The Food and Health Department of Restaurants are the main departments that are responsible with the food safety and hygiene of a restaurant. These are the departments where you should give enough time to monitor as this can make or break your restaurant business. Especially today that the customers are being extra conscious about food safety.
When managing the Food and Health Department of your restaurant, you should have enough knowledge regarding the common food and health violations, what are the most common complaints about food and food safety and how to manage them, what to expect with health inspections, how can you prepare with health inspections, and the like in order to properly manage the said department.
This article aims to equip you with enough information about how to properly manage your restaurant’s Food and Health Department. Read along and check for yourself how you can apply it in your own restaurant.
WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON HEALTH AND FOOD COMPLAINTS?
Running a restaurant can expose you into different types of customer complaints, and you might already have your own way handling them. But it is still important to have an idea on what are the common complaints about food safety and health, this is to prepare your whole restaurant staff on what are the challenges that they should expect. Here’s the list of categories of the most common customer food complaints.
- Food Poisoning (Suspected or Confirmed)
- Poor Food Safety and Hygiene Practices
- Misleading or Incorrect Food and Product Labelling
- Food Crime
- Food Product Contamination
WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON HEALTH AND FOOD VIOLATIONS TO AVOID?
If you want to maximize the potential of your Food and Health Department, knowing the critical food and health violations must be your priority. This is to ensure that you’ll formulate a work system that can help you prevent customer food complaints. Here are the most common mistakes that you should avoid.
ABUSE OF TEMPERATURE CONTROL FOR SAFETY
Storing food at the wrong temperature not just increases the chance of food spoilage, it also increases the chance of your kitchen producing foodborne illnesses. It is important that you know what are the temperature danger zones for your whole inventory in order to prevent production of pathogens that lead to foodborne illnesses and food poisoning.
In order to handle the produce properly, know what’s the right temperature in handling hot-held foods ((above 135°F) and cold-held foods (below 41°F). Proper thawing method should also be observed to prevent development and growth of bacteria.
Long before the Coronavirus outbreak, the Restaurant Industry and Food Industry are already strictly implementing proper and frequent hand washing protocols. Kitchen staff, restaurant staff and employees are often juggling one task with another, to avoid contaminating the produce or food item, it is imperative to wash their hands before and after completing any tasks (especially inside the kitchen).
INCORRECT STORAGE AND USE OF CHEMICALS NEAR FOOD AND CONTACT SURFACES
As the main overseer of your Food and Health Department, one of the most common mistakes that you should avoid is the improper use and storage of chemicals inside your kitchen. Chemicals are considered harmful in many ways especially if it’s been in contact with something it’s not supposed to be in. Not just for your customers, it can be harmful for your staff who’s doing the food preparation as well.
Make sure to properly label those chemicals and keep them away from food and food contact surfaces. It is also ideal to put up posters or reminders on how to properly utilize chemicals.
POOR STAFF TRAINING
Eating inside the kitchen.
It is your responsibility, as the restaurant owner, to provide a proper holding area or pantry for your restaurant staff and employees. If you allow them to eat inside the kitchen, you also allow the contamination of your food items with their crumbs, food, and even saliva.
It is both unprofessional and unhygienic on your end. Make sure to properly train your staff regarding the basics of food safety and hygiene.
Showing at work sick.
If your staff is suffering from an illness or infection, make sure that he/she is well recovered before returning to work. And though an extra set of hands is usually a welcomed help, having your sick staff work can lead to disaster and foodborne illnesses outbreaks.
SUBSTANDARD CLEANING AND SANITIZING PROCEDURES
One of the most critical complaints that’s raised with the Food and Health Department is unsanitized or unclean utensils. Your staff and employees must know how to properly clean and sanitize every equipment, tools, and utensils that’s being used in the whole restaurant operations. Cutting boards and knives are a great source of contamination, it should be squeaky clean before and after it touches something.
MISPLACED LABELS AND SIGNS
Most of the health requirements and health codes require a restaurant to have signages and labels that will help remind staff and employees about the tasks and procedures they should observe. This is a good way to avoid violations caused by your staff.
COVID 19 RELATED FOOD AND HEALTH VIOLATIONS
Though it is highly unlikely to contact and transmit Coronavirus through food preparation and food consumption, it is still important that you follow what are the Coronavirus related violations to avoid. With the strict implementations of new health and safety protocols, in order to continue your operations, you must avoid doing the following.
- Nonobservance of employee health screenings.
- Allowing indoor dining. (depending on the new update from your city)
- Exceeding in the approved capacity.
- Improper ventilation system.
- Improper use of PPE (face masks).
HOW TO MANAGE RESTAURANT FOOD COMPLAINTS?
With all the restrictions and changes in the market, the last thing you need is a customer that complains about food poisoning or poor food hygiene to your staff. Now that you know what are the complaints about food health and safety, you also have to know how to manage them properly.
Empathize to your customer.
As a restaurant owner, it is important to let your customers know that you understand where they are coming from. Be it a baseless complaint, you and your staff must know that the initial action for food complaints, and with customer complaints in general is to let your customer know that you’ve heard about their concern.
Now don’t get too excited and take the blame. Make sure to project empathy without getting the blame right away, especially if there’s no investigation that happened.
Produce a report about the complaint.
In handling the Food and Health Department, documentation is everything. Document what are the symptoms shown by the complainant, what are the food items he/she ordered, the complainant’s complete details including name, address, contact information, the date the incident happened, and whether the food was consumed at the premises or at home, and whether a food delivery app was used.
Conduct a thorough investigation.
It’ll be now easier for you to investigate the incident since you have a detailed report of the food complaint. Make sure to do a proper inspection of your inventory and talk to your kitchen staff, especially those who are responsible for preparing the food item the complainant has consumed.
Report the incident to the local health officer.
Critical food complaints, especially food poisoning should be immediately reported to the local health officer or health department. Let them know that you’ve properly observed the necessary steps and provide them a copy of your incident report.
Follow up with the complainant.
The process is not done with investigation and coming up with an answer about the food complaint or food poisoning incident. Show your customer that you’re a responsible owner and show them that you value them by checking up on them and making sure that they are doing great.