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Archive for December, 2007

UCCA Christmas Party

Saturday, December 22nd, 2007

December 14, 2007
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Not Just Another Piece of Meat – An Exploration of Whole Animal Sourcing

Tuesday, December 18th, 2007

November/December 2007

By Kristina Hjelsand

“…people don’t want to know what meat is. For my neighbor (and my friends and me, too, for most of my life), meat wasn’t meat: it was an abstraction: People don’t think of an animal when they use the word; they think of an element in a meal. (“What I want tonight is a cheeseburger!”) Bill Buford, Heat

As food trends go, the subject of whole animal sourcing is rife with candy-coated cliches for ambivalent carnivores. Whole hog. Nasty bits. Variety meats. The cute turns of phrase belie a reality that is either grisly or gastronomic, depending on how adventurous the eater: brains, liver, heart, tongue, lungs, spleen, kidneys, and the regrettably nimble sounding “trotters” (pigs’ feet). While many would surely rather these meats remain a mystery, enjoyment of them has become perhaps the most extreme sport in fine dining since the tableside flamb.

Outside the U.S., offal has long been a mainstay in meat eating cultures. From sweetbreads, tongue and tripe in Europe to pork intestines, kidneys, ears and goat brains in Asia, using the entire animal, from nose to tail, is embedded in the culinary weave of many cultures and speaks as respect for the slaughtered animal. In the U.S., industrialization and economic prosperity in the 19th and 20th centuries led cooks to favor the muscle cuts that are still popular today, steaks, roasts, and the like, and to discard most everything else.

The offal craze was, indeed, ignited like cognac to Bananas Foster in recent years with publication of British chef Fergus Henderson’s The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating. While the squeamish were vexed by visions of pig cheeks, ox tongue, and roasted bone marrow, the broader philosophy of sourcing and utilizing the whole animal is rooted more in home economy than haute cuisine.

The Art of Utilizing Meat
“The art of utilizing meat is leaving our culture,” says Will Harris, who owns White Oak Pastures, a grass-fed beef farm in Bluffton, Georgia that has been in his family since 1866. “I’ve got an 87-year-old mother who knows how to cook every single part of the cow. In those days, they had to eat every darn bit of the animal before they could kill another one.”

Independent butcher shops and grocery store meat departments used to dismantle animal carcasses into every conceivable cut, but today most meat is processed into only the most saleable cuts, typically at industrial meatpacking plants by low-paid, unskilled workers in psychologically and physically perilous conditions. The industrial meat industry, represented by approximately four U.S. companies, processes 83 percent of beef and 64 percent of pork that reaches that marketplace (Source: Sustainable Table).

According to Bruce Aidells, one of the country’s foremost meat experts and author of The Complete Meat Cookbook, a groundswell of interest in local food may spark a resurgence of neighborhood butchers. “There are very few real butchers around these days,” says Aidells. “Meat comes case-ready or in a box. If people are serious about buying local, butchers will come back.”

Throughout much of the past century, it was in fact the neighborhood butcher who possessed the expertise to sell the virtues of unknown or unappreciated cuts to his customers. He had to, because he had purchased the whole or half carcass wholesale. In the butcher’s absence, according to Aidells, many high-quality cuts often get put through the grinder simply because people don’t understand how to use them. “52 to 53 percent of trimmable meat ends up as hamburger,” says Aidells. “If you have an exceptional animal, it’s hard to get your money back from hamburger. It’s important to think about how to use the whole animal, how to turn the less-used parts of the animal into more valuable cuts.”

The Belly of the Beast
Getting chefs to embrace the lesser-known cuts is one thing, but convincing consumers to try them is quite another. “The art of cooking with the whole animal is making a comeback among chefs,” says Keith Latture, chef/owner of Local 11 Ten in Savannah. “But among the general public I think the art and even the interest was lost a long time ago. People are so used to being able to walk into any supermarket and have their meat all wrapped up in tidy little trays and portioned out just so. One look at what cuts are offered at grocery stores these days makes you wonder where the rest of the animal is going.”

Latture regularly puts things like tripe or pork belly on the menu and features fresh quail and quail eggs from poultry farmer Mickey Sanchez in Eden, Georgia, as well as heritage pork prosciutto from Emile de Felice’s Caw Caw Creek in Columbia, South Carolina. “I utilize the byproducts from all the animals we get,” says Latture. “The livers from our rabbits go into our country pate. The hearts and gizzards of the squab go into the tortellini we serve alongside the breast.”

Elliott Shimley, a Barnesville, Georgia, farmer who raises pasture-grazed, antibiotic and hormone-free young beef under the Epicuristic Products LLC label, says chefs who cook with the whole animal typically have a surplus of passion. “You’ve got to be creative and you’ve got to have that inner fire,” says Shimley. “Anyone can grill a chop it takes a chef to do a top-notch braise.”

Last June, Restaurant Eugene showcased Shimley’s Epicuristic young beef for a dinner that featured kidneys, liver, and marrow as well as more traditional short ribs, osso buco, and tenderloin of veal. Shimley works with an old-fashioned, state certified abattoir in Thomaston, Georgia to provide custom meat orders for high-end restaurants such as Atlanta’s Restaurant Eugene and the Dunwoody Country Club. Buying Shimley’s dry-aged beef requires patience: it takes two weeks from ordering through aging to delivery. But the care that goes into raising his animals is evident in the meat’s flavor and tenderness. Alice Rolls, executive director of Georgia Organics, recalls the Eugene dinner as a revelation. “I wasn’t raised eating hearts and livers, but when I’m served these cuts as part of a five-course meal at Restaurant Eugene, you better believe I enjoyed it! That’s where chefs can play an important role in supporting local farmers, not only by buying the whole animal but in capturing the essence of the less-familiar cuts.” Shimley surmises that the culture of conservation that once shaped our communities has given way to a culture of convenience. “Somewhere along the line we got away from saving,” he says. “All I can remember all my growing up years is, turn off that light, turn off the water. People aren’t as mindful of thrift and frugality anymore.'”

Eating Locally
Georgia chefs are starting to get serious about sourcing locally and sustainably. “We’re trying to bring more common sense into the local food system,” says Patrick Gabreyel, executive chef at the Dunwoody Country Club. “It makes sense to work with what’s around you. Why are we importing products we can make right here?” Rolls sees using the whole animal as part of a systemic approach to sustainability that goes beyond organic. “Similar to eating seasonally, whole animal sourcing is part of the process of becoming an educated consumer, of being less wasteful,” she says. In September, Georgia Organics launched its statewide “I’m a Local” campaign to educate consumers about the benefits of eating local, organic and sustainable food from Georgia farms.

Charlotte Swancy, along with her husband Wes, raises and sells Berkshire pork and grassfed beef from Riverview Farms in Ranger, Georgia. She states the freshness is key to the flavor and quality of locally raised meat. “For a chef to be able to get this meat fresh, less than 24 hours from harvest, that’s incredible,” says Swancy. “It makes the difference between incredible meat and so-so meat that tastes like anything else.”

Sourcing the whole animal from local farmers is also more cost-effective. “The loin is a very important cut, but there are other delectable pieces that many diners haven’t tried before, says Swancy. “A chef can tempt them with a nice confit with a belly or other parts that are less well-known but are equally tasty.” Swancy’s customers, who include Atlanta chefs Ryan Hidinger of Muss & Turners, and Gary Mennie of Taurus, say that the quality of Riverview’s meat demands minimal fuss. “In ordering from Charlotte, the whole goal is that all you have to do is warm it up,” says Mennie. “All the hard work is already done, the taste, the quality, is already there.” Mennie and his staff break down the meat, removing cuts like the strip and tenderloin first, then remove the shoulder and legs, marinate them for 24 hours, then roast them overnight at 200 degrees. “We cook them low and slow,” says Mennie, “and the meat falls off the bone the next day.”

The connections farmers and chefs are cultivating serve more than our appetites for innovative food. The increased demand for local, organic and sustainable food also supports family farms, which by many reports are diminishing at a rapid rate. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 3,000 acres of productive U.S. farmland are lost to development every day (Source: Sustainable Table). Giving farmers a piece of the economic pie means chefs may need to think a little more like butchers when sourcing meat. “It is far more advantageous for the farmer to sell whole or half animals,” says Harris. “It eliminates inventory problems that can be crippling to a farmer’s business.”

Harris says competing in an increasingly globalized industrial meat complex is daunting but necessary for those who value local economies. “When you have made huge commitments to raising each animal, you can’t afford to sell them at commodity prices,” says Aidells. “If you’re a small producer producing something exceptional, it behooves you to find chefs willing to work with you and to form those relationships.”

Gabreyel, who buys meat from Riverview Farms and White Oak Pastures, says local and niche producers are well-advised to search out chefs who know how to work with their products. “We cut all of our meat,” he says. “These guys need to find chefs who know how to cook organ meats and shoulders properly. Most of the culinary schools don’t even teach meat cutting anymore.” Using whole animals sourced from local farmers takes extra effort, but as with other locally produced foodstuffs, many chefs say it’s worth it. “I don’t necessarily look at it as a challenge,” says Muss & Turner’s Hidinger, who makes bacon, ham, rillettes, and pate with pork sourced from Riverview Farms. “You’re presented with so many opportunities to change people’s minds about things and present them with something really wonderful.”

For more information on where to find local, humanely and sustainably raised meats, visit www.georgiaorganics.org.

Kristina Hjelsand is the founder and owner of Kitchen Communications, an Atlanta communications consultancy that specializes in food and lifestyle brands.

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Are You a Good Neighbor?

Tuesday, December 18th, 2007

Donation Strategies for the New Year

November/December 2007

By Stacie Hanna

Tis the season! This is the time of year many restaurateurs and caterers see a dramatic increase in the number of donation and sponsorship requests received. The requests can be overwhelming, so how do you best handle the influx?

Evaluating what is right for your business can be a complex and personal task. However, a strategic, purposeful, year-round donations program also can be a key element to your establishment’s success. “Giving back to the community is a privilege and an opportunity,” says Pano Karatassos, Founder & CEO of Atlanta’s Buckhead Life Restaurant Group. “Our industry is historically very generous. Often, doing the right thing for the community can also be good marketing. Typically, we (at BLRG) support causes about which my team and I are passionate about and those that offer the chance to �do good’ while also building our company’s image with our target audience.”

Tony Conway, president of A Legendary Event catering in Atlanta, credits his sponsorship and donations program with helping his company win new accounts and in building its name. In ten years of business, A Legendary Event has granted approximately $7 million in cash and in-kind services. The catering company’s approach to giving is strategic, ensuring its generosity helps the community and, the company’s bottom line. “I believe in being a corporate good citizen. Give back and it will come back to you,” Conway adds. “We evaluate donation opportunities based upon specific priorities. The structure helps us make the most of each contribution.” Budget, marketing exposure and the opportunity to bid on related design or catering business are among Conway’s criteria. Current customers always go to the top of the list. A donations committee, including Conway and members of his management team, meets quarterly to evaluate and grant donation requests.

Rich Chey, owner of Doc Chey’s restaurants throughout Georgia and the Carolina’s and Osteria 832 in Atlanta, also takes a team approach to giving back. “In the past, we made independent decisions based upon each restaurant’s neighborhood. Now we are centralizing our efforts and created a board to oversee how money is raised and distributed,” he says. “I want to share the rewarding experience of giving back with my team and the consolidation allows us to make a greater impact with our donations.” Chey and his team tend to focus more on neighborhood causes, impacting the areas in which they operate. He donates to a few outside events and organizes his own fund raisers throughout the year. His grass-roots approach is a key part of his annual marketing plan. Chey says he sees more “bang for the buck” from supporting community events than from higher cost alternatives like advertising. In fact, Chey’s recent customer survey results support this strategy. Nearly 95 percent of responding guests cited community involvement and word-of-mouth when asked “How did you hear about Doc Chey’s?”

So how do you put a strategic, year-round donations program to work for your company?

Getting Started

First, consider your business objectives and how supporting the community can bolster them. For example, if you are looking to gain attention for your restaurant’s catering program, you might consider an in-kind catering donation to a high profile event. Looking to promote a new chef? Arrange for him or her to make appearances or donate auction items featuring the chef. The possibilities are endless. Creating a process and specific criteria for evaluating requests can help.

Second, establish a budget, determine who will administer the program and decide what type of donations are a fit for your company (cash, in-kind product and services, chef appearances, gift certificates, etc.). Will you have a focus for your charitable giving – for example, give only to children’s causes, local organizations or hunger charities – or, will you take a broader approach? Then, decide whether you will evaluate requests on demand or on a set schedule.

Ask the Right Questions

Get all donation requests in writing. These materials sometimes reveal how well the fund raising effort is organized, a key indicator of how your business will be represented and recognized.

Gather as much detail as possible. Key questions may include:

  • When and where does the fund raising effort take place?
  • What audience does it attract? How large is the audience?
  • Who does it benefit?
  • What other sponsors are involved?
  • Are there other restaurant or catering partners and if so, who are they?
  • What type of donation is requested?
  • Is there an opportunity to do business at the event or with the organization in the future?
  • How will my restaurant get exposure in front of the organization’s audience? What other benefits are available?
  • What are the sponsorship levels, if applicable?

Get Recognized

While some proprietors may be reluctant to ask for recognition, most organizations are eager to create mutually beneficial partnerships. “We try to create a win-win for our sponsors,” says Alexandra Flynn, special events manager for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), an organization that frequently partners with restaurants for openings, auctions and varied events. “We ask ourselves if we were in their shoes, what we would want to get out of our donation, and then try to deliver that benefit.”

Don’t be shy when asking what you will receive in exchange for your donation. Typical benefits include: tickets to attend or entertain clients at an event, acknowledgement in marketing materials, signage and/or advertising in a newsletter or program. At times, guest mailing lists may even be available for your company to use for follow-up marketing efforts. Some organizations, like JDRF, actively encourage constituents to support the businesses that support them. Reviewing sponsorship levels is particularly useful when negotiating exposure in return for contributions, emphasizes Conway of A Legendary Event. Whether your donation is cash, in-kind or a combination of the two, always request sponsor recognition equal to the retail value.

Stay Positive

Opportunities to support fund raising events from gala parties to golf tournaments dominate the field of requests. These events can be powerful in putting your business name or product in front of current and potential customers. But, take caution to choose carefully or a positive can turn negative. Visit the event location when possible and always confirm all logistics before making a commitment, especially when food is involved. Research the setting, preparation area, presentation style, service arrangements, attendance and other food or beverage will be served. Donate food only when you are certain your product will be served and presented properly. And as always, keep safety top-of-mind. “If you are cooking on site or donating food of any kind, be careful about liability issues for the event,” advises Conway. “Make sure the venue or organization names your business as an additional insured or provides a release of liability.”

Involve Your Team

Community giving can have a tremendous influence inside your organization, too. Sam Burn, Commissioner of Culture for Jim N Nick’s Bar-B-Q which has over 21 locations, three residing in Georgia – Conyers, Acworth and Hiram, says building internal pride through charitable giving is equally as important as outside marketing value. “By being involved beyond the check-writing aspect of a donation and by including our people in a real and tangible projects, we are not only able to connect with new guests within our community, but we are also able to communicate to our employees the larger purpose of our business and clearly demonstrate why we do what we do,” Burn says.

Involve employees in your community efforts when possible. Whether collecting donations from guests for a holiday toy drive, helping serve a meal to honor veterans or serving on a committee to grant donations, employee involvement can be a powerful internal brand building opportunity.

After all, helping to make a difference in the community can be extremely rewarding – personally and for business. Why not share the enjoyment?

Stacie Hanna is an independent marketing consultant. Her company, Sequel Marketing, offers comprehensive and project-based marketing services. She can be reached at (404) 841-2327 or at stacie@sequelmarketing.com.

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Restaurant Forum Sponsor for Trade Tasting

Tuesday, December 18th, 2007

November/December 2007

Restaurant Forum magazine is pleased to announce that it is the official media sponsor for the Trade Tasting at the 2008 High Museum Atlanta Wine auction on March 27, 2008.

For restaurateurs, the Trade Tasting is the premier wine event in the south. This dedicated trade event offers a special opportunity for restaurateurs, chefs and their wine staff to taste what’s new and speak directly with winemakers. In 2007, more than 100 premium wines were presented by winery principals and/or winemakers, including such notables: Chateau Montelena, Caymus, Foxen, Martinelli, Paul Hobbs, Tablas Creek, ZD and many others. As a sponsor, Restaurant Forum will publish a special Trade Tasting section in the March 2008 issue. The restaurant trade can learn more about the High Museum Atlanta Wine Auction and Trade Tasting in upcoming issues and online at www.atlanta-wineauction.org and the soon-to-launch restaurantinformer.com.

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Chancellor Appointed Hooter’s Director of Training

Tuesday, December 18th, 2007

Hooters of America announced that Wade Chancellor has been promoted to Director of Training for Hooters of America, Inc. from his former position as Training and Development Manager. “Wade’s extensive knowledge of operations and training earned him this well deserved promotion,” stated Kat Cole, Vice President of Training and Development. “He affects positive change with his passion for the Hooters concept and 20 years experience in the industry.” In his new role he will lead the training department and direct employee and management training for Hooters of America’s 123 locations and support the 440 restaurants worldwide.

Wade joined Hooters in 1987 as a dishwasher and part time cook in Sarasota, FL. While working in the restaurant, he attended Ringling School of Art and Design and graduated with a BFA in 1990. He went into management and continued to work his way up through the company as part of a new store opening team. In 2000 he joined the training department at the corporate office where he has overseen new store openings, employee and management training and kitchen projects for the past 7 years.

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Responding Correctly to an Inspector’s Questions

Tuesday, December 18th, 2007

November/December 2007

According to the 2007 GA Food Code, a Person-In-Charge (PIC) needs an understanding of the following areas and posses the ability to communicate that understanding to the environmental health inspection officer.

  1. The relationship between the prevention of foodborne illness and personal hygiene of employees.
  2. The responsibility of the PIC for preventing the transmission of foodborne illness by ill employees.
  3. The symptoms associated with foodborne illnesses.
  4. The relationship between maintaining time and temperature of potentially hazardous food (time/temperature control for safety food) and the prevention of foodborne illness.
  5. The hazards involved in the consumption of raw or undercooked animal foods.
  6. The required food temperatures and times for safe cooking of potentially hazardous foods.
  7. The required temperatures and times for the safe cold holding, hot holding, cooling, and reheating of potentially hazardous foods.
  8. The relationship between the prevention of foodborne illness and control of cross contamination, hand contact with ready-to-eat foods, handwashing, and maintaining a clean food service establishment.
  9. The foods identified as major food allergens and the symptoms they can cause in an individual who has an allergic reaction.
  10. The relationship between food safety and equipment used in the establishment.
  11. The correct procedures for cleaning and sanitizing utensils and all food-contact surfaces.
  12. The source of safe, potable water and measures taken to protect against cross-connections and backflow.
  13. The identification of poisonous or toxic materials in the food service establishment, proper handling procedures and legal disposal methods.
  14. The identification of critical control points in the operation that may contribute to foodborne illness and steps to ensure that the points are controlled.
  15. The details of the establishment’s HACCP plan, if a plan is required by the law.
  16. The explanation of the responsibilities, rights, and authorities assigned by the new rules to the food employee, the PIC, and the GA Health Authority.
  17. The explanation how employees and the PIC comply with reporting responsibilities and exclusion or restriction of food employees.
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Security Safeguards

Tuesday, December 18th, 2007

November/December 2007

By Charles Y. Hoff, Esq.
Hospitality Practice Group, Taylor, Busch, Slipakoff & Duma, LLP

To protect your restaurant from ID theft you have ordered pay-at-table credit card devices and changed customer receipts to no longer show credit card numbers or expiration dates. Now you can relax and quit worrying about ID theft, right? WRONG. The greatest exposure still remains, putting restaurants out of business overnight.

All restaurants are at risk of misused credit card data and are targeted more than other retail establishments. Your problems usually begin when notified by the credit card processing company for Visa, MasterCard, American Express or Discover. Their fraud departments notice irregular patterns of consumer credit card usage picked up from your location. They suspect the security of your internal computer network system may have been compromised. Basically, they feel your system was hacked by intruders intent on stealing credit card information from your internal database or point of sale network.

Once this occurs, you don’t have much time to think as your credit card processing firm advises you must promptly hire, at your expense, one of a select number of forensic inspection companies to come into your establishment and perform an investigation of your security system. Your contract with the credit card processing company typically states the merchant bank can also withhold up to six figures of credit card payment while they make their determination of the situation. This can lead to massive fines or penalties to your restaurant upwards of $600,000, regardless of whether there are any credit card chargeback’s.

At this point, you may encounter some sleepless nights wondering if you can afford these penalties, what your cash flow situation will look like, if the card companies will cut the use of their cards and the potential adverse publicity resulting in eroded business.

How can this nightmare be avoided? Each restaurateur needs to select a reputable point of sale vendor (POS) and/or make sure your POS vendor has updated software by the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS). You also need to understand the contractual obligations imposed upon your restaurant by the PCI DSS. Their suggestions on how to build and maintain a secure network are outlined below:

  1. Install and maintain a firewall configuration to protect cardholder data.
  2. Do not use vendor-supplied defaults for system passwords.
  3. Protect stored data.
  4. Encrypt the transmission of cardholder data across open, public networks.
  5. Use and regularly update anti-virus software.
  6. Develop and maintain secure systems and applications.
  7. Implement strong access control measures.
  8. Restrict access to cardholder data by business need-to-know.
  9. Assign a unique ID to each person with computer access.
  10. Restrict physical access to cardholder data.
  11. Regularly monitor and test network.
  12. Track and monitor all access to network resources and cardholder data.
  13. Maintain a policy that addresses information security.

What steps should you take when a victim of a credit card breach?

  1. Do not alter the suspected system.
  2. Attempt to isolate the system (if practical, unplug the system).
  3. Change system and user passwords (but not “root” ones).
  4. Change network passwords.
  5. Preserve all logs and reports.
  6. Contact your merchant acquirer and other card brands if they have not contacted you first.
  7. Contact law enforcement.
  8. Record in written form all actions taken and when.
  9. Anticipate a forensic data investigation.
  10. Consult with knowledgeable legal counsel.

Most importantly, become educated to this issue so that your establishment can be proactive. Don’t let yourself, your patrons, or your restaurant become one of many needless victims.

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What Every Foodservice Manager, Restauranteur, and Owner/Operator Needs To Know

Tuesday, December 18th, 2007

November/December 2007

A summary of some of the major changes in Georgia’s food safety regulations (Chapter 290-5-14).

PERSON-IN-CHARGE (PIC) OF THE OPERATION DURING INSPECTION MUST DEMONSTRATE FOOD SAFETY KNOWLEDGE

PIC must demonstrate knowledge of foodborne disease prevention, application of the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) principles, and complying with the requirements of rules by:

  1. Having no critical violations during the current inspection;
  2. Being a CFSM; or
  3. Responding correctly to the inspector’s questions as they relate to the specific food operation.

DOUBLE HANDWASHING IS REQUIRED AFTER USING THE RESTROOM

You must wash your hands before leaving the restroom and again in the kitchen before returning to your duties. Wash hands at designated hand stations only, never in kitchen sinks. Hand antiseptics are never substitutes for hand washing. Apply these products only after properly washing hands.

GLOVES ARE REQUIRED WHEN PREPARING ANY READY-TO-EAT FOODSYou must wear clean disposable gloves when preparing any ready-to-eat foods with your hands. Change disposable gloves any time you touch an unclean surface or change tasks. EMPLOYEE HEALTH : REPORTING ILLNESS AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES There are many changes in the new regulations concerning employee health. We recognize that employees and managers need to work, but if an employee is sick with an infectious disease that could be transmitted by foods, the individual must inform the manager or supervisor in charge and you must not prepare or serve foods. Any employee who is vomiting, has diarrhea, jaundice (yellowing of eyes and skin), sore throat with fever, or an infected lesion or boil with draining pus may not work with or around food. In some circumstances, the employee may be able to work as long as assigned duties will not risk transmitting the disease through foods or food contact surfaces. For some illnesses a physician must release the “recovered” individual before she/he can return to work.FINGERNAILS, JEWELRY, AND HAIR RESTRAINTS

Employees preparing and serving food must keep fingernails clean and trimmed so that nails are no longer than the tips of the fingers. Unless wearing gloves in good repair, an employee cannot wear fingernail polish or artificial fingernails when preparing foods. The only jewelry that can be worn on the hands or arms by an individual preparing food is a plain band such as a wedding ring – no watches or other jewelry are allowed. Employees preparing foods must use effective hair restraints for head and facial hair, including beards and mustaches longer than one-half (�) inch. Hair restraints are not required for most counter and wait staff, but long hair should be pulled back from the face and restrained to avoid contact with foods being served.

NEW MINIMUM HOT HOLDING TEMPERATURE

The minimum hot holding temperature for cooked foods has been lowered from 140�F to 135�F, which means all hot foods held on a serving line must be at least 135�F. The new range for the temperature danger zone is now 41�F to 135�F (58�C to 5�C).

DATE MARKING ON FOODS IS NOW REQUIRED – FOODS MAY BE HELD 7 DAYS MAXIMUM

Potentially hazardous foods prepared on site and held in refrigeration for more than 24 hours must be marked with the name of the food, the preparation date, and the use-by date or discard date. If the food is held under refrigeration at 41�F or below, the maximum holding time is seven (7) calendar days.

Commercially prepared containers of potentially hazardous foods that are opened and held at 41�F or below must also be marked with the use-by or discard date (no more than seven (7) calendar days.

MIXING OF OLD AND NEW FOODS ON SELF-SERVICE BUFFET OR SALAD BAR

Fresh foods cannot be mixed into foods already on a self-service buffet unless:

  • The food on the buffet is being held at 41�F or below or 135�F or above, and
  • The self-service buffet temperature is monitored by trained employees, and
  • The date and preparation time of the food already on the buffet or bar is marked on the container or properly documented to indicate it can safely be mixed with freshly prepared product.

MAXIMUM HOLDING TIME AND DISPOSAL OF FOODS ON A SELF-SERVICE BUFFET OR SALAD BAR

Foods that have been on a self-service buffet or salad bar must be disposed of at the end of the business day or after a maximum of 24 hours, even if kept at proper temperatures during service. This food safety regulation does not apply to wrapped foods such as packages of crackers, etc.

COOLING HOT FOODS BEFORE REFRIGERATING – TEMPERATURES AND TIME

Hot foods that are to be stored in refrigeration should be properly cooled using the two-step method. Use an ice bath or cooling stick to cool the hot product from 135�F to 70�F (internal temperatures) within two (2) hours, and then from 70�F to at least 41�F (internal temperatures) within four (4) additional hours. Use this quick cooling process to keep food safe.

CERTIFIED FOOD SAFETY MANAGER (CFSM) MUST BE EMPLOYED

At least one CFSM must be employed by the operation. Become a CFSM by completing the GRA ServSafe Food Safety class and exam. Call the GRA office for details.

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Preparing for the New Food Code

Tuesday, December 18th, 2007

November/December 2007

By Nancy Caldarola

December will soon be upon us and with it the official transition to the 2007 Georgia Department of Human Resources (DHR) Public Health Food Service Rules enforcement statewide. The revised rules for food establishments, Chapter 290-5-14, commonly called the food code, was enacted February of this year with the cooperative efforts of state and local regulators and industry representatives, including many GRA members. For restaurateurs and food service operators this means the revised rules, which up to now were being implemented as an educational inspection, are mandatory as of December 1, 2007.

The new Georgia food code has major changes from the past rules. Our 2007 food code now focuses on foodborne illness risk factors and the appropriate Public Health interventions that management and workers must employ within food service establishments. These code changes incorporate the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) top five risk factors contributing to foodborne illness: food from unsafe sources; inadequate cooking and internal temperatures; improper holding temperatures; contaminated equipment; and poor personal hygiene. Because of the critical nature of the five CDC Risk Factors, the new inspection report measures compliance for intervention against these risks. Intervention is accomplished by active managerial control, complying with the food code, and having no critical violations during a food establishment inspection.

For the new food code it is essential that owners and operators understand the concept of active managerial control, which is defined as a duty of the person-in-charge (PIC) during an establishment’s inspection. Active managerial control describes management’s responsibility for developing and implementing food safety management systems to prevent, eliminate, or reduce food safety problems. It means management uses specific actions or procedures in everyday operations to control foodborne illness risk factors in a preventive rather than reactive approach to food safety. The PIC has a key part in the new code. Now during any inspection the PIC must be able to demonstrate to the inspector her/his knowledge of foodborne disease prevention, application of applicable Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point principles, and compliance with the requirements of the 2007 Georgia food code.

The PIC can demonstrate her/his knowledge by first, having no critical item violations during the inspection. And, she/he should be able to demonstrate her/his managerial skills by quickly correcting any non-compliant conditions and directing employees to act when such conditions are observed or pointed out during a food establishment inspection. A second way the PIC may demonstrate required knowledge of food safety is through certification as a food protection manager. The 2007 food code requires that a food service establishment employ at least one Certified Food Safety Manager (CFSM) in the establishment. A CFSM is typically a PIC who has successfully completed an approved food safety training program and passed an examination such as the ServSafe Food Safety class and exam offered regularly by GRA. Businesses operating before the February 13, 2007 code enactment will have two years to employ a CFSM on staff. Finally, a PIC can demonstrate her/his knowledge by responding correctly to the inspector’s questions as they relate to the food operation being inspected. There are 17 possible areas detailed in the 2007 Georgia food code about which an inspector can question the PIC [see sidebar].

Many foodservice locations inspected during these past nine months of implementation have received two evaluations from their environmental health specialist; the official inspection using the current food code and an educational evaluation using the revised 2007 rules. These dual inspections allow the environmental health specialist to instruct the person -in-charge (PIC) in the workings of the new inspection form, the changes in scoring of the form, and ways the food code revisions may affect their establishment.

Food establishments will now receive a letter score after the inspection, a change from the historic numeric rating that was posted for the public. Letter grades are based on a numerical score with a grade of “A” denoting food safety excellence (90 to 100), a letter grade of “B” meaning satisfactory compliance (80 to 89), a letter grade of “C” indicating marginal compliance (70 to 79), and a letter grade of “U” meaning unsatisfactory compliance assigned when an establishment scores 69 or less. A follow-up inspection will be conducted when a “C” or “U” grade is earned on a routine inspection with a new score being posted on the follow-up report. With the code changes, repeat risk factor violations from previous routine inspections result in additional point deductions on the inspection score and when a repeat of the same code violation occurs for three (3) consecutive routine inspections the food establishment could lose its permit to operate.

Throughout this past year implementation efforts were active on many fronts. Local environmental health specialists completed training in the new rules and inspection techniques and educational sessions for food establishment operators were conducted throughout Georgia through the cooperative efforts of regulators and the GA Restaurant Association. Industry and government regulators have worked together to reach as many owners and operators of food establishments as possible with information to help this transition. All food establishment owners, managers, and supervisory personnel should be prepared to take the time now to attend one of the GRA educational sessions offered throughout the state to learn more about the 2007 Georgia food code and its many changes. Information about classes and a link to the 2007 Georgia food code and inspection reports are available on the GRA website, www.garestaurants.org. ServSafe class registration information is also available on this website to help managers meet the certified food safety manager requirements.

Nancy Caldarola of Concept Associates, Inc. has been in the hospitality industry for more than 35 years holding senior management positions in operations and training with restaurant and retail chains. She is a Registered Dietitian, holds an MA in Human Resources Development and an MBA, and is currently a doctoral candidate in Business Administration. She has been teaching food safety classes since the mid-70s and ServSafe since its introduction to the industry in the 80s and has been serving on the GA Food Code implementation Work Group as an industry representative.

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Claim Your Tax Credit

Tuesday, December 18th, 2007

November/December 2007

By Robert Wagner, CPA
NetFinancials, Inc.

Earth-shaking changes in the tax laws impacting restaurants happen once a decade. The Small Business and Work Opportunity Tax Act is the latest “Law of the Decade” signed by the President on May 25 2007. That’s when Congress increased the minimum wage.

Congress and the restaurant lobby in Washington reached a compromise to get the minimum wage changed. The restaurant lobby would not actively oppose the minimum wage increase if certain targeted tax relief was included for the restaurant industry. It was a win-win. Congress got to crow about raising the minimum wage and restaurants got newly extended and expanded tax credits to “ease the pain” of paying higher wages.

The changes in the tax law are targeted at small to mid-sized restaurant operators. So if you’re a restaurant operator with restaurants in an “S” corporation or a limited liability company (LLC), most of the restaurants in the Georgia market, then you are a winner. Time to celebrate! Crack open the bubbly! The largest restaurant companies, the big corporate operators, generally do not benefit from the law change.

Do you benefit from the law change? Answer “yes!” to the following, and you just won the income tax lottery:

  • Is your restaurant in an “S” corporation or an LLC?
  • Does your restaurant employ tipped servers?
  • Do your servers report their tips?

“Yes” means you can claim a tax credit for payroll taxes you pay on servers’ tips. All you have to do to get the tax credit is:

  • Be absolutely certain your payroll service company is tracking your FICA tip credit
  • Give your FICA tip credit report to your tax preparer and ask them to complete Form 8846 as part of the restaurant’s 2007 income tax return

Your first call should be to your payroll company to ensure you can get a FICA tip credit report at year end. Most track FICA but some do not. Next, call your tax preparer to be sure they know you want to claim the FICA tip credit in 2007.

A study of local Atlanta restaurants determined the following for the average casual/fine dining restaurant operator:

  • On average each could claim a FICA tip credit equal to $6,000 for each $1 million in total restaurant revenue.
  • A restaurant with $3 million in revenue could claim around $18,000 in income tax credits!
  • The higher the servers’ reported tip rate, the higher the tax credit.
  • One Atlanta restaurant with very high tip rates claimed tax credits in 2006 equal to $12 thousand per $1 million in revenue.
  • Wow!

Here’s the Small Print
The 1993 FICA tip or 45(B) tax credit is calculated at the company level and is then passed through to the operator to be used on the operator’s tax return. But the tax credit was made nearly useless to operators by the dreaded alternative minimum credit or AMT. We calculate that upwards of 90% of operators could not use the FICA tip credit on their personal tax returns due to the AMT. The 2007 tax law changes everything! Beginning January 2007 the FICA tip credit is no longer limited by the AMT. That means many restaurant operators will have their ENTIRE INCOME TAX LIABILITY WIPED OUT by the FICA tip credit in 2007. This is the biggest tax law change in years!

It Gets Better
The same May 25 tax law extended and modified the work opportunity tax credit (WOTC). The WOTC gives operators a tax credit up to 40% of the first $6 thousand of wages paid to certain disadvantaged employees. Such employees include certain veterans, ex-felons, high-risk youth, and food stamp recipients. There are certain minimum employment and registration requirements. In most cases, the restaurant operator will want to use an outside specialist to administer the company program.

As in the FICA tip credit case, the WOTC was limited by the AMT but that limit was removed by the May 25 tax law change.

Higher Depreciation Limit
Small business expensing lets restaurants legally write-off assets such as furniture, fixtures and equipment purchased for business use. In 2007 the amount of assets that could be expensed was to rise to $112,000. Congress upped the limit. Now restaurants can write off up to $125,000 of qualified assets acquired in any one year. Like so many tax laws, this benefit phases out. If within a year the restaurant company purchases qualifying assets worth more than $500 thousand, this tax benefit starts phasing out.

A major, new tax benefit for casual/fine-dining restaurant operators was enacted by Congress in May 2007. The source was a grand bargain struck to get the minimum wage passed. To retain good workers, casual dining stores already pay rates higher than the minimum wage. So in 2007 casual dining restaurants got major, targeted tax relief even though they did not face higher costs from the minimum wage increase. Is this a great county or what!

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