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Restaurants Making The Grade

July 9, 2012, 10:07 PM by Kellee Azar

Restaurants Making The Grade

When you head out to eat with your family, high on your list is probably making sure the food tastes great. But besides making sure your food comes out the way you like it, business owners have the constant task of making sure they are always ready for a surprise health inspection

Picking up a bagel made to order might be a part of your morning routine.  But for the people working behind the counter, day-to-day work goes beyond making sure your breakfast is made just the way you want it.

"It's hard work; it takes commitment. These scores don't just come to anyone," Sioux Falls Public Health Manager LuAnn Ford said.

Ford says running a successful business is hard enough, but in the food services industry, specific steps need to be taken each and every day to make sure the food that's going out to guests is not only delicious, but safe and made properly.

"It's difficult to consistently, day after day do well and that's with anything in life really.  But to pull it off in a food service, when you have several employees and you can't as a manager or as an owner of a business can't be there every single second making sure every single person is doing everything right," Ford said.

Every six months, a health inspector makes a surprise visit to every restaurant in town. The inspector checks out the business and gives it a score from one to 100 with 100 being the best. Ford says any restaurant can have a good inspection but to consistently post high scores is something a business should be very proud of.

"Day to day, a score can fluctuate but when you look at the history over time, a facility that scores consistently over every inspection in the 90s anywhere is a very admirable trait," Ford said.

And that admirable trait can be found at Bagel Boy in Sioux Falls. The bagel business consistently lands inspection scores in the 90s. Most recently a 98 and six months ago, a 99.

"The grade is very important to us because it just shows that we are on top of our game.  And I think just as far as the staff goes everyone wants to know, 'How did we do?'" owner Mike Dinsmore said.

Dinsmore says there's no way his business would be posting such high scores if he had a staff he couldn't trust or one that didn't care.

"Because I think it reflects on the staff and me, so when we get a good score and we usually get a very good score, people usually say, All right!'  And I mean it's...we get excited about it," Dinsmore said.

Also important is a daily safety routine. Making sure food is always at the right temperature. Keeping hot food hot and cold food cold. Making sure foods are sealed properly and counter space is kept clean. It might sound simple but experts say it's the small things that are easiest to forget.

"As a food handler, you need to be aware not only of your hands getting messy but also what sorts of things you are touching.  You know if you are touching something that is contaminated, washing you hands before you go back to food prep," Ford said.

"We are trained from the past what he is looking for and we are trained not to do it. When we do slip up, it's usually a new employee and we go, 'Hey, you can't do that,'" Dinsmore said.

Training is key. Dinsmore says he's blessed to have many employees who have been with him for more than 10 years, who pass down the company's routine to new employees.

"There is a pattern.  There is a routine and we have been inspected how many of dozens of dozens of times. So you kind of know what they are looking for, so we are ready today if he stops in, I have no problem knowing that we are going to get a good score," Dinsmore said.

Both Dinsmore and Ford agree that a health inspection can actually better a business.

"To help them see the forest through the trees, sometimes it's hard when you are in a kitchen to see some of the violations when you are there everyday. And so it's helpful to have an inspector come in with a fresh set of eyes and point them out to you and we find that the operators are pretty open to that for the most part," Ford said.

"It's very important to have health inspections.  I mean for me, I'm the biggest critic if I go out to some place else being in the food business now for 16, 17 years you kind of know what to look for and how the food comes out.  Is it hot?  And is the plate hot?  So to me, it's important," Dinsmore said.

A high-stress test that business owners and employees will continue to work hard to pass.

"At least one person at every store and in fact a few here that know all the guidelines all the rules, for what to do so you got to have one of those key guys at your store," Dinsmore said.

Check out how your favorite restaurants scored on their recent health inspections by visiting the Health Department's website.

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