Claudia Saric of Relish Works, recently hosted a Facebook Live with our partners at InnoServ, the company providing Trust20 with industry experts to oversee the independent verification of Trust20 Certified Restaurants. Last week we followed up with one such expert, Jim Fields, to talk about the independent verification process. This industry veteran has been conducting food safety inspections for more than 15 years and helped Trust20 create the nuts and bolts of our processes that exist today.
This interview has been edited for length and grammar.
What do you and the other experts do to prepare for a site visit?
Trust20 provides us with an initial prep document so we know in advance what to keep our eyes open for. I’ll always call to schedule the inspection appointment and specify that I need to meet with either the operator or general manager for the interview portion of the visit. I’ll also send along a basic checklist of what to expect and the list of documents we require during the inspection.
How can a restaurant best prepare for their verification appointment? What should operators do during the inspection?
The best thing operators can do is review the checklist we pass along ahead of time to address the areas you know you’re weak on. I’ve also seen operators or general managers forget to let the manager-on-duty know that I’m coming for this visit, so making sure everyone knows what is happening is important.
I always identify myself with management and staff when I arrive so no one is confused or anxious. I start with a full front to back inspection and then interview the operator. After that we go over my notes and I make some suggestions based on my observations. It is essentially a restaurant health and safety consultation at that point. Operators should know that is the perfect opportunity to ask me questions about their safety solutions.
What do you see restaurants struggling with the most when it comes to executing the Trust20 Tactics?
Obviously this varies a lot from customer to customer. There really are a lot of restaurants doing a great job implementing solutions for social distancing, health and safety training, handwashing techniques, and disinfection of high touch points.
Some restaurant operators fall short in documenting their efforts. If you’re ever challenged by health department officials, know that it doesn’t matter how well you’ve implemented health and safety strategies if you don’t have the documentation to back it up.
Documentation doesn’t need to be complex; it exists to show due diligence on behalf of the operator and ultimately protects the business. There are free templates available to document training, but it can be as simple as using a yellow notepad to note the date, training topic, attendee list, and attendee signatures. File it away in a folder and a binder and you’re done.
Where have you seen specific challenges crop up? How have operators dealt with them?
As restaurants begin to increase their capacities, a lot of businesses are being challenged by the limits of their brick and mortar spaces.
The entryway is the most problematic area for everyone because when you get busy, you still have to find a way to control the flow of traffic entering and exiting the space.
I’ve been really impressed with how operators have leveraged technology to solve this problem. Restaurants have fully digitized their waitlists to keep diners separate. Either through online reservation systems or calling in, restaurants are having diners wait in their cars or on an open patio space to keep the restaurant entrance and lobby clear.
Have you witnessed any surprising situations?
There were a few surprises early on, but honestly nothing compared to some of the shocking things I used to see as a food safety inspector back in the day. More often than not, a lack of communication set off some panic in the restaurant because the GM didn’t let the manager on duty know I was coming by.
I hope restaurant operators know that Trust20 has their best interest in mind - we’re not trying to catch them doing something wrong. The whole purpose of this process is to help them reopen (or stay open) and protect their diners and staff while operating a successful business.
What health and safety trends are here to stay?
The definition of best practices has permanently changed. In the past, restaurants only cared about food safety, but environmental safety is now just as critical.
Operators and diners are looking at restaurant spaces in a different way. Everyone is now thinking about what happens if an ill customer comes in and touches the door knob or a payment terminal. The industry used to solely be concerned with foodborne pathogens, but the aggressive sanitizing and disinfecting practices that have been implemented to the front of house aren’t going anywhere.
I also think the expansion of takeout and delivery won’t regress, even after restaurants open for full service. Pre-pandemic, we were already seeing more and more people want to bring their meals home. The operators who have invested in a robust takeout program will reap the benefits for years to come.
How can operators make their processes more efficient?
Efficiency comes from closely evaluating the what, how, and why of your processes. Operators who have successfully expanded their takeout capabilities have thought carefully about how to direct and divert traffic. They have created methods to efficiently provide fully contactless service by being very specific about the steps to the operation. The details are just as (if not more) important than the big picture.
Operators should also consider how to maximize the products they use onsite. Sanitizing and disinfecting are often thought of as two distinct steps, but there are a lot of products that can provide the dual service. The increase in attention to environmental safety means sanitizers and disinfectants are being used at higher rates than ever.
I’d advise restaurants to start buying their cleaners in concentrate form and teaching staff about proper dilution levels. We use Array products and the concentrates do the job and go a long way. Ready-to-use cleaners at $3-4/bottle get expensive really quickly when you have a dedicated staff member doing a full sweep multiple times per day.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about your work with Trust20 or the health and safety sphere?
I just want everyone to remember that whether you’re a restaurant operation, educator, healthcare provider, or store owner - everyone’s business is down. No matter the metric (diners, meals, days, residents) we have all had massive losses in the last year and all of our expenses have skyrocketed.
Trust20 is a great program because we acknowledge both sides of the problem and aim to provide support from the middle ground. We are here to restore community confidence and fill the gap in communication between operators and diners so that we can all safely move forward together.
A big thank you to Jim Fields and InnoServ for your time! Are you a restaurant operator? Schedule a FREE Assessment Call and learn more about how Trust20 can support your business.
InnoServ is the culmination of years of experience and forward-thinking about how to support food service customers, in addition to how we can make the world a better place, providing comfort and safe environments for people. They are a one stop shop for restaurant operators seeking innovative foodservice solutions.
Trust20 is the new standard of restaurant safety and diner comfort, based on 20 tactics by health and safety experts. Supported by Gordon Food Service and General Mills, Trust20 provides an independently verified certification of restaurant practices, training, and other resources to help restaurants create safe, healthy, and welcome spaces for diners. @Trust20USA