Where Yelp Doesn't Help: How to Stop Restaurants from Failing Health Inspections

By David Mostovoy

yelp

Once you hear a story (good or bad) about a restaurant, you never quite forget it. For instance, I still remember how my friend walked past a deli she regularly frequented—closed at that hour—to see an employee smoking a cigarette behind the counter. And then there’s my friend in another state who went to order ice cream from a small shop where the employee was a on a cigarette break. The same employee scooped the ice cream without washing her hands. And then I’ve already told you about a friend on the East Coast who was in the awkward situation of attending a company dinner knowing that the restaurant was recently cited for a health citation.

Even though I don’t live in those cities, I still remember these stories well. No city is above these kinds of problems. In fact, I recently saw an article about the 54 businesses that failed health inspections right here in San Francisco.

Now it’s no secret that we San Franciscans love our restaurants. In fact, in 2012 (if you find more current data, drop us a note) real estate website Trulia found that San Francisco is the top city for dining out, with 39.3 restaurants per 10,000 households. So in the grand scheme of things, the restaurants that failed are a small representation of our culinary empire. For those who don’t know how San Francisco’s restaurant rating system works: The city’s Department of Health rates San Francisco restaurants on a 100-point scale that’s similar to school grades. If you score 100 or in the high 90s, you’re the equivalent of an A+ student. But unlike Los Angeles and New York, letter grades aren’t posted in the windows, so it’s less apparent how restaurants scored.

And that’s where a local technology company stepped up to the plate. In 2013, restaurant review site Yelp added San Francisco’s health inspection information to its platform in an effort to improve transparency around food safety. Then, in 2015, Yelp began testing consumer alerts to warn customers about the results of recent health inspections. And in 2016, Yelp began flagging businesses that sued customers for leaving negative reviews.

Bottom line: Technology is changing how people learn about restaurant safety. Yelp brings attention to the problem, and in that way, it’s a great industry watchdog. However, it doesn’t provide the actionable insights that help restaurants fix their problems.

If you are the restaurant operator, you need to use technology to improve your operations. It’s the 21st century—there’s no reason not to! The saying “there’s an app for that,” is absolutely true. Here at Zenput, we set out to develop the app that would help remediate common problems that retailers, including foodservice operators, experience.

Take a closer look with us….

Use Technology to Help the Process of Improving Standards

In a related posted, I highlighted the 5 standards to uphold in order to maintain a clean restaurant. For every recently cited restaurant—and for other restaurants who are concerned about being named in the future—the issue comes down to staff retraining.

Develop your procedures, disseminate them to managers, train staff, start documenting progress, and follow up on progress. Then “rinse and repeat.”

Maintaining restaurant cleanliness is not only about changing behaviors, but also about making individuals accountable for their own behaviors. If you’re a restaurant operator who is concerned about the time commitment or extra manpower needed to implement these changes, you are probably not considering what’s available to you in the mobile technology space. And if you’re a restaurant operator in San Francisco, that’s where another locally-based technology company, Zenput, is here to help!

Our platform helps restaurant operators communicate better at a store level to improve their execution. Get a bird’s eye view of compliance while also having the ability to virtually check into a store to find out why benchmarks aren’t being met. You don’t need more employees or equipment to do this. You simply empower your current staff with a cloud-based, real-time technology on the mobile device of their choosing.

Whether you want all your managers to review new guidelines with employees, or want a specific location to clean up its act, Zenput allows users to issue those directives and follow up on compliance.

We’re used in 9,000 restaurants and growing… Is your business next?

Click here to see what Zenput offers to restaurant operators.

Topics: Restaurants, restaurant cleanliness, health inspections

5 Standards to Uphold for a Clean Restaurant

By David Mostovoy

clean restaurant.jpeg

What do you do when you haven’t been at a company very long and your CEO wants to go to a favorite restaurant that was recently flagged for unsanitary practices? Well, because the practices were well publicized, you go and hope they acted on the message. This was the awkward situation a friend of mine on the East Coast found herself in this past week. A restaurant in an upscale New Jersey town was one of the cited offenders, according to inspection reports that were collected and published on NJ.com. So there she was, trying to enjoy dinner, knowing that an inspector had recently discovered there was no hand soap in the kitchen restroom. Yikes!  

But it got worse when she realized her favorite sandwich shop not only lacked hand soap at the sink, but also had no visible thermometer in the reach-in refrigerator. Her favorite sushi destination had an unclean food prep service area and floor. At that point, she was ready to stop reading… but how can you?

Ignorance may be bliss if you’re the customer, but it’s not a happy-go-lucky time for the restaurant owner. It’s embarrassing to be called out for things that are easily recognizable and fixable. Health inspections aren’t a trivia game show with mystery questions—operators know in advance what officials look for prior to inspection. It’s time for smarter operations!

Here are 5 standards you should uphold in order to maintain a clean restaurant:

  1. Develop clear and regular cleaning procedures. Cleanliness is not only a safety issue—in some cases, it could impact the quality and safety of food. Check out this story of an employee in Eugene, OR, who starts off her day by cleaning the oven of a pizzeria.

  2. Make sure store-level employees understand and are constantly reminded of the importance of cleanliness. The general manager from the pizzeria in Eugene has a corkboard that keeps up-to-date with food handler cards, so she can check to make sure her employees’ cards aren’t expired. If they are, she hands them off to her kitchen manager to address the issue. The employees must be re-certified before returning to work.

  3. Start documenting progress. Documentation isn’t just a nice-to-have; it creates a vital paper trail that can be vital in documenting important information. And if you have the right tools, you can go paperless and have all information, including past audits and inspections, stored securely on the cloud.

  4. Track the progress of locations to see which stores are clean, which stores aren’t, and why. Communication is key. The point isn’t to dishearten or shame restaurants into submission. It’s to keep customers satisfied. By educating foodservice employees and encouraging managers to develop effective procedures, restaurant operators can keep their customers consistently coming back for more.

  5. Have the ability to follow up on and fix issues at individual locations. What was the point of conducting an audit in the first place? Health inspectors in my friend’s NJ town and elsewhere will return to make sure restaurants are making progress. When it comes to health regulations, restaurant managers need to follow up once a directive is given. It’s not enough to assume these problems have been resolved. Again, documentation and communication is critical.  

The Takeaway

Creating, distributing, and collecting a baseline audit for cleanliness can be a time-consuming process without the right tools. With Zenput, restaurant operators can create a mobile form, edit, and send it out to the appropriate employees as needed. That form is automatically distributed to employees’ mobile devices, and when they answer each question, the results are aggregated in an easy-to-read dashboard. Moreover, a senior manager can set up real-time notifications of any unsanitary condition discovered during the audit. To ensure accountability, the auditor can upload a photo of a problem and the senior manager can follow up with that store to make sure the issues were resolved.

For more examples on how Zenput helps restaurants uphold standards and clean kitchens, visit Zenput's website or request a demo.

Topics: Restaurants, restaurant cleanliness