Tag : Food Safety

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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.

Due Diligence and Due Care in the Restaurant Business

Due Diligence and Due Care are words  generally associated with investing, contracts, and lately network security.  In my last position working in custom application development and  cyber security those terms were defined as:

Due Diligence: Identifying threats and risks.
Due Care: Acting upon identified threats to mitigate risks.
I believe that the hospitality industry better adopt Due Diligence and Due Care as management concepts that we fully embrace and implement into our business processes.
In the context of restaurant management, I look at Due Diligence as doing what it takes to serve safe food in a safe environment.  I didn’t say delicious food I said safe food.  Meaning that we use HACCP principles to ensure that the food products that we are serving have been delivered, stored, and prepared safely.
Most restaurants today are, or should be, conducting daily inspections of their facilities paying attention for critical food safety violations.  Making sure food is stored safely, chemicals are stored away from food, temperature discipline is maintained both in cooling and heating.  We aren’t introducing foreign contaminants into the food preparation areas.
By following best practices and inspecting daily, we are performing our Due Diligence in providing safe food for our customers.  Due Diligence is only half of the battle, Due Care is the other half.
Due Care procedures are the processes that you have in place for when you identify an issue.  The key to Due Care is consistent and documented application of the process.
You may be familiar with the phrase “It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up” that gets you into trouble.  That is especially true when you are doing your Due Diligence, conducting a pre-shift inspection, and you identify an issue but then you don’t correct the issue safely.
An example might be that you fill out a temperature log for a walk-in refrigerator, and you record a 65-degree temperature.  The person completing the temperature log doesn’t do anything to fix the issue, they just serve the food and they get a lot of people sick.
We as a nation are very intolerant of companies that had enough forethought to identify a critical area on an inspection but then not have a plan to fix the issue when they identified it.  We find that unacceptable, and for good reason, you wouldn’t want to fly in a plane where the pilot knew it was missing a wing but decided to take-off.
In the above example, we would hold the company responsible for, not training their inspector well enough to know that a 65-degree walk-in is very bad.  We would also hold them responsible for, not having a well-documented procedure to deal with the issue.
Look at your real-world experience, we for the most part understand when people make mistakes or accidents happen.  We get furious and litigious when mistakes are made and the people responsible are clueless when they should have known better.  We get even with businesses that profit while their customers get hurt.
As hospitality professionals, we have to make sure that our organizations, size doesn’t matter, have well documented Due Diligence and Due care processes in place.  More importantly we have to train, consistently follow, and document those processes in their application.  It is when we consistently apply our processes that we have a chance of protecting our brand and our businesses when we make a mistake.
My name is Tommy Yionoulis, and I’m a restaurant guy and a software guy.  I’m one of the founders of OpsAnalitica; you can learn more about our company at www.opsanalitica.com.
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