• The Health Inspector and Your Walk-in Cooler or Freezer

    December 19th, 2012

    In recent years, health inspections have properly transitioned away from “floors, walls and ceilings” and are now focused on the factors which can cause food borne illness. So how about your walk-in cooler or freezer? What will your inspector most closely examine?

    organized refrigerator

    Keeping food organized and properly labeled is very important.

    Let me share with you a few key areas:

    1. Most importantly, are the units holding foods at the required temperatures? Temperature control is essential to limit the growth of disease causing bacteria.
    2. Is there sufficient lighting? This is important for the purposes of cleaning, product identification, rotating stock, etc.
    3. Is food up off the floor and on shelving? Floors are, for obvious reasons, always considered a dirty surface. If product is on the floor, and then placed on working surfaces such as work tables or cutting boards, then that is an opportunity for cross contamination. Read the rest of this entry »
  • Give Your Walk-in a Walkthrough

    August 16th, 2011

    Walk-in coolers and freezers: When is the last time you went into your property’s walk-in cooler unannounced? If you haven’t done it in a while, you might be surprised. This is essential for passing your health inspection. I recently had the experience where an excellent GM asked me to identify opportunity areas in the kitchen operation. I went through the walk-in coolers and freezers and found the following issues within the first 10-minute visual inspection:

    • organized walk-in cooler

      Make sure you have an inventory management process in place.

      Walk-in freezer that was very poorly lit (read: hard to find items), with boxes of frozen foods that had not been dated. Clearly without a date, it is hard to employ the First-in, First-out (FIFO) method of inventory management. How do we know when that box of chicken wings on the bottom of the stack came in? It is possible the box on the bottom is living there in perpetuity while new inventory is stacked on top every week?

    • Food items stored unwrapped, with no date, in non-translucent storage pans and hotel pans. In one instance, two different products were in the same tray: one was uncooked raw chicken breast stored at an angle so the blood was running into unwrapped Canadian bacon. In a cruel moment of irony, just that morning I had been in the hotel’s restaurant outlet and sat next to four female business travelers who all ordered the Eggs Benedict for breakfast. When I eventually asked the sous chef (the executive chef was off at the time) what was going on, there was a general lack of awareness and training about the dangers of such poor food handling and the improper storage methods. The acts and non-acts were not malicious; rather it was a training and education issue. Oh, and he thought buying Lexans for storage purposes was too expensive for the GM to approve.
    • Soup stored unwrapped in a large container sitting on the floor directly under the cooler’s condenser unit that was dripping water condensation into the soup. Read the rest of this entry »
  • What the Food Safety Bill Means for Restaurants

    July 15th, 2011

    A growing number of food-borne illness outbreaks in recent years have scared consumers about everything from salad greens to peanut butter to eggs and spurred lawmakers into action — eventually. The Senate finally took the issue off the back burner this week, voting to approve a version of a bill passed by the House last year that’s designed to head off outbreaks rather than merely deal with them after the fact.

    Food safety is uppermost in the minds of restaurant operators, whose reputations can suffer lasting damage when salmonella and E. coli outbreaks are tied to tainted ingredients they’ve served. The bill would finally give the FDA the power to order food product recalls when contamination is suspected, and would increase the agency’s authority to conduct multiple inspections of processing facilities where conditions might be ripe for food contamination. Read the rest of this entry »

  • New Jersey Steak House Goes Above and Beyond on Food Safety

    June 20th, 2011

    When David Walzog got the go-ahead to design the kitchen for Strip House at The Westminster Hotel in Livingston, N.J., the executive chef’s wish list drew on his experiences working at the Monkey Bar and Michael Jordan’s The Steak House N.Y.C., both in New York City.

    Walzog insisted on 14 sets of refrigerated drawers—where food is held below 40F. Several drawers were installed on the line, providing more space for plate assembly and enabling 14 cooks to keep surfaces clean and orderly.

    Drawers and gaskets are cleaned daily, and twice a week they’re disassembled for bleaching. The quarry tile floor in the kitchen is graded and easy to hose down and power wash, he says.

    Strip House’s five walk-in coolers are extra-spacious. The lowest shelf is 10 inches off the floor, two inches higher than health codes mandate, Walzog says, to facilitate mopping and cleaning. Rubber-coated shelving resists rust and cleans and moves easily to accommodate a variety of bin sizes. Safety glass and wire grating enclose two pairs of fluorescent bulbs for ceiling light. Read the rest of this entry »

  • Organize Your Walk-in Cooler or Freezer

    April 11th, 2011

    Temperature control and organized inventory are food-safety watchwords.

    When Connie’s Pizza, a nine-unit Chicago-based chain, reorganized its walk-in coolers for better efficiency and improved food safety, management liked the results.

    “By reconfiguring the coolers we were able to reduce stock and rotate it more effectively,” says owner Ivan Matsunaga. “We saved 3% to 5% on shrinkage and perishables.’’organize walkin refrigerator

    The reorganized walk-ins also are easier to navigate, which encourages employees to keep the coolers tidy. In accordance with health and sanitation practices, raw meat and poultry is kept on lower shelves. Prepared and ready-to-eat foods and salads, cooked meats and ham are stowed on higher racks. Walk-in temperature is kept at 37F, and foods are tagged and dated upon arrival to ensure proper rotation.

    Connie’s cooler remodel was part of a company wide initiative to improve food safety during which the chain’s 250 employees attended demonstrations on sanitation, stock organization and rotation. Because staff participated in the food-safety update, everyone now is held accountable.

    Temperature and organization are critical to maintaining a food-safe walk-in cooler, says Kristie Grzywinski, senior program manager for food safety at the National Restaurant Association’s Educational Foundation, Chicago. Keep foods in the cooler at an internal temperature of 41F. “Some restaurants have the luxury of several walk-ins. Most don’t,” explains the microbiologist. “That’s why organization of shelves and inventory is critical.”

    She advises designating separate sections for raw and ready-to-eat foods to minimize risk of cross-contamination. Additionally, Grzywinski warns operators not overload racks, which taxes shelving integrity and impedes air circulation. Be aware of temperature variations inside the walk-in: warmer by the door, cooler in the rear. (Store meats, fish and dairy products in the cooler back area and produce closer to the front.) Shelves must be no closer than six inches from the floor to ease cleaning under racks. And allow plenty of headroom in the cooler to ensure adequate air circulation for steady temperatures and lower utility bills. Read the rest of this entry »

  • Passing Restaurant Inspections for your Walk-in Cooler or Walk-in Freezer

    March 11th, 2011

    Restaurants are supposed to be checked by health inspectors twice a year. Walk-ins can be a source of food safety violations if not properly maintained and cleaned. If you run a restaurant you can also be stuck with fines totaling thousands of dollars or face temporary closure of your establishment. After the restaurant is closed, an inspector will generally return within 24 hours and will continue to visit until these violations are resolved and the restaurant can reopen.1 Lost days of operation can cost your business not only revenue, but your reputation as well.

    One restaurant in New York paid a total of $8,600 in fines from a food inspection, including $1,200 directly relating to their poorly maintained walk-in cooler.

    · $600 – The walk-in cooler was dripping water from the ceiling. Ice build-up on the condenser was present in the walk-in freezer dripping into extra ice storage in a garbage can below. Shelving in multiple refrigeration units was rusted and therefore not easy to clean and particles of rust able to flake off into food products below. The condensation line for the cooler was not connected and the condensate was dripping into a pan at the bottom of the unit.

    · $600 – The floor in the walk-in cooler was in disrepair and no longer an easy to clean surface.2

    Health code regulations and requirements vary from state to state. The following are areas you could be cited for in your walk-in or other refrigerators:inside of a restaurant walk-in cooler

    Lack of interior release in walk-in.

    Spoiled or improperly packaged food in your walk-in.

    Any spills or pieces of food in the walk-in not cleaned up.

    Mold present in the walk-in cooler.

    Refrigeration unit poorly ventilated and in close proximity to combustibles.

    Walk-in not held at the proper temperature for food storage.

    Improper organization of the walk-in or obstructions in the area around it, making it hard to service or clean. Read the rest of this entry »

  • Building a Green Sustainable Restaurant

    October 25th, 2010

    Green Made Easy

    “Sustainability” may sound like a destination too far, but you get there the same way you get anywhere—one step at a time.

    By: Mike Sherer

    If you’re like many, when you think of “green” or “sustainable,” you probably think of much-publicized certification programs with strict definitions you either meet or don’t. But as concepts, green and sustainable are not like on-off switches. They’re more like dimmers. They’re gradated, and you achieve them to varying degrees in incremental steps. The important thing is to start moving and gain momentum as you go.

    Most of you are already taking the early steps. You’ve changed some incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescents, and you recycle glass, metal and paper. You’ve installed low-flow pre-rinse valves. But what’s all this about “reducing your carbon footprint” and “becoming sustainable”? Can you do more?

    What’s Green, What’s Sustainable?

    Absolutely. Being green—by which we means being environmentally friendly—is getting easier. Greener products are more plentiful and less expensive, and greener practices are more widely understood these days. And becoming sustainable—which means you can sustain your activities long-term without going broke or using up the planet—is likewise more widely understood than ever before.

    “Sustainability, from a big umbrella perspective, means running an operation that doesn’t negatively impact future generations’ ability to operate a restaurant,” says Don Fisher, president and CEO of Fisher-Nickel Inc., which runs Pacific Gas & Electric Co.’s Food Service Technology Center in San Ramon, Calif. “From a practical standpoint, sustainability means staying in business when the price of oil hits $100 a barrel.”

    Getting Started

    As with every other aspect of your business, becoming sustainable will never happen without committing to it. And you won’t know where you’re going unless you find out where you are.

    “Audit where you are,” Fisher says. “And get top-down commitment. Assess your state of sustainability unit by unit, and commit long-term to solutions that will get you to your goals one step at a time.” Read the rest of this entry »

  • 10 Tips for Restaurants on Saving Money, Energy & the Earth

    August 19th, 2010

    Are you investing your energy resources wisely? The following tips provide ideas for maintaining an energy efficient operation.

    Lightbulb

    Track energy consumption

    Tracking your monthly electricity, water, sewer, trash and natural gas consumption is a first step toward managing your impact and monitoring the effectiveness of efficiency improvements. If you’re an independent operator or local chain, get audits from local utilities and municipalities. Many organizations provide free energy, water and waste audits in addition to advice, technical and sometimes financial assistance for upgrades and program development. Take advantage of these free professional services.

    Allow for air circulation around refrigerators and freezers

    Refrigerators remove heat from inside the box and eject that heat through the coils on the top or bottom of the unit. When you are cleaning around these units, do not push your reach-ins into tight spaces where the heat will build up, forcing the unit to work harder and use more energy.

    Defrost food regularly

    Develop a frozen food pull schedule to avoid the practice of defrosting food under running hot water. If a two-gallon-per-minute faucet is used for this purpose one hour every day for a year, the cost may exceed $800. Read the rest of this entry »