Due Diligence - Operations

Why Bad Things Happen to Good Kitchens
Building a new food safety culture on top of old habits that die hard

Signs, signs everywhere a Sign…

Over the past 35 years, while conducting thousands of kitchen inspections, I’ve discovered some common themes and errors that most kitchens are guilty of because they are easy to fall between the cracks. Restaurant owners and managers have quite a bit of responsibility and oversee the big picture of running the business. Therefore, many of the small detailed duties that are not assigned to anyone in particular may go without being performed and may inadvertently result in crises or disaster. Can you learn from other restaurant’s mistakes (or your own…)?

Some of the most common examples of issues that leave the organization exposed are:

 Cooks not using thermometers and using their fingers instead to judge doneness.
 Prep staff handling raw chicken directly next to fresh produce.
 Leaving the kitchen wet, leaving food in the drains, not removing the trash to the dumpsters       and not cleaning out the dead pests from the light shield, all of which attracts roaches and       other vermin.
 Not cleaning the grease off of the filters which results in grease
     dripping into the food being prepared below.
 Food that is not covered, labeled or dated.
 Cracked or broken food containers or lids.
 Dented, bloated or rusty cans in the storeroom.
 Broken equipment being utilized with temporary fixes.
 Not having SDS (formerly MSDS) training or information available to staff.
 Poor documentation of training given to staff.
 Lack of food safety knowledge in regards to their particular position.
 Failure to have an Allergy policy or Perform a mock Allergy Request

In a recent CDC study released on June 28, 2013*, they reported the following statistics on food safety and health issues. Restaurant workers who DID NOT wash their hands after handling raw beef with their bare hands equaled a whopping 62%. Kitchen managers in 40% of restaurants studied did not have a designated area and/or cutting boards for raw chicken. In addition, more than 50% of the restaurants don’t utilize thermometers when cooking chicken. Use of thermometers to calculate that the hamburgers were cooked to the proper temperature were used only 20% of the time which means that 80% of the restaurants did not use them. It was also reported that 20% of workers worked a shift while they were sick with flu like symptoms.

Our motto is “Food Safety Comes First.” You’ve spent years building the reputation of your restaurant. While the issues listed above may seem inconsequential, if not done or not done correctly, they may have a huge negative impact on your guests, on your employees and on your brand. Relying solely on a 3rd party auditor does not take the place of daily good food health and safety monitoring. Now is the time to take a good long hard look at some of the smaller details in your operation in order to ensure that you are not caught unaware by the Health Department or a potential lawsuit. The devil is in the details…

If you have any questions, feel free to email me at jeffnelken@cs.com. Need a food safety speaker at your next meeting.

*Stomach-churning CDC report on restaurant food safety by Kathryn Roethel published December 10, 2013 based on the June 28, 2013 CDC MMWR.

Jeff Nelken is a Food Safety Expert to the legal community and Restaurant Consultant. He is available at jeffnelken@cs.com