As eateries in the UAE work tirelessly to meet increased demand during the holy month of Ramadan, Dubai Municipality has amped up its efforts to ensure that food safety conditions are met stringently.
“In addition to controlling food contact materials throughout the month of Ramadan, we are also inspecting Ramadan tents to make sure that hygiene requirements are being met,” said Dr Naseem Mohammed Rafee, director of Health and Safety Department of Dubai Municipality. Officers from the department are implementing specialized monitoring campaigns across restaurants and cafes in the city to ensure the same.
“We always make sure that we adhere to the strict health and safety standards and protocols set by Dubai Municipality,” said Annu George, owner of Dubai-based restaurant Back to Grills. “In Ramadan, we keep up the same standards. Masks and gloves are mandatory for all food handlers. Raw materials that are procured are delivered temperature controlled. All food materials are labelled, and date stamped. Food that is served to the customers is quality checked by the chef in charge. We truly go the extra mile to make sure that everything we serve is of the best quality.”
Other F&B professionals echoed her sentiments. “We ensure that the processes to ensure food safety systems are being followed,” said Sanjay Vazirani, CEO, Foodlink Global Restaurants & Catering Services LLC. “Restaurant operations are like clockwork. Every detail matters. Keeping hot food hot & cold food cold at the right temperature to avoid any contamination needs a greater focus during this time. Hence, it is an added pressure to ensure food safety during this time but due to our experience in this sector over the years we have figured out the solutions to the foreseeable challenges.”
However, he admitted that there are certain issues they face during the month. “One of the challenges is the limited time schedule as our Muslim brothers work 2 hours less than usual during Ramadan,” he said. “We respect their needs and work our schedules around it. It takes some amount of prior preparation. Sometimes, their concentration levels may dip due to fasting so looking after their health and safety is an additional responsibility. We supplement this by adding more staff during this time and ensure more time in monitoring as the number of orders is larger than usual.”
Shyjil Hussain, owner of Zam Zam Mandi group of restaurants, is also one of the restaurateurs who adds extra workers during Ramadan. “We are open throughout the day,” he said. “We also serve Suhoor in certain branches. So, it requires a huge amount of manpower and management to ensure that food safety is perfect through all our branches. Most of my staff are fasting so we add supplement staff during this period to make sure everything runs smoothly.”
All restaurant owners agreed that the constant checks by Dubai Municipality helped them to improve quality at their outlets.
“Dubai Municipality has a very comprehensive system for rating restaurants,” Sanjay Vazirani. “This helps restaurant companies like us to strive to improve ourselves and sustain that. It’s an efficient system to ensure food safety with a detailed checklist covering all action points to help improve infrastructure, training, and processes. It's an excellent system. They have audit sheets in which they put in the observations and grade us on all elements. Among our different outlets, it becomes a healthy competition of sorts and keeps the whole team geared up to excel.”
“Some of our outlets have achieved the A rating,” said Shyjil Hussain. “So, our other outlets are constantly trying to catch up to them. It is a great way to make sure that health and safety regulations are followed strictly.”
Dubai Municipality currently rates restaurants on a scale between A and C based on hygiene and other factors.
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