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R&IEditorial Archives2004 — January 1 — Operations

Spot Check
Salad-bar maintenance means constant attention to cleanliness and freshness

The salad bar at Sal & Carvo Churrascaria holds 32 items and requires two employees to maintain it during peak times.

Meats are the stars at churrascarias, the Brazilian-style steakhouses where skewers of beef, chicken, lamb and pork are carved tableside. But extensive salad bars, offering dozens of choices, are the centerpieces. At Addison, Texas-based Fogo de Cho, selection ranges from thinly sliced salmon and salami to apple salad and jumbo asparagus. Dallas-based Texas de Brazils 40-item salad bars include Brazilian-style pasta salad and black beans with pork, as well as hearts of palm and buffalo mozzarella. For these concepts, maintaining salad bars is as important as keeping rotisserie flames dancing.

The salad bars at Sal & Carvo Churrascarias two units are attention grabbers. Reigning over 260-seat dining rooms, the imposing round bars have granite tops and hollowed centers for crushed ice. Imported from Brazil, each is 10 feet in diameter and requires two employees to maintain it during peak times. Thirty-two items, including produce, prepared salads, condiments, breads and cheeses, are served from the salad bars.

Santa Monica, Calif., schools' salad bars rely on local growers for produce.

How organized the salad bar looks and how spotless the uniforms of employees who maintain it appear send a message to customers. They say freshness, generosity and attention to detail, says Carl Clouse, director of marketing for the chain, which has locations in Schaumburg and Morton Grove, Ill.

Employees replace half-full salad-bar containers, and periodic checks ensure the refrigerated unit maintains 39F. The salad bar gets more customer visits and staff attention on weekends, when both restaurants do three or four turns at dinner. The employees are trained to be courteous. They excuse themselves and step through lines to remove pans, replace claw tongs or ladles and refresh a pyramid-shaped arrangement of asparagus and hearts of palm, adds Clouse.

Bar Basics

To retard growth of harmful bacteria, maintain a temperature of 41F or below, based on salad options. Check temperatures regularly.

Separate raw foods from ready-to-eat.

Regulate the height and distance of sneeze guards or food shields: 14 to 18 inches above food and in line between food and the faces of customers.

Use shallow pans and bowls. Replenish when half full. Never mix fresh with leftover foods. Change utensils often.

Keep cleaning supplies out of sight but within easy reach of salad-bar crew. Wipe spills immediately.

Avoid bare-hand contact with food. Replace items touched by hands or contaminated by sneeze or cough.

Displays are arranged to provide contrasts in colors and shapes and, in accordance with salad creation, begin with chilled plates; greens, ham, salami, rice and beans, crackers, breads, cheeses and dressings follow.

Designating employees to maintain the salad bar is a must. If the salad area looks untidy or disorganized, it has an impact on the appetite, says Clouse. Customers like a sense of order and cleanliness. They want foods to look fresh and appetizing, and they want staff to wear spotless uniforms.

Lessons Learned
Creating a meal at a salad bar is one lunch choice for students in the Santa Monica-Malibu (Calif.) Unified School District. Each of the districts 15 schools determines salad offerings, which change according to the ages and cultural diversity of student populations.

Students like the variety and the fact that they dont have to wait in line, as they do for hot foods, says Tracie Thomas, food and nutrition director and supervisor of the districts Farmers Market Salad Bar. The 5-year-old program relies on local growers for produce.

Each school has a salad-bar coordinator who works with volunteers to set up, maintain and clear it each day. Each bar consists of 15 containers on a bd of crushed ice that hold a variety items such as greens, ham and turkey cubes and grated cheese. Checked several times during lunch, food temperature is held at 41F.

The big challenge is getting students to use utensils instead of fingers, says Thomas. The only competition for the salad bar is when we have pizza or chicken tenders on the menu.

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