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How to Rescue Your Restaurant

Natasha Pelati has published three books of poetry and writes on real-life experiences with the help of psychology.

Keep your restaurant kitchen clean

A restaurant kitchen should sparkle at the beginning and the end of a shift

A restaurant kitchen should sparkle at the beginning and the end of a shift

Restaurant owners and taking control

Often restaurant owners come up with fantastic concepts, great décor, great locations, friendly staff and regular customers which is all that you could ever hope for until, it becomes a sudden nightmare!

Restaurant owners hire staff to run their business and once the concept has become successful, the owners tend to leave it to the management and staff to do what they have been hired to do.

Placing too much trust into staff to do the work is often not the best idea for your restaurant, especially if you have hired to right staff without the correct training.

Running a restaurant is about being present at all times, even if you have the right staff taking care of business for you.

It is easy to open a restaurant and hand it over to staff whom you think will do an amazing job, but it is the right staff with the right training that will provide your business with longevity.

Hiring staff is not as simple as looking at a c.v. or interviewing someone and thinking that they are well presented, it is about experience and if they have none then your business is in rocky waters.

As a restaurant owner it is important to hire properly, do background checks and ensure that your staff have the experience required to do the job and they will still need to answer to you and report back.

Ask the right questions when hiring restaurant staff

Get your chefs to do their jobs correctly by practicing good hygiene in the kitchen

Get your chefs to do their jobs correctly by practicing good hygiene in the kitchen

How to rescue your restaurant after a health scare

Honestly, often there is no coming back from this, especially if customers have been admitted to hospitals due to your food. One or two customers might be isolated incidents but if you have had an influx of hospital cases, causing an outbreak, then you need to fight with all your might to gain back what is difficult to

Customers, especially regular ones put their trust in you when they come into your restaurant and they expect a certain level of standards.

Everyone wants to know that behind the kitchen door, is an immaculately clean kitchen with health and safety procedures in place.

If you have had a visit from a health inspector and your customers have complained that they have become ill from eating in your establishment, it is time for you, the owner to take a stand and unfortunately, take back control of your restaurant.

Many a time, the owners are first time restaurateurs, who have no idea about health and safety, leaving it to staff who have said that they know.

It is also a common mistake to forget about procedures because of a busy kitchen, which leaves the dirt to build up and the staff to become lazy about cleanliness. The "we will do it tomorrow" attitude can cause a business to close down.

Taking back control means that you need to do a few things to save your brand from failure and there are a couple of difficult decisions to make, because to gain back customer trust means that someone has to take the fall and be held responsible.

Salmonella can kill your restaurant business

Don't let bacteria destroy your restaurant

Don't let bacteria destroy your restaurant

Apologise to your customers

Firstly, before you apologise you need to be very sure that customers have been treated because of your restaurant. There will always be a customer complaint with someone trying their luck, especially if you are a successful and busy restaurant.

Investigate thoroughly before you apologise and by this you need to get samples from the customers that have become ill or hospitalised in order to prove that it is from your restaurant.

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Once you have done this investigation, which will take a while as it is very difficult to narrow down food poisoning from a specific item without the appropriate tests, you can then start the process of apology and acceptance.

The news of a dirty kitchen and food poisoning spreads like wildfire and you have to face it head on. Apologise by placing an ad in the paper or local magazine and invite journalists to enter your kitchen.

You also need to inform customers that your store will be closing for a day or two to do a deep clean, as well as the unfortunate news of a replacement in management or a retraining of staff.

Closing your store to do a deep clean and retraining will allow the public to see that you take hygiene very seriously and your staff do too. They will feel a lot better knowing that you have cleaned up both the kitchen and your management team.

Let your customers know that they can trust you

Gain back your customers trust by retraining staff or changing management

Gain back your customers trust by retraining staff or changing management

Deep clean your restaurant

If you are not sure how to get cleaning procedure in place, there are companies that you can call in to come and train your staff as well as provide cleaning equipment for your restaurant.

Once you have had an outbreak, the entire restaurant needs to have a flush out. This means that you have to reach every little corner of the venue, to ensue that not even a speck of dust or a crumb can be seen because once your customers return, they will be scrutinizing every little thing and you do not want them to have reason to agree that you are a hazard.

Move everything in the front of house, get your waiters to turn tables and chairs over, scrub each section of the front of house so that they understand that this is the way your restaurant should be left.

Management should give waiters duties to do before and after customers leave so that the cleanliness is maintained.

Kitchen staff need to move all the counters, empty out fridges and also scrub until the floors and counters are shining. There should be no excuse for a dirty kitchen and your staff need to understand that they too have a responsibility to their sections.

Cleaning your restaurant is a routine that should be followed for the entire day and night that you are open.

Staff need to know what to use to clean their sections, they need to know where to find the right chemicals and they all need to learn to wash their hands and have good personal hygiene.

Management need to enforce this if they do not see it being done and they too need to keep clean.

It is not just about washing hands but it is also about cleaning procedures and these need to be enforced and followed regularly.

Certain chemicals are used for certain sections and colour coding your cloths, cutting boards etc are very important.

You cannot cut raw fish or chicken on a board that is used for vegetables, therefore staff need to know what it used for what.

If you have no idea about health and safety regulations then you can call the health board or cleaning companies that provide the chemicals to restaurants. They often provide free training.

Your restaurant must be deep cleaned and it must continue to be cleaned on a regular basis to avoid a bad situation again, because customers might allow for one bad error but they will not give you another chance and your brand could suffer for it.

Retrain or replace staff

Take a good look at your team and you have to be honest with yourself. It might be a difficult decision but you might have to let go some of the staff that you have had working for you because as a business decision if they cannot be retrained then they are going to damage your brand.

Management need to know what they are doing. The job of a restaurant manager is not to walk around or sit in an office all day, the job is to ensure that standards are followed, cleanliness is being practiced and that your customers are happy.

Front of house management need to have a duty list for waiters, cleaners and hosts and yes everyone has a duty to do because if they have not been trained to understand that they are a part of a team, then something is wrong already.

Back of house management need to having cleaning schedules in place as well as a stock rotation system in order to be on top of expiring foods.

Your general manager needs to collect data from customers and your sales reports to analyse how much stock is needed and where the problems are before the escalate into something as major as a health shutdown.

There are companies that train staff at price but you need to know that they are legit.

Your staff also need to work as a team, ensure that they are following health and safety procedures at all times and if they are not then they cannot work there, it is detrimental to your business.

Should your management team be the weak link then have them retrained and after retraining they will need to give you a daily report on how they have achieved health and safety standards.

Staff that are weighing your business down, need to be let go if they cannot comply because a strong team can get through anything but a few bad apples can destroy your entire empire.

Tips on health and safety in a restaurant

Gloves are a BAD IDEA!!! Health inspectors and cleaning companies often encourage the use of these and yet they are the biggest carriers of bacteria.

Staff feel that they are safe with gloves on but those same gloves have touched a raw piece of chicken and then a tomato. The glove has been used to scratch a beard or a face and then it is used on prep in your kitchen.

The best thing to use is a cleaning agent that is placed on the section of where your staff are working. After each prep, they need to use the chemical to clean the counter with a cloth that is colour coded for that specific section.

You need to have a dispenser with a cleaning agent in it for staff to wash their hands after prepping each item and they do need to be trained about cross contamination. You do not want them touching a raw egg and then making a kiddies meal.....unless you want your customers to get sick.

Cutting boards, knives and containers should be colour coded for specific items like fish, chicken and vegetables.

Your fridges need to be stocked neatly and labels need to be placed on items in order to ensure that there are no expired goods.

Staff need to be aware of personal hygiene and their aprons cannot be used as a tissue for a sneeze.

The temperature of your fridges and dishwasher should be maintained and checked on a regular basis by management because a hot fridge equals expired food.

Rotating stock is also of the utmost importance because you do not want two day old sauce mixing into a barrel with new sauce as the end result is a restaurant full of sick people.

Trash needs to be discarded carefully and your chefs need to understand that they cannot touch anything but the food whilst they are prepping. This is not an excuse not to clean up afterwards as at the end of a shift, chefs have got to keep their sections immaculately clean.

Colour coded chopping boards will help you in the kitchen

use the right chopping boards in the kitchen

use the right chopping boards in the kitchen

Examples of a cleaning schedule

If your back of house is divided into sections then each section needs to be cleaned by the people who are working in it.

Floors and walls are the responsibility of everyone in the restaurant and a team together can make things easy.

Management should go and check the sections before staff begin their shift, to ensure that each person has what they need to do their job and they need to check after the shift that they have cleaned their sections before allowing them to leave.

If you maintain high standards and check it regularly then you will never have any problems.

Back of House checklist

Clean uniforms

caps, hairnets, chef hats


facial hair covered

hand soap dispenser full

Boards clean and in the right section

Cutting knives clean and in the section

Temperature under bar fridge

Temperature walk in fridge

Temperature walk in freezer

Date labels in place
sections clean

dishwasher temperature

floor drain cleaned

extraction cleaned

refuse bags in place

refuse bins clean

floors clean

walls clean

light switches clean

fridges clean

containers clean

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Natasha Pelati

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