By Marie Beachdale
Sunday, Sept. 23, 2012, Surfside Beach - If you’re planning on working in the service industry, there’s going to come a time when your restaurant gets their South Carolina Department of Health & Environmental Control inspection, but don’t panic-- there’s no reason you should fear DHEC!
After years as a server, I have witnessed many DHEC inspections, and at times have even had to walk through the restaurant with them when a manager had stepped out. I’ve learned no matter how clean your restaurant is, seeing a DHEC employee walk through the front door with a clipboard can be daunting.
It seems to me the intensity of your restaurant’s DHEC inspection largely depends on which DHEC employee is walking through. If he or she has been to your restaurant for several previous inspections and knows your company runs a tight ship of cleanliness and storage procedures, they’ll be in and out in no time. A new employee, however, might stay for more than an hour and check every little detail right down to how much bleach you’re using in a sink.
Usually as a server, you have nothing to worry about when DHEC walks through. I know first- hand the worst thing you can do is run around like a crazy person trying to fix things while the DHEC employee is there, because that only draws attention to possible problems.
Back of house employees do need to be prepared for a little bit more interaction with DHEC.
Several times I have seen back line employees get questioned about storage procedures, proper cooking temperatures, and item shelf lives. Sure, it might feel like you’re being put on the spot, but knowing the answers to these questions and making sure you follow procedure when DHEC isn’t around can mean the difference between a perfect score and a critical violation!
Although DHEC will make unannounced visits to your restaurant several times per year, their goal is not out to put anyone out of business. As a service industry employee and a lover of dining out, it’s incredibly reassuring that with so many restaurants in the Myrtle Beach area, someone is looking out for your health.
If your restaurant doesn’t get a perfect score during an unannounced DHEC visit, don’t panic-- you will be left with a list of things to change and made aware of the date by which they need to be fixed.
The best thing you can do as a server is to treat every day like it could be the day DHEC comes. Little details like covering up sliced lemons and making sure you have sanitizer buckets in the proper places can make a big difference during your inspection-- don’t let your restaurant down because you wanted to cut corners during your opening duties.
It’s also important to keep a watchful eye out and speak up if you see anything going on in your restaurant that shouldn’t be happening. Not only are you protecting your customers from potential foodborne illnesses, but you’re also ensuring you’ll have a restaurant you’ll enjoy working at for years to come.
If you haven’t seen a DHEC employee in your restaurant for a while, chances are they’ll be coming soon. Don’t wait until the last minute-- start making sure everything in your restaurant is in order now. That way, when they walk through the door, you’ll have nothing to worry about.
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