D's key to food safety: consistency

Captain D's Seafood is charting a new course for food safety.

The Nashville-based operator has started requiring all of its 600 restaurants to have two employees who are certified in food safety through the ServSafe program offered by the education foundation of the National Restaurant Association.

Alan Caldwell, senior vice president of operations for the quick-service company, said he found inconsistencies in training when he joined Captain D's two years ago as part of a new management team installed by new owners.

"A lot of people were using their local health department or agency to help them certify their people," he said. "We all felt that we needed this done the best way and with one standard so we could always be evaluating."

Caldwell said the company's mission is to instill uniformity in a host of practices, from food safety to customer service surveys. About 70 percent of the restaurants have done the new training so far.

"Once our general managers are certified their antenna goes up on all the food safety issues," Caldwell said.

To speed up the certification process, 12 company employees were selected to become in-house trainers on the basis of scoring 95 or above out of 100 on their own ServSafe test. Having the staff in-house allows a unit operator to get the training when desired, rather than having to wait until the next available ServSafe course is offered in their region. There is also a slight cost savings, Caldwell said.

One practice in the spotlight is hand washing. Whenever anyone walks into the kitchen, they must wash their hands. The restaurants have plenty of sinks, but Caldwell said he sensed they weren't being used often enough. "Over the years sometimes things like that become part of the furniture," he said.

Not any more.

--Louise Kramer