Providing meals to your employees is a great way to build loyalty and nourish your staff during peak production hours. Workers don't have to labor while hungry or leave the office building or factory to find lunch when you have a cafeteria in your facility or offer another quality staff meal plan.
An employee kitchen and dining area is subject to licensing and permitting processes like any commercial kitchen is. It helps to be prepared with the following knowledge as you plan your employee food perks.
Know who regulates your employee kitchen
Each state and local area has its own term or terms for the government agencies responsible for conducting health inspections of food storage, cooking, food prep, and dining facilities. In New York City, you're required to notify the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene before opening a kitchen and serving food to employees.
In Florida, your dining facility may be under the jurisdiction of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, the Department of Health, or the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, depending on your type of food-service operation. For example, if you run a shop selling scooped ice cream cones, you are under different rules than a service that sells only packaged ice cream.
Learn about the various agencies in your state and municipality before you plan your kitchen. Most agencies offer free lists of regulations and other downloads and literature so you can make informed decisions as you plan your on-site dining program. Someone on your planning committee must take the time to read all of the fine print to ensure you're complying with the rules for employee meal management. Small changes in your kitchen setup can mean the difference between minimal and strict regulations, but you only know how things you do fit in with regulations if you research the rules thoroughly.
Learn all of the costs and budget accordingly
Some of the details can include which type of flooring, walls, and table materials are allowed in your cooking and serving areas. Rules can cover how and where you store your perishables and dry goods and how many hand-washing sinks are available. You will need to budget the cost of special thermometers for any refrigerated or frozen storage areas and for food temperature checks on hot buffet items.
You'll also want to calculate fees for your routine inspections and other permits as you budget your new employee meal plan. Most state and local agencies make it easy to pay online or via credit card, so it's convenient to set up a payment method in advance to cover fees. You may be subject to inspections every three, six, or twelve months, depending on your type of food-service operation, so you should budget accordingly to have the fees set aside. You'll also want to budget for more workers and cleaning supplies before inspection times as a consistent way to maintain your facility in top form.
There's no cause to panic if you get a critical health violation during an inspection if you have a repair budget set aside for emergencies. You are normally given time to correct the issue (which could be as simple as a loose ceiling tile) before the government agencies shut you down officially. Have emergency contacts displayed prominently for your kitchen equipment repair services, and try to build relationships with the service providers who can best meet your needs at a fair price.
If your business is too busy to handle the details of planning and implementing an employee meal program, a food-service management company is the answer. Professional food-service providers have contacts in the industry to handle food procurement and equipment repairs, and they will also manage all of the details to meet the legal requirements for the type of kitchen you want to create.
You can start with onsite food trucks or cold lunches and work up to a full cafeteria system, but in this case, you let a food-service professional such as New Horizon Foods handle all of the pesky fine print so you're free to run your own business with a happy, well-fed staff.Share
8 August 2016
About 10 years ago now, I was cooking with my mom when the worst happened. I was using the stove and the flames jumped into the pan, sparking a serious grease fire that I didn't know how to control. Fortunately, my mother thought quickly and extinguished the flames with a box of baking soda. This blog is all about avoiding dangers in the kitchen and knowing how to prevent problems before they arise. Your kitchen is an inherently dangerous place, but by knowing how to prevent issues, you might be able to save your home or save your family from very real problems.