Philosophically Speaking

Sept. 6, 2011 | by Paul Mcginnis

On occasion, I enjoy listening to the words of philosophers like Aristotle and Socrates or theologians such as Wesley or Spurgeon. But, hands down, the deep thoughts I enjoy the most are from a lesser- known philosopher by the name of Jack Handy. Now many of you may have seen his work on Saturday Night Live, but if you haven't, let me share with you some of his "deeper" thoughts.

"It takes a big man to cry, but it takes a bigger man to laugh at that man."

"If a kid asks where rain comes from, I think a cute thing to tell him is 'God is crying.' And if he asks why God is crying, another cute thing to tell him is 'Probably because of something you did."

"If you're in a boxing match, try not to let the other guy's glove touch your lips because you don't know where that glove has been."

My dad also tried his hand at deep thoughts. His motives were pure, as I know he truly wanted to impart wisdom to me during those impressionable moments. But more often than not, I rarely understood what he was trying to tell me. He would either jumble his words or forget key phrases, which as you can imagine, would distort the entire meaning.

One particular situation sticks out in my mind. I grew up in Durango, Colo., so every fall our weekends consisted of splitting firewood so we could heat our house throughout the winter. My dad and I were working together one September afternoon and I remember complaining to Dad about how much wood we had split and how I didn't think we needed to do anymore. Dad, with this deep, theological look, turned around, gently grabbed me by the shoulders and said "Son, remember. Noah built the ark without any training."

I looked at him with my usual blank stare when he gave me advice and pondered the phrase for a moment. The more I thought about it, the more I began to realize that Dad had no idea what he had just said. Luckily, Mom was stacking wood nearby and overheard a bit of his advice. When Dad walked away, she came over and told me what he meant to say. "Remember, it wasn't raining when Noah built the ark."

It took on a whole different meaning when spoken correctly. Now I can honestly tell you I did not fully understand the meaning of that quote for some time, but recently it has really hit home. Noah prepared, he planned, he set some goals, and most importantly, he didn't wait until it was too late.

Now these nuggets of wisdom could apply to a variety of situations but it immediately made me think of a restaurants food safety program. Preparation is key in your quest to serve safe food. It involves preparing your team to spot potential food safety risks and ensuring your kitchen is organized and equipped properly. A plan of action is a must if you are going to have a safe establishment. Food safety just doesn't happen. You must carefully plan how you will receive, store, prep and serve food. You must analyze the many critical control points specific to your operations and have a clear cut procedure as to how you ensure food travels through the process unscathed. Do you have any goals when it comes to your food safety program? Most don't but should. It doesn't have to be an elaborate set of goals with a complicated Excel spreadsheet to keep track of everything. Make them simple and measureable and then begin holding your team accountable.

Recently I was asked for a few simple steps to start a food safety program and here is what I said. It is short and sweet and even is an acronym so it is easy to remember.

Start now!

Allocate time and money

Find ways to reward your team

Educate, educate and then educate some more.

Don't wait until it is too late. Start a food safety program now. If you already have one, review it. Is it what it should be? Can it be improved? Never be satisfied. If you live by this simple principle, you'll sleep better at night, your employees will see your passion and try to imitate it, and your customers will keep coming back. So while food safety does require some forethought, don't get bogged down in deeper thoughts. Keep it simple and start now.

Topics: Food Safety , Operations Management

Paul Mcginnis / Paul McGinnis is the VP of Marketing for Ecolab's Food Safety Specialties division (formerly Daydots). He is an author and a speaker, and currently serves as editor-in-chief of Food Safety Solutions magazine.

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