Walking towards the counter to order my English Breakfast Tea and Cream Cheese muffin I couldn´t help but notice how stunning the blonde behind the register was. Pleasantly she took my order, ran her hand through her greasy hair, wiped her running nose with her right shirt sleeve, flicked the gummy chunk of mascara from the corner of her eye with her left index finger and proceeded to grab my muffin without the assistance of tongs or wax paper touching every inch of the golden edges with her left finger now sporting mascara residue and who knows what else.
What did I do to deserve this? If I complain I will never be able to go into the store again. If I don´t, the muffin will be trashed and I will never want to go into the store again.
Sound Familiar? It should. It happens daily across the country. And, as managers of restaurants get busier, and volume hits its peak, and people without any culinary background are hired and cell phones are being used throughout the day and cashiers are also drink makers and floor sweepers are also bakery handlers and smokers are cooks and sinks are dry, never being used to wash hands, health violations will continue to accumulate.
With the current and continual E.coli outbreaks, first from Salinas spinach and now possibly with lettuce, the consumer is becoming more aware of possible violations and infringements while they are in restaurants. And some culinary institutions just shout "We don´t train our staff on health issues."
The hair flick is apparent everywhere. The cell phone use without washing hands in between calls and serving is a modern day technological gastronomical turn off. The back of the house ritual is most disturbing – seeing a group of white coat kitchen employees hovering around the back door of a kitchen, smoking and flicking butts into the street as potential customers drive by. Very appealing. They must be part of the team working on the Wine Vine Smoked Chicken specialty.
As an owner, I can spot a clean restaurant and an u- to- par health code kitchen from the dining room. And, I can also tell if a staff is well trained in health code rules.
But many first time operators have little clue as do some of the staff they hire as to the rules and regs that health departments require and expect from a professional organization.
There are two important factors to remember here. If you are a new owner you need to learn health regs. Go to the health department as soon as you take over the restaurant and ask for an inspection. Get to know your inspector and ask him to come and speak with your staff. Some inspectors will, others will direct you to the people who can talk to your kitchen and dining room employees.
If you have been around the block a few times, as so many of us have, remember to continually train your managers, supervisors, and chefs to keep reminding their staff how important good health code adherence can be.
The public is becoming more aware daily of the importance of health violations in eateries across the country. Although frightening to some owners, I find the grade-in-the-window system a worthwhile development on the health code front. Although not yet a standard in many cities, it has become a requirement in large urban areas. If you make the grade, fine. If you don´t, you are almost sure to see a financial loss because of poor health standards.
Now that you can find anything you want on the Internet, a new health inspection site has surfaced to list violators across the country. The site, will attempt to list health code violators in a variety of zip codes and cities that cater to hungry consumers. The site administrator also plans on offering health tips and refresher courses for restaurant employees enabling owners to direct staff to the site and keep the importance of adhering to health regulations in the forefront of their professional thinking. But nobody can accomplish this better than an owner or manager during the nightly staff meeting.
It is the easiest way of making sure there is always an "A" health card in your window.
Making sure that your staff is aware of the correct way to store food, clean counters, and buss tables are some of the most important procedures you can teach them. Constantly re- training and reminding staff of these procedures will benefit you in the long run.
Ten quick steps to post:
1). Do not pick up dirty glasses by placing fingers inside the rim. Wash your hands.
2). Wash your hands after touching a dirty plate, silverware, or glasses. (Place signs above every sink that asks people to wash their hands for their own safety.)
3). Make sure the walk-in cooler is clean and food is stored properly. Chicken on the always goes on the bottom. Wash your hands.
4). Rotate food accordingly. Mark and date all prepared perishables. Wash your hands.
5). Wash your hands.
6). Use a bleach bucket to wipe down counters. Wash your hands.
7). Do not throw jackets, sweaters, pants, or dirty aprons on cutting surfaces. Wash your hands.
8) Don´t store any food product on the floor. Wash your hands.
9). Contract with a monthly exterminating company. Wash your hands.
10).Have every manager and supervisor take the accredited health course that your local health department offers for free. Wash your hands.
If your restaurant isn´t going through more soap than any other product, your employees are not washing their hands.
And remember the only time its too late to clean up your act is when the health inspector gives you notice that you have to close in order to open again.