SafeFood© and Customer Service

Have you ever debated returning an improperly prepared food item to a restaurant kitchen – hesitating because of fear a staff member will express their frustration by spitting on your food or the like?

There are bad stories out there about people working in retail foodservices who probably don’t have the customer service gene in their DNA. Face it, actual physical and technical skills can be taught – like how to serve and clear, refill beverages, or knife skills. Training that will result in changed attitudes is difficult. Incentives (such as tips) might work to a certain degree but I don’t think are the answer. A fundamental desire to help others is needed by staff in service industries, including restaurants and hotels. Matching the person’s Knowledge Skills and Attitudes/Attributes to the right job is the crux of human resources management. How do you know whether a prospective employee in the service field has the right stuff? Many HR offices in the corporate world employ actual tests during the interview process – some very openly, such as personality tests or some that are more discrete, like how many drinks, if any, are ordered at a meal, and which meal).

For a line level position, maybe it isn’t worth the cost to administer a standardized test, but there are some clues that surface about a person’s emotional intelligence and people skills – a manager has to be alert to these. Does the interviewee have a genuine smile? Do they make eye contact? What is their sincerity level? Can they sense if someone needs help – and do they feel inclined to offer it? Hiring the right person for the right job can save headaches – for managers and customers, and avoid having a toxic personality as part of the team. Keep the service in the service industry!

Catherine

Catherine

Catherine Hemphill Strohbehn has been a faculty member at Iowa State University in the Hospitality Management Program for 30 years. She is a State Specialist with Human Sciences Extension and Outreach at Iowa State University. As part of her work, she conducts research, develops educational materials and provides programs to help retail foodservices use their resources effectively and ensure safe food is served. Cathy is a registered dietitian with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and a Certified Professional in Food Safety from the National Environmental Health Association.

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SafeFood© Does Policy=Practice?

As we close out Food Safety Month, it seems a good time to reflect upon the safety policies we expect retail foodservice employees to follow.

We have all seen the signs in the restroom: Employees must wash their hands before returning to work. There is even a “standardized recipe for the process. Although this is a clear employee hygiene policy I would bet many of you have seen a foodservice worker saunter out of the restroom without washing their hands or only doing the “splash and dash”. WDUD – what is a person to do? Most people may say gross, and then choose not to return to that establishment. The more assertive person might say, Dude, wash your hands – but while the message may be given, not clear it is received.

What is it going to take to get the message across? Some research reports employees even admit they don’t wash their hands! I take it on faith that most retail food workers understand why the policies are in place and make every effort to follow. I also understand, having experienced it my self back in the day, that being busy in a restaurant is an understatement for the kinetic energy being generated. What I don’t get are the situations where there is clearly a “failure to communicate” – for instance, no one has told anyone the soap dispenser needs replacing. What I also don’t get is why more peer pressure is not used.

Please retail food worker, think of yourself and your customers. Most restaurants depend on repeat customers. If there is not a customer coming through the door, there is not a business – and if there is not a business, you don’t have a job.

Challenge a co-worker you see not following SafeFood policies. The policies are not torture imposed by bureaucrats just to make your life miserable – they are put there for the reason of keeping people healthy. My faith is in you!

Catherine

Catherine

Catherine Hemphill Strohbehn has been a faculty member at Iowa State University in the Hospitality Management Program for 30 years. She is a State Specialist with Human Sciences Extension and Outreach at Iowa State University. As part of her work, she conducts research, develops educational materials and provides programs to help retail foodservices use their resources effectively and ensure safe food is served. Cathy is a registered dietitian with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and a Certified Professional in Food Safety from the National Environmental Health Association.

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SafeFood© Do Appearances Matter?

During a TV ad for a national restaurant chain, a conversation about restaurant employee appearances began. Why? Well, I noted that someone at the corporate office must have had a screw loose to ok this ad with female wait staff members (note plural) with unrestrained long hair shown happily serving guests. I am glad they were happy while doing their jobs but as a customer, I would not have been happy with the hair hovering over my food. I am not aware of any foodborne illness traced back to hair in the food, but you have to admit it is not a good merchandising technique.

Because Food Code says all food handlers must effectively restrain their hair, I assume the restaurant has a policy about this. So, where is the boss? Food Code also does not allow any jewelry (except a plain ring band) – so why do I often see (and hear others comment) about food workers with nose rings, necklaces, etc? Fingernail polish also should not be worn – yet this piece of information is often news to those working in operations.

Individual expression is fine, but if I were the owner of a restaurant, I would expect staff to understand that they represent the restaurant – and if there is not a customer coming through the door, then there is no business. Cultural and ethnic expressions or norms SHOULD NOT TRUMP the science-based recommendations of Food Code, which are in place to protect the public’s health.

Clearly defining expectations in terms of attire and appearance, and then monitoring to be sure these are met is managements’ job. It is the employees’ job to meet these. If these fundamentals get in the way of an employee’s self-expression, then perhaps that employee should be working elsewhere. For the sake of your customers, please work together – appearances do matter.

Catherine

Catherine

Catherine Hemphill Strohbehn has been a faculty member at Iowa State University in the Hospitality Management Program for 30 years. She is a State Specialist with Human Sciences Extension and Outreach at Iowa State University. As part of her work, she conducts research, develops educational materials and provides programs to help retail foodservices use their resources effectively and ensure safe food is served. Cathy is a registered dietitian with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and a Certified Professional in Food Safety from the National Environmental Health Association.

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