Would You Like Safety With That

January 22, 2007
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GRAND RAPIDS — Food safety isn’t listed on the Super Value Menu.

But at the Wendy’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers restaurants in KentCounty, it could be.

Wendy’s of Michigan, the division of Meritage Hospitality Group that owns and operates 20 Wendy’s restaurants in KentCounty, has captured 23 Public Health Food Safety Awards from the Kent County Health Department in just two years — the first two years the award has been presented by the department’s Environmental Health unit.

Wendy’s won 14 awards in 2004 for restaurants in its category and another nine last fall when the health department announced the winners for 2005. Those yearly totals far exceed any other restaurant in the Class B category, which largely consists of fast-food restaurants and cafeterias.

The nine awards Wendy’s won in 2005 represented 14 percent of the 63 awards that all the Class B restaurants in the county won that year. The 20 Wendy’s made up only 2 percent of the 880 Class B restaurants listed by the county as being inspected that year.

And the quality is spread around: 15 of the 20 Wendy’s have won a food safety award over those two years, with eight of those restaurants doing so in both years. (See related list.) What makes these awards even more significant is that Class B restaurants have to be perfect at inspection time, which is twice a year, as just one violation takes an eatery out of the competition for that year.

KentCounty follows the food safety standards set by the state’s 2000 Food Code, which regulates safety in eating establishments, for its public health award program.

“The guidelines are very strict for the awards,” said Amy Morris, community relations coordinator for the county health department.

“They really adhered to the regulations inside the food codes and were exemplary in their practices, food preparation and food handling,” added Morris of last year’s winners.

Wendy’s of Michigan President Alan Pruitt told the Business Journal that each restaurant in the county serves an average of 4,000 customers each week, or about 208,000 each year. That means all 20 Wendy’s serve nearly 4.2 million customers in a year, or 8.4 million over the past two award years. And to maintain perfect food safety with that many orders puts the awards Wendy’s has won into quite a perspective, he said.

“We touch a lot of people, obviously, but safety is our first priority. We’re committed to serving safe food in a clean environment. So safety is No. 1 in everything we do,” said Pruitt.

All Wendy’s of Michigan managers regularly take part in a national food safety program that Pruitt said ensures they know how to keep a restaurant clean and how to safely prepare and serve food, and that they clearly understand why safety is important to the company and its customers.

“We emphasize the importance of a clean restaurant and a restaurant that is serving great food in a safe manner to make sure that our customers can count on us,” he said.

The company also takes safety seriously when it comes to the food it purchases. Wendy’s of Michigan buys most of its beef, chicken, potatoes and other vegetables from one supplier it can count on, which has been qualified by Wendy’s International.

“That is the Sigma Corp. out of Monroe, Mich. They’re an approved supplier by Wendy’s International and they go through a variety of testing and that type of thing from Wendy’s International,” said Pruitt.

Wendy’s of Michigan unveiled its first restaurant in 1974 and recently opened its 49th, in the Muskegon area. The company has Wendy’s located throughout the western and southern portions of the state and may launch a few more this year.

The Meritage Hospitality Group also began developing a chain of O’Charley’s restaurants in 2004, with a goal of opening at least 15 in Michigan by 2011.

The awards Wendy’s earned proved to Pruitt that the investment his company has made in time, expense and emphasis on food safety over all the years was more than worthwhile.

“The training and the time that we’re putting into our managers and crew people so they really understand the importance of food safety is really paying off and we’re getting a return on that,” said Pruitt.

“The inspections conducted by the health department are unannounced, so it’s not as if our managers know they’re coming. It indicates to us that our managers really understand it and they’re doing their best to deliver on food safety.”

Wendy’s Winners

Wendy’s of Michigan, which owns and operates 20 Wendy’s Restaurants in KentCounty, has earned 23 Public Health Food Safety Awards from the Kent County Health Department during the program’s first two years.

Here is a list of the winning Wendy’s by address and the year(s) the restaurants won the award.

Restaurant Address                 Award Years
1600 28th St. SW 2004
2333 28th St. SE 2004, 2005
3921 28th St. SE 2004, 2005
480 68th St. SW 2004
5960 Alpine Ave. NW 2004
4343 Chicago Drive SW 2004, 2005
4300 Clyde Park Ave. SW       2004
3850 S. Division St 2004
5070 East Beltline Ave. NE   2004, 2005
2351 Gezon Parkway SW        2004, 2005
6628 Kalamazoo Ave. SE 2004, 2005
3922 Lake Michigan Drive NW 2005
1061 Michigan St. NE 2004, 2005
4343 Patterson Ave. SE 2004, 2005
3301 Plainfield Ave. NE 2004

Source:Kent County Health Department, Public Health Food Safety Awards, 2004 & 2005

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