A recent survey of Chicago restaurant staff found only half scored 70% or higher on basic safe food handling practices to prevent foodborne illnesses, so there is room for improvement in employee training.
One program that works is at Clyde’s Restaurant Group, where corporate operations manager Claude Andersen says food safety is a top priority for its 13 eateries in the Washington, D.C., metro area, including the historic Old Ebbitt Grill near the White House.
Top to bottom, back to front
Everyone from managers and chefs to receiving clerks and prep staff not only get Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points training, they also are certified in food safety, Andersen says. Training is done in English and Spanish, and he said having the second language is “a pretty integral part of the process.”
Part of the culture
All restaurants in the group do regular training and self-inspections, using forms similar to those used by local health departments. Andersen says is not a “gotcha” type of test but an educational tool for staff as they go through their daily routines. Food safety is part of staff meetings and is included in both employee training and safety handbooks.
Go the extra mile
Special training is provided on food allergies so there is no cross contamination in the kitchen and patrons can be assured of getting food that will not trigger a reaction. Andersen says the front staff also is trained to pick up on clues that patrons give, such as asking that specific ingredients be left out of an entrée, and to engage in communications that leave people feeling that the restaurant is concerned about food allergies.
Make it fun!
Each year Clyde’s has a “Wash-Off” contest in September, which is Food Safety Month. Teams form at each restaurant and practice proper hand-washing techniques, including getting closest to the recommended washing time for best results. Teams also are given a set of food safety questions and the correct answers and they quiz each other regularly.
“It reinforces the principles of hand washing and safe food handling,” Andersen says. “They get all this food safety knowledge drilled into them in a fun way.” He says when they began the contest teams gave the right answers about 80% of the time, but now it is rare for anyone to miss a question. Teams that win the “Wash-Off” contest are awarded $300 per person.
Image credit: Clyde’s Restaurant Group