By Len Panaggio
The economy is robust, spending is up and tourism is in full swing! As we enter July, the height of our tourism season, we are more in the public eye than ever, and being judged by hundreds to thousands of consumers on a daily basis. With an uptick in business, invariably comes some letdowns in service and cleanliness. However, there is literally nothing more important this season than cleanliness.
Heat and humidity contribute to mold growth – particularly at outside bar locations. Make sure you are regularly deep cleaning to avoid this dangerous and unsightly issue. Remember, every restaurant and bar is a stage and guests scrutinize every last detail. With the advent of Yelp, Trip Advisor and Facebook, you don’t want to create an unwanted review, comment or post.
With the increase of star mixologists at so many places, I watch what they do, and at times I am quite frankly amazed at their bad habits. Store ‘n Pours continue to be the go-to for keeping juices in the speed rack and handy to use. But, mixologists now employ squeeze bottles and, all too often, I see bartenders topping off not-quite empty bottles – gross. As a rule, staff should empty their Store ‘n Pours and wash them – including the pourer – before refilling. The smart bartenders will have a backup ready to go while the old pours are drying. The same should be policy for squeeze bottles – simply refilling squeeze bottles with new product without washing them thoroughly is a recipe for disaster.
Onto the garnishes. Once the fruit tray is empty, staff should remove the individual compartment and clean it before refilling it with fresh fruit. I often see bartenders and bar backs filling the compartments, again marrying new fruit on top of old, and virtually guaranteeing a bad situation.
Not to mention the number of establishments that are not washing the fruit before cutting, or ensuring proper refrigeration. Many bars are embracing perishable protein garnishes like shrimp – they demand refrigeration. There are so many cases of food-borne illness that are traced back to not washing or properly refrigerating food! It might sound ludicrous, but trust me, you literally cannot afford to make people sick.
Ice scoops — good to use and should be used – but, make sure they are being washed regularly. They do get dirty, are regularly handled by multiple people, and at times they are held in a place that could contaminate them, like on a liquor bottle in the speed rack. And, if you suspect that broken glass has infiltrated the ice bin, clean it out immediately, use hot water until the ice is all gone, and inspect for glass fragments. It’s not fun, and always seems to happen at the worst time, but drinking a glass chard is not only dangerous, it’s potentially devastating to a business.
In the old days, bar rags were used to wipe everything down from bar tops to cutting boards. Thankfully, the advent of sani-wipes has been a real plus. They fight bacteria, are single use, and keep everything far cleaner and germ free than the old way. They come in all sorts of containers and sizes and one would be foolish not to employ them in the bar and in the dining room to wipe tables.
I think that with proper training and constant reinforcement, bar staff will embrace these important pointers and realize that lack of compliance will likely result in poor reviews and lower tips. Ask staff if they would like to have a drink at a bar that ignores sanitation. After all, our guests demand and expect a clean, safe and fun environment, and they certainly deserve it!
Len Panaggio’s career in food and wine spans more than three decades as an owner and as a beverage director at some of the top restaurants in Rhode Island. Currently a hospitality consultant, Len is a graduate of the University of Rhode Island and has attended the Culinary Institute of America Master Sommelier program and the Sterling School of Service and Hospitality.