli O157: beef, 46%; vegetable row crops, 36%
  • Campylobacter: dairy foods, 66%; chicken, 8%
  • Listeria: fruits, 50%; dairy, 31%

The CDC cautions, however, that the Listeria data were sparse, leading to considerable statistical uncertainty (wide confidence intervals), and the 50% estimate for fruit reflects the impact of a large cantaloupe-related outbreak in 2011.

Toward greater consistency

The report acknowledges a number of limitations, including that it covers only foodborne disease outbreak cases, not sporadic cases.

It states, however, “Our novel approach produces better estimated attribution percentages than those based solely on the observed numbers of outbreaks and outbreak illnesses, and can be used to produce new estimates when outbreak data are updated.” In addition, it says that having consensus on one analytic approach may make for greater consistency in interpretation of estimates across different federal agencies.

The CDC said IFSAC was scheduled to describe its methods at a public meeting in Washington, DC, today, as part of federal efforts to improve foodborne illness source attribution.

 

How much money do we lose every year?

 

Having manager’s perform SMART Pre-Shift Inspections every meal period refocuses them on what is important to running a successful operation. The benefit of focus is something that I had to rediscover recently, but it makes so much sense.

We don’t do enough as an industry to focus and ground our manager’s every single shift on what is important to running a profitable business, and it is a gigantic missed opportunity. Managers are expected to be multi-tasking omnipotent robots that can instantly shift between their different responsibilities, and that is just not always the case.

I was a floor manager at one of the busier Changs in the early 2000’s when it was not uncommon for us to be on a 1:45-minute wait on a Monday night. I remember it as a very chaotic job that could go from 0 to 60 to 30 to 90 to 120 back to 0 in a single shift.

I remember scrambling to work on projects and deal with putting out fires in that two-hour window between lunch and dinner. Then getting back into the driver seat again for the dinner rush.

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I have also managed at slower restaurants, and I found myself fighting boredom and apathy. Trying to stay motivated and keep my team motivated to give great service.

Manager’s make restaurants successful. We have all seen a manager who got a location rocking and rolling: high sales, good profits, great service. They leave, and the next guy comes in and this location goes from hero to zero in 3 months. There were no major changes in the area driving the decline, it was just that the new manager couldn’t keep the staff on point, service up, and customers reacted.

It is the nature of this industry that we have customers in our building for large portions of our day. There is a ton of moving pieces that need to be dealt with every single shift. It is easy to get caught up in fire fighting and then stumble into your next shift without having the opportunity to focus yourself and your team on what is important.

Two tools that I have seen implemented with a lot of success are SMART pre-shift Inspections that manager’s conduct before each meal period and pre-shift meetings with each department.

SMART Pre-shift inspections get your managers walking around your restaurant looking at your critical safety and operational readiness items ensuring that you are ready to handle the rush. Performing this inspection reminds managers what is important and helps them catch things that they might have missed if they hadn’t done the inspection.

Pre-shift meetings with service and kitchen teams give us an opportunity to communicate shift info to the team and get them focused on serving guests.

Both tools have the same effect on your restaurant, they focus your staff on what is important, and that focus cascades through your operations.

We have recently created a free ebook on SMART Pre-shifts you can get a copy by clicking here.

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New York to raise wages for tipped workers

This story from Nation’s Restaurant News is all over the place. The New York state commissioner approved a 50% rate hike in the minimum hourly wage for tipped employees up to $7.50/hr. With New York City going up to $8.50. This seems to be the trend lately. Local and federal governments are calling for minimum wage hikes across the board.

The New York Restaurant Association was fighting the hike and lobbied to have the increase phase in over time, but that failed and the new rate hike will take place by the end of the year.

Even Walmart has stated that they are planning on raising their pay up to $10/hr over the next 2 years. This will certainly put pressure on the restaurant industry in terms of recruiting and retaining good employees. What types of programs are you putting into place to handle these situations?

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Here’s the full article from nrn.com:

Restaurant wait staff and other tipped workers in New York will earn $7.50 an hour before tips effective Dec. 31, after the state’s acting labor commissioner approved the increase on Tuesday.

Servers in New York currently earn $5 per hour, compared with a non-tipped minimum wage of $8.75. The state allows businesses to use tips to meet or pass the minimum wage.

In New York City, the tipped wage will rise to $8.50 an hour if the city gets permission to raise its minimum wage above the state’s rate.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s acting state labor commissioner, Mario Musolino, approved the tipped wage increase. The state’s minimum wage for hourly workers is scheduled to rise to $9 an hour at the end of the year.

“The sweetest success is shared success, when we all do well together,” Cuomo said Tuesday at a Manhattan labor rally, according to the Associated Press. “We want businesses to do well. Let’s share with the workforce. Let’s all rise together. That’s what New York has been about. That’s what this nation is all about.”

However, the New York State Restaurant Association accused Musolino, who made the recommendations to the governor, of “rubberstamping” the minimum wage increase for wait staff.

Melissa Fleischut, president and CEO of the association, said nearly 1,000 representatives of the hospitality industry had asked Musolino and the wage board to phase in a moderate wage increase over time.

The wage board recommended, and Musolino approved, a 50-percent increase to be phased in by the end of this year.

“By rubberstamping an extreme, unprecedented, 50-percent increase, it becomes hard to believe New York is really ‘Open for Business,’” Fleischut said, referring to the state’s marketing slogan to attract businesses.

Saru Jayaraman, a founder of ROC United, which has been pushing for increased minimum wages across the nations, said in a statement that “although ROC will continue to fight for One Fair Wage, we are thrilled that New York state will have the ninth-highest state wage for tipped workers in the country, with $7.50 an hour.”

Retailer Walmart said Thursday that it would raise wages to $9 an hour in April, and then $10 an hour in a year, an increase that would affect 40 percent of its workforce. That moved raised speculation that McDonald’s Corp. and other large restaurant companies would be pressured to follow suit.

New York has more than 200,000 tipped minimum wage workers, and some sources put the number of restaurant workers in that category at 133,550. The median income of New York’s wait staff is about $19,103.

Restaurant Tech Restocked For Tomorrow And Beyond

Here’s a great article from TechCrunch on technology in the restaurant industry. A major focus of this article is on POS systems. Mobile POS systems are moving in on long time dominant systems such as Aloha and MICROS. It seems that mobile POS is the future. Either having guests swipe their own cards at the table or servers carrying tablets with them and swiping at the table will streamline the checking out process. The deli in the building that I office out of has moved to Square and they love it. They say it’s cheaper and they don’t need all the equipment that other payment processors require. The mobile solutions are preaching, rightfully so, simplicity, efficiency, and convenience.

The article also goes on discuss mobile payments which seems to be catching on across most of retail. As mobile security gets better I see this becoming more and more the norm. The “mobile wallet” is the next logical step for the mobile phone.

What are you doing as far as technology in your operations? Do you see these solutions in your business if they aren’t already? If not, why?

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Here’s the full article:

A recent article in TechCrunch characterized nascent upstarts in the restaurant industry as wide-eyed idealists with little reality of the harsh, high-touch operating environment in which they operate. Having worked in the tech, food and health worlds for most of my career, I believe the article misrepresented the significant progress being made across the industry. On almost every front within hospitality — be it point of sale, loyalty, delivery or sourcing — change is in the air.

Point of Sale Systems Are Shifting Rapidly

For all the talk of the Aloha and MICROS point of sale (POS) systems dominanting in restaurants, a bevy of newcomers have been making inroads. Square, with its slick reader and now retail POS terminal, carries the most gravitas among the mobile POS companies for good reason: it inks deals with large retailers: Starbucks in 2012, then Whole Foods, Uniqlo and Godiva in 2014. Granted, none of these establishments switched over an entire store to Square, but these relationships suggest large retailers will embrace new technology.

Square isn’t alone in this space, either. Longtime ecommerce site Shopify launched its own POS system in 2013, bridging together digital and in-store selling in ways old-line providers can’t match. Even venerable POS provider NCR has dipped its toes into the market. Adil Consulting, a merchant POS consultancy, found 52% of small merchants now use a mobile POS for the majority of their payment processing, a huge change from even a couple of years prior.

Mobile POS upstarts are also eyeing the market leaders with more sophisticated products. POS startup Revel (which recently raised a $100 million Series C round) and ShopKeep aim at the heart of Aloha and MICROS by combining deep business analytics with mobile-based front-of-the-house systems. Alex Konrad of Forbes reported Revel’s growth rate at 250 percent year-over-year in February 2014.

If you want a historical parallel for the mobile POS market, consider the arrival of Japanese cars into America back in the 1970s. Toyota and Honda targeted the low end of the market, but within a generation, they delivered Lexus and Acura into the U.S. market, upending the staid American luxury brands like Cadillac and Lincoln. Substitute MICROS and Aloha for Cadillac and Lincoln and you can get an idea of what’s coming for the biggest POS names.

Mobile Payments Are Coming to Restaurants

For high-end retail, which acts as a harbinger of things to come, mobile payments have already arrived. Starbucks, an early mover in this space, reported 14 percent of its U.S. transactions were completed using its mobile app in 2014. But it’s not just the big players; even small merchants that represent the long tail of the industry are adopting new technology.

I spoke at length with Andrew Cove, co-founder of the Cover for this article. Long considered one of those ‘Why hasn’t anyone done this already?’ mobile opportunities, Cover brings mobile payments and check splitting into the high-end restaurant market. Built around creating a seamless payment transaction for users — think Uber, Cove said — Cover also delivers flat-fee transactions and 24-hour payment disbursement to restaurants. Cove said the product has already reached over 150 restaurants in NYC, San Francisco and Salt Lake City.

And let’s not forget what Apple Pay may do in this area. Payment industry guru Mike Dudascalculated almost 1 percent of Whole Foods transactions are happening with Apple Pay. Sure, that’s a tiny part of the retailer’s overall sales, but, if true, it represents phenomenal growth of a new technology no one had even heard of six months ago.

A Food Service Sourcing Revolution in the Making

Long dominated by Sysco and US Food, even the purveyor system — with its 10 mile wide moat to market entry — is at the dawn of a new age. Another innovative startup, Sourcery, allows chefs to manage disparate food suppliers from a central dashboard, streamlining payments and invoicing.

Ashwin Mudaliar, head of business development at Sourcery, spoke to me about Sourcery’s operations. A molecular biologist with a passion for food system reform, Mudaliar describes Sourcery as a commerce platform for the modern commercial kitchen. Restaurants bring their purveyor network into Sourcery’s orbit and they weave their technology across each restaurant’s web of suppliers.

The result of reducing friction for food sourcing may ripple through the supply chain, a long-term goal highlighted by Mudaliar. It encourages more restaurants to source widely, pulling restaurants away from the broadliner model embodied by Sysco. While it’s very early, technology like Sourcery has the potential to increase the diversity of local food options available at every restaurant.

Delivery and the Broader Food Industry VC Presence

GrubHub and Seamless dominate the restaurant delivery market, but that doesn’t mean innovation is out of reach here, either. Instacart, the grocery delivery service launched only back in 2012, is reportedly raising $100 million at a heady $2 billion valuation. Other upstarts like the more local-flavored grocery delivery services (Good Eggs on the West Coast and Relay Foods in the Mid-Atlantic) raised $21 million and $8.25 million in their last funding rounds, respectively.

There’s also a host of tangentially related food-tech startups that align spiritually with the restaurant industry and the broader food movement. VC funding in the food vertical has been on a steadily increasing trajectory for at least the last five years, touching all corners of the industry.

The DC-based organic salad chain SweetGreen raised $22 million in 2014 to promote expansion. West coast competitor Lyfe Kitchen boosted its reserves by at least $21 million in 2014, according to an SEC filing. Revolution Foods, the firm trying to remake school lunches, raised $30 million in 2014. And Hampton Creek, the food company replacing animal products with unique plant-based substitutes, managed to get its Just Mayo product into over 20,000 stores in just the last 12 months, according to Danielle Gould’sFoodTechConnect.

Solutions to the uniquely complex problems facing the restaurant and food industries will require still more innovation than what has been discussed here. Discovery, nutrition information, loyalty, distribution and food waste represent just a few of the frontiers that await intrepid entrepreneurs. But no matter what dimension of this industry you look at, it’s hard not to see the seeds of change blowing in this venture capital-fueled wind.

Time To End Tips?

Read an article from the local CBS affiliate in San Fran/Bay Area suggesting that it’s time to change server compensation away from tips. The article mentions that this is an archaic way of compensation.

I remember when I was waiting tables and tending bar the pay was much better than any other job that I could have gotten with my skills at the time. Of course there was always the bad tip from time to time, but overall the good tips more than made up for it and I was able to make decent money. Also I was able to live is some amazing places too. I worked hard for the money, but again for the most part it was enjoyable and worth the effort.

What do you think? Is this something that could happen in the near term? If it did what would it look like? I guess prices would go up 20%ish to cover the extra wages. It would be interesting to see what would happen with service levels without the extra incentive. Although in Europe most places it’s not customary to tip, but I have noticed that the service is a lot slower. That could also be because they tend not to be as “in a hurry” as we seem to be here in the US.

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The full article is copied below. Let us know your thoughts.

KCBS News Anchor Stan Bunger offers his unique analysis of an American dining tradition.

When San Francisco Chronicle restaurant critic Michael Bauer speaks, people tend to listen. I’m thrilled to see Bauer call for an end to the practice of tipping in restaurants, but I wonder if his call will be heard by the right people.

Bauer suggests the end is near for the archaic (and some might argue, barbaric) system of compensating restaurant employees based on the whims of customers. He cites recent policy changes at places like Bar Agricole and Trou Normand in San Francisco and Camino in Oakland. They’ve raised their prices to include a service charge. Other restaurants are tacking on a per-person service fee.

All well and good, but the places Bauer cites and reviews tend to represent the tip of the restaurant iceberg. Many more meals are consumed (and money spent) at places farther down the food chain from the establishments he reviews.

The restaurant business is a notoriously tough one where low profit margins are the rule. Analysts assume labor makes up about a third of the average restaurant’s costs–but remember, the restaurant owner has taken a big piece of his labor cost “off the books,” relying on customers to compensate the staff with tips.

There’s a popular perception that servers are fairly compensated because good service equals a good tip. Ask anyone who’s spent any time in the business, especially at the places below Michael Bauer’s radar, and they’ll tell you the truth: it’s a crapshoot. Friendly, efficient service might produce a sweet tip…or not. It’s completely up to the customer.

It’s bizarre, when you think about it. It’s like letting moviegoers decide how to much to pay AFTER they’ve seen the movie or letting you wear a new suit for a day before you decide what you’ll pay for it.

We’re all a part of this, and of course, plenty of other cultures play it very differently. We seem to want good service but don’t value it enough to accept that it’s worth paying for. I don’t know about you, but I’ve always felt uncomfortable with the dynamic in which I hold the pursestrings and the waitress tries to curry my favor for a tip. It’s like tossing coins off the cruise ship to the natives, isn’t it?

I hope Bauer is right and the trend of building the price of service into the price of a meal spreads, but I’m skeptical. There are just too many indications that the restaurant industry typically views its service staff as expendable. Take the “auto-gratuity” situation: once the IRS started classifying things like the “18% service charge for parties of six or more” as subject to payroll tax withholding, many big chains simply ended the practice. Result: big parties, big tabs, small tips.

With any luck, places that don’t make Michael Bauer’s Top 100 list will get on board and price a meal in a way that fairly compensates all the people who create and deliver it. But I’m not holding my breath.

How Americans Are Spending Their ‘Reverse Tax’

I read an interesting article today from a financial newsletter that I subscribe to, Money and Markets. In the article, Jon Markman, looks at what Americans are doing with the extra money that we are saving at the pump.

Saving it or spending it? In typical American fashion we are spending it, but where? Of the $24.4 billion saved most of it has been spent on cars and restaurants/bars. Restaurants are 2nd to cars by only 1/100 of a percent, up over 8% vs a year ago. Restaurant stocks are up over 25% in the last 4 months.

Here’s the full article:

Economists and investors are dying to know what consumers are doing with their gasoline savings windfall. Will they save it, invest it, or upgrade their mobile phones?

To answer this question, the data analysts at Bespoke Investment Group first determined how much the windfall is. I won’t bore you with all their calculations but basically they determined a total consumption figure then divided by the monthly gasoline retail price and compared last year’s level with this year’s level.

They figure that roughly $24.4 billion has been saved at the pump since gasoline prices have been falling. And of course that does not include the “perceived” savings to the collective consumer psychology, as studies have shown that there is a multiplier effect in which a single dollar saved ends up feeling like several dollars earned. This is why consumer confidence figures soar disproportionately from a decline in gas prices.

Anyway, of that $24.4 billion saved, Bespoke figures that $21 billion has piled up since October alone, when the gasoline price plunge really got rolling.

So what have you Americans been doing with your “reverse tax”? Contributing to charities? Saving and investing for the future? No —

You, my fellow Americans, have been eating more. And drinking more. And buying more gas guzzlers. Congratulations, you are blowing your windfall.

According to Bespoke data, which comes from government sources, spending on cars and restaurants are up 8 percent vs. a year ago, and 4 percent more on sports and hobbies. So basically you are spending your extra $24.8 billion on burgers and fries, new wheels, and having fun.

The stock group that has benefited most are restaurants, with Wendy’s(WEN), PolloLoco (LOCO), Sonic (SONC), Jack in the Box (JACK) andCosi (COSI) performing best this year, up 10 percent to 76 percent. As a group, restaurants have surged 25.6 percent over the past four months. That is a huge gain in a short period, so you don’t want to pile in now. But it’s a good concept to put in your back pocket for the next time there is a consumer spending windfall of any kind.

Restaurant workers express optimism about the industry

I came across a great article on fastcasual.com talking about optimism from restaurant employees about the current and future state of the industry. This is of course related to the 2015 industry forecast by the National Restaurant Association that we posted about a few weeks ago. The article cites an infographic from the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. Here are some of the highlights:

  • 9 out of 10 restaurant employees say it’s a great industry to land your first job
  • Very positive beliefs that people of all backgrounds can open a business in this industry
  • 7 of 10 say the restaurant industry provides good long term opportunities
  • 9 of 10 owner operators say they will work in the industry until retirement

Click here to read the full article on Fast Casual.

What to do when a health inspector visits

I know, enough with the health inspector posts, we get it. I promise this is the last one for a while, but I happened to stumble upon these 3 articles on restaurant.org and thought it was great info so figured I would share. This last one discusses what to do while the inspector is at your location:

Don’t panic when an inspector arrives. Think of the visit as a learning opportunity that will benefit your operation by making it as safe as possible.

To make the inspection a positive experience, follow these guidelines:

  • Ask to see the inspector’s credentials if the inspector doesn’t volunteer his/her credentials first. In some cases, people have tried to pass themselves off as health officials. If you’re unsure of the person’s credentials, call the local health department or the inspector’s supervisor for verification. Ask whether the purpose of the visit is a regular inspection or due to a customer complaint. Train your employees to check identification before allowing anyone to enter the back of your operation.
  • Don’t refuse an inspection. In doing so, the health inspector likely will obtain an inspection warrant, which allows him/her to inspect your establishment without your consent.
  • Tag along with the inspector and take notes of any violations he or she finds. This gives you the chance to correct simple problems on the spot, and the health inspector will note your willingness to fix problems. Be prepared to provide any information or records that the inspector needs and answer the inspector’s questions truthfully.
  • Refrain from offering any food or any other item that can be misconstrued as an attempt to influence the inspector’s findings.
  • Sign the inspector’s report after the inspection. Signing it doesn’t mean that you agree to the findings; it only means that you received a copy of the report.
  • Ask the inspector to explain his findings to your staff, or share the inspection results with your employees and offer suggestions on areas that need improvement.

Apparently bribery will get you nowhere so steer clear from offering food and/or drinks to the inspector. I like asking for credentials and asking them to explain their findings at the end. Probably not usually very convenient to have the full staff available for the explanation, but at least the manager on duty should get the scoop.

7 tips for working with health inspectors

As a follow up to yesterday’s post “9 tips to prepare for a health inspection” we have another article from restaurant.org on working with health inspectors.

Restaurant operators and health inspectors aren’t adversaries. Think of a food inspector as a partner as you work together to achieve shared goals of preventing foodborne illness and protecting guests’ health.

Here are seven tips to build a productive relationship with health inspectors:

  • Be polite and professional. Encourage managers encourage to ask the inspector questions. They should feel free to dispute any violations they feel are inaccurate, but they should raise disputes in a professional, non-confrontational way. When you disagree with an inspector’s assessment, ask how he or she arrived at that decision, and offer your interpretation of the regulations. The discussion often can help you arrive at a solution.
  • Correct mistakes as soon as possible. Repeated violations will give the inspector the sense their inspections aren’t being taken seriously, which could lead to lower inspection scores. Make managers aware of violations so they can correct them.
  • Demonstrate progress. In the event your restaurant has a less-than-satisfactory result from an inspection, it’s important to show that you have a plan to address the issue. Show the inspector your corrective action plan and ask him or her to add it to your restaurant’s file. Being able to demonstrate that you took action will help offset the negative impact of past results.
  • Be proactive.  Seek opportunities to work with inspectors outside the confines of routine inspections. For example, if your state or county has a new food safety regulation or recently updated its food code, consider contacting your inspector to ask about the changes and how they will impact your restaurant.
  • Get involved. Serving on state and local task forces or advisory committees will provide you with opportunities to work with inspectors and gain a greater understanding of their work. Getting to know inspectors personally and working toward the common goal of protecting consumers will help build trust in you and your restaurant.
  • Share your food safety plans.  Inspectors often are interested in the steps you’re taking to comply with new food safety rules and regulations. What they learn will help them advise other restaurants they work with. Share your plans with them, and ask for feedback.
  • Seek inspectors’ advice.  Are you launching a new product or testing a new process? Ask your health inspector how it will be impacted by the food code. They might have suggestions that will help you improve your business.

Be prepared for your inspection, learn what to do when a health inspector visits and ensure appropriate follow-up from an inspection.

Like any audit the health inspectors love consistency and documented processes. This shows a due care approach to restaurant and food safety. We talked about due diligence and due care last week, click here for that post.

Aside from being polite and accommodating to the health inspector, being organized goes a long way as well. Being able to easily present line checks and temp logs for a specific time period or self inspection reports for the past month can wow an inspector. This shows organization and consistency in daily execution which in turn results in better and safer operating restaurants.

Nine tips to prepare for a health inspection

Here’s some great information from www.restaurant.org on how to be proactive and manage health inspections properly.

The proper strategy for a successful health inspection is to be ready for an inspection at any time. To stay ahead of the game, managers can conduct weekly, in-house inspections before health inspector arrives.

  • Use the same form ̶ or a similar form ̶ that your health department uses, and put yourself in the health inspector’s place. Check with your local health department on what regulations and forms are being used.
  • Walk into your establishment from the outside to get an outsider’s impression.
  • Brief your kitchen staff to review any problems post-inspection. This will help convey the importance of food safety to staff members.
  • Ensure all staff are on the same page. If your staff includes employees for whom English is a second language, have the findings translated so everyone understands how important food safety is to the success of your restaurant. Consider hiring a professional translator. A bilingual staff member might use terms or phrases that might not make sense or could be misinterpreted in other dialects.
  • Know your priorities. Your self-inspection priorities for kitchen employees should include: food time and temperatures, personal hygiene (including hand washing) and cross contamination. Temperature guidelines include checking the temperature of products when they arrive, when they are stored and when they are served.
  • Reinforce the importance of hand washing. Post signs at all kitchen sinks and in employee restrooms.
  • Train your managers to ensure they are up-to-date on the latest food-safety techniques. Restaurant employees can use the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation’s ServSafe food-safety training programs.
  • Review your local health code for any special, local requirements.
  • Get involved politically to give a restaurateur’s perspective. One opportunity could be to join your state’s health-code-revision committee. Involve senior staff on such committees as well.

Now that you have prepared for the inspection, you need to know what to do when the health inspector arrives. Be warned that inspections usually arrive unannounced, so you’ll want to be ready on any occasion, even during rush hours.

A few of the tips recommend self inspections. County health inspections are no different than any other test really. You need to prepare/study for them so that you can score the highest grade possible. Just like the SATs or ACTs you would take practice exams to get a feel for the real exam. Get into the habit of self inspections and mimic the way your local health inspector will perform the inspection. By doing this regularly you will drive the desired behavior into the culture of your restaurant and be prepared at any time.