Restaurants have a natural challenge that comes with territory: cleanliness and food safety. It seems that not a day goes by without another horror story about contaminated food making the news. Restaurants are routinely closed by the health department. Even if your business isn’t doing too badly, just having a delivery man see a puddle of dirt on your kitchen floor is enough to spread a bad word of mouth campaign about your business. The media reports of food poisoning on a daily basis, even though the fast-food business is booming.
It seems that fast food has become the American way, and the public will order blindly, expecting the food to be prepared under hygienic conditions. From insect problems to bacterial proliferation, fast food restaurants in particular have countless problems behind their counters. Established and enforced by management, inspectors, the Food and Drug Administration, etc., the rules serve as a minimum defense and are just the beginning. If you are the manager, isn’t awareness enough on your part? You must ensure that every employee knows the rules and follows them to the letter.
One of the most common causes of foodborne illness is the transmission of bacteria that results from food not being properly cooked or kept at the correct temperature. With such a demand for fast food, it’s often all too easy for employees to jeopardize their duties to save time, and before they know it, they’ve served a meal that poses an ugly risk of food poisoning. The rules should always be followed, not sometimes, as unfortunately sometimes is the case.
It is management’s job to ensure that employees do their jobs properly, and of course effective management makes all the difference in this endeavour. Close monitoring is a necessity to ensure work is being done properly. Employees need to care about their work and feel valued in return so that they are more willing to do their responsibilities correctly. All too often, factors like low pay, long hours, and little recognition make employees more likely to burn out and underperform than expected. Improper training of staff also leads to improper fulfillment of work duties.
Unclean areas such as counters or tables where food has been prepared can also spread bacteria and cause food poisoning. It is therefore important that employees tidy up behind themselves and ensure that their workplace is kept meticulously clean. Food containers that have not been washed properly and supplies that have not been rotated properly are also havens for bacteria.
Employees who do not wash their hands before returning to work can unknowingly transmit bacteria and other diseases. For this reason, it is of paramount importance that employees wash their hands, and also every fast food restaurant should have at least one sink dedicated to hand washing only, with instructions properly posted and including the requisite soap and paper towels. Wearing gloves when in contact with food helps as an extra layer of protection, but even gloves, like hands, can come into contact with unclean surfaces, requiring them to be changed after contact with unhygienic surfaces and objects.
Even vermin can pose a cleanliness challenge in fast food work environments, so it is important that restaurants are regularly inspected and treated for vermin. No one wants an uninvited visitor in their meal, but it happens more often than we’d like to believe. If an employee witnesses a pest coming into contact with the food, the entire amount of food in the container should be discarded.
Hairnets are a good idea for keeping stray hair and dander away from food. Hats are more common, but less effective in preventing hair and dander from getting into the food. Wearing long hair tied back in a ponytail or braid is a must. And while we’re on the subject: Today’s generation must be made aware that extreme fashion statements are out of place in a professional kitchen. There are many work environments where dreadlocks, mohawks and afros aren’t a problem, but the kitchen isn’t one of them.
A fast-food kitchen is practical, but not always easy to clean. Every operation should go above and beyond the norm to ensure food is handled properly. Customers these days, before ordering their next meal from your restaurant, look to the staff and the environment whenever possible. They may not be able to see what’s going on behind the scenes, but they trust their instincts for what they can observe.
This is another reason why it is better not to be understaffed. Ensure your expectations of your employees are reasonable and conduct regular training programs. Even if you set aside a few hours between meals to conduct a food safety drill that involves the entire team, you’ll go a long way toward promoting healthy practices in your kitchen. Dropping in for a spot check every now and then will also be effective. To prevent your employees from getting annoyed by your surprise inspection, you should be ready to help for about an hour during the shift. You have the opportunity to lead by example and boost morale by showing employees that you can work with them as equals.