Restaurants have a natural challenge, and it has to do with the territory: cleanliness and food safety. It seems like every day brings another horror story in the news about tainted food. Restaurants are often shut down by health authorities. Even if your business doesn’t get all that bad, the delivery guy only needs to see a puddle of mud on your kitchen floor to start a bad word-of-mouth campaign around your establishment. Despite the booming fast food industry, cases of food poisoning are reported in the media every day.
Fast food seems to have become the American way, where the public will order mindlessly, expecting the food to be prepared in hygienic conditions. Fast food restaurants in particular have a myriad of problems behind the counter, from bug problems to bacteria growth. These rules are set and enforced by regulators, inspectors, the Food and Drug Administration, etc., and that’s the minimum defense, and that’s just the beginning. If you’re a manager, awareness isn’t enough; you have to be vigilant and make sure every employee knows and follows the rules.
One of the most common causes of food poisoning is bacterial transfer, which occurs when food is not cooked properly or kept at the proper temperature. With the demand for fast food so great, it’s often easy for employees to sacrifice their duties to save time, and before they know it, they’ve served a meal that poses a risk of food poisoning. These rules should be followed every time, not some of the time, which unfortunately is the case sometimes.
It is management’s responsibility to ensure that employees do their jobs correctly and, of course, effective management plays an important role in this endeavor. Close supervision is necessary to help ensure that the work is performed correctly. Employees have to take their jobs seriously and in return, make them feel valued, so they will be more willing to perform their duties properly. Many times factors such as low wages, long hours and lack of recognition make it easier for employees to burn out and do less than expected. Additionally, improper employee training can lead to improper performance of job responsibilities.
Unclean areas such as counters or tables where food is prepared can also spread germs and cause food poisoning. That’s why it’s important for employees to do their own cleaning and ensure their workspaces remain clean and tidy. Also, food containers that aren’t cleaned properly and stock that isn’t rotated properly are no good for bacteria.
Employees who do not wash their hands before returning to work can unknowingly spread germs and other illnesses. This is why employees washing their hands is paramount, and why every fast food restaurant should have at least one sink dedicated to handwashing, with proper instructions posted, including the necessary soap and paper towels. Wearing gloves when handling food helps for added protection, but even gloves touch unclean surfaces like hands and need to be changed after touching unhygienic surfaces and items.
Even pests can pose a challenge to the cleanliness of a fast food restaurant work environment, so it’s important to regularly inspect and treat your restaurant for pests. Nobody wants unwanted visitors in their food, but it happens more often than we think. If employees witness any pests coming into contact with food, the entire food in the container should be discarded.
Hair nets are a great idea to keep loose hair and dander from food. Hats are more common but are less effective at keeping hair and dander from getting into food. Long hair must be tied into a ponytail or braid. While we’re at it, today’s generation really needs to realize that extreme fashion statements are not appropriate in a professional kitchen. Braids, mohawks, and afro’s are fine in many work environments, but the kitchen isn’t one of them.
Snack kitchen setups are convenient, but not always easy to clean. Every establishment should go above and beyond the norm to ensure food is handled properly. These days, customers will look as closely as possible at your staff and surroundings before ordering at your restaurant. They may not be able to spot what’s going on behind the scenes, but they trust their intuition for what they can observe.
This is another reason why it’s best not to be understaffed. Make sure your expectations of your employees are reasonable and hold regular training programs. Even setting aside a few hours each day between meals to conduct a food safety drill involving the entire team will go a long way toward promoting healthy practices in your kitchen. Spot checking every now and then can also be helpful. Just in case your employees get upset about your surprise checks, be ready to help for an hour or so during their shift. You’ll have the opportunity to set a good example and boost morale by showing employees that you can work with them as an equal.