LAHORE: Restaurants and eateries in the city’s uptown areas are violating the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) introduced by Punjab Food Authority. Most of them are not allowing their customers to visit kitchens to see for themselves how they are maintaining the hygienic conditions and cleanliness.

The Nation in a survey on Monday on MM Alam Road and nearby areas found out what was the actual situation with regard to restaurants following the SOPs set up by PFA.

In recent months there has been a lot of hue and cry over the prevailing unhygienic conditions in some restaurants. A large number of restaurants were fined and some were even closed down for some time. People are now very much concerned about what they eat outside their homes and often want to inspect the kitchens of restaurants where the food is cooked. PFA in order to ensure consumer confidence issued SOPs and one of which was that the customer can visit the restaurant where he or his family is going to eat. After all it is your right to know what you are eating and in what conditions the food was prepared. People often think that international chain of food outlets perhaps follow the standard procedures set by PFA but in all cases it may not be so as our survey shows.

During a visit to Pizza Hutt, MM Alam Road Branch it came as a shock when Front Desk incharge Sarfraz Ahmed said that they do not have policy to let customer go inside to visit the Kitchen. “You can see it from outside if you like but you can’t go in,” he said.

Pizza Hut Regional Restaurant General Manager Irum Khan and Pizza Hutt Branch Manager both were not available for comment.

It was 5:30 pm in the evening and The Nation is witness to the fact that none of the workers were using polyethylene gloves while making pizzas, which is mandatory in any restaurant kitchen. They, however, were wearing caps – a PFA rule that they were following.

“We often use gloves but when we have load of work, we do not use them,” Sarfraz explained.

Salt’n Pepper, Village restaurant on MM Alam Road Front Desk Manager Ahsan Illyas simply refused to allow visit to the kitchen where the food is actually prepared. “Most of our food is cooked live and if you want to visit the kitchen we are afraid we do not have such policy. Already authorities concerned regularly visit us,” Ahsan said.

But things were not disappointing everywhere. Fat Burger food outlet on the MM Alam Road welcomed the inquiry for inspection of kitchen. The staff there briefed about how they take pains to keep everything neat and clean and ensure good hygienic conditions in the kitchen.

Buffalo Wings and Rings food outlet also allowed visit to the kitchen. The restaurant manager Wasim said they did not have such a policy but they would not mind if some customer wanted to visit.

It was a small set up inside kitchen and there open boxes of oils which he claimed was changed twice a week. The washing area was not clean but the manager said it was so because some repair work was going on. Director General PFA Noorul Amin Mengal told The Nation that eateries and restaurants do not have the ‘culture’ of allowing customers to visit their kitchens.

Mengal said PFA was working on making some more SOPs to engage restaurants for building trust among the general public.

“For public we are going to start awareness campaign so they could visit the kitchens and ask about the measures taken to ensure cleanliness and good hygiene,” he said.

“There would definitely be a specific limit to visit the kitchen as there would be chances of disturbing the restaurants business matters,” he said.

Mengal said it is a two way traffic and both restaurants owners and public need to understand and cooperate in order to show trust on each other. “We would be facilitating with keen check on restaurants and SOPs implementation with awareness campaign among public with public advertisements in media,” he said.