Business and Operations
Health & Safety
Pizza on Fire: April-May 2014
By Tom Stankiewicz
The win-win of food-safety training
By Tom Stankiewicz
One of the essential parts of running a successful business is ensuring your employees are equipped with the necessary tools and information to perform their jobs. Otherwise, you run the risk of dealing with unsatisfied customers and an inefficient operation.
It’s a win-win situation for everyone when the employees serving your customers are well informed, specifically, about the ins and outs of food preparation and safety. Training courses that lead to such goals as Food Handling Certificates and First Aid Certificates will set them up for success. Furthermore, the knowledge they gain from these courses will provide many benefits not only to them but to your business as well.
It’s ideal to have your employees trained in both of these courses as the benefits certainly outweigh the costs. Many business owners continually assess the needs of their business, and if needed, register employees for the courses. In some municipalities it is mandatory to have a minimum number of employees certified, so it’s a good idea to confirm your pizzeria is meeting the requirements.
The Food Handling Certificate offers many benefits. The key one is that it significantly lowers the risk of food-borne contamination. This is very important because as business owners it is our responsibility to keep our communities safe. If contamination were to happen, it would most likely have very negative consequences for the reputation of the business as well as monetary implications. I can think of a few unfortunate examples where the food safety guidelines were not followed by some restaurants in our community. I’m quite sure the owners are paying more attention to it now, so the consumers do not see the negative publicity again. It is understandable that, as the owner, you can’t possibly control everything; however, educating your employees is the first step in the right direction.
There is always something new to learn about safe food handling and it’s great that this course teaches about prevention. The added benefit is that employees who are certified can share their knowledge and best practices with the new hires who haven’t completed the course yet. I would strongly advise implementing an informal test in your own pizzeria, especially for employees who will not be attending the training. It will allow you to identify gaps in knowledge and provide additional training. At the end of the day, however, it is still your responsibility to ensure all employees understand and follow the guidelines with or without the certificate.
The certificate is valid for a few years from the date of issue. This is money well spent as you are investing in your employees’ future and customers’ safety. If you cover this expense for your employees, it shows you are planning to keep them employed for a long time. In turn, this should give them more certainty about their job security and lead to greater loyalty. One of the things we struggle with at our pizzeria is reducing employee turnover; investing in training may provide additional incentive for employees to stay. It also shows you are committed to improving employees’ skills, a key strategy given the very competitive job market. The hope is that the extra incentives will lead employees to seriously consider staying in their jobs.
Many of us who have been in the business for a long time expect employees to follow common sense food-handling strategies. Unfortunately, very often these practices seem common sense to us simply because we’ve followed them for years. I’m sure many will agree that in the real world they are not so obvious. For comparison, take some time to observe someone without the certificate prepare food versus a certified employee. I have seen it firsthand many times and the difference is tremendous. The lack of knowledge comes through right away – and there is nothing wrong with that because everyone has to start learning somewhere. However, seeing the difference in the open validates in so many ways why it’s worth it to invest in the Food Handling Certificate. If nothing else, it will give you peace of mind that the risks mentioned above have been minimized.
We all need to know how to handle food safely, and the risks multiply significantly when food is prepared by us for other people. It becomes about the safety of others who trust us enough to be our loyal customers. It is our obligation to do everything we can to prevent any unfortunate contamination outbreaks and keep everyone safe.
Tom Stankiewicz has been in the pizza business for more than 15 years. He has been the proprietor of Bondi’s Pizza in London, Ont., since 2000 and is president of the Canadian Pizza Team.