To continue our exciting postings about codes (just kidding, I know this stuff isn’t much fun, but it is very important), let’s take a look at the one code that brings shivers to many a restaurant and hotel owner, but as restaurant consultants, it is our bible… The dreaded HEALTH CODE!
Health Codes can be a challenge in their own right… Almost every town, in every county, in every state follows their own requirements. This can be a daunting task for a national (let alone international) commercial kitchen design firm.
Having experience in a past life as the Corporate Chef for a national health and wellness development firm, I’ve found that there is only one way to guarantee (knock on wood!) a successful Health Department plan review approval first time, every time…. And the secret is… The FDA code!
I hear you saying to yourself… I can hardly sit still to read the local code! The FDA code is like 3 million pages! I know, it is, but that is our job as restaurant consultants, and really, if you are serving food to the public, it is your job to know it too. But I digress…. We as restaurant consultants need to know and understand how to develop projects in a way that provides the safest means necessary to make sure food products are prepared and served safely. This is the key to that phrase… “Prepare and serve food safely.” The whole idea behind the food codes are to make sure that food is served to the public in a way that will prevent anyone from getting sick; plain and simple…
The way I look at it, is that if food codes were rated by weight, then the FDA code would be the Holy Grail. Every local or county health department food code that a project will be required to adhere too will be based on the FDA code. Now again, no two towns usually being the same, they have all had to develop their local food codes based on a higher system of checks and balances, specifically being the FDA code. It is on the local level where decisions are made about what parts of the FDA code to implement and others to not. Clearly there is no real way to figure out who will do what until you get the plan review packet, but nevertheless, I have found that as a designer, no matter where a project is located, as long as I follow the FDA code, the plans get permitted without fail.
Case in point… We have a very large senior living company as a client and during one of our recent project reviews, the director of construction made a joking comment about our plans that he’s never seen this many hand sinks in a plan before. I explained that the strictest code says that there should be a hand washing sink within 20 feet of any work station, so particularly for a senior living facility, housing residents with potential immune deficiencies, the more strict code applied here. He waffled for a while, but several months later when we submitted plans for review to the HD, he had another comment… “In all the 20 years I’ve been doing this, I’ve never had a set of plans come back from the health department and not require a revision.”
The key here is that it is a restaurant kitchen design, restaurant consultants responsibility to not just read and adhere to the codes, but understand their purpose behind them. Going forward with this understanding gives the designer the knowledge he or she needs to specify what the project requires based on the project’s business model, without overdoing it by specifying equipment to the extreme. This approach as I see it, again not only ensures the project moves seamlessly through development, but also ensures clients are meeting the needs of their clientele while not over-blowing their budget.
Eat well my friends!