Earlier this week I ventured to get a feel for practical food safety practices in a real restaurant. Turley’s, an iconic Boulder, CO eatery known for its eclectic menu full of healthy eating and fantastic international flavors, was kind enough to spend some time talking to me about their food safety program.
I sat down with second and third generation Turley family members and managers David and Sandy for an extremely informative chat on practical food safety applications in a working restaurant. What I soon discovered is that procedures and guidelines are all well and good, but if you don’t promote a food-safe culture through staff training and pure vigilance, all those rules aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.
Turley’s staff start their food safety education with a S.T.A.R. (Sanitation Training Assistance for Restaurateurs) course through the Boulder County Office of Public Health. The course covers six fundamental food safety concerns: viruses and bacteria, potentially hazardous foods, time/temperature control, personal hygiene, cross-contamination, and sanitization. Turley’s management are also ServSafe certified.
However, it’s not enough to just teach staff about food safety issues once and then get on with the hectic life of the restaurant business. “We have goals, not rules,” says David, “And it’s an ongoing thing. We’ve got to be a food safety driver, because if you’re not willing to commit, the issue just goes away.”
Turley’s keeps food safety front and center by carrying out campaigns on specific topics, starting with the daily shift meetings. One recent campaign focused on disposable gloves for staff working the line. Because cross-contamination and hand washing are vital concerns, but also extremely hard for management to constantly police, disposable gloves are required for anybody on the line in Turley’s kitchen.
At first, everyone wore the gloves with few exceptions. But as time went on, busy kitchen staff sometimes forgot to put on the gloves while prepping food, and the disposable glove policy started going by the wayside.
Turley’s management responded with a campaign, reminding kitchen staff at the shift meetings to wear their gloves at all times on the line, and soon the repetition of the campaign turned glove wearing into second nature for the staff.
David sometimes feels like a broken record, but the harping has paid off, and the management’s commitment to following through on campaigns is a vital follow up to the basic training courses.
Food safety campaigns for the front of the house are a little more difficult because turnover in a college town like Boulder makes training new staff a constant chore. Turley’s management continues to focus on education, however, and take a mentoring rather than policing approach. Every shift meeting presents a new challenge and a new opportunity for improving the awareness of the front of house staff.
The evolution theme is probably the most important lesson about an effective food safety program that I took away from Turley’s. Even as I learned about all the things the restaurant does every day to manage food safety, the management was already looking ahead to the next campaign, and the next strategy.
David is thinking about conducting self inspections: unannounced walk-throughs of the entire restaurant with his health inspector cap on, looking for things that are hard for management in their normal roles to catch. It’s just one more way Turley’s works to keep the restaurant in top shape for their customers every day.