Has your image been damaged by poor food safety practices and brand mismatch?

What does your image say? 

My daughter plays travel soccer and we are often out of town.  Stopping for a bite to eat when you know the risks of food-borne illness can be a little tricky.  Sometimes we pick a franchise because it is my experience that they have better food safety training programs in place.  But I do love the uniqueness of an independently owned restaurant.

However, before I choose a restaurant I am not familiar with I do a little investigation.  I first look at some of the social media sites like Four Square to check reviews.  Using Google on my phone I can usually see a picture of the building and yes I do judge a book by its cover in this case.  Is there a decent sign, does the entrance look inviting and is there a parking lot that looks safe?   When it all checks out and I arrive at my destination I enter the building and check the entrance.  Are the floors clean? Is there dirt and grime around equipment legs?  If I can see the staff in the kitchen are they wearing clean aprons? Is hair restrained?  Are the staff following basic food safety procedures?  If I answer no to any of these questions it is a good sign management doesn’t understand or care about food safety.  My first impression can be enough for me to turn around and go somewhere else.

Look at your business through the eyes of your target customer

If your target customer base is shrinking it may just be your image.  Here are some tips to getting your image back on track.

  • Train all of your staff in good food safety practices.  Do not forget to train waitstaff and bussers as well.  Everyday.  This is a never ending job.  Pick a food safety topic and focus on that for a week.  Next week, pick something else.  Before you know it everyone will be demonstrating good practices.
  • Check social media sites for your reputation.  Respond to all complaints in a respectful way and offer a resolution.  Never delete negative comments.
  • Stand outside your facility. Does the outside represent what your brand is?  Will it attract your target customer?  I don’t know how many times I have seen beer signs displaying food specials for a sit down restaurant.   I see a beer sign I think bar or tavern – not a restaurant that I would take my family to. If you are a bar that sells food that is fine.  If you are restaurant that also sells beer – take them down!
  • Clean up!  A dirty floor up front makes me wonder what the back of the house looks like.  And don’t forget about tidying up around the back door.  This is often a forgotten place filled with crates and debris.  I will drive around a building to check out the back.
  • Nice looking and clean menus.  If you hand me a sticky or stained menu – I am out of there.
  • Invite a secret diner to visit your restaurant during your peak times and slow times.  Yes your slow time as well.  Often staff get to relaxed and food quality goes down during slow times.
  • Know your brand!  Send the same message across all social media, print media and in person.

If you need help with identifying your brand or repairing your image I can help.  Please contact me at 410-382-4325 for a free consultation.  


For training education we offer the food safety manager training and food handler training at our location or yours.  

Pizza: The great debate over crust, sauce and toppings.

How you like your pizza is a personal choice.

Thin crust, thick crust, crispy or chewy.  Do you like a sweet red sauce, little sauce, a lot of sauce or white sauce.   Toppings, don’t get me started there.  How do you feel about ham and pineapple pizza or crab pizza?  What about extra extra cheese, stuffed crust or square pizza?

Personally,  I like to make my own thick crust with sauce spread thinly or not at all. Fresh toppings are a must and the cheese should be fresh as well.

Let’s start the debate: New York, Chicago, California or somewhere in between…where do you stand?



The Stomach Flu or Bug does not exist…

When you have vomiting, diarrhea and low grade fever what you have  is called Gastroenteritis.

Yes, the Stomach Flu or Bug is easier to say but it distracts from what the likely cause is.  Foodborne Illness.  Bacteria or Virus found in someones feces made its way into your mouth.  Sounds lovely doesn’t it.

How could you get someones feces in your mouth?

Someone that has the bacteria or virus in their system has bad handwashing skills and then touches a surface or food.  The bacteria or virus can stay on the surface and be picked up by someone else that handles your food.  That is called cross contamination.  Have you ever put your purse, laptop bag or other bag on your counter or table?  An ABC report found purses with extremely high numbers of bacteria on the bottom.  That is only one example of cross contamination.

There are also parasites to be concerned about.

Recently you may have seen the story of Cyclospora outbreak.  Parasites can be found in water so produce is at risk.  Washing your produce even if it has already been washed and bagged or if you will not eat the rind or skin will decrease your risk of parasites and harmful bacteria.

Keeping your family and workplace safe.

Through out any suspect food or reheat to 165 degrees before serving.  The most common diagnosed virus causing foodborne illness in the USA is Norovirus (Commonly called the Stomach Flu).  It has an incubation period of about 18-36 hours so think back to what you ate well before you started feeling ill.  However, Staphylococcal Aureus (The less nasty and commonly referred to stomach bug) has an incubation period of about 30 minutes to 4 hours.    Now that you are feeling the effects of foodborne illness, stay home if you have diarrhea or vomiting. Wash your hands using water and soap and scrubbing for 10 to 15 seconds.  Use a paper towel to dry your hands and turn off faucets.  A simple chlorine solution of 1 1/2 teaspoons of bleach in a gallon of water can be wiped on clean surfaces and allowed to air dry will  kill or reduces pathogens to safe levels.   Don’t forget to keep up good practices.  These harmful bacteria, viruses and parasites can be found in your feces up to two weeks after your better.


If you have any questions about this article or any other food safety questions be sure to ask them on Facebook at Marylandfoodhandler or Twitter @smf_foodsafey