Don't Delay, Put it Away! (members ed.)

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September 8, 2006 - Jim Laube,

In many restaurant receiving areas it’s not uncommon to see boxes of recently delivered food products pile up and remain unattended to while other activities get done first. Especially when products are received close to or during a busy meal period, it’s easy for everyone in the kitchen to be scrambling to get their stations ready for the first orders to hit and ignore the boxes stacked up near the back door. In the mean time however, chilled and frozen products are often left out in the warm air and remain there for sometimes longer periods of time than anyone would care to admit.

Leaving refrigerated food in room temperature air is a bad practice for several reasons but primarily because of bacteria growth and food safety. Chilled and frozen food deteriorates more rapidly than most people think when left standing at room temperature for any length of time.

It’s been documented that you lose about a day of shelf life for every hour a head of lettuce is held at room temperature. Bacteria count doubles every 6 days on food at 34 degrees, while it doubles every six minutes at 72 degrees!

Allowing chilled food to remain in the warm air any longer than is absolutely necessary exposes you to greater risk from a food safety standpoint and leads to more spoilage, waste and higher food cost (and don't forget about the greater likihood of theft).
Putting food away quickly is obviously an important function in any restaurant. Educate your people so they know why they “ shouldn’t delay, and immediately put it away.”

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