How Food Safety is Marketable

Audits, cleaning schedules, SOP's, and a glowing health department inspection are a marketing advantage. Identifying key elements in your operation to keep media recognition positive makes sense. Is there a balance between clean and museum-like? Form and function strike a balance with the right systems, people using tools and brainpower that matter.

“I always look for the place where I would want to eat after I am done doing the inspection,” said “Grace.”

Grace is a department of health inspector in the mid-Atlantic whose identity is being kept concealed for her privacy as well as those locations which she inspects. Grace tells of stories of cockroaches left bobbing in salad dressing, seeing blood dripping from a cook’s open wound into meatball mixture, and “that one time I saw a dishwasher using glass cleaner in the sanitizing sink in place of sanitizer,” amongst others.

Her tales of ill and disgust are numerous. But so are stories of stand-out operations that take customer safety as a guiding light. We know what bad publicity does - ask our friends at Chipotle how the last few years have gone.

Market food safety like any other marketable element of your operation to earn repeat business and shine as a professional establishment. 

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Shuttershock

Violation-Free and Proud!

“I make visits, usually, twice per year. Those are two good opportunities to impress me. If I am there any other time, it is because we have a problem,” said Grace. “A visit outside the two routines [stops] means that somebody has called [the health department] after being sick. That usually isn’t a good day for everybody involved.”

But what about a really good routine visit?

Most municipalities archive health department reports online for anybody to review. Take the A+ report card and make an Instagram post. Celebrate with your team and reward their work, while making that highlight a point of public engagement.

The FDA Food Code stipulates that the most recent health department inspection be available for the visitors to your operation to review.

Have a glowing report? Blow it up and hang it for all to see.

“One of the restaurants in my area posts [my] report in their bathroom stalls with a sign above it: ‘Relax and enjoy a healthy shit - Our food didn’t make you sick!’ While absolutely laughable, it is also a memorable experience that is sure to make its way into a discussion. That’s good marketing.

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Shutterstock

Audits aren’t Just for the IRS

Self-policing is better than, you know, the actual police, or in this case, an extra visit from the health department.

Dropping an audit tool into standard operating procedures means you never need to get ready for an inspection.

“I can always tell when there is panic in the kitchen when I visit,” said Grace. “You really aren’t hiding anything. There is nothing you can fix when I am walking through the dining room on my way [into the kitchen.] Forget it! Just always be ready.”

Many successful operations either engage a third-party sanitation auditor or use their own auditing tool. Grace says that "the dishwasher company or chemical suppliers often have services included in the cost of leasing a [dish] machine that will conduct cleaning audits.”

An audit tool can be twenty areas, or more,  of concentration or concern that is completed in check-box form by, say, a junior member of management.

Why? They learn what to look for and then share the information with the staff. The responsibility can even be passed around so there are always fresh insights.

More advice from Grace? Train the way you fight, fight the way you train. Expect every day to bring a health department visit and there will never be an issue. You owe it to your customers. Taking temperatures of chicken, logging refrigerator temps, and using the right sanitizer concentration should be the habit, not a one-off when there is an official visit.

What is too clean?

Share information about cleaning regimens across social platforms. Post a Boomerang video of deck-mopping the kitchen. No need to show the super gross stuff - like pumping out the grease trap - but put a highlight on your commitment to a clean operation by humanizing the hard work that goes into a solid facility.

No need to make every FaceBook post about cleaning, though. Overload starts to raise red flags, for customers and staff. Standard operating procedures and master cleaning schedules work in concert with daily cleaning routines, front-of-the-house ‘sparkle’ sessions, and regular maintenance. Ask staff for their input on what they feel needs a little extra attention, keeping in mind it is a kitchen, not a museum. There will be errant smudges, splatters, and stains. Commit to a food-safe operation without making the staff neurotic.

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Shutterstock

Advertise the Occasional Shut-Down

As much as we don’t like it, there are slow days. There is the predictable downturn, say, after New Years and before the Valentine’s Day rush. Make the most of a slouching Monday by advertising a day “Committed to Cleaning.”

You were going to do a deep clean anyhow; take advantage of the time by sharing the news.

“I have seen several places put a sign on the door about being closed for cleaning. They missed an opportunity. They should have said something like, ‘Hey! We are closed today so we can make sure your next visit is great,’ or something like that. Make it look like something they [the restaurant] wanted to do, not had to do.”

When Grace is gone, the next steps are up to you. But she will be back.

Engage staff in a formal, recognized food safety training, provide the right cleaning tools and food safety resources, and then tell the world about your seriously healthy operation. Use your website to share the latest self-audit and explain your food safety commitment.

Either you do or the health department will, but maybe not the way you want.

10 Rules for Restaurant Success that Will Reign in 2019

10 Rules for Restaurant Success that Will Reign in 2019

The year is quickly approaching the end. How time flies! If you haven’t started to make plans for next year, then now is the time to start!

Piss poor planning produces piss poor results. It’s not too early to get ahead of your competition. The outstanding restaurants are already making plans.

To get you on the path to an incredible year, here are 10 rules you will want to adopt into your plan for the next year. These are rules you need to put into action, they re not merely suggestions. You can either prepare for the upcoming restaurant storm (which in some markets is already here) or you can just keep doing what you are currently doing. Just be prepared to watch your market share get smaller each year if you do not take new action. One is a smarter mover and the other, well...not so much.

1. Know your Numbers

Of all the sins in the restaurant business, this has to be one of the most common. Not knowing your numbers. Why? Because you haven’t decided to run a business yet. Of course not knowing your numbers is not a crime (it should be), it’s more psychological.

By not stepping up to be the true leader and becoming financially accountable for the P&L you are sending out the message that you don’t own (run) a business....you just have a hobby. A very expensive hobby. Hobbies don’t stay in business very long.

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Enough Already! 3 Things About Restaurant Profits You Need to Hear

Enough Already! 3 Things About Restaurant Profits You Need to Hear

How are the profits in your restaurant? Great? Amazing? Is it your best year ever or are your profits on life support? Wherever you are now, it can be said that you want more. It’s human nature to want to climb to the top. 

The restaurant business can be very brutal on people at times especially when it comes to the area of making money. How do you beat the odds and maximize your profit potential? Here are 3 things that are getting in the way of you and your profits:

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Often Overlooked, Benefits of Proper Restaurant Lighting

Often Overlooked, Benefits of Proper Restaurant Lighting

There are so many critical elements that go into the design of a restaurant, so much so that it can easily become overwhelming. It’s a moment during the start-up or renovation period, where specifics that play a large impact on customer experience, can simply be overlooked. One of the key elements that are often overlooked — is the importance of restaurant lighting.

To create positive emotions and to deliver on your promise for memorable customer experiences, a concept must think through its initial design while utilizing processes, maximizing communication, and creating surprises through a multitude of ‘touch points.’ Arguably one of the most important touch points in the overall design — is again that of restaurant lighting.

Lighting within a restaurant (or bar), affects many elements within both operations and guest experience, including food and drink presentation, atmosphere, and length of stay. Lights come in many creative materials, shapes, sizes, and brightness; therefore the largest challenge is finding the right balance for each location and concept.

When planning a restaurant space, one has to consider the ‘job’ of each light source. Is it meant to highlight wall features, to enhance a back-bar, to highlight walkways, washrooms, and exits, or is it to create the right mood over a table? Or perhaps it is for security, liability, and theft prevention? When considering the job of each light source, it’s imperative to remember to keep customers and operations top of mind first and not the architecture itself.

Here are other ways that restaurant lighting can have a large impact on revenue, profit, and customer satisfaction by again, considering the ‘job’ of each source.

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Stop Competing and Start Standing Out in Your Market

Stop Competing and Start Standing Out in Your Market

Do you have competition? Most would say yes. Many would argue that competition is healthy and good for business. Your goal should never be to compete with others. It’s a losing mindset that just becomes a game of one-upmanship. Restaurants that compete become drawn into pricing wars and that makes you a commodity. Once you’re classified in that category... watch out! You might start to see profits slowly slip away as you give away more to “keep up with the Jones.”

Basically, competition is for suckers. Instead you must aim for outstanding.

You want your brand to stand out so far ahead of those others that now you set the pace and they try to catch you. It’s always better to be the lead dog on a dogsled team.

So, how do you stop competing and start standing out?

First thing is you will need to get comfortable being a little uncomfortable. When you are heading into new territory, there will not be any road signs to guide you. In order to get what you have not had before, you must be willing to do what you have not done before either. That scares people. If you are a little scared right now, good. Being scared is the first step.

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