Cooking is one of the great pleasures and necessities in life, but when you run a restaurant, cooking is not just a task to complete; the quality of your work and your output are a part of your livelihood. Everything about cooking is important to you, and this is never more apparent than in the state of your kitchen.
Once you've decided to go into business for yourself in the food and beverage industry, you've entered the next level. Your kitchen is not just a place of cooking, it is central to a registered, legally recognized business, and that means you now have legal obligations. One of these legal obligations is the cleanliness of your kitchen. It's no longer merely a matter of pride, common sense, or health and safety, though it is, of course, still all these things. Most important of all, it is now a law that your kitchen must be kept at a certain minimum level of cleanliness for health and safety. And if you fail to meet this minimum, you are in danger of having your business shut down by the local government for health code violations.
For people who want absolute peace of mind when it comes to health and safety compliance, there's only one way to go: professional, commercial kitchen cleaning. In some ways, this is the only way to go if you've already been visited by health inspectors and are found to have failed a kitchen inspection. If you've already noticed that your own efforts haven't yielded the results you need to keep operating, then it's time to go to professionals.
But when would you need to get a professional grade, facility kitchen cleaning? How bad do things need to be before it's time to call in the professionals?
The Laws of Food & Safety
Anyone who’s operating a business that involves food in St. Louis needs to answer to a lot of different laws from different levels of government. The Federal agency known as the Food & Drug Administration, or FDA, has Federal level laws that every business owner in every state must remain compliant with. But beyond that, there are local laws for any business right here in St. Louis County that need to be observed.
For anyone who’s thinking of getting into the business but doesn’t know much about it, don’t make the mistake of assuming that these laws are like traffic laws and that you’ll only be penalized if you’re violating the law when an officer is around. Every food and beverage business is subject, at some point in the year, to a regular inspection by an Environmental Health Specialist or Environmental Representative, who will examine a facility. These inspectors are science-degree holders who are also up-to-date on Federal, State and Municipal health and safety requirements, and will be closely evaluating your business to see if you are in compliance with those requirements.
Depending on the business you run in St. Louis, you might even experience more than one inspection! Places like gas stations that only serve pre-packaged food might get one inspection annually. However, restaurants with very complex menus that use a lot of perishable foods might be inspected two or even three times a year!
The Consequences of Failing Your Inspection
If you haven’t had industrial kitchen cleaning done to your facility, and you fail an inspection, this event can mean a number of things for you, depending on the severity. Health inspectors are looking at a vast range of different variables when they come down to examine a business. It’s not just enough that your food preparation surfaces are kept clean, for example. How your employees handle food, whether or not they wash their hands, your rodent and pest situation, your food storage systems and even whether you’ve had commercial hood cleaning are all things that will be evaluated.
So, you may be found in violation of one, two, a few, or even many health and safety requirements, depending on what inspectors find. However, it’s the degree of those violations that will determine just how serious—or not—the fines are, or whether there’s a question of shutting down your business.
If, for example, an inspector notes that your employees are not always washing their hands before handling food, this is a relatively minor lapse. If it’s the only violation that you’re reported for, then fixing this is as simple as being more strict with your employee policies and no further inspection is required.
On the other hand, if it’s found that you’ve been neglecting the commercial hood of your kitchen, and it is no longer functioning correctly, this is a major violation. A broken or excessively dirty hood isn’t something that can be corrected on the spot, so your non-compliance will be noted, and another inspection will be required to ensure that you have tended to the matter and are following proper protocol. If you continue to fail these inspections, your business will eventually be shut down.
The Hood Is Essential
The hood that is used in a commercial kitchen such as a restaurant is not just a convenience; it is an essential cornerstone in maintaining employee safety and diner comfort. Unlike a home kitchen, which only sees activity during two or three points of a day, a restaurant kitchen is subject to constant use. That means a lot of food is being prepared and often cooked. Therefore, the oils and grease that are vaporized during this process need somewhere to go.
If you’re running your restaurant correctly, this means that the hood over your range is operating, soaking up heat, steam, smoke and vaporized oil or grease to ensure that it not only stays away from your kitchen and workers, but neither the smells nor the vapor itself settles down on the kitchen or the diners just outside.
Vents Are Not Indestructible
A hood is essentially a big ventilation system with filters and moving parts that are designed to suck up harmful air and transfer it elsewhere. That means that it’s dealing with a lot of “hostile” elements in order to keep workers and diners safe. When it gets dirty, it can not only impact the performance of the hood itself, but it can even pose a fire hazard or damage your roof.
Keep in mind that a hood is absorbing what amounts to flammable materials, like grease and oil. If you don’t get a commercial hood cleaning from time to time, some of that material may settle inside the hood itself, and if anything should happen, such as a spark or a flame, that film of flammable material may ignite, causing a fire in a very inaccessible space.
Also, grease, oil, and other vapors can have a corrosive effect. If a hood is not doing its job properly because it’s not clean enough or the filter needs repair or replacement, this can be hurting the condition of your roof. It may even void your roof warranty, or raise your insurance premiums, costing you money you didn’t even need to spend.
Stay Safe & Compliant
Due to the fines, suspension of operation, and other associated penalties, it just makes good sense to bring in professional help, especially if your hood is found to be part of a health violation during an inspection. Industrial hood cleaning is a far cry from just getting on a stool with retail cleaning agents and hoping that a good wipe will take care of the job. You need to get professional results to continue to operate professionally, and that’s what a dedicated cleaning of your facilities will get you, should you make the wise decision to invest in one.
When you get a professionally conducted, commercial hood cleaning, you get people who are experienced with this scale of job. They will go in and clean the filters, as well as the area behind the screens. They will inspect the fan blades and clean them as well, removing them and inspecting the fan housing if possible, along with installing hinge kits if they are required. They will check the ducts, and, if you have no access panels for your ducts, install those as well, then scrape and clean the ducts, so they are devoid of grease and oil detritus. And finally, they will clean and polish the hood both inside and outside, so it will look shiny, new, and ready to pass inspection.
Ready to Help
If you’re between inspections, and just looking at the hood in your kitchen, or you’ve just had an inspection, and the hood is on the list of things that need to be addressed, we’re here for you. We have all the people, tools, and experience with the St. Louis food industry to give you the industrial kitchen cleaning you need to stay safe and compliant with health codes.
Just reach out to St. Louis Cleaning and Restoration and explain what you need. We’re happy to conduct a free consultation with you and see what your facility is like and exactly what kind of commercial kitchen cleaning you’d benefit from. So next time, you have an inspection, you’ll be sure to pass.