Brower: Local oversight helps Grand’s food-based businesses
It’s easier these days for entrepreneurs going into retail food-based businesses to get the information and advice needed to safely open their doors.
Easier, that is, than it was two years ago when the restaurant and retail food health inspectors for the county worked for the state and usually lived in the Front Range. Under that scenario, there were delays in getting inspections, inconsistencies in the work between different inspectors and just problems in general.
But the county wised up and now it has its own, in-house environmental health specialist for consumer protection and retail food. This has been good news because many of the entrepreneurs I work with in Grand County are in the retail food business, by which I mean restaurants, cafes, coffee shops and even food trucks. There are about 200 such establishments in the county.
Kadie Taft is the county food inspector. She now has 1.5 years of experience under her belt. She’s a graduate of Middle Park High School. I’m hearing good reports on her responsiveness and helpfulness in a field where business owners can be frustrated by the unexpected and burdensome cost of certain food health requirements.
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In my last eight years of working with Grand County entrepreneurs who want to open food-based businesses, I have learned to encourage them to contact a health inspector before they move ahead with restaurant renovations, a new food truck or even the construction of a new restaurant.
Once an aspiring restaurateur has signed a lease on a facility or has purchased a place, he or she can call Kadie to ask her for a free pre-inspection during which she will give real world advice on safety and good design that could prevent many headaches in the future.
A common problem I’ve seen crop up when restaurateurs get too hasty include not understanding hot water requirements. Sometimes people aren’t aware of the demands for mop sinks and wash sinks and the need for clean water for cleaning and use in food. The type of counter top materials are important as well, along with demands the state standards require with deep fryers and sprinkler systems.
All these issues can create expensive solutions. But it’s much better to know about the standards and issues before construction or remodeling begins. A pre-inspection ahead of time will greatly help with this.
I have had clients who had to delay openings and then borrow money because of unexpected health department issues, caused in two instances by different inspectors from the state with different interpretations of the rules. With Kadie here, conflicting interpretations that can cost money are a thing of the past.
“I’m here to help minimize risk,” she says. “Once they have the lease or bought the premises, I’m happy to walk through to see what they need to do … to make sure there are no surprises at the end.”
While sometimes I might hear grousing from owners about the expense of meeting health regulations, I am personally happy these regulations, and local inspections, are in place. I want to know the food I eat in local restaurants with my family is safe. But I also want local food establishment operators to understand and implement the regulations as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Kadie helps with that through her responsiveness and empathy for the plight of restaurant owners and food truck operators, but always with the public interest in mind.
“Get in touch with me sooner rather than later,” she says.
Her number is 970-509-0161. She can also be reached through the Grand County Department of Health link for retail food establishments on Grand County’s website.
Patrick Brower is the Enterprise Facilitator for the Grand Enterprise Initiative. He provides free and confidential business management coaching for anyone who wants to start or expand a business in Grand County. He can be reached at 970-531-0632 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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