April 18, 2016
With the increased emphasis on quality foodservice, maintaining in-store equipment is necessary for keeping a clean image.
By Howard Riell, Associate Editor
In the wake of the publicized instances of food-borne illnesses such as the Norovirus outbreak at Chipotle, more convenience stores are protecting their operations against similar operational risks.
Many c-store operators are looking at a variety of potential danger areas, from food preparation equipment to storage containers and ice machines, honing their food safety policies and procedures along the way.
Jeff Oppenheim, director of food service for Sampson-Bladen Oil, which operates 79 Han-Dee Hugo’s convenience stores throughout North Carolina, said his chain is working to grow its proprietary foodservice program in new stores, focusing on food safety.
Han-Dee Hugo’s foodservice program varies from location to location, but includes branded Subway sandwich outlets as well as fried chicken, hot dogs, burgers, pizza, taquitos, egg rolls, breakfast sausages and, coming in late spring, Little Caesars Pizza. Nine stores currently offer foodservice.
Many of Sampson-Bladen’s stores are equipped with self-cleaning ice machines, though managers are instructed to run a cleaning cycle once a week. The c-store also has an outside service vendor come in quarterly, break down and clean all units.
“But every month we break down those machines and clean them ourselves to maintain the quality because there is nothing like getting a piece of ice with a black chunk from mold,” Oppenheim said. “Mostly we go in and actually open the machine and clean behind the doors. We take out some of the shields and clean those pieces. We teach our managers how to maintain those.”
The self-cleaning feature helps out a lot with maintenance, he added. “I have one ice machine that does not have the self-cleaning piece in it; and that one is always heavily soiled, and so it is taken apart and cleaned more often.”
When food deliveries arrive the boxes are marked to ensure good first-in, first-out product rotation. To help expedite the process, the chain also uses automatic label printers in many locations.
“If you have a big operation, I recommend getting something like that,” Oppenheim said. “All you do is push a button and they print out a sticker based on your parameters. It’s good if you’re doing the same program at different stores.”
Newer models include time and temperature data, which are logged automatically. Store staffers do temperature checks at least twice per day, and up to four times at 24-hour locations.