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

In a survey by The Nation on MM Alam Road and nearby areas, it was 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 replied when asked for a tour to the kitchen.

Pizza Hut Regional Restaurant General Manager Irum Khan and Pizza Hutt Branch Manager both were unavailable for comment.

None of the workers were using polyethylene gloves while making pizzas, which is mandatory in any restaurant kitchen. They, however, were following one PFA rule by wearing caps.

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

Ahsan Illyas, the Front Desk Manager at Salt’n Pepper, Village restaurant on MM Alam Road, simply refused to allow a visit to the kitchen where the food is actually prepared. “Most of our food is cooked live. We do not have such policy to allow a visit of the kitchen. Already authorities concerned regularly visit us,” Ahsan stated.

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 a 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 take a look.

It was a small set up inside kitchen and there open boxes of oils which he claimed was changed twice a week. Although the washing area was not clean, the manager said it was so because some repair work was going on.

PFA Director General Noorul Amin Mengal, while talking to The Nation, said 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.

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

According to the DG, 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.”