In an effort to head off some of the judgement that is undoubtedly going to be passed as the Plymouth Herald publish an article on our recent food hygiene visit I thought I’d put together a few words to explain our side of things here and what we’ve been doing since our recent visit to remedy things to take our offer far beyond what’s required.
We have always had a 4 or 5 rating from the FSA / Plymouth City Council and so getting a 0 was clearly a massive shock, no matter what anyone tries to say the public aren’t stupid, you only get a zero if things really aren’t right. Getting a zero requires immediate action and it’s to be taken very seriously. We took this as seriously as it could be taken and I immediately closed Rockets & Rascals to the public until I was satisfied that we had a safe and compliant environment.
We are open 7 days a week and we always close for 2 days every January to rip the place apart and deep clean after the Christmas period. This was due to take place second week of January (as it has every other year). Getting a visit before this was bad timing but that's no excuse, the things highlighted need to be taken on the chin.
We are now confident that we have done (or are doing) everything required to get us back to a 4/5 but of course if any customer has any doubt then we’d invite them into our small kitchen space or behind our counter to take a look, or check our paperwork, and satisfy themselves. Whilst deeply ashamed that we have ended up in this place there were a few tears and we got on with making things right.
Here’s why we got a zero…
1. A couple of areas just weren’t clean enough. These weren’t directly food or coffee prep areas but they should have been cleaner. Our store room was a mess and under our counter needed ripping out and cleaning up. Things were hard to clean which meant they weren’t cleaned well enough.
2. Our leaky old building simply wasn't “proofed” adequately, this is FSA jargon for "we weren’t checking to see whether mice or other pests could get in". We obviously have a pest control contractor and they were happy our building wasn’t being visited by pests but we simply weren’t checking ourselves hard enough. In reality our building had holes all over the place.
3. Our worktops weren’t sealed properly, oak worktops look great but they aren’t sealed and this can trap bacteria, despite being scrubbed. We had broken and chipped crockery, cracked jars, we had door handles with tape on and things were a bit tired. Tired/broken can mean trapped bacteria.
4. Our paperwork was a mess, not all of our team were doing their paperwork properly, this means we weren’t evidencing checks, we weren’t demonstrating that we were checking everything. Despite the team being on the case we couldn't evidence properly which is massively important, it's like bike rides on Strava - if you can't prove you did it then it basically may as well not have happened.
What we did…
1. To remedy this we immediately closed the building, we deep cleaned everything, threw away all junk, ripped out anywhere that could harbour any kind of dirt. We got the place spotless and removed skirting boards to allow thorough cleaning and inspections. We called the inspector back later the following day to check everything and they were satisfied that our offer was in great shape. We then re-opened. Any business trading with a zero has been checked and checked again by the FSA, if the Food Standards Agency are unhappy they would shut it down.
2. We have continued to "proof" and seal the building completely, we have lifted the floor boards in the cafe and sealed them, we have sealed under doorways in our store room, we’re sealing vents and other access points. We put in place a screening procedure to make sure that the building is checked every morning for pests or other contaminants and cleaned before we begin. We have no evidence of pests but we clean regardless and evidence it.
3. We’re replacing all oak worktops in food/cleaning areas, we’re investing in an improved kitchen in the Spring. We threw away chipped crockery, cleaned and sorted broken stuff.
4. We have upgraded and retrained all staff in paperwork procedure, we have been hard on each other to improve reporting. Our paperwork is honest and it is cross checked by myself and other members of the team. Any issues flagged are scheduled and dealt with. Senior members, including myself, retook and updated their Level 2/3 certification and all staff now must have at least a Level 1 food hygiene.
For us, as we move from being a bike shop with a cafe to basically being a cafe this was the worst possible situation to be found in. That said, the outcome has been massively positive, we know we’re going to take some stick and we’re fine with that, things needed to improve and they have improved and ultimately as the owner it is my responsibility to make sure my team deliver the best, safest, cleanest possible experience.
Despite some dark moments over the past few weeks I have full faith in my team moving forward, anyone that is a friend of the business will know that the past twelve months have been a fairly turbulent time as we have undergone some major changes but our goal for 2019 was always to raise the standard of our offer to the best it could be, we want to be the very best venue in the city within the scope of our offer and we’ll keep striving to be that.
If you have any concerns or questions please contact me directly, firstname.lastname@example.org
Rockets & Rascals