Sunday, February 27, 2011

Dining out -- can't we all just get along?

Restaurant staffers, diners need to work together to make peace in the dining room

History has known great rivalries: Hatfields and McCoys, Montagues and Capulets, Tom and Jerry. Fine adversaries, yes, but nothing compared with the epic restaurant vs. diner.
The dining room is a minefield of delicate situations.

One wrong step ...
A clueless patron says his gazpacho is cold and demands another bowl. Or a presumptuous server takes the check and asks: "Would you like change?"
... boom. Disaster.

The rub is diners just want to be pleased, and restaurants want nothing more than to please them. "We really are doing our best to make them happy, meet their expectations - exceed their expectations," says Roger Thomas, executive chef at Piatto Novo in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.

Customers, for the most part, understand that.

"They work very hard, they really do," says Russ Vernon, who owns West Point Market in Akron, Ohio.

But breakdowns do occur. On both sides.

To that end, we spoke with players on both sides of the counter - people in the restaurant business and their frequent customers. They shared suggestions and irritations, admiration and appreciation.
If diners only knew ...

• It makes everything so much easier if you let us know you're running late or that you're not going to show. Busy restaurants are like airlines. They sometimes overbook assuming someone's going to cancel or not show up. "If someone makes a reservation, but you're not going to make it, especially with the holiday season coming, let us know," says Bob Buck, operating partner of the Fleming's in the Akron, Ohio, area.
• VIP status is completely up to you. "If you're a regular in a restaurant, and you're a bad tipper, don't be surprised if the waiters don't like you." This comes from someone who should know: the Waiter, who doesn't give his real name. He works in a New York-area restaurant and writes a wildly popular blog. His Web site, www.waiter, has landed him a book deal.
• Unlimited free bread is not in the bill of rights. We're happy to provide it. We'll even restock the basket for you, but it'd be swell if you'd save room for dinner.
• Ordering what's on the menu may be in your best interest. In the Waiter's words: "Don't walk into an Italian restaurant and ask for tuna with wasabi." Allergies and dietary restrictions aside, it's worth it to trust the chef.
• Food from scratch takes time. "I don't blame (guests) for not getting that, but I wish I could invite everyone into the kitchen to see what goes on in there," says Roger Thomas of Piatto Novo.
• Your cell phone conversation might be terribly interesting to you, but our other guests are less than intrigued. We understand some calls can't wait. Take them outside.
• Your date is watching you. Ditto for clients, bosses and future in-laws. "How you treat bus people and waiters and people you think can't do anything for you says volumes about your character," says the Waiter.
• A standard tip is 15 percent. Good service deserves closer to 20. Please don't shortchange us unless the service is truly bad (in which case, you should tell a manager). For customers who question why "they" should foot the bill for servers' wages, Waiter has an answer: "It gives them an incentive to be good at their job."
• Camping out at a table is not OK. After you've dined, finished your coffee and paid your bill, let us make you comfortable at the bar. Or head to Starbucks. Or home. Just don't monopolize a table when a server could seat another tipping party.
• Our overriding goal is to make you happy. We're in the service business, so if there's a problem with some aspect of your experience, please tell us. We want to fix it.
If restaurants only knew ...
• If we have a reservation and our table's not ready, we want you to make the wait worth our while. We get it: There are circumstances beyond your control. The restaurant does, however, have the power to get us a seat or even a drink while we wait at the bar.
• If we're regulars, remember us. Or pretend you do. "If you've been to someplace more than three times with some regularity, they should treat you accordingly," says Sharon Kruse of Akron.
• First impressions count. If we're not greeted upon entering, if we're made to stand around like uninvited guests, if the bread on the table is cold or stale, then our experience has been colored before we've even ordered our salads.
• Untidy restrooms tell us a thing or two. If there's toilet paper on the floor and the trash is overflowing, we're going to wonder about the parts of the restaurant we can't see.
• We want to know just how much the nightly features are going to set us back. Don't make us feel cheap for asking, "What does that cost?"
• We appreciate it when you cheerfully accommodate special meal requests, especially for children. We know the chef composed the dish a certain way, but our 5-year-old simply doesn't care. If you can do something to make our evening more enjoyable, you'll win a friend.
• Truly good food makes up for a multitude of sins. The server could be absent, the decor could be "oh-so-1985," but if the risotto's stunning, we'll come back again and again.
• On the other hand, outstanding service can make a mediocre meal great. The quesadillas might have been so-so, but if the server was witty and attentive and brought extra chips, we're going home happy.

Germs are not the little "something extra" we're looking for with our dining experience. Hands that have been sneezed on, coughed on and God-knows-what-elsed on should not touch our credit cards, let alone our plates. When the wait staff handles the food and the eating ends of utensils and then money and then they're not washing their hands ... you get the picture.

• We like it when you stop by to say "hello." We want someone - an owner, the chef, a front-of-the-house manager - to check up on us. We don't want you to crash our romantic moment, but a well-timed table visit lets us know someone cares.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Achoo! How to avoid the office bug

Washing your hands frequently is still the best way to ward off illness

Every year you watch as colds and the flu pass from co-worker to co-worker, hoping you're not next on the office's hit list — and then you end up getting sick anyway.
A weak immune system or plain bad luck might be to blame. But it's more likely that you and your colleagues unknowingly have a few bad habits that make it easy for a virus and its accompanying misery to spread in your office.
If you want to avoid falling victim this year, infectious disease specialists say extra vigilance about hand hygiene, among other precautions, might do the trick.
"We know that some years (viruses) are more severe than others," says Dr. Neil Fishman, associate professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and director of the Department of Healthcare Epidemiology and Infection Control for the University of Pennsylvania Health System. "But it's not impossible to totally avoid getting sick."
Top targets In order to understand how to avoid the office bug you first need to know what you're up against when cold and flu season strikes. While cold viruses are present year round, the number rises as the weather cools. Cold, dry air drains the normal amount of mucus we carry in our nasal passages, making it easier for viruses to attach to the tissues in your nose, Fishman says. We also tend to spend more time indoors during the winter months — ordering in lunch instead of going out, for instance — increasing our chances of contact with someone who is sick.
There's a good chance you'll run into infected people in your office, in particular, because taking a sick day isn't considered a possibility by some people. In a 2007 CCH survey of more than 300 human resource executives in U.S. organizations, 38 percent said presenteeism, when sick employees show up for work, was a problem in their organizations. In addition, 87 percent said those employees usually have illnesses like colds or the flu, according to CCH, a provider of tax and business law information and software solutions. Past research led by Walter "Buzz" Stewart, director of the Geisinger Center for Health Research, has estimated that presenteeism costs U.S. businesses $150 billion per year in productivity.
Just how easily can a cold spread? If you're one of those types who desperately tries to avoid sitting next to a sniffling, sneezing and wheezing colleague during a meeting, you've got good reason."If you had X-ray vision," says Dr. William Schaffner, professor and chair of the Vanderbilt Department of Preventive Medicine and vice president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, "you would see a cloud of viruses around them. Every time they exhale, respiratory viruses come out, extending about three feet, creating a cloud around them."
But that's not the only way you could fall ill. Research out of the University of Virginia Health System in 2006 showed that people infected with rhinovirus, the cause of half of all colds, can contaminate common objects, such as light switches, which can infect others. To make matters worse, the day before you actually come down with a cold you're already excreting virus. In other words, the co-worker who hovered over your desk the other day or borrowed your ID badge could be sick but not have symptoms yet.
Handy advice Ask an infectious disease specialist how not to get sick, no matter where you are, and they'll tell you one thing over and over: wash your hands thoroughly and frequently. Most organisms are more easily transmitted through hand contact than sneezes, says Dr. Bill Sutker, medical director of infectious diseases at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas. Once we come into contact with a virus, all we have to do is rub our noses, scratch the area around our eyes or touch our mouths and we're in trouble.
You should also try to avoid touching your face with unwashed hands, but that can be harder than it sounds. If you have an itch on your face, you tend to scratch it without stopping to think about whether your hands are clean.
If you've got a lot of door handles in between your office's bathroom sink and your desk, consider trying the old method of using a paper towel as a protective barrier for your hand or keep a bottle of hand sanitizer on your desk. Since not everyone spends the recommended 15 seconds scrubbing, an alcohol-based gel is a good back-up method, Sutker says.
Unfortunately, your best bet for boosting your immunity also does not come in pill or powder form. Most doctors agree there's not enough evidence to recommend people take products packed with vitamin C or Echinacea to ward off the office bug. You'd be much better off regularly taking a multivitamin and focusing on some of the cornerstones of good health, such as regular exercise, proper nutrition and a good night's sleep, says Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. While some genetics are involved, your immunity is basically a function of how healthy you are overall.
Of course, no matter how strong your immune system is or how many precautions you take you may not be able to avoid every cold that passes through the halls of your office. But it's always worth a shot.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Protect Yourself From Germs: Stop Germs From Spreading


According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) the H1N1 Flu Virus, other viruses, and staphylococcus bacteria and e-coli can remain on everyday items that you use and could remain on common items that you use for up to 8 hours or more. As we’ve previously discussed, proper hand washing can help protect you so washing your hands throughout the day is a good practice to implement immediately in your life.
But what about other things that we frequently touch?  Items such as cell phones, regular phones, headsets, rings, credit cards, the pockets of our jeans, TV remote controls, doorknobs, and purses can also be contaminated with germs. Here’s a few helpful tips you can use to further guard yourself and your family members from harmful viruses or bacteria.
To disinfect surfaces in your house you can make your own disinfectant solution by mixing 1 part bleach to 20 parts water. Or,  you may want to purchase some of the pre-packaged antibacterial wipes and use those to wipe off problematic areas in your home. Just be sure to purchase one that says it kills 99.9 percent of germs and viruses.

Here is a list of items you should wipe off on a regular basis with some type of disinfecting solution.
1. Cell phones – According to some studies phones handsets are more contaminated with germs than shoes, door knobs and even toilets.  Even very dangerous germs such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus have been found on cell phone handsets. Do your teenagers carry a cell phone to school with them? And are they setting their cell phone down on the table while they are eating? It may be time to educate your children about the importance of wiping down their cell phones with a pre-packaged product that can help reduce germs on their phones.
 2. Jeans – Who would think that our beloved jeans could harbor harmful bacteria or germs? Items that we touch and/or place in our jeans pockets could possibly be making us sick and we don’t even know it.  Solution: Wash your jeans with the pockets turned inside out in water that is greater than 160 degrees to kill germs.  I also add some tea tree oil to each load in my washing machine as tea tree oil has been shown to have antibacterial and antifungal properties.
3. Rings – Researchers tell us that if you wear a ring you will have more germs on your hands than someone who does not wear a ring. Consider stepping up the frequency of your hand washing even more if you do wear a rings. Wash underneath and around your ring when washing your hands and make sure to rinse well. You may also want to clean and disinfect your rings once a week with a diluted bleach solution. Check with your ring manufacturer or your jeweler to make sure that you are using a solution or product that does not damage your ring and make sure to rinse your ring completely after washing it.
4. Credit Cards – You hand your credit card to the cashier who is ill and then passes germs back to your card and then to you. If possible, swipe your credit card yourself instead of giving it to the cashier to swipe. When you’re cleaning your rings once a week you can also clean your credit cards with a mild disinfecting solution or antibacterial wipe.
5. Purses – Never, ever place your purse on the bathroom floor.  E-coli can be spread from the simple act of flushing the toilet. Droplets in the air can contain e-coli and these can land on your purse. Hang it up on the stall itself and once a week you should wipe your purses and clean both the inside and outside of your purse with a wipe or spray disinfectant.
Other things in your home to wipe off with some type of disinfecting solution include: door knobs, regular telephone handsets, computer keyboards, and light switches. For items such as computers or cell phones it may be safer to use a disinfecting wipe and to turn off the item before cleaning, and follow any specific safety instructions for the item you are disinfecting.
Being careful with your everyday items can help prevent you from getting the Flu or other dangerous germs or illnesses.  Pass this information along to a friend or family member so that they are protected from the H1N1 virus or germs that may be lurking in places we don’t think about until it’s too late.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

How long can cold or flu germs live on hard surfaces?

Q. How long can cold or flu germs live in counters, doorknobs and other hard surfaces?
A. 72 hours. Some germs can live three days or longer on hard surfaces. That's why it's so important to disinfect surfaces like countertops, sinks, phones, TV remotes, plastic and hard surfaces often. 

Q. What is the percentage of germs spread through touching of surfaces?
A. 80%. That's why it's so important to clean surfaces often with disinfectants that can help prevent the spread of germs. Be sure to clean your hands, too!

Q. Before you cough or sneeze you should...?
A. Turn away from other people and cover your mouth and nose with a tissue, or cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve; not into your hands! If you do sneeze or cough into a tissue, drop the used tissues into the trash and then clean your hands.

Office Products with Antibacterial Properties

Products with Antibacterial Properties

Right now with cold and flu season in full swing, you may be wondering how to keep yourself healthy. You may already use antibacterial handsoaps, sanitizers, and sprays to keep germs at bay. But did you know that there are many office products to help with this as well? A number of items from three ring binders to lanyards are treated with antimicrobial additives. While these do not replace good hygiene and frequent hand washing, they can stop growth and accumulation on products you use every day.  As flu season is getting underway, now is a great time to start investing in some of these products. Less germs means less employees needing time off work while they recover which results in more overall productivity for your company. For a list of products from binders, staplers and sheet protectors see:

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Hotel guests leave plenty of germs behind

Hotel guests leave plenty of germs behind

Study finds cold viruses all over rooms after sick guests checkout

Many hotel keys are often reused

Hotel guests leave behind more than just socks and old paperbacks: A new study found viruses on TV remotes, light switches and even hotel pens after cold sufferers checked out.
The germ testing was done before the rooms were cleaned, so it likely overstates the risks that most travelers would face. Nevertheless, it shows the potential hazards if a hotel’s turnaround amounts to little more than changing the sheets and wiping out the tub.
“You sure hope the cleaning people were good,” said Dr. Owen Hendley, the University of Virginia pediatrician who presented results of the study Friday at a meeting of the American Society for Microbiology.
Besides hotel hazards, the findings point out things that people may not think to clean in their homes when someone has a cold.
“We know that viruses can survive on surfaces for a long time — more than four days,” said Dr. Birgit Winther, an ear, nose and throat specialist at the university who led the study.
Its aim was to test the survival of rhinoviruses, which cause about half of all colds, especially in children.
Researchers had 15 people with lab-confirmed rhinovirus colds spend a night in individual rooms at a nearby hotel and, after they checked out, tested 10 items they said they had touched. About one-third of the objects were contaminated with rhinovirus.
“We were surprised to find so many,” Winther said.
Virus was found on 7 out of 14 door handles and 6 of 14 pens. Six out of 15 light switches, TV remotes and faucets tested positive, as did 5 of 15 phones. Shower curtains, coffee makers and alarm clocks also harbored viruses.
Surprisingly, virus turned up on only one of the 10 toilet handles tested.
Experts did not test items like bedspreads because cloth dries out germs, making them far less likely to survive than they do on smooth or moist surfaces.
Several months later, 5 of the 15 participants were asked to return to the hotel and visit rooms where certain items had been deliberately contaminated with their own mucus, which had been frozen previously when they had their colds.
Because they had developed immunity to these germs, doctors could study how easily they picked them up without putting them at risk of getting sick again.
'We wipe everything down'
Each volunteer visited two rooms and their hands were tested afterward for viruses. Results were positive on 60 percent of contacts in rooms where mucus had dried for at least an hour, and on 33 percent of those in rooms where mucus had dried overnight.
The study was sponsored by Reckitt-Benckiser Inc., makers of Lysol, but did not test any products. Doctors with no ties to the company designed the study to lay the groundwork for future research on germs and ways to get rid of them.
Some in the hotel industry say they have strict policies on how to disinfect rooms between guests.
“We do wipe everything down, from the remote control to the telephone,” said Michelle Pike, corporate director of housekeeping for Hilton brand hotels, which has 1,900 hotels around the world. Most of them are independently operated but the chain does have rules for disinfection, she said.
Hilton, like many hotels, has taken steps to make common items easier to clean, like encasing phone books in plastic and replacing bedspreads with duvet covers than can be washed between each guest, she said.
And if germs are lingering on surfaces in hotel rooms, “you can be damn sure it’s more likely to happen at home,” Hendley said.
To wipe down home surfaces, doorknobs and light switches, “standard household cleaners will be adequate,” said Dr. Frederick Hayden, a University of Virginia infectious diseases specialist who had no role in this study but has consulted extensively with companies developing viral vaccines and treatments.
Dr. Stuart Levy, a Tufts University physician who heads the Alliance for Prudent Antibiotic Use, advocates lots of hand washing and not going overboard trying to de-bug your home.
“How clean do you need to be? You don’t go through with a blowtorch,” he said.
© 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

What do toilet seats and ATMs have in common?

What do toilet seats and ATMs have in common? | Jeanne Moos (CNN) | January 13, 2011

It's probably not a bad idea to wash your hands after using an ATM. A recent British study found ATM pin pads were as contaminated as public toilets and the type of bacteria found was comparable. 

Bad hygiene leading to dirty fingers contaminating the keypads are likely to blame. Although the bacteria isn't deadly, experts say it can lead to sickness. 

Germs Coat Hospital Badges, Says Study

Germs Coat Hospital Badges, Says Study

Helen Carter, ABC Science Online

Identification Badges and Badge Holders
March 19, 2007 — Healthcare workers' lanyards and name badges can harbor pathogens including antibiotic resistant 'superbugs', an Australian hospital study has shown for the first time.

Melbourne researchers showed the popular bootlace-like necklaces that clip to identification cards carry more disease-causing bacteria than standard clip-on badges, and are more likely to be contaminated with antibiotic resistant microbes.

The researchers say hospital pathogens could be transmitted from the hands or clothes of healthcare workers. And infection experts suggest cleaning lanyards and badges in light of these preliminary findings.

The researchers, from Monash Medical Center’s infection control unit, will present their findings at the Australasian Society for Infectious Diseases annual scientific meeting in Hobart.

They collected samples from the surface of lanyards plus the surface, edge and connections of badges worn by 53 nurses and 18 doctors. They isolated 18 pathogens from badges and 27 from lanyards.

The material that lanyards are made from probably made it easier for the researchers to isolate pathogens. But more research is needed to confirm this, they said. Levels of bacteria or bacterial load, were also higher on lanyards.

Of the microbes isolated overall, seven were the 'superbug' methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA); 29 were methicillin sensitive S. aureus (MSSA); four were enterococci and five were aerobic gram-negative bacilli.

"These are common organisms that can cause a range of community and hospital infections," investigators said. "This is a preliminary study and the potential of these organisms to cause disease is unknown from our data.

"But hand washing is very important and we could surmise that cleaning these items would also be important."

Australasian Society for Infectious Diseases president and conference co-convener Professor Lindsay Grayson said pathogens might have come from staff clothing or linen.

"It's very unlikely these [lanyards and badges] would transmit bugs to people. Theoretically there is the potential for transmission but in practical terms these bug numbers are relatively low," he said.

"But it's interesting and reinforces that, just as you wouldn't wear a shirt for weeks without washing it, lanyards and badges should be washed or changed as they can harbor some contamination."

Grayson said MRSA is of most concern as it is resistant to some antibiotics and can cause serious infections.  MSSA, which is more common, is found on everyone's skin but could lead to infections, for example after a cut.  
Previous studies have shown similar contamination on doctors' ties, stethoscopes and mobile phones.

Sunday, February 6, 2011



United States Patent Office issued patent no. 7,851,517 to Lisa Holmes for all manner of antimicrobial plastic cards and holders.

“I came upon the problem during on a site visit to Hunter Holmes McGuire Veterans Affairs Medical Center in 2005,” said Lisa Holmes. She observed a caregiver bending over a veteran patient. This VA staff member touched the patient with her government ID Badge, who then turned and touched another patient with the same badge.

The patent holder worked on infection control issues as industry rep to the American Society of Healthcare Environmental Services (ASHES). She also worked on issues relating to credentialing for the American Logistics Association. Lastly working in non medical supplies, she was aware of the recent introduction of antimicrobial pens and keyboards.

In that moment, Lisa realized that the transfer of microbes, viruses and other sources of contamination via cards or like devices (e.g., credit cards, drivers' licenses, membership cards, hotel room keys, department store cards, employee badges, name badge holders and so forth), may have  been overlooked. Card manufacturing companies have focused on safeguarding the security of the data on the card, but not the card itself. That in fact, cross-contamination could be controlled and limited by using her new invention.

As a world traveler she observed that personal items are routinely handled by numerous individuals on a daily basis. Government, airports, hospitals, restaurants, retail stores, and security jobs can handle and be exposed to hundreds of cards per day… through her work in healthcare, and consumable products she understood there could be a solution and set about to solve this problem.

Interesting FAQs:

  • Identity badges worn by hospital, government and other professions may be contaminated with pathogenic bacteria, which could be transmitted to patients, co-workers.
  • bacteria, fungi, virus or other microbes can live on the surface of an ID or credit cardfor up to 6 hours after contact
  • plastic cards can carry germs, and without precautions, you can become a host for flu and other bugs
  • some of the hardiest germs can successfully reproduce on plastic surfaces for weeks
  • employees are reluctant to clean or disinfect plastic identification cards for fear the cleaner or disinfectant will damage the card
See the following articles: 



On 14 December 2010 the United States Patent Office issued patent no. 7,851,517 to Lisa Holmes for all manner of antimicrobial plastic cards and holders.

Government, airports, hospitals, restaurants, retail stores, and security jobs can handle and be exposed to hundreds of cards per day.  

Studies done in 2000 and 2001 showed that a few antibiotic-resistant germs could survive on plastic surfaces for three full months. “Any surface could contribute to the passing of the virus, which typically will live up to six to eight hours after contact has been made,” says Llelwyn Grant of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Design by Free WordPress Themes | Bloggerized by Lasantha - Premium Blogger Themes | Best CD Rates