Food Safety

Listen to your commercial kitchen

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A brilliant kitchen design.  Check
A good theme or concept to work with.  Check
Contractors.  Check
A team of experienced and skilled chefs.  Check
Fantastic interiors.  Check
Safety systems.  Check
Waste management.  Check

How hard can it be to run a commercial kitchen, right?

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You might want to reconsider your response if the above just did sound really easy because still waters run deep.

It makes sense to consider the work flow depending on the nature of your food business, before you begin working on 2D and 3D models at a generic level. Commercial kitchens need not only planning but a good sense of awareness as well as there are new ways to achieve targets and every day is a learning experience. This blog post is not an exhaustive guide and it does not displace any prescribed regulations.

Based on my experiences with past projects, I put together this little note that might help future owners or managers of commercial kitchens. Having said this, each project must be treated as a unique one so that it helps you chalk out ‘one-of-the-best’ solutions instead of a solution ‘that’s-worked-elsewhere-before’.

A is for approvals

Wouldn’t it be a bummer to have sections of a fully purpose built kitchen torn down only because the scope of activity or the flow of work was not approved by the regulatory authorities prior to commencing the operation? Be mindful of the local rules and guidelines pertaining to your food business and it’s best to seek an opinion from at least two trusted / reliable sources just to be sure that you’re on the right track.

Let’s go cherry-picking

While the focus lies primarily on making more money, let’s not forget that we also want to lose less. A site with the right set of facilities such as power supply, potable water supply, waste disposal systems, etc. helps avoid unpleasant surprises with budgeting. You could either start from scratch and have customized solutions for your commercial kitchen or go with a site that has the basic infrastructural requirements built in. Also, don’t forget about the fire exits and I hope you weren’t pondering on using the garbage chute for worst case scenarios.

Less is more

It’s time to un-complicate. Don’t see a commercial kitchen as mulligatawny soup.

It doesn’t matter how elaborate and well equipped a commercial kitchen is, if ergonomics was not a part of the designing process. The lesser the steps involved for staff members to complete a task; the greater is the efficiency of the team. Also, through the simple principles of ergonomics, you are more likely to reduce chances of cross contamination, which is the ogre of any food business.

Did you know that 8 out of 10 restaurateurs worry more about cross contamination than crunching numbers? The other two restaurateurs are probably considering investing in real estate instead, because of the fines they have accumulated.

Employee safety and mobility are of paramount importance unless you were the producer of a reality show that involves chefs having a cook off within tight spaces of a crowded kitchen and reaching out for an ingredient could result in the domino effect of knocking down the other chefs. Funny, maybe, but not ideal. An example to illustrate ergonomics would be the use of under-counter chillers. This limits the need to walk to the allocated walk-in chiller frequently and also saves a lot of space. Be mindful of the heights of the equipment because a mismatch could not only get in the way in terms of efficiency but also result in injuries.

What’s your style?

Grouping makes life so much more easier. Dividing the kitchen into mini sections such as the hot-sections, cold prep area, raw products section, and much more facilitates better kitchen management and also reduces chances of cross contamination. The arrangement of equipment depends on space availability and for this reason, you would first have to decide whether you’re opting for an island style, the assembly line or the zone style grouping. At this juncture pay attention to other details such as power outlets, drain lines and air vents for circulation. I don’t think it’s ideal to work in a kitchen with gas masks.

That’s a fancy piece of..wait, what is it?

Understand your equipment before you purchase them.
Not only are they supposed to be functional for your scope of activity but they need to be approved by the regulatory authorities, even it’s second hand. It’s in a way related to ergonomics as well. Any food contact surface needs to be deemed as safe for use be it locally sourced or imported. It’s idea if the supplier of the equipment is reachable should you have a team discussion about the project as a whole, or require assistance for trouble shooting purposes. It doesn’t end with good sales when it comes to purchasing equipment because what really matters is the after-sales service.
I’ve had clients tell me, “so we have this equipment that we have imported from ******** which is customized to meet our volume of business, but we don’t know how to fix it and none of the companies here have spare parts that match our machine. The supplier is unable to send us a troubleshooting manual and his associate is not reachable.”

Rule of thumb – preventive maintenance. Always be prepared for when things could go wrong rather than wait for something to fall out of place. This saves time, energy and the need to be put on hold by the operator, whilst on a long distance call.

HVAC helps. AC by itself, does not 

So far I’ve discussed about ground flow. Next in line, comes the air flow. HVAC stands for heating, ventilation and air conditioning. A comfortable work environment facilitates better productivity lest one might encounter the gas mask scene. A good HVAC contractor would test for flue gases because combustion safety cannot be ignored. Food poisoning is one thing and CO (Carbon monoxide) poisoning is another. Air ventilation systems play a key role here and unfortunately this is an area that is usually missed out on as it gets displaced by air conditioning.

Beta version unlocked

It’s quite easy to choose between quotes provided by different contractors. From kitchen designs, to building materials, to equipment and food products supply. Though there are different factors that affect the management’s decisions to choose a particular contractor, it helps if they are focused on improving the existing flow of work. Sure, the current flow seems to be ideal and there weren’t any hiccups experienced, but is there a way of improving it? Could we make it more efficient? The advise I usually give to the managers is don’t just talk the talk, walk the walk too. Watch your team in action and see if you can spot areas of improvement.

If the system isn’t improving, it probably isn’t working.

 

Comestible regards,
Judy Sebastian

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