Tag Archives: employees

I Just Won’t Go Back-The Value Of Attention

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Last week a family member and I were talking.  She was telling me about a meal she had out with another family member. She was giving me the details of the conversation and casually mentioned that there was a hair and a fly in her salad. So I get side tracked with the story, I am The Food Safety Guy and asked her about it. She said it grossed her out so much she couldn’t eat it. I asked her what she said to the server. She said that because of the nature of her meeting that she didn’t want to make a fuss.  So then I asked what the server said when they picked up the uneaten food. She said nothing, the server seemed like they didn’t notice.  I asked her when her meal was complete if anybody at any point said anything tho her about the inedible salad. She said no. I was appalled when I found out that she paid her check and left. She did however say one thing that struck me, “I just won’t go back”.

Now this is a busy corporate casual restaurant that we all know. I won’t mention the name because I am more professional than that. But, wow! How often is this happening in that restaurant. And how much is it costing them daily, weekly or monthly in lost visits from disenfranchised clientele? What about the damage it might do to their reputation through word of mouth… I won’t pick them first. And don’t forget Yelp and other social media. How many other people feel the same way? We all know of a restaurant or store we feel this way about and avoid even if we want to like it. It is just managed so poorly we feel as if we were taken advantage of every time we pay.

Lets look at how this could be prevented. First, train the server and empower them to do the right thing.  If they see a plate of food that wasn’t eaten they should know that means something was wrong.  they should be trained to ask the guest if their was a problem.  Next, give them the authority to have some control of their own guests experiences by offering a free replacement. I mean c’mon, whats the food cost on a salad. And even if your server offers to buy the whole tables food and you don’t agree support them anyway it is good leadership. Then take the opportunity later to teach the server how you would like it handled the next time.

My next question is, where was the manager? Someone should be walking around the dining room looking at guests plates and faces. Not only will problems like this be found but some guests will be more likely to stop a manager and let them know if there are any issues than they would a server. And even if the floor manager missed it, how about someone in the back of the house paying attention. If I saw a server bring back a full plate of uneaten food I’d immediately ask questions. Also, don’t be afraid to use disciplinary action if a server is not paying attention to that sort of thing.  It would affect business more to ignore this problem than to fix it by offering another salad or buying the dish.

In the end when a guest leaves your restaurant with the idea in their head that they “just won’t come back”, it costs a restaurant in many other ways than that one experience. If the restaurant paid attention to their guests and were more available during service they may have kept this customer. And who knows, maybe this guest runs a soccer team that would come in every Wednesday or does a lot of business meetings and you lost them because, you just weren’t paying attention.

Valentines Day: Let’s Not Break Any Hearts

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Valentines day is just around the corner.  Imagine making reservations, arranging care for the kids and taking the time to visit a new restaurant for a romantic evening with a loved one.  When you get home there are chocolates and champagne on ice for a romantic movie when your partner says their stomach is hurting, then they begin to sweat and finally have to excuse themselves to the bathroom where they stay for the rest of the evening. Not such a nice evening after all is it?  But what could have caused it?

Well lets rewind this scenario back to the restaurant, earlier in the day, during the lunch shift.  As the lunch shift winds down, the cook will set up for the night shift.  Part of the set up is to make sure all of the food is fully stocked.  But they are also required to change out all of the utensils for clean ones but in the chaos of the transition from lunch to dinner this important step was missed and all of the scoops that have been used all day continued into the night without being washed.

The problem with this is when the cook uses these implements they transfer a common pathogen that many humans carry, Staphylococcus aureus, to the utensils which are then left in the food products. In fact, this same pathogen staph is the same thing that causes people to get infected cuts or wounds.  The problem is when you allow this pathogen to grow on the food via our scoops it creates a poison that quickly makes people sick, within 1 to 6 hours.  Will this turn into a major food born illness outbreak? Hopefully not.  Could this happen to more than one customer? Absolutely, and their probably not going to call the health department but you can be sure these folks will never dine in your place again. And hopefully they don’t share their experience at you facility on Trip Advisor or Yelp.

One thing that we have to be aware of is that these busy holiday nights are not just an opportunity for a profitable shift but an opportunity to show people who might not have ordinarily dined with us how great of a place we are.  It doesn’t have to be a full blown disease like we had in the scenario above, it could be as simple as a stomach ache that turns them off. Heck, they might not even get sick but they happen to see a busy staff member doing some that just looks gross like wearing their apron into the bathroom or eating behind the bar.  These days need to be planned out carefully with thoughtful preparation and staffing because if you can’t get them right they can really hurt your business in the end more than the profits for the day are worth.

NOROVIRUS! Are You Going To Get It… Again?

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About six years ago my family all stayed in a cabin together in our local Southern Californian Mountains for Christmas, it was a very nice time.  Winter even brought us a special dusting of snow just for the holiday. But, winter also brought an unwelcome guest, “stomach flu”.

It started off with Uncle  getting an upset stomach which quickly turned to diarrhea.  While Uncle was in “quarantine”, my kids started to feel ill and were also kept to their room but it was to late. Because the little cousins got it, then Auntie and Papa and after tearing through pretty much the whole family we were almost done with our vacation. Sound familiar?

Well that thing that woke you up in the middle of the night sweating and shaking, that thing that made you throw up every 15 minutes for an entire night or that random bout of diarrhea is not actually what you might think it is. It’s not the “stomach flu”, or the “24 hour bug”, there is no such thing.  It is a very common food born disease that we have all had and that we will all get again called Norovirus.

Some people tell me they have never had it which is understandable because vomiting and diarrhea aren’t exactly socially desirable activities. But, according to the CDC 21 million Americans get it every year, that is 1 of 12 people. Unfortunately, the most common method of transmission is through what is referred to as the fecal-oral route. Sounds nice doesn’t it?

So how can I prevent this from happening at my next family reunion?  It’s very simple, do the things that make civilized people civil, like hand washing, using toilets and cleaning.  It is important to understand that people transmit the virus through feces and vomit and when you have many people in close quarters such as a home with guests in it, the likelihood of transmission increases, which is why I never go on cruise ships.  When someone is sick don’t be afraid to stay away or not let them prepare food. And yes, some people will take offense and say things like, “I’ve been doing this for years and never gotten anybody sick” (that you know of). Because that’s always a nice conversation to bring up, “remember that turkey you made last year, well it gave me diarrhea and stomach cramps”.

mother-in-law

Doesn’t cooking the food kill the virus?  Well, we need to be careful here. Viruses aren’t like other living creatures, they’re sort of like the zombies of the microorganism world which makes them difficult to destroy.  Plus, we don’t cook all of our food and drink so hygiene is the key to keeping you and your guests safe.

But what is really at stake? According to the CDC the estimates are as high as 3.3 billion dollars and 237 lives annually, and this is just for Norovirus.  Many other food born illnesses will be prevented by the same safety measures, some of which are more fatal.

So to recap, regularly wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap. Clean up after some one who has been sick and even stay away from the area. Finally, don’t be afraid to speak up when you feel something might be wrong, you’re not just protecting yourself.

Using Notes As A Manager

A food managers day is filled with all kinds of activities, big and small.  We have to get food counts so we can get the food order in, we have to make sure the bartenders aren’t over serving customers alcohol and we have to make sure we get the shift covered for our chef whose wife just went into labor.  All this while we have a full dinner shift running in the dining room. So how do we make sure we’re not missing anything? Notes!

Notes are a busy managers best friend. You can carry a pocket note pad or a big giant folder, you can use an electronic device or you can fold a piece of printer paper into quarters so it fits in your back pocket. Regardless of your method you need to be writing things down all day or you will forget stuff.  First, you should write down all of the tasks you intend to complete that day ( i.e. orders or special cleaning duties).  Also, you should be writing down observations throughout the shift. For example, you notice a server is late while you are in the kitchen taking temps on your service line.  Or it seems like some meat has gone missing. If you don’t write it down immediately you will forget it happened. So, take a second to pull out your note pad and write it down. If you do this for everything that happens throughout your day you will have a pretty good record of all the happenings during your shift. notes

Now what good does this do if your not going to do something with the information or put it somewhere permanent. At the end of each day take ten minutes to go over this indecipherable set of scribble that only you can read so you can leave any relevant information to the next manager or even your self for the next shift in a shared daily manager book.  I also would put performance information into a file for my staff members, this could be either on a computer or in filing cabinet. If you do this you’ll start create a record on your team members and find out if there are any positive or negative trends.

redbookBy taking notes and saving information you will be able to communicate with your team better and forget less often the things that are important to you and you operation. – thefoodsafetyguy

Towels, Towels Everywhere

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Have you ever noticed an employee in a food service establishment using the same cleaning towel for everything and wondered if it was ok.  Well if you have then your awareness is serving you well.  The towels we use in food service need to be handled carefully or they can be the cause of food borne illness by transferring bacteria from the place that was just wiped to the next place the towel is used.  And even worse, if that towel is not submersed in a sanitizer solution between each use the germs that are on that towel can grow out of control to unsafe levels very quickly. So if you ever notice the bartender that keeps that towel flipped over their shoulder or the server that leaves towels sitting around on counters then leave that establishment quickly with your hands waving above your head notifying the world that the place is trying to give you the squirts.

Dealing With A Difficult Employee

One of the toughest things to do as a manager is to have to discipline/motivate your staff. I remember being taught how to manage costs and run the day to day operations of restaurant but I don’t remember anybody ever sitting me down and teaching me how to manage employees effectively so I had to come up with my own system. Continue reading Dealing With A Difficult Employee

95% of People Wash Hands Wrong

Recently I came across a study on hand washing in the Journal of Environmental Health, it was lead by Carl Borchgrevink, Assosiate Professor at the School of Hospitality Business.  Professor Borchgrevink outlines in his abstract that he pretty much wasn’t convinced by the numbers presented by previous research on hand washing studies. They state that between 2009-2010, 94%-96% of people were washing their hands correctly after using public restrooms. Well, according to Borchgrevink the previous studies are flawed because hand washing is a “socially desirable activity” so when people are “asked” if they washed their hands they lied. Continue reading 95% of People Wash Hands Wrong