February 20, 2012

Lessons in Restaurant Cleanliness from Undercover Boss

In the episode featuring Baja Fresh, we learn a few things about how restaurants are run in the United States. Three examples include: 

Always Look Professional
restaurant-uniformUniforms are compulsory in most establishments. By default, uniforms must be laundered regularly and changed if soiled. This is why throughout the episode, we see the Undercover Boss change into his uniform in the workplace itself and not wear it to work. Having worked in a few fast food establishments, my coworkers and I found it easier to wear ‘street clothes’ to work, change into the uniform in the restroom, and then change back into our ‘street clothes’ when leaving work for the day. This protects the uniform from getting dirty on the way to and from work, as having a clean uniform provides a consistent and professional appearance to the customers. In the episode, we saw our Undercover Boss spot his white shirt with green salsa. The manager asks him if he has an additional shirt to change into. Often, an employee may bring with him an extra uniform in case it becomes dirty and unpresentable to the public. Companies may provide uniforms free of cost or at nominal fees.


Maintain Hygiene
Coupled with the uniform protocol, employees in a restaurant must maintain the prescribed set of hygiene standards. These personal and company standards are often a combination of an employee’s personal hygiene plus the standards set by state, federal, and company regulations. In the US, there are government bodies that often inspect restaurants and food preparatory establishments to ensure that the hygiene standards are met. In this episode, a range of hygiene protocol was noticed:

  • Maintaining a clean uniform
  • Not touching the face while preparing food
  • Keeping floors and food preparation areas sparkling clean
  • Keeping tables, doors, windows, and counters (all surfaces) clean
  • Maintaining a level of cleanliness in the restroom
Maintain Food Standards
Part of the hygiene in food preparation includes a range of standards for food safety. These regulations are set by the US and state governments, and are reviewed on a regular basis by the authorities. Among the many regulations, some are:

  • Wearing gloves while preparing foods (though some US states may not follow this rule)
  • Keeping their hair clean and well-kept (long hair kept in a ponytail, with a hair net covering it, and facial hair may or may not be allowed depending on the establishment)
  • Maintaining a particular temperature where food is stored for short and long term use (we saw the example of the cold table not meeting expectations in the episode)

The restaurant business is probably one of the most difficult in the US due to all the regulations surrounding it. American customers demand excellence and a consistent, appetizing product that besides tasting the same in subsequent visits also looks “picture perfect.” Maintaining such standards not only standardizes processes and allows for easy replication of items but, also reduces chances of the outbreak of food-borne illnesses. I congratulate food service establishments who maintain these standards over long periods of time. It is not an easy job but, as a customer, I truly appreciate it.


Author, Jennifer Kumar has over 15 years studying, working and living in India. She prepares Indian expat workers for overseas assignments in Western countries including the US, Canada, and the UK. Contact her for your cross-cultural training needs here. 

Chris Sufi is a freelance editor who lives in Bangalore, India. Her personal interest in language and communication inspires her to contribute through proofreading and editing. 
She can be contacted here.  

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