Make hygiene your top priority

Posted on Analysis May 2010 - by Tandoori Magazine
Make hygiene your top priority

Ajmal Mushtaq, business expert and chef-director of Mushtaqs Restaurant in Hamilton, explains how his restaurant achieved award winning hygiene standards.

It was not by chance that my restaurant, Mushtaq’s, in Hamilton, Scotland, was awarded the Eat Safe Award by South Lanarkshire’s Environmental Health Department, which made it the cleanest Indian restaurant in the county.

A cleaning system, developed by me, was implemented over a 12-month period, that was well above the requirements of the law and I’m delighted with the result.
Customers are becoming increasingly demanding, particularly as they now have access to on-line hygiene reports. It’s more important than ever that restaurants achieve high standards of food hygiene. Cooking is my passion and it is very important that everything is fresh, clean and washed thoroughly. I believe this makes the food taste better.

How Mushtaqs achieved award-winning standards: The health inspector arrives without prior notice, so is important to always have exceptional standards of food hygiene.

Understand Rules: Food hygiene is a complex area and has many requirements such as cooking, cooling, chilling, cross contamination and management. The first step was to understand all the rules and all the areas that are affected. There is a lot of good information available on the Food Standards Agency’s website:

Manageable Tasks: Tackling both food safety and hygiene at the one time was overwhelming. Mushtaqs broke down the tasks into the following sections: cooking, cooling, chilling, cross contamination and management. This ensured that each of the areas were manageable, but more importantly doable.

Training: It is vital that all team members have good knowledge of the rules. There are many courses available on DVDs; visual aids; videos; posters etc. are available act as excellent guidance for the learning process.

Motivate Team: Mushtaqs ensured the whole team was brought into the vision and that they understood the benefits of working in a very clean environment. This open communication approach was beneficial throughout the process.

Commence Cleaning: Mushtaq’s took one area at a time, for example cross contamination, and concentrated on raising our standards to the point where we were exceeding the requirements of the law. This simple approach was then rolled out to the other areas.

Specific Time: It was difficult to implement operational change and conduct normal business at the same time. Mushtaqs dedicated additional time to daily deep cleaning. This additional cost is well worth the investment.

Management Checks: Mushtaqs created a 160-point cleaning system that ensured the whole kitchen was immaculate from top to bottom. Management spend one hour inspecting the kitchen and any areas of attention will have to be dealt with on the same day.

Equipment: One way of telling how clean an establishment is, is to look at the cleaning equipement and chemicals being used. We invested in brand new cleaning equipement and regularly replace it. It is imperative that you ensure you are using appropriate chemicals with the correct dilution.

Routine Checklists: Mushtaqs knows the value of maintaining standards. We implemented checklists for every aspect of management. This made it simple for the duty manager to conduct tests and report results with accuracy.

Policy Document: The Mushtaqs Health & Safety policy document sets out the objectives, explains the structure of the policy and describes the procedures in place to ensure the stringent standards are met. This acts as the plan of action for all our food safety activities.

Having an exceptionally clean kitchen and food safety standards can only be good for your business. The benefits include increased confidence in the team, safer working environment, elimination of cross-contamination and finally added customer confidence.

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