Archive for January, 2014

California Bans Bare-Handed Food Contact

Monday, January 13th, 2014

California restaurant operators are now required to use gloves or utensils when handling ready-to-eat foods under a change to the retail food code that went into effect Jan. 1, but health officials have agreed to a soft rollout for the first six months.

Concerned that operators would be caught unaware of the new rules, the California Restaurant Association pushed for a soft rollout. The California Department of Public Health and the California Conference of Directors of Environmental Health agreed to note violations as a warning on inspection reports, educating restaurant operators about the specifics of the new rules during the soft rollout period.

Most states have already adopted similar bans on bare-hand contact with food, and the rule change was expected in California, said Angie Pappas, communications manager for the CRA. However, the state health department didn’t issue guidelines on enforcement until mid December.

Previously, the California Retail Food Code attempted to minimize bare-hand contact with prepared food, but the new rules go a step further to ban such contact, except in specific situations where the restaurant seeks an exemption from their local health officials.

The rules apply to any ready-to-eat food that will not be cooked or reheated. Affected dishes include sushi, bread, baked goods, salads and garnishes like parsley, lemon wedges and pickles.

Under the new rules, such foods must be handled with single-use gloves or utensils like tongs, forks, spoons, bakery or deli wraps, wax paper, scoops, spatulas, or dispensing equipment.

As mandated previously, foodservice workers must also thoroughly wash hands with soap and warm water before entering a food preparation area, before putting on clean gloves or between glove changes.

Hand washing is also required before preparing or dispensing food, after using the restroom, after touching any bare part of the body, or coughing, sneezing, blowing nose, smoking, eating or drinking. Foodservice workers must also wash hands during food preparation to prevent cross-contamination or when switching between work with raw ingredients and ready-to-eat foods.

Restaurant Execs Predict What’s Coming in 2014

Monday, January 6th, 2014

The new year is underway, but those in the restaurant industry have mixed feelings about how it will unfold. Nation’s Restaurant News asked some operators what they expect in the months ahead, and here is what they said.

“I’m very optimistic. Steady improvement in the economy will drive increases in traffic and store count across the restaurant industry. But the big winners will be those that continue to invest and innovate.”

— Randy Gier, chief executive of Pizza Inn and Pie Five Pizza Co., The Colony, Texas

“I keep reading stuff that everything’s more robust in the economy, but I don’t buy it all. Really, it hasn’t been a bad year for us, because we’ve been flat to marginally up, and the holiday season was on the lower end of expectations. But personally, it just seems very cautious and certainly not freewheeling in the restaurants.

“The government coming at you with health care might be fine, if we could just figure out what it’s going to cost, and with people saying everyone should make $15 an hour — you hear all this stuff and you have to wait and see. You never know who’s going to win these battles.”

— Tom Jednorowicz, founder and chief executive, Meatheads Burgers & Fries, Chicago

“We look at consumer confidence and buying power, and we don’t feel going into 2014 that the consumer is going to be a lot more confident, based on what’s going on with the government, unemployment and housing. So from a confidence standpoint, we’re leery of where it’s going to be next year in terms of traffic.”

— Mark Snyder, chief operating officer, Hurricane Grill & Wings, West Palm Beach, Fla.

“2014 is about getting back to basics. We’ve grown so much and gone to a new market, and we’ve lost a little off our blocking and tackling, so we’ll focus on that. In general, 2014 will be about the boring stuff.”

— Matt Matros, founder and chief executive, Protein Bar, Chicago

“We’re not very interested in the business environment, in the sense that it doesn’t effect our vision of transforming great American cities through hospitality. External environments are in constant flux. Our focus is on cultivating our own internal environment — who we choose to be in the world. It’s looking bright for 2014.”

— Mark Hinchliffe, project director and creative strategist for Smith, which owns and operates Brickwall Tavern, The Annex, Porta, Goldie’s and Pascal & Sabine, all in Asbury Park, N.J., and The Monk Room in Newark, N.J.

“As customers continue using social media, we’ll see strong brands finding meaningful ways to connect with customers across all touch points.

“We expect more growth and competition in the fast-casual segment as consumers continue to appreciate and migrate toward quality, healthful and affordable alternatives to fast food and traditional casual dining. With nearly 50 percent of all food expenditures taking place in restaurants, we expect to see more growth — and more competition — in our fast-casual segment.

“Quality brand leaders will focus on and leverage their brand’s story, culture and communities to create an authentic connection with their customers.

— Eric Ersher, founder and managing partner of Zoup! Fresh Soup Company, Southfield, Mich.

“I think the business environment in 2014 is going to be the strongest we have seen in years. In terms of restaurants, real estate is still relatively inexpensive. The poor economy over the last four to five years has also weeded out a lot of the inexperienced players and made their spaces and assets, including lease reassignments, easy to snatch and grab. This will in turn allow for quicker openings, more jobs available for the community and potentially lower, or stable, pricing for the consumer — all in all, a formula for a stronger economy.”

— Andrew Gruel, co-founder and corporate chef, Slapfish Restaurant Group LLC, Huntington Beach, Calif.