Photos by Josh Keown and Rick Daugherty
I was recently looking through a catalog that I got at the last Pizza Expo and I saw both wood and metal peels being offered by the different companies. Do you have a preference in one over the other?
A: My preference is to use a wood peel as a prep peel — the peel used to dress the dough and take to the oven. The wood construction typically affords better dough release than the metal peels. The last thing you want to do is to slide a dressed skin into the oven and withdraw an empty pizza skin because it stuck to the peel and slid all the toppings into your oven. This is not to say that the dough will not stick to a wood peel — without dusting flour, the pizza skin can stick quite nicely. It is important to use some dusting flour even with a wood peel, but since wood is a better insulator than metal (aluminum), there is a reduced tendency for the dough to stick to the wood peel (condensation can form under the dough on a metal peel if the dough is warm and the peel blade is cold). I think the metal peel is best reserved for use as an oven peel where it stands up to the everyday “grind” of peel to oven deck/hearth much better than the wood peel does.
With all of this said, do keep in mind that in some localities, the use of wood peels are looked down upon by the local food safety people due to their inability to be properly cleaned and sanitized. This may leave us with only one option, the metal peel, or possibly a peel made from some type of manufactured, composite material that can be easily washed and sanitized without issue. More recently, I’ve had an inspector point to the worn edge of a wood peel and declare that those wood splinters are getting into the pizzas. Right or wrong, we’re in no position to argue with such wisdom, so be sure to give your peel selection more than just a passing thought or you might end up wasting your money on something you can’t use.
We use wood pizza peels to prep our pizzas on and we are required to wash and sanitize them daily. We notice that the peels tend to warp. What can we do to prevent this?
A: While wood peels are not made to be washed, they can be quickly washed and sanitized with a minimum of damage, primarily warping. It is best to start out with a new peel. Wipe it with mineral oil several times to impregnate and seal the wood. This will create a barrier against moisture migration into the peel when washed.
To wash the peel, dip it into the soapy water and scrub gently to remove any debris, then rinse and dip in the sanitizing solution. Next, be sure to wipe the peel as dry as possible with a clean towel, then set aside and allow it to dry thoroughly. This should be followed by another application of mineral oil to reseal the wood. Done carefully, and daily, you can keep problems to a minimum. I have a wood peel that is made from a material that looks a lot like Pakka Wood, a resin wood that is cured under high pressure and heat to form a homogenous wood that is highly stable and moisture resistant. These peels have all of the advantages of a wood peel but without any of the issues.
What is your preference for the top of a prep table where we will be hand stretching the dough?
A: That’s easy: just about anything but wood. Dough has a tendency to cling to wood bench tops. This is why bakers like it so much; but for pizza making, we want a top that will allow the dough to slide around easily without sticking or needing an extraordinary amount of dusting flour to prevent it from sticking. I’ve found that for top-end table-tops, marble, or man-made quartz, is hard to beat — but it comes at a price. Lower in cost, and almost equally as effective, is just plain old stainless steel. It has all the appeal of a homely fence post, but it works well and the price is right. Your food safety inspectors will look favorably upon it, too. A lot of your decision as to what to use will boil down to your store concept, and what you want to convey to your customers who might be watching you open your dough into pizza skins as they wait for their pizza to be made before them.
Tom Lehmann is a director at the American Institute of Baking in Manhattan, Kansas.
Watch the full story: wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather
ServSafe, a food safety and beverage safety training and certification program administered by the National Restaurant Association, offers criteria for delivery temperatures. For ServSafe guidelines, click here.
Read WAVE3’s full article here.
With blazing hot summer months upon us, it begs the questions: Are your receiving managers trained to check temperatures of all incoming food?
Photographs by Josh Keown
Customers are restaurants’ biggest allies and their harshest critics. They are not shy about expressing their joy, concern or displeasure with an eating establishment. The wilting plant in the corner, the dust on the ceiling fan or the empty paper towel bins in the bathroom are details easily overlooked by operators and staff.
But customers notice everything. When they see a dirty restaurant, they lose their appetite — and operators lose business.
“The cleanliness of the restaurant, small details — in the corners — reflects the cleanliness of the kitchen. This means everything,” says David Kincheloe, president of National Restaurant Consultants in Golden, Colorado.
Christopher Wells, founder of Restaurant Building Blocks, a restaurant management and training company, agrees that one negative can affect a customer’s impression of the entire restaurant.
“Your potential clients trust that you will provide them with a quality product that is safe for them,” Wells says. “If what they see tells them otherwise, it doesn’t matter how great you are with them, at that point you’ve tarnished the relationship.”
Alan Guinn, managing director and CEO of the Guinn Consultancy Group Inc. in Bristol, Tennessee, says dusty plants are just the beginning of overlooked areas that will draw the negative attention of customers.
“Menus that are sticky, have food between the pages, are worn, torn, or tattered offer the opportunity for you to not impress your guests even before they try your excellent cuisine. In most cases where guests are waiting for food or drinks to be served, their eyes immediately are drawn to the light fixtures. There is no excuse to have dusty light fixtures,” Guinn says. “HVAC and cold air returns naturally attract dust because the restaurant environment has micro particles of grease in the air which attach to these surfaces and act as an attractant to any dust in the air. The dust readily builds up and can spread across closely contingent ceiling surfaces.”
Kirk Mauriello, director of franchising for Aurelio’s Pizza, with locations in Illinois, Indiana, Florida, Georgia and Nevada, says other overlooked areas include window sills, trash cans inside the restaurant, the area around the hostess stand and overhead woodwork or decorations, otherwise known as dust collectors.
“The reception area needs to be spotless and organized. Are there tears, stains on benches, broken tiles (or) dirt in the threshold of the door? Front windows and doors need to be free of clutter and smudges. The tops of exposed beams are easily missed areas, Kincheloe says, and “parking lots are often overlooked. Walking up the sidewalk to the restaurant, is there trash lying around and cigarette butts? The back door of the restaurant is sometimes visible. Is there junk lying around, empty crates, boxes, old equipment?”
Wells also adds that chair legs are usually ignored and gum accumulates under the table.
“The floors are mopped, but corners are often overlooked and a dark gunk accumulates. Salt and pepper shakers are often sticky and gross as well as sugar and napkins if they are on the table,” Wells says.
Oddly, customers may decide whether a restaurant is clean not by eating in the dining room but by visiting the restroom.
“One of the first things customers comment on is the cleanliness of the bathrooms,” Mauriello says. Guinn agrees that restroom cleanliness is crucial to a customer’s assessment.
“Bathrooms are the most obvious ‘behind the scenes’ area that customers can visit in your restaurant, and the condition in which your bathrooms present to the customer directly mirrors the customers’ belief of the cleanliness of your kitchen,” Guinn says.
Laurel Roach, account executive of Commercial Janitorial, a commercial cleaning and maintenance company, says the most noticeable problems occur in the restrooms (the bases of toilet seats, walls, tile and grout lines).
Once areas are identified, operators need to act.
“Put cleaning tasks on a side work checklist for servers and kitchen staff to routinely clean. Hire a professional to periodically scrub tile and clean the carpets to keep things looking nice. Some tasks, such as scrubbing out the inside of an oven, cleaning a deep fryer or high dusting, really should be left to a professional,” Roach says.
Kincheloe says cleanliness is ultimately the responsibility of the manager/owner.
“They need to walk in the restaurant from the parking lot through the front door and observe. Sit in the far corners of the restaurant and look around ––top to bottom. Lists are nice and should be completed for communication and accountability of staff; they do not take the place of observation,” Kincheloe says.
Wells says the best system he’s seen is a list filled with weekly and monthly cleaning duties for each staff member to do in their free time. “They get each task signed by a manager when they are completed. Make this mandatory,” he says.
With a little help from technology, Aurelio’s Pizza is keeping on top of cleaning duties with their POS system. Installed for business purposes for credit cards and tracking data, the POS system also has time alerts to notify staff when the restrooms need cleaning.
“The system has a time calculation alert that says when something has to get done,” Mauriello says. “Our employees tend to get caught up in customer service when it’s busy, and when the restaurant is busy, the restrooms are used the most. It’s a great reminder system; it’s like a Google alert.”
Operators who need more elbow grease should consider enlisting professional help.
“Liability is a big reason to hire a professional cleaning company. An operator would be responsible if their staff member fell off of a 12-foot ladder doing the high dusting, or slipped when mopping the floor and hit their head,” Roach says. “When an employee is making a minimum serving wage, $4.75 per hour, it is probably asking a lot to require that they scrape gum off from underneath tables at the end of their shift. The quality of work is often poor or inconsistent. When hiring an outside vendor, an operator is able to hold someone accountable.”
DeAnn Owens is a freelance journalist living in Indianapolis. She specializes in features and human interest stories.
Photos by Josh Keown
When Sara Griffith, husband Joe and partners Shawn and Barb Griffith bought a Sam & Louie’s franchise location in Omaha, Nebraska, in August 2012, Sara was looking to update the pizzeria’s interior. She found inspiration from Pinterest, a visual-based social networking site, to use chalkboard paint to cover the entire wall behind the order counter.
“It’s the first thing customers see,” Sara says. “It really makes an impact.” She created an attractive focal point with half of the wall used to promote Sam & Louie’s lunch specials and the other half to depict colorful drawings related to the season and to highlight the restaurant’s features.
“It’s such a quick update,” Sara says. “It’s new and it’s fresh.” The DIY project cost only $20 for the gallon of chalkboard paint and her time. In the next few months, she also plans to paint a faux brick wall, a signature look in many Sam & Louie’s locations.
“Paint can certainly make a big difference,” says Deborah Ward of Deborah Ward Interiors in Tacoma, Washington. Ward specializes in restaurant interior design.
She cautions to plan ahead — calculate the area’s square footage so you know how much paint the walls and possibly ceiling will require. Depending on the size, painting may cost $5,000 or more if you use a professional crew. Also be sure to use low VOC paint to limit fumes.
One of the most obvious, but overlooked, aspects of a worn dining room is simply cleanliness, Ward says. “A lot can be done with just cleaning it,” she adds.
Go beyond your daily and weekly cleaning routines. While closed, take the opportunity to give your dining room a thorough, deep clean. Wash walls and ceilings, scrub upholstery, steam-clean floors, polish metals and dust all light fixtures and décor. Don’t forget to focus on hard-to-reach areas.
Evaluating the space for repairs and updates is vital to a fresh interior, Ward says. Make a list of everything — from wobbly tables, torn upholstery and ripped and worn flooring to an outdated color palette, poor dining room flow and mismatched decoration.
Some high-impact, low-cost dining room touch-ups include freshening up the front counter with a new pattern of plastic laminate, wood or other finishing material; swapping out outdated menu boards; re-upholstering furniture; touching up any wood elements and applying new stain; bringing new art and wall décor and updating light fixtures.
Prioritize the list. But when it comes to execution, Ward recommends that you make the changes all at once. It allows the grand reveal. “You just have to look at it all at one time — what the place needs — so it works together,” she says, adding that you should try to avoid piece-mealing the changes. While there’s usually additional cost involved, many subcontractors will work around your operating hours.
But if you have to phase in updates, Ward says, plan everything out that needs to be done. Poor planning can result in a look that is not cohesive and exceeds your budget to correct the problem.
“Sometimes you don’t know what you are going to get yourself into,” Ward says. That is why planning is so important. “Get all of your prices together so you know exactly where you are,” she says, adding that planning should be done far in advance. If new furniture is ordered, it may take a month or longer to receive. She adds, “when you start getting into plumbing and electrical, those are big dollar items.”
Some questions operators should answer before embarking on an interior project is: How large of a project is it? How much will it cost? How long will the project take to complete? Will it require a designer, architect or contractors? Is the update ADA compliant? Will the pizzeria be able to remain open during renovations?
When Tony Koehler, owner of Boulevard Pizza in Sparks, Nevada, was ready to replace his retro-looking menu board, he mapped everything out, which resulted in a well-executed finished product and saved him money.
Koehler tapped employees with graphic design and photography talents to come up with the new menu boards. “We outsourced only the printing of the menu files to a local print shop, whom we traded the work for a few pizzas,” he says. The Boulevard team spent nearly 50 hours total on the project that included building the backing boards, affixing the printed menus to the boards, framing to the walls, and installing ceiling mounted light fixtures.
Boulevard’s new menu board cost $325. Moreover, Koehler says, the change is photo-rich, draws attention to higher margin menu items and emphasizes descriptions over price. He says his customers now have a better impression of the pizzeria.
What a customers see
Walking through your dining room everyday means you may not notice its flaws. Restaurant interior designer Deborah Ward suggests that you select a person you trust who will be honest with you to evaluate your dining room. Create a checklist that focuses on the following areas:
Floors: Are they worn to the point of replacement? Are there rips, stains, or cracks and can those be repaired? If carpet is in place, does it look dirty or have an odor?
Ceilings: Are there stained, broken or missing tiles? Are all light fixtures working and have the correct wattage bulb in them? Do the fixtures look dated?
Walls: Is the paint discolored or faded? Are there dings in the wall that require plaster? Is the art on the walls dated? Does the color palette and art best represent your restaurant? Would adding visual blockage to undesirable sightline enhance the dining experience? Does your menu board represent your current offering effectively?
Furniture: Are chairs or tables wobbly or broken? Is the upholstery in dire need of replacement? Can furniture be reconfigured for better dining room flow? If so, will it require moving light fixtures?
Denise Greer is associate editor at Pizza Today.
Photos by Josh Keown
Time to sharpen your knife skills? And by skills, we’re talking about back-of-house efficiencies and safety protocols around the most common foodservice tool. Knowing which knives work best for cutting different types of product, how to care for them properly and how to use knives safely can give operators a well-honed edge.
Safety first. “Train your employees how to use the knife properly,” says James P. DeWan, adjunct chefinstructor at Chicago’s Kendall College School of Culinary Arts and co-author of The Zwilling J. A. Henckels Complete Book of Knife Skills: The Essential Guide to Use, Techniques and Care. He recommends the classic French method, which sees the bottom of the blade pinched by the dominant hand’s thumb and first finger with the other fingers wrapping around the handle. The other hand curls into a claw position, which guards the fingertips against the blade, and grips the ingredient being cut. “The side of the knife is flush against your guide fingers,” he says. “That’s the way to cut safely. It takes time to get used to it, so it’s important to practice it. There are tons of videos on YouTube that demonstrate proper technique. Have your kitchen staff watch them and then practice their skills repeatedly.”
And like all well-run professional kitchens, staff training is key. “Our senior cooks teach the newer cooks how to cut properly,” says Jim D’Angelo, COO of Lou Malnati’s, which has 35 pizza shops in the Chicagoland area. For repetitive tasks, such as cutting dough, back-of-house staff must don protective metal mesh gloves. “We implemented the policy about five years ago and we strictly enforce it,” he says. “Knife cuts were making up a huge amount of our back-of-house injuries. We don’t make them wear it on the line, but when they’re doing something repetitive, they have to. It’s reduced accidents significantly.”
To maximize performance and minimize injury, DeWan recommends keeping blades sharp. Lou Malnati’s sends its knives out for sharpening weekly. “We lease our knives from a company and sharpening them is part of that lease,” says D’Angelo. The company takes away the dull knives, replacing them with sharpened ones, sharpens the dull ones and returns them the next week, following the same pattern to always keep Lou Malnati’s flush with sharp tools.
At Fiammé Pizzeria in Naperville, Illinois, a sharpening truck visits about every two weeks, or whenever executive chef Ryan Craig calls them in. “He does them right there on the spot, and it works really well for us,” he says.
DeWan suggests honing the knives with a steel in between sharpening sessions. “The blade of the knife has microscopic teeth that bend with use,” he says. “Running the knife over the steel pushes those teeth back into alignment.”
Of course, pizzerias require specialized tools. When it comes to which knife works best, the answer is as varied as the available types of pizzerias.
For thin crust and Napoletana-style pizzas, the favored choice seems to be the pizza wheel. “Our pizzas are Neapolitan style and our ingredients are delicate, requiring a more precise, delicate touch,” says Craig. “I tried using a rocker knife because it’s more efficient, but I lost a lot of ingredients, which just flew off the pizza with the movement of the big blade.”
On the line, he uses three pizza wheels: one for red, one for white and one for gluten-free pizzas. He also keeps a chef’s knife and paring knife for ingredient prep, as well as a good bread knife for cutting French bread into crostini and bruschetta.
Lou Malnati’s also uses a pizza wheel for its dine-in thin-crust pizza. “It doesn’t drag the cheese and it gives us a nice precise cut,” says D’Angelo.
For dine-in deep-dish, which is the most common pizza ordered at Lou Malnati’s, his prep cooks use a boning knife, which sports a long, narrow, sharp blade. “It allows them to cut through the thick layer of cheese, toppings and crust with some pretty good speed and accuracy,” he says.For carryout and delivery, a mezzaluna, or rocker knife, is the go-to blade. Its handles allow for a sure grip while putting more weight on the knife to cut through the pie with precision and clean edges. “We’d use it for our dine-in deep dish pizzas, too, if we could,” he says. “It’s so fast and efficient.” The mezzaluna can portion a 14-inch pizza with only four cuts. As the restaurant chain cuts and then serves its dine-in deep dish in the pan that the pizza was baked in, the rocker is not an option. “The boning knife works well, but for cutting speed, nothing is better than the rocker,” says D’Angelo.
Why not a pizza wheel for deep dish? “It plows through the toppings and doesn’t give you a clean cut. You have to go over it too many times to cut through, making a mess of the pizza as you do it,” he says. For prep work, his staff uses the traditional eight-inch chef’s knife, also known as a French knife, and smaller (2½-inch) paring knife.
Katie Ayoub is a frequent contributor to Pizza Today. She’s based in Naperville, Illinois.
Photos by Josh Keown
Running a pair of independent pizzerias in northern Georgia, Ron Kaes knows that one serious workplace injury can spoil the two Paparonni’s pizzerias he’s dedicated himself to over the last 16 years.
“Workplace safety ought to be a concern for any business owner, but especially for the owner-operator who can least afford lost productivity or the potential financial loss associated with medical bills and lawsuits,” Kaes says.
Understanding that they inherit the responsibility of employee and guest safety as well as the financial burden of rising insurance premiums, production inefficiencies, or, worse, costly litigation should a serious injury occur, wise operators embrace workplace safety.
“Either pay attention and be observant or you’ll put yourself at risk in unwanted ways,” warns restaurant consultant Nancy Caldarola of Atlanta based Concept Associates. “You want your employees to have fun, to enjoy the work, but you can’t let them lose sight of safety or you’ll lose sight of money.”
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the incidence of reported injuries for cooks and food preparation workers sits “comparatively high compared to all occupations,” even if the job hazards, such as falls, cuts, and burns, are seldom serious. That said, operators must remain mindful, attentive, and on guard.
“The engaged owner-operator will usually notice potential safety issues long before a manager or shift supervisor because of his experience and his financial interest,” Kaes reminds.
Since pizzeria operators face the significant challenge of an employee pool with high turnover and wide-ranging work pedigrees, proper training and supervision become critical to creating a safe workplace.
Kaes, a strong proponent of teen employment, sets his goal as providing a wholesome training environment alongside a realistic culture of accountability. While he inherits the burden of establishing procedures, providing proper training and promoting a culture of professionalism, he demands his staff commit to personal attentiveness, reminding them with signs, placards and safety instructions that procedures exist for everything and safety is paramount. It’s a message championed by others.
“There is a safe way to make pizzas and conduct business, and this needs to be communicated to employees over and over,” says Daniel Hartwig, president of General Health and Safety Services Corp. in Punta Gorda, Florida.
Though falls, cuts, and burns remain the three most common restaurant industry injuries, a few proactive, attentive changes can help minimize risk.
Wet, slippery floors, most often caused by weather or spills, heighten the risk of slips and falls. As a general rule, keep floors dry and clean of debris, including broken or loose tiles, a guideline that not only reduces injury risk but communicates pride of ownership. Proper floor-washing procedures, utilizing the two-bucket system with a deck brush and mop, will further help minimize risk and showcase the restaurant’s cleanliness.
On poor weather days, assign a staff member the duty of clearing excess water and placing down additional rugs, which every operator should have on hand. Also, utilize yellow caution signage as a reminder of the elements.
Other recommended policies include: instituting a simple-to-follow spill rule — when anything hits the floor, clean it up immediately; insisting that employees wear non-skid footwear, a policy that can produce a price break from insurance companies; requiring the use of rolling bus carts for moving all dough trays and bulky items; and finally, establishing a strict “no horseplay” policy.
Improper training, broken equipment and not having the proper cutting gloves are most often the culprits behind cuts. Solutions include replacing or sharpening knives frequently and performing suggested maintenance on key equipment, minor tasks that can save big money. Also, limit knife use only to those who have been trained in handling, policies and procedures.
“Issues most often happen when things get busy and someone picks up a knife to help out, but doesn’t know proper techniques or gets easily distracted,” says Caldarola, who sliced her own finger as a teen restaurant employee. “Reiterate to employees that everything’s in its place and everything has a place.”
Additionally, Hartwig, the father of two pizzeria-working sons, reminds that cuts are not only a work-related issued, but also a sanitary issue. Blood or bandages in food can create sick customers and negative PR.
“Given the nature of the pizzeria business, with employees hustling during those hot hours, someone often doesn’t tend to a cut right away or doesn’t tend to it properly and that’s something operators want to avoid.” In the kitchen, burns happen. It’s as easy to mistakenly touch a hot pan or oven deck as it is for hot grease, a particularly common kitchen inhabitant as pizzerias diversify their menu offerings, to leap onto the skin. Combating burns begins with wearing proper coverage, including gloves, aprons and eyewear, and having a ready supply of working pan grips and mittens available to employees, thereby removing the temptation to remove a hot pan from the oven with a wet towel. Letting the equipment cool down before cleaning should also be stressed, perhaps providing a staging area solely for cooling equipment.
“We can be our own worst enemy when we fail to do the simple, little things that create a safe working environment,” Caldarola says. ❖
The Pizzeria’s First Aid Kit
In spite of an operator’s best efforts to eliminate workplace injuries, cuts and burns, slips and falls are bound to happen wherever and whenever humans are involved. Recognizing this reality, Caldarola suggests operators prepare a first-aid kit stocked with:
❖ Small and large adhesive bandages
❖ Liquid medical soap
❖ Two 40-inch triangular bandages
❖ Cotton applicators
❖ Ammonia inhalants
❖ Two-inch gauze roller bandage
❖ Stretch roller gauze
❖ Gauze compresses
❖ Large gauze compresses for pressure dressing
❖ One-inch adhesive roll tape
❖ Chemical cold packs
❖ Tongue depressors
To further enhance the environment’s safety, operators might add an OSHA-approved Blood Spill Kit, a law in many states, as well as a CDC and OSHA-approved Vomit Clean-Up Kit. Operators should assume that any blood is contaminated and that any vomit and a 10-foot perimeter are tainted and pose a health hazard.
Chicago-based writer Daniel P. Smith has covered business issues and best practices for a variety of trade publications, newspapers, and magazines.
Photo by Rick Daugherty
You’re sitting down for dinner when you realize you haven’t washed your hands in hours. You go to the restroom, wash your hands and reach for a paper towel. But there are none –– and no hand-dryer either. Now you’ve got that icky wet-hand feeling, and a few doubts about the place you’ve chosen for your meal. If there are no paper towels in the bathroom, then is the kitchen clean?
To a restaurant owner, this may seem like a giant leap. You know the kitchen’s fine –– it’s where you spend all your time and energy. But your customers can’t see your kitchen, and they likely haven’t read your health inspection reports that praise you for keeping everything ship-shape. They’re going to judge you based on what they see –– and that’s the bathroom and dining room.
Fortunately, keeping bathrooms clean is generally quick and easy. It takes diligence, and maybe a few tricks, but not much skill. Ben Nighswander,
co-owner (with his wife, Mandi) of B. Antonio’s Pizza in Fort Wayne, Indiana, says they are fanatical about bathroom cleanliness. The restaurant has their computers programmed to print out a reminder to check the bathrooms every hour. If the person who pulls the item off of the printer can’t attend to it, they post it along the food line as they would a ticket for an order. As soon as the food orders are handled, an employee checks the bathroom.
The short list of what they’re looking for is ensuring there are paper towels and soap in the bathroom and that there is no paper or other debris on the floor. Beyond those hourly checks, the restroom is checked by a manager or owner three to four times a day. Cleaning the restroom between shifts falls to servers as part of their side work, done after their shift ends but before they can leave. “It takes staying on top of it,” Nighswander says. “It takes checking on it seven to 10 times a day.”
If nothing else, having the health department visit for an inspection will force you to pay attention to the restroom. While most of the health inspector’s time is spent behind the scenes in kitchens, prep areas and food storage areas, health department regulations do have something to say about bathrooms. Regulations vary from state to state and even from county to county. But here’s one set of rules pertaining to bathrooms: in Central Virginia, the health department requires all restrooms, including those for employee use only, to be stocked with soap, toilet paper and some type of hand-drying device, including paper towels, a cloth towel that revolves or a hand-dryer. Customer restrooms have to be located in the public part of the restaurant, and must not be accessible through a kitchen.
Wherever your employees wash their hands, there must be a poster noting that they are required to do so after using the restroom and before touching food, Virginia regulations note.
Washington state regulations, also posted online, show similar requirements.
Restaurant owners say keeping the bathrooms clean is simply part of good customer service. Brendan Higgins, co-owner of The Upper Crust Pizzeria, with 20 locations in the Boston area and one in Washington, D.C., said his restaurants’ bathrooms are also checked hourly. The restaurants are open-concept, with the kitchen open to the dining room. Though the bathrooms are not open, too, he likes to think of them as an extension of the same concept. “Every hour or so, managers are supposed to go in and make sure there is no trash on the floor and that everything is fully stocked,” Higgins says. “Area managers also pop into our stores and, as part of that, they spot-check the bathrooms.”
Higgins notes that it’s tempting when you’re busy to ignore the bathrooms. But that always leads to trouble. “If you wait six to seven hours and go through the dinner rush, chances are there will be a mess in there,” Higgins says, and it takes more time to clean up a big mess than to keep up with it in the first place. “Use big dispensers for soap and paper towels, but still, don’t wait until it’s all out.”
As parents of small children, Nighswander recommends one
additional step for bathrooms: have a diaper-changing table, and make sure it is checked, cleaned and ready for use by parents. It can make a world of difference and get parents coming back for more pizza –– picking your restaurant over another because you’ve provided this convenience. “We opened the first restaurant before we had kids,” Nighswander says. “By the time we opened the second one, we had kids, and the restrooms became that much more important to us.”
Parents love a clean restroom
Pizza restaurants and their Italian counterparts are havens for parents bringing their tomato-sauce loving offspring for lunch or a night out on the town. As it so happens, those little people don’t go too long without needing a diaper change or a visit to the restroom. Parents are usually looking at the bathrooms with a critical eye – trying to figure out how to get in and out with a minimum of touching surfaces.
Julie Casey, Founder of MyKidsPlate.com and CEO of Radius Three Marketing LLC, has researched parents’ hot buttons when taking their kids out to eat. From the time she started her research in 2007, cleanliness of the bathrooms, and the restaurant overall, has been in the top 10, and since the recession hit, it’s been the number one factor in choosing a restaurant, she says. “Parents, most especially moms, will evaluate a restaurant’s kitchen or food based on the cleanliness of the restroom,” Casey says. “While to some that may not seem fair, the reality is that if a restroom is dirty, it means it’s not getting the attention it needs.”
Robyn Davis Sekula is a freelance writer in New Albany, Indiana.
Photo by Josh Keown
Imagine this scenario: You’ve just launched a series of four pesto-inspired pizzas. To promote your new menu items, you gear up for a one-day promotional event, practically giving away the pizzas. You’ve advertised the heck out of the promo and even received local media coverage.
But are you ready to handle the big day?
Executing a limited time promotion is an intricate operation. The difference between success and a flop lies in the planning, says Richard Allum, director of marketing at Amici’s East Coast Pizzeria Restaurants in Montara, California. In March, Amici’s drew more than 1,000 people to a two-hour autograph event with 19 NHL San Jose Sharks players at its Cupertino location, raising $14,400 for the San Jose Sharks Foundation.
“It’s very important to make sure everything is set up with the team, everything is set up with various media partners, and obviously internally within the organization to be able to handle the volume of business that we think we are going to be able to get on that day,” Allum says.
Anticipating volume is one of the more challenging aspects of planning a large promotion. “You have to plan for the best case scenario in terms of being absolutely swamped,” Allum says.
This year in Brooklyn, New York, Chipp Neapolitan Pizza offered a free six-inch pizza to nearby Kingsborough Community College’s student body of more than 20,000. Owner Lenny Veltman circulated 5,000 fliers on campus.
Milas King of DaVinci’s Pizzeria in Smyrna, Georgia, took a limiting
approach to the volume for his combined “Take Over Smyrna” and “Facebook friends eat free” promotional day last fall. DaVinci’s offered a free small pizza to 540 people who “liked” the restaurant on Facebook. The company also partnered with 50 Smyrna businesses, which gave their customers 1,500 free small pizza coupons redeemable for that day only. Creating a finite number to work with made it more manageable. Also, King says he can now project a 30 percent redemption rate after going through several successful runs of the event. In the beginning, King says, he figured a 15-percent redemption would constitute a good day.
Once the numbers are projected, it’s time to move on to logistics. Months leading up to the promo are spent calculating product supply orders for your promo week based on volume projections and normal orders for the day.
Kitchen prep is the focus a day before and especially the morning of an event. “We prep everything at 5 a.m.,” King says. Doubling the amount of meats and vegetables, DaVinci’s staff chops and seasons all morning. “We have tubs that we rotate,” he says of how the kitchen organizes supplies. “It really keeps from having inventory problems.”
Inventory and kitchen prep for most operators is the manageable part. The big question becomes: how can your restaurant handle the volume you’ve projected while keeping with your standards of quality?
For Allum, Veltman and King, honing in on their restaurants’ capabilities and capacity made all of the difference. There are so many components that affect the efficiency of the promotion from the selection of product(s) offered during the promotion to the layout of the restaurant.
Veltman wanted people to try Chipp’s pizza in its truest form, making the offer dine-in only. “The real taste is 100-percent straight from the oven to your plate,” Veltman says.
Veltman adds: “You never know what exposure you are going to get. But no matter what, I was ready.”
There were operational considerations at Chipp’s with the promotion. With one 800-degree oven built for speed, cooking 10 six-inch pizzas in about a minute, Chipp’s provides quick service. Even with a small dining area, Veltman turns tables over rapidly due to the size of the product and the lack of wait time to fill orders.
DaVinci’s promo was the exact
opposite, made available for carryout only. King says the limit helped to not disrupt their regular dine-in and delivery business, saved on labor costs and optimized the store’s layout. “Our restaurant is shaped like an L,” he says. “So they place their order on one side, get their pizza and go out the other door. So it creates this flow.”
Allum knew that the Amici’s location wouldn’t seat 1,000 people in a few short hours, so the restaurant made a few deviations. He brought in staff and managers from locations near two major venues, because these employees were accustomed to dealing with high volumes in short time periods. And even though Amici’s doesn’t normally offer slices, they did for the event. “It’s just a great way to get people to sample our product,” he says. “We sell two slices for $4. It was very inexpensive. We know from experience that there is no better advertising for what we do than to actually get people to eat the pizza.”
Though high volumes may be chaotic at times, lines outside your restaurant aren’t a bad thing, according to King and Allum. Amici’s and DaVinci’s are on busy roads, so the lines create, as King puts it, that “what’s going on over there?” buzz.
Denise Greer is associate editor at Pizza Today.
Safe, Not Sorry
Robbery preparedness and prevention training could save lives
BY DIANNE MOLVIG
PHOTOS BY RICK DAUGHERTY
Too often people don't think about robbery until it happens, and then it becomes top of mind," says Matt Martin, franchise training leader for Toppers Pizza, with 36 locations in eight states and headquartered in Whitewater, Wisconsin.
Toppers Pizza keeps robbery prevention and preparedness on the radar. "It's part of our training for everyone we hire," Martin says. "Our main message to employees is 'give the robbers the money. We can make more money tomorrow, but we can't replace you.'"
Security training experts emphasize that a robbery is no time for heroics. Unfortunately, an occasional news story pops up about an employee who fought off an armed robber and became a local hero. Experts emphatically recommend against such actions.
"In most commercial robberies, employees aren't injured as long as they cooperate," says security consultant and trainer Chris McGoey of Crime Doctor in Los Angeles.
McGoey advises against owners keeping a gun in the restaurant. If a robber has a gun pointed at you, you're not going to retrieve yours fast enough anyway, he explains, and quick moves may startle the robber into shooting you. Plus, if other employees have access to the weapon but lack a cool head and gun-handling skills, they could set off wild shots that injure others inside the store or out on the street. By introducing another weapon, "you're bringing more violence into an already potentially violent situation," McGoey says.
Untrained, panicky employees also can trigger violence inadvertently, says John Moore of Armed Robbery Training Associates in Spokane, Washington. He points to an incident in which a man entered a pizzeria brandishing a knife and demanded the cash register be emptied into a pizza box.
One of the two employees at the counter dashed across the room to grab a pizza box. Thinking the employee was running to hit an alarm or call police, the robber lunged for the cash in the register. In the process, and probably by accident, he badly cut the other employee on the arm as she was emptying the till.
"What the first employee should have done," Moore explains, "is say, 'I'm going to walk over there to get a box and come right back.' People get hurt or killed
because nobody trained them in what to do and what not to do."
Besides coaching employees in robbery survival, train them in practices that make your restaurant a less appealing target. Here are a few procedures recommended by security experts:
Keep minimal cash in the till. Make frequent cash drops into a locked drop-safe located near the cash register and securely
anchored in place. Let people see you put cash in there. Assume a robber might have been an earlier customer or former
employee who witnessed cash-handling practices.
Use time-delay safes. These won't open until at least 20 minutes after someone enters the combination. Robbers typically don't want to hang around that long. Post signage that your safes are on time-delay to deter someone who's casing your restaurant for robbery potential.
Don't go out the back door after dark for any reason. Keep back and side doors locked at all times. Going out the back at night is an invitation to robbers. Keep trash stored inside overnight, and let the daytime crew dispose of it.
Open and close using the buddy system. A minimum of two employees should be on duty at all times. One employee enters to check the premises for anyone hiding or anything suspicious. If all's well, the employee remaining outside gets an all-clear signal. Otherwise, the outside employee knows to call police. Then at closing, one employee goes out to check the restaurant's surroundings, communicates an all-clear signal to the other inside, goes to his or her car some distance away and waits to watch the other employee leave safely.
Your restaurant's physical features can attract or deter robbers. "They look for easy escape routes and dimly lit areas," says Furlishous Wyatt, business security specialist with San Francisco SAFE, a nonprofit crime prevention organization. "That's why you should have a security specialist or someone from your police department come out to your restaurant to look at the lay of the land."
Many police departments and crime prevention nonprofits also provide robbery training for employees. Some security companies have training available
online, often for free.
Wyatt advises keeping windows clear of signage, shrubbery and other obstructions. "Create a fishbowl appearance," he says, "so employees can see out, and passing patrol cars and citizens can see in."
Surveillance cameras, prominently announced, also make robbers think twice. Consider placing a monitor in the front of the house so people immediately see they're on camera when they enter. Wyatt suggests placing a camera at the front exit, too, and aiming it to catch a shoulders-and-up image of anyone leaving. Other cameras up in the corners may miss such images if robbers wear hats and hoods. If they have masks, they'll usually remove them on the way out to avoid drawing attention on the street, and you'll get a picture.
Silent alarms are another security tool. Put them in several strategic locations — under the front counter and in the kitchen, office, storeroom, cooler and so on. Be sure employees know to activate an alarm only if they can do so unnoticed.
Finally, one of the best robbery-prevention weapons is vigilance. Train employees to spot anyone who's hanging around inside or outside and perhaps casing the place. "Follow your instincts,"
Wyatt says. "If the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, something is wrong. Call the police." u
Dianne Molvig is a freelance writer in Madison, Wisconsin.
Photographs By Josh Keown
Minding the complexity of the Americans with Disabilities Act may make your head spin with worry. Face it –– this law creates frustration for many, not only because of the business cost it incurs, but also because of fear that an unhappy customer will sue you for an overlooked incursion.
But take heart, because the ADA can be boiled down into a simple rule of thumb: “Be cognizant, caring and aware. That’s all you have to be, and that’s ADA-compliant,” says James Sinclair, who consults restaurant owners on opening and growing businesses, as well as handling “distressed” operations.
As president of OnSite Consulting of Los Angeles, Sinclair also advises on ADA compliance. “Think of it in the human sense,” he says. “All you’re doing is trying to ensure that anyone who walks into your restaurant can enjoy the experience. It’s about care — being a caring owner and recognizing that’s the law.”
Small restaurant owners in particular may feel ADA compliance is financially onerous. Yes, this is a required aspect of doing business. But, it can be seen positively: It’s an opportunity to show the community you’re a friendly establishment, worthy of their patronage, Sinclair and other experts say. Plan for ADA accommodations to work for your space, while also making the front of the house an accessible, friendly place.
In July 2010, President Obama announced the most significant changes to the ADA since it became law in 1991, says Kevin Hughes, who has researched the ADA changes extensively. He is vice president for Project and Development Services at Jones Lang LaSalle, a Chicago-based firm that specializes in real estate services and investment management.
Under the revised law that took affect March 15, 2012, there are strong penalties for offenders: fines up to $55,000 for the first violation and $110,000 for the second. “In some cases, organizations have paid much larger additional amounts to compensate individuals involved in lawsuits,” he says. “And following litigation, courts often dictate remediation schedules, removing control from the organization and often resulting in greater overall expense.”
One example is NPC International, which is the largest franchisee of Pizza Hut restaurants. The company must make accessible improvements to dining and counter service areas, restrooms, entrances and parking areas at about 800 locations, Hughes says.
“Compliance is also good business,” Hughes says. “Many associations publish guides and rating systems that evaluate businesses such as hotels and retailers according to accessibility for disabled persons.”
A Small Business Administration loan can help pay for required changes, Sinclair says. “A dollar saved today is a thousand-dollar cost tomorrow. If you say, ‘I don’t have the $15,000 to buy this,’ you can lease it or finance it. It’s like saying, ‘I can’t afford a stove.’Then you probably shouldn’t open the business,” he says.
Jeff Farney owns Complete Access Solutions LLC of Wichita, Kansas, a firm that consults full-time on ADA compliance. Many small businesses don’t realize there are also tax incentives for “barrier removal.”
“Some of (the tax write-off ) is significant,” Farney says. “what’s available will take, in most cases, 80 to 90 percent of the cost away of modifications, the priority stuff. with new construction, ADA compliance accounts for less than two percent of the total cost of a project, on average.
Here are the usual “red flags” for inspectors and complainants, Farney says:
- A lack of compliant accessible parking spaces. This includes “van accessible” spaces, access aisles and vertical signage. Numbers of accessible spaces required is based on total parking spaces available. Additionally, accessible spaces should be on the shortest route to the accessible entrance and should be level (slopes of two percent or less) in all directions.
- Accessible route to the accessible entrance from parking spaces. Accessible routes are at least 36-inches wide, have slopes no greater than five percent and are free from changes in level (thresholds) greater than a ½-inch beveled.
- Entrance doors with opening hardware that can be opened with a closed fist. “Panel” style hardware is NOT compliant. entrance doors should have a clear opening at least 32 inches wide and thresholds should be no higher than a ½-inch beveled.
“I commonly see condiments and self serve soda dispensers placed too high –– they shouldn’t be higher than 48 inches. I also see register counters too high –– they shouldn’t be higher than 34 inches,” Farney says.
When in doubt, find an ADA consultant, and check their references, Farney says. If you need technical advice, contact the US Department of Justice at www.ada.gov. This site includes information about changes to the ADA law.
Heidi Lynn Russell specializes in writing about the issues that affect small business owners.
Photos by Josh Keown
Think of dangerous work environments. Factories might come to mind, but a restaurant can be just as dangerous. With hot ovens, knives and slick floors, your kitchen provides ample probability for minor or even major injuries.
There are nearly 200,000 non-fatal occupational injuries in food service establishments each year, according the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Big Dave Ostrander has analyzed kitchen safety as an operator of a successful pizzeria and as an industry consultant and trainer. Often times, Ostrander finds that “we assume that employees are never going to slip on a slippery floor, they are never going to accidentally come in contact with a hot surface or a sharp knife. Thus, you bear your scars and I bear mine.”
Training is the most vital component of kitchen safety. When confronted with hazardous situations, Ostrander says, “If your employees don’t know what to do, shame on you.”
Ostrander elicited the help of fellow operator Michael Shepherd, who owns Michael Angelo’s Pizza with two locations in Kenton and Rushsylvania, Ohio. Each came up with his own strategies and procedures to address kitchen safety specifically.
Shepherd has created a complete training course about each dangerous piece of equipment, proper lifting, knife skills, chemicals and fire extinguishers with manuals, videos and tests. A local company helped transfer everything online a few years ago and assists with testing.
Michael Angelo’s employees spend six to eight hours in front of the computer with company policy, kitchen safety and food safety modules before they are allowed into the kitchen. They also must pass tests in each area with multiple choice, true or false and essay questions.
Ostrander also tested his staff. At Big Dave’s, new employees had 10 weeks to pass his training. He says the employee could take it as many times as it took until the 10th week and they had to score 80 percent or they were let go. By testing, Ostrander says: “They just simply can’t fake it.”
Ostrander says there are three key kitchen injuries to focus your training: cuts, falls and burns.
Let’s examine each injury. Ostrander and Shepherd provide the following preventative tips for cuts, falls and burns:
Cuts. Teach knife skills. “There is a way to rock your knife and you can get a lot of work out of a knife effortlessly and quickly,” says Ostrander, who chopped 25 gallons of onions every day during his first job in the business.
The skills go beyond just using the knife but also handing it to another person. “There is only one way to pass a knife,” Ostrander says. “That’s hand to hand and eye to eye and you have to say ‘thank you.’ It tells the passer that you got it.”
Never place sharp objects into the sink, including knifes and slicer blades. At locations that have a dishwasher, Shepherd instituted a policy that all sharp objects must be washed in the dishwasher.
Michael Shepherd, owner of Michael Angelo’s Pizza in Kenton, Ohio, offers the following approaches to kitchen safety:
You have to idiot-proof everything. Make things simplistic. You cannot underestimate how easily an employee can get hurt.
Build some kind of safety plan or safety training plan, whether it is super simple or really in-depth. It could be as simple as here is my three-page written plan on how I am going to train every employee and then I am going to document that they have been trained and they are going to sign off.
Make sure you provide the necessary tools to do the things safely. You have to provide them what they need and make sure they are using it.
Wash all cutting utensils immediately after use. Regardless of how busy Michael Angelo’s is, the policy stands. Take the tomato slicer, Shepherd says. After a few hours, juice and seeds stick to the blades, requiring someone to hand scrub blades and posing a risk of a cut.
Never compress trash with your hand. Another good tip for trash, Shepherd says, is to use a two- or four-wheel cart to transport trash to the dumpster.
Falls. Make everyone wear anti-slip shoes. “We give a spending allowance of $30 towards the shoes,” Shepherd says. “That has eliminated about 99 percent of all of the slips and falls.”
Put down anti-fatigue mats in main areas, especially splash areas like dishwashing stations and stoves.
In Addition, Ostrander says mats must always be in their designated location. “We never work without them under our feet,” he says. If they need cleaned, choose a time when the kitchen is not in use.
Clean up all spills immediately. “You can never walk around a spill,”
Burns. Supply hot pads. Having the right holders in place will help employees resist the temptation to grab a damp rag, which can seriously scold skin.
Communicate when you are passing by the oven. “If someone is passing by the ovens, they have to announce that they are coming through so they don’t get a peel in the face,” Shepherd says.
If a hot object is falling, let it go. There is a natural tendency to grab something that is falling. In the case of a hot pizza or pan, Ostrander says, let it fall. You can always remake the product.
There are other kitchen safety rules to which Ostrander and Shepherd recommend strict adherence. Follow all OSHA and Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) guidelines for chemicals.
Ostrander says, when it comes to your equipment, never override safety systems put in by the manufacturer. He sees this happen with mixers. People will remove the safety cage to gain speed. Not only will your insurer not cover the equipment, but also you’ve put your employees at risk.
Many injuries result from employee conduct. Never allow horseplay. Shepherd has a zero-tolerance policy for horseplay at Michael Angelo’s. “It shows really bad judgment,” he says. “If they are willing to do that, what else are they willing to do.”
Kitchen safety boils down to training. “Going through all of the what ifs and training, you are doing your staff a major favor,” Ostrander says. “You are saving yourself a lot of stress down the line because it’s a matter of it’s going to happen sooner or later.” u
Denise Greer is the associate editor of Pizza Today.
WORD OF WISDOM
Michael Shepherd, owner of Michael Angelo’s Pizza in Kenton, Ohio, offers the following approaches to kitchen safety:
You have to idiot- proof everything. Make things sim- plistic. You cannot underestimate how easily an employee can get hurt.
Build some kind of safety plan or safety training plan, whether it is super simple or really in- depth. It could be as simple as here is my three-page written plan on how I am go- ing to train every employee and then I am going to document that they have been trained and they are going to sign off.
Make sure you provide the neces- sary tools to do the things safely. You have to provide them what they need and make sure they are using it.
Denise Greer is the associate editor of Pizza Today.
Photos by Josh Keown
Pizza delivery can be dangerous, but there is some good news. The job is not as dangerous as people think, and technology can help make the work safer.
Although pizza delivery is often mentioned as one of the ten most dangerous occupations, no such list exists. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, out of 4,609 fatal work injuries recorded in the United States in 2011, 759 of those deaths were among driver/sales workers and truck drivers. Pizza delivery drivers would indeed be included in that category, says Andrew Kato, an economist with the Occupational Safety and Health Statistics program of the BLS. But the segment also includes, for example, drivers who pick up or deliver laundry on a regular route.
“We are not aware of anyone who has data with such a specific occupational coding system that they would be able to identify specifically pizza delivery personnel,” Kato says.
Still, a glance at daily headlines prove it’s not the safest job in the world. The way the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) explains it, factors that put drivers at risk include working with the public, working with cash, working alone, working at night and working in high-crime areas. In addition, pizza delivery drivers risk being injured or killed in traffic accidents, or even slipping on the stairs of a customer’s home.
Operators know they have to do more than tell drivers to carry less than $20 and to turn back if a delivery address looks suspicious. Mark Scriven, district manager for delivery and takeout for Austin, Texas-based Gatti’s Pizza, says 50 to 55 percent of delivery orders are paid with credit cards. That decreases the amount of cash the drivers carry, making them less of a crime target. For the cash orders, the safe box and the point of sale system have controls. “A screen pops up, and you can’t get the ticket for another delivery unless you drop the money,” Scriven says.
Another way to protect drivers is to simply avoid delivering to high crime rate areas. At the Farmers Branch, Texas-based Mr. Jim’s Pizza, some addresses are eligible for delivery during the day and not at night, and other addresses are not eligible for delivery at all. “It’s all geocoded,” explains Jim Johnson, founder and owner of the 53-unit Mr. Jim’s. “If you are in an address where we don’t deliver, the system doesn’t let you in.”
Cell phones can also help keep drivers safe. While some robberies are crimes of opportunity — the criminal sees a delivery vehicle with a car topper and decides to strike — other crimes are setups, in which the caller orders a pizza, directs the driver to an empty, perhaps foreclosed house, and robs the person.
Operators can avoid the latter scenario, says Marla Topliff, president of Elgin, Illinois-based Rosati’s Pizza. The driver can return to the store, or remain in the car and call the store. Then someone calls the customer. “We say, ‘We are about to deliver to you and we want to verify your address,’ or, ‘Our driver is lost, can you describe the area?’” Topliff says. “If the delivery was not valid they will not take the call. They won’t go to all the trouble to reconfirm the order.”
Tragically, a driver for Rosati’s Pizza was killed in 2006. The driver hit redial on her cell phone just before she was beaten to death, a move that helped authorities find the killer, who was eventually sentenced to 81 years in prison. Defense attorneys maintained that the murderer panicked when the driver followed him into the house, a detail that seemed unlikely because drivers for the 150-unit Rosati’s are told never to enter a customer’s home. Not only is it unsafe for the driver, but they can be accused of stealing or worse. “We’ve seen it all,” Topliff says.
Rosati’s Pizza also limits its liability by hiring contractors instead of employees. Drivers sign a form indicating they read the safety handbook and they recognize they are contractors. That can be legally tricky, so check with your attorney about employee versus contractor issues.
There are other hazards besides crime, says Tim Ridout, owner of the one-unit Big Rounds Pizza in Ravenna, Michigan. “It’s dark out here at night, and many customers don’t know what porch lights are,” Ridout says. “Or you deliver the pizza, and as you’re turning around and walking down the stairs they turn off their lights so you’re in pitch black.”
Sometimes when it snows customers with four-wheel drive vehicles ask the deliverer to meet them at the end of their unplowed road. Large chains likely wouldn’t allow this, says Ridout, who delivered for a chain before he opened Big Rounds in 2009, but he says his restaurant is located in a small farming community. “Chances are slim of a robbery,” he says. “The main concern is to watch out for deer and farm animals that get loose.
Johnson says the Mr. Jim’s Delivery Driver Handbook covers driver safety, vehicle safety, and driver security, and maintains that it’s more important to be safe than to get the sale. “It’s just a pizza,” Johnson says. “It’s just money. We are more concerned about their bodies than we are any profit concerns.”
Nora Caley is a freelance writer specializing in food and business topics. She lives in Denver, Colorado.
Photo by Josh Keown
My heart sank as I reached the front door, only to realize that the worst was true. The usual line was nonexistent; the lights inside were dim and the front gates were down. My only clue was a small yellow notice on the front door. Apparently the New York City Department of Health and Human Hygiene had deemed this beloved pizzeria unfit to open. The reputation of an over 80-year-old pizzeria was on the line, and I was forced into the delicate position of defending its honor.
I could feel the text messages, voice mails and tweets piling up as friends and colleagues looked for answers upon hearing the news, but the challenge at hand was to explain to my pizza tour group why I was planning to feed them slices from an “unsanitary” restaurant. My tour wasn’t forming a great first impression of this landmark pizzeria, so it instantly became my job to play publicist and clean up the messy situation as we walked across the street to a pizzeria that had been spared by the DOH.
The first thing I had to do was explain the DOH grading system and how its standards impact the city’s fabled pizza culture. As in many other cities, letter grades reflect a certain number of points that are deducted for violations. Pizzerias fight an uphill battle because product is often staged in display cases, prompting instant deductions. I’ve seen pizzerias go so far as to tag the exact time and temperature of each pizza as it hits the counter yet still shiver in fear at the thought of a health inspector. Every pound of “contaminated” food earns even more deductions. So one hole in a 50-pound bag of flour can be lethal for a restaurant’s score.
Education is the best way out of a sticky situation, but be careful how you present information to your customers. I’ve heard lots of pizzeria managers say it’s impossible for bacteria to survive the high temperatures of a pizza oven — but that can sound like an excuse to let hygiene slide. I’ve also heard the charges that health inspectors are just looking for reasons to pull your score down because they want to make a name for themselves. Hear this through a customer’s ears and it sounds like a pile of unfounded excuses. Try instead to explain clearly what went wrong and how you intend to fix it. People love hearing about all the ways you’re going to improve their dining experience, so make this an opportunity to highlight the future rather than attempting to cover up the past.
A health department closing leaves a bitter taste in your customers’ mouths before they even have a chance to sample your food. Its punch is far more powerful than a few days of lost business; it’s a scarlet letter in the eyes of your customers. Do everything you can to educate your customers and it will soften the blow delivered by an unplanned closing.
Scott Wiener owns and operates Scott’s Pizza Tours in New York City.
Photos by Josh Keown
When restaurants get lax on ice machine cleaning, the results can be chilling — from a failed health inspection to gross news headlines about black mold clogging an ice machine at a local eatery to, in the worse-case scenario, sick customers.
Experts say that’s because ice machines provide an ideal environment for microbes to flourish. “You’ve got wet, cold conditions and sometimes infrequent cleaning,” says James Marsden, distinguished professor of food safety and security at Kansas State University, who has studied ice machines and health. “So, bacteria, mold and viruses can colonize in ice machines and when that happens, the ice itself can become contaminated.”
There are a number of microorganisms that have been found in dirty ice machines, he says, including salmonella, e. coli and shigella, all of which are bacteria, as well as a virus called norovirus. These microbes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, can cause a range of gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea or stomach cramps, depending on the germ.
Another type of bacteria, listeria monocytogenes, also has been found in ice machines, Marsden says. It can be especially dangerous to pregnant women and their unborn babies — even causing miscarriage or stillbirth — as well as to seniors, infants and people with compromised immune systems, according to the CDC.
One study done at the University of Texas found that bacteria and viruses survive in contaminated ice — even when an alcoholic beverage is poured into the glass, Marsden says. And the health risk is not theoretical. There have been actual outbreaks of illness caused by contaminated ice. “Once the pathogens get in the ice, they do pose a real human health risk,” he says.
But the chance you could make your customers ill isn’t the only problem that can be caused by an ice machine that hasn’t been cleaned often enough. There’s also another issue: taste. “Maybe the most common thing to find in an ice machine is just plain mold,” Marsden says. “And nobody wants ice that tastes moldy.” Scott Deshetler, director of marketing for the Denver, Colorado, ice machine manufacturer Ice-O-Matic, agrees. “If you’re putting ice in soft drinks and that ice machine hasn’t been cleaned in a while, it will definitely impact the taste,” Deshetler says.
As part of the solution, in addition to regular cleaning and sanitizing, Marsden recommends restaurant owners consider using an antimicrobial device in the ice machine. For example, he did proprietary research for a company in Florida that was having problems with its ice machines. he found that using a sanitizing device that fit into the machines and used ultraviolet light to produce very low levels of hydrogen peroxide vapor solved the problem.
“It works 24 hours a day, seven days a week and creates an environment inside the machine that doesn’t allow bacteria or mold spores or viruses to survive,” he says. Also, because the hydrogen peroxide breaks down quickly, no residue is left behind.
Another benefit is that kind of device can reduce the frequency of cleaning and maintenance, he says. The company Marsden worked with, for example, went from having to clean their machines every few weeks to once a year. “The return on investment would be in a matter of months,” he says.
This could be especially important for pizzerias, because yeast used to make the pizza dough can fly through the air on particles of flour, get into ice machines and grow. “If you’ve got yeast floating through the air, even if you cleaned the ice machine 10 minutes ago, you’ve got it in there again,” Marsden says, noting that yeast is a microorganism related to mold, and also would be kept in check by a sanitizing device.
Even if you do use an antimicrobial device, regular cleaning, sanitizing and maintenance still are crucial, experts say. “Cleaning is important not only from a health and safety standpoint, as well as taste and quality, but also because it extends the life of your machine,” Deshetler says. “There’s an economic benefit to the operator as well.”
Cleaning can be a chore, however, and Marsden says it’s crucial to get your machine 100 percent cleaned and sanitized when you do the job, because certain bacteria — such as listeria monocytogenes, for example — can form a biofilm that acts as a protective shell. “You can pour sanitizer right on top of it, and it can’t get through the biofilm to kill the bacteria,” he says.
Restaurant owners who don’t want to deal with the hassle have several options. They can set up a regular schedule for a professional ice machine cleaning company to service their machines, they can lease a machine, or they can use a subscription service. Heidi Alberti, marketing director for Easy Ice, says a subscription service can have several advantages. For example, the burden of preventive maintenance, routine cleaning and filter replacement falls on the subscription company. There’s also 24-hour customer service and some companies even guarantee that if a machine breaks down and can’t be fixed within six hours, the company will provide bagged ice for free.
“This way, a pizzeria owner doesn’t have to scramble around remembering when the ice machine needs to be cleaned, when the water filter needs to be swapped out, when maintenance needs to be scheduled,” Alberti says.
Allie Johnson is a award-winning freelance writer covering personal finance, business and lifestyle.She lives in Kansas City, Missouri.
A solid carpet care plan is essential, experts say, to keeping carpet looking good, particularly in a busy restaurant setting. There is guidance out there to help you find the right equipment and people.
The Carpet and Rug Institute and the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration maintain databases of experts and equipment that can assist you in caring for your carpet. The Carpet and Rug Institute regularly tests cleaning equipment and cleansers and rates them on their Web site, www.carpet-rug.org.
Look under commercial carpets for their downloadable, PDF guide to caring for carpet, and also for a list of both providers and equipment that has received their seal of approval.
The Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration offers training and certification for those in the carpet-cleaning industry. To access a database of cleaners, searchable by zip code, visit www.certifiedcleaners.org/locator.shtml.
Late-night robberies are not everyday occurrences, thankfully, but the fact is that they happen. While it’s out of your control as an operator, steps can — and should — be taken to making your closing employees safer. Here are some examples:
• Never have an employee close alone.
• Use bright exterior lights
• Purchase an alarm system
• Utilize convex mirrors
• Arrange equipment and furniture to prevent entrapment
• Use a drop safe
• Purchase video surveillance equipment
• Form a good relationship with local police. A good idea is to offer police officers discounts when they come into your shop. Not only will they take their lunch or dinner breaks there more often, but they’ll also watch it like a hawk.
Sometimes, things happen to delivery drivers. From assaults to auto accidents, delivery related injuries are an unfortunate fact of pizza life.
Here are some things you can do to keep your drivers safe while they’re on the road:
• Make sure routine maintenance is performed on the vehicles. Regardless of whether you own the cars or you have your drivers pay for repairs to their own vehicles, you should make it a priority to keep a check on air pressure in the tires, fluid levels, brake pads, etc.
• Provide your drivers with First-Aid kits, flashlights, blankets, candles, etc. to keep in their trunk in the even their cars break down in remote areas during cold weather.
• Use a caller identification system in conjunction with your POS. If the address the caller gives does not match the address on your POS screen, question the caller before dispatching a driver.
• Have accurate mapping systems. Unless you’re in a small town, your drivers simply are not going to remember all the streets.
There’s nothing sexy about food safety. But running a professional kitchen with proper food-safety protocols in place is the most important aspect of an operation. Not only can a poor health inspection be costly through fines, it can also devastate the restaurant’s reputation. And with a branding of unsafe practices, an operation has a difficult, some would say impossible, task of regaining a community’s trust and business.
So, here then, is a primer on food safety.
Getting Ready for Inspection
- Be ready for an examination at any time. To do this, managers should conduct weekly internal inspections. Follow the protocols that health inspectors use, looking at areas both outside the premises and in.
- Share the results of the inspection with kitchen staff. Those weekly meetings allow the operation to stay on top of any infractions and also keep safety issues top-of-mind with employees. Crucial areas that require vigilance from kitchen staff are food temperature, awareness of food types to avoid cross contamination and hand washing.
- Operators must follow municipal regulations on certification. They should ensure that some, if not all, staff attend food-safety training programs and become certified.
How to Handle the Inspection
- Managers should never refuse an inspection — no matter how inconvenient the timing. If an inspector has to return with a warrant, the inspection will most likely be a lot more thorough.
- A staff member should accompany the inspector and take notes on areas inspected and violations found. This illustrates camaraderie to the inspector, and allows an on-the-spot fix of smaller infractions.
- Once the inspection is over, the restaurant employee should ask for the results to be shared with the rest of the staff, so improvements can begin immediately.
What to Do If Cited
- Small problems should be fixed during the inspection to illustrate good faith.
- If violations cited need clarifying, staff should respectfully ask the inspector to explain his/her findings.
- If the operator disagrees with the findings, he/she should appeal the decision through the local health department — disagreeing with the inspector on site is not a good idea.
Many training programs are available, both online and in classrooms. ServSafe is a food-safety program that is widely recognized by local, state and federal health departments, and is administered by the National Restaurant Association’s Educational Foundation. Programs such as these award food-safety certification, and are crucial to any operation. Material covered in these courses include:
- Food-safety hazards, including contaminants, allergens and foodborne illness.
- Flow-of-food hazards that covers issues such as cross-contamination; time and temperature control; safe receiving; food storage; preparation and serving; and cooling and reheating.
- Sanitation, including personal hygiene and how food handlers can contaminate foods.
- Pest control, including identifying pests and using and storing pesticides.
Many operators only certify upper-level management. But food-safety practices are so important, others certify all members of the kitchen staff.
7 Principles of HACCP
- Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points is a preventive government protocol. A strict adherence to the principles of HACCP ensures safe food-handling practices. For more information, go to the USDA’s site, http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~lrd/haccp.html
- Hazard Analysis. Hazards are identified as biological, such as a microbe; chemical, such as a toxin; or physical, such as ground glass or metal fragments.
- Critical control point identification. Points are markers in a food’s production — from its raw state through processing and shipping to consumption.
- Establishment of critical limits. Preventive measures are set up with critical limits for each control point, such as minimum cooking temperature and time needed to eliminate harmful microbes.
- Monitoring procedures. Critical control points need to be monitored. For instance, protocols need to be set in place for how long and by whom cooking time and temperature is monitored.
- Corrective actions. When monitoring shows that a critical limit has not been met, there should be corrective actions in place to deal with the issue.
- Record Keeping. Establish procedures to ensure that the system is functioning correctly.
- Verification procedures. Document your HACCP system with spot-on record keeping, such as records of hazards and their control methods.
Use these to make sure your restaurant is covered• HACCP Course Training Schedule for 2008
• National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation
• ServSafe Food Safety Certification
• State Restaurant Association Map
• Start in the back of the house by washing fruits and vegetables, using designated cutting utensils and wearing gloves.
• Keep cold foods at 41 F or below; hot foods at 140 F or above. Be sure your equipment can hold these temperatures over long periods of time, and check temperatures every few hours.
• Protect food with sneeze guards and shields. According to The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation, guards should be 14 to 18 inches above the serving area.
• Label everything with easy-to-read tags to discourage the “finger-dip” method of testing foods.
• Use long-handled utensils and make them easy for customers to reach. Utensils should be replaced or sanitized at least every four hours.
• Post signs that remind customers to use clean plates for each visit, and keep plenty of clean plates available.
• Keep a close watch: clean spills quickly, ensure children aren’t reaching into food trays, and replenish items as needed.
For additional information, contact The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation, (800) 765-2122, or www.nraef.org.