Wahoo's food-safety insurance is, well, insurance

Wahoo's Fish Taco has rolled out the welcome mat to its insurance company to get expert help with food safety procedures.

It is an invitation the insurer gladly accepts, said Steve Karfaridis, vice president of operations for the Santa Ana, Calif.-based fast-casual chain.

"We are not afraid to have other experts come in. The insurance company does it free of charge. They help us eliminate or reduce potential injuries and other issues like contamination," Karfaridis said.

The insurer creates a detailed report on each restaurant, complete with photographs and suggestions such as how to safely store heavy items and knives. These inspections also shed light on neglected spots in the kitchen that might not be as clean as others. "It is a third set of eyes," said Karfaridis.

In exchange, Wahoo's gets a break on its premium costs.

Attention to detail permeates Wahoo's operation, including when it comes to food safety. There is a store-level meeting every month on safety and sanitation. Every staff member, whether cook or cashier, must be trained in food safety procedures.

Karfaridis said the chain makes sure the tools are there to maintain high standards, including "mountains of towels" for different jobs, plus plenty of aprons, sanitation buckets, and disposable gloves. Crewmembers are expected to wear latex gloves over safety gloves to prevent contamination from trapped food particles in the safety gloves.

When equipment breaks, it is fixed as soon as possible to eliminate any potential safety issues.

Cleanliness is evaluated as part of a 300-point inspection conducted monthly by Wahoo's district managers.

For fryers, the message is instilled that they are not to be touched at the end of the day, only in the morning when they are not burning hot.

"These are very simple things," Karfaridis said. "We don’t want to make it brain surgery."

-Louise Kramer