Chop't keeps cool on food safety

Chop't Creative Salad Co. is fanatic about refrigeration. After all, the New York operator of fast-casual salad restaurants is all about cold salads made to order.

It starts before the ingredients reach the company's three stores. When Michael LaPlaca, Chop't's vice president of operations, evaluates potential suppliers, he visits their distribution center to make sure HAACP principles are followed and the cold chain maintained.

Once the produce arrives each day, it is checked thoroughly for quality to the point where receivers open boxes from the bottom to make sure the product is fresh. All produce is rinsed with an organic citrus wash.

In the restaurants, the company spares no expense on refrigeration, LaPlaca said. Chop't custom-designed a cart to hold its more than two dozen salad dressings, with the capability to keep them at 40 degrees.

For the cart that houses salad ingredients - patrons have 60 choices including cubed fried chicken, shrimp and myriad vegetables - cold air is constantly circulated below the bins holding the food via remote compressors that are liquid-cooled. All the equipment is on wheels for easy cleaning.

For sanitation, each salad is made on a clean mat. During the lunch rush, a runner is dedicated to replenishing the mats, steel mixing bowls, and other utensils and getting them to the dishwasher.

Employees are asked to wear gloves and to change them for each salad. If they aren't making a salad, they are supposed to be wiping down counters.

Training exceeded local regulations. Up to six employees per store are certified in food safety by the New York City Health Department.

"If anything trickles down from the top here it is that cleanliness is king," said co-founder Tony Shure.

-Louise Kramer