line checks: why so important?
Let’s frame it up. Food-borne illness, cross contamination and other serious infractions from your kitchens should keep us all up at night and be under constant review. Very obvious!
Your team no doubt has tactics on keeping up with and insuring every customer receives only the best prepared food products as you align with key initiatives, including but not limited to the following:
- Adherence to Health Department requirements, which is to insure your team eliminates “ALL” Critical and Major Violations.
- HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points) a risk management prevention methodology to insure safe food processes are in place.
- Adherence to your own brands documented approach insuring full compliance toward food safety.
Let’s examine howline checks in your restaurant supports each of these key initiatives. Initiatives that can pay huge dividends with your objective to serve food you feel confident has been rigorously prepared, stored and produced for your honored guests correctly - the first time, every time.
Who Does It: We lined out the “why” and now, “who” should conduct line checks? All scheduled managers during all shifts should participate in conducing line checks. This is an on-going process, an everyday event that should never be dismissed. Additional key personnel, store trainers and managers in training should also participate with guidance from leadership.
When to Conduct: Operations teams with assistance from Training or Learning and Development departments can support and call out best times for these critical touch points. From my experience with 30+ years in operations, I found the best times to conduct line checks to be:
1. 30-45 minutes prior to the opening shift for the day or as close to opening the doors as possible in order to have as few interruptions as possible.
2. Mid-day or after the first few hours of operation to insure food integrity, temperatures and quality have not been compromised.
3. 30-45 minutes prior to PM shift or as close to when that shift beginnings as possible. You will generally have new team members working that shift, therefore it’s critically important to insure the same level of weight is placed on this line check. You will also be teaching and holding new team members accountable for the best food practices you have in place.
4. Mid PM shift, again to insure food integrity, temperatures and quality have not been compromised. This is generally when food wells burn out, hot sauce deterioration and a lack of focus tends to take place.
5. End of the Shift. Based upon how you break down your food stations, this is an excellent time to discard products that cannot make it to the next day. Produce, cold sauces, soups, dairy and protein all can fall into this category. Do what’s right, if it’s not ready for another day and does not follow your shelf life guide, TOSS IT. When in doubt, TOSS IT.
Tools & Best Practice: There is a plethora of materials, methods and tools to utilize which insures compliance of food safety standards are meet. How does your team stack-up?
• Well maintained thermometers for temping hot and cold products.
• Disposable latex gloves which eliminate all bare hands contact.
• Disposable plastic spoons for soup and hot sauce tasting.
• Keep all kitchen equipment well maintained and follow a PM (preventive maintenance) regimen.
• Posted charts and guidelines that call out key points to follow and insure 100% food safety compliance.
• Hand held sensitivity guides for quick reference are also popular and successful.
Mindshare and People: You can never downplay the importance of your team placing critical value on this initiative. An impactful and top of mind food safety culture will go a long way. Showtime line checks - where scheduled team members prepare foods prior to the commencement of the shift under supervision which acts as a training and development tool. This food safety practice will be rewarding and meaningful for those team members invited to participate. You should never under estimate their value to your business.