Big bad business is taking the heat for food safety outbreaks. The “food with a face” movement is going strong – with many consumers thinking that if they know who produced the food, it will be safer. Ain’t necessarily so. Lapses in safe practice can happen anywhere. Agri-business companies have multiple levels of controls and safeguards are in place. So, why have glitches occurred? Maybe shortcuts have been taken in the name of increased productivity (read lower cost to pay someone to do something) or efficiency (workers want to clock out and won’t thoroughly clean and sanitize something). Shame on them! Everyone working around food needs to get the importance of why procedures are there. Companies (small or large) that encourage short cuts usually have a short term, bottom- line only mentality. The human piece is common in almost all outbreaks. So, maybe there needs to be greater identification on the return in investing in human resources. Like morality, a SafeFood© culture can’t be legislated. It takes people – consumers of products, regulators, educators – being willing and motivated to be SafeFood© Advocates. We recently completed some tools to help instill a food safety oriented culture – see Hot Topics at www.iowafoodsafety.org
Are organizational skills really that hard to find? I arrived at the Charleston airport one and a half hours before my scheduled 10 AM flight departure to Atlanta (from there would catch connecting flight to Des Moines). All was well – bag checked, through security, and to gate within fifteen minutes. About 9:45 – we heard an announcement that there was a possible mechanical glitch (doesn’t that inspire confidence?). But no problem, problem solved and we all got in line to board by our assigned zones (supposedly this makes the boarding process more efficient – hah!).
But this time there was a problem because the plane sent for our flight wasn’t large enough – about 20 people with seat assignments were left on the tarmac while the flight crew and gate personnel scratched their heads and tried to develop an action plan. I appreciate that mistakes can happen. But how mistakes are resolved is a sign of professionalism, which sadly I did not see. I did not appreciate the lack of communication and information – those of us were left to interpret mixed messages from airline staff and wait in a single line for new connections (while others walked in and were helped by staff administering other lines). In my management classes, the concepts of communication, planning, resource allocation and yes, service, have always been stressed. So why did this major carrier get it soooo wrong?
The rest of the story – I was put on a ground shuttle to Columbia SC (2 hour drive); left Columbia at 5 PM for flight to Atlanta, and then arrived home in DSM at 11 PM CST (midnight real time). A fun long day seeing multiple airports – 16 hours of quality time! The airline did provide meal vouchers ($12 total) and a $400 flight coupon – but for 9 extra hours of my time, not so sure it was worth it. Send me an email if want to know the airline. I guess the good news is the 16 hours weren’t spent on the tarmac in the plane as we’ve heard with other horror stories!
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!
In keeping with the motto “we’ve got nothing to hide” many restaurants are opening the kitchen to diners. This can be a good thing as people like to see the action, which in a busy kitchen is truly a well choreographed display of talent and dexterity. Obviously, a glass wall obliterates some of the sounds that go with this ballet (what does the chef say when he burns his hand?), which is also a good thing. Some restaurants do place tables in the kitchen – which can be a fun experience for diners.
So, what is the downside? Well, there are some employees who will forget they are on stage and practice behaviors that are less than hygienic (such as licking their fingers). I am all for full disclosure and applaud the restaurants providing transparency. Fellow blogger John Foley described the drawbacks very well in his post: People tolerate the occasional bad meal, weak service, or mismatched ambiance. They draw the line at poor hygiene practices.
If you have an open kitchen, don’t let it backfire – train and monitor, and then retrain and continue to monitor employee practices. They are the front line and can ruin a good thing.