Running a successful restaurant operation starts from the ground up. Before the food hits your plate, or even the establishment, the health department steps in to make sure the restaurant has a good foundation before dirty dining habits can be formed.
“It had so much life left in it that we didn’t want it to fall into disrepair and be abandoned forever so we decided to come in and put it back into a restaurant.” Future Owner of Kelly’s on 66, Kelly Tobin, explained.
Stepping inside the future home of Kelly’s on 66, you have to use a bit of imagination. Tobin is converting the old abandoned filling station and cafe from the 1940’s into a family restaurant.
“It’s really important that all aspects of this we want to do it once and we want to do it right. We don’t want to have to come back later and tear up the concrete or redo the plumbing or realize we need a drain somewhere we didn’t.” Tobin said.
Thankfully Tobin isn’t alone. Linda Foutch is the Food Program Supervisor at the Mclean County Health Department. She wears many hats, but today it’s architect.
The health department steps in as early in the planning stage as possible.
“We want to be part of it and know that when they start they can go they can run with it.” Foutch said.
The health department will meet with owners at their request anywhere from 1 to 20 times before opening day.
“It helps to eliminate barriers. We can engineer out problems before they exist. You have hand sinks in the proper locations you have enough drains appropriately placed.” Foutch explained.
Having that guidance every step of the way makes for a finished product that satisfies everyone’s taste.
“You want to know what their expectations are and you want to know what to do to meet the plans properly so that you end up having a nice flow of things coming through so that your finished product is exactly what everybody wants.” Tobin said.
Laying the foundation early on, sometimes months before the food ever hits the plate, can set a restaurant up for future success and curb dirty dining habits.
“We don’t want to go all regulatory on somebody we’d rather be an educator. We want to work with them and make sure they make safe food. We want them to be successful. If they’re successful, we’re successful. If somebody has a food borne illness I feel like I didn’t do my job.” Foutch said.