Hill County officials were caught off-guard — like most people — by the closing of Wendy’s Restaurant in Havre.
While county Health Inspector Clay Vincent was out of town earlier last week, Jennifer Hatch, who work with Vincent, said the people in her office were as surprised by the closing as anybody, especially after none of the phone numbers on file for Wendy’s were answered.
Vincent said on his return Thursday that his office had had a few issues with Wendy’s in Havre, sometimes causing the store to close for a few days to fix the problems, but never anything to shut it down permanently.
The closing turned out to be the work of Dublin, Ohio-based, Wendy’s International Inc., the parent company, which, as Vincent explained, can have higher standards that reflect their desire to not only keep customers healthy or safe but to be a place that people actually want to go to eat.
“There’s some industry things that are not being followed, ” Vincent said. “And if you’re going to use the Wendy’s name, or other franchise’s, there’s certain things they have to stay up on … from a licensing standpoint. ”
Vincent said he had had his own issues with the restaurant over the past five years, while going down a list of about 80 food safety criteria, like food temperature, for both cooking and storage, and cleanliness.
If he finds a serious enough issue, Vincent said he works with usually cooperative management to close the store until the problems are solved and they pass a re-inspection.
Vincent said the managers can refuse, at which point he’ll go get a notice from the county and force them to shut down, but he only recalls one time that happened in the past 25 years.
During Wendy’s last inspection, in July, Vincent recalls finding a few minor issues, but nothing that required the store closing, just the stove and ice cream machine needing a little extra cleaning and a hand-washing sink full of pots and pans that have nothing to do with, but get in the way of, employee hand-washing.
The real issue, Vincent said, is to make sure the management and staff are properly trained.
“Health departments could be in three or four times a year, but the restaurants have 360 days a year they still need to do it, ” Vincent said. “You need trained managers and employees that know how to handle these situations. That’s a part of the restaurant business. ”
“There are some places in town that are better at times than other times, ” Vincent said. “We try to work with managers to keep it consistent.
“There’s a certain amount of training you have to put people through and that needs to be done. ”