“The Disney food safety culture is also founded in training new cast members and facilitating checks in the restaurants each and every day,” he says. “We emphasize to our new cast members the importance of preserving the Disney magic and they learn firsthand by being a part of that culture. We want leaders and not just technicians.”
He also points out that that the law does not require an HACCP plan; that Disney complies voluntarily and proactively.
“HACCP is a step in the right direction. Certainly there need to be standards – through company procedures and regulatory compliance as well as the implementation of technology,” Yiannas adds.
Newly hired Disney food service cast members, Yiannas says, quickly realize that Disney is a big place with an even bigger reputation to uphold.
“On your very first day you will go to Disney University and you will go through a program called Traditions, where you learn the company’s core value,” says Yiannas, who has been with Disney for 17 years. “I like to say this is where we’re going to sprinkle you with pixie dust.”
As a risk manager, Yiannas says the first day for a new employee needs to be rather impacting.
“The first impression you make about the organization is real important,” he says. “We’re going to tell you about how important safety is, and you will learn that the message of safety begins with you and you share in the responsibility.”
The second day, the cast member begins training on their specific job function, whether they are a line cook, a server, food prep, cashier—anything that is unique to food and beverage service.
Food safety training, Yiannas says, is all customized and was developed by Disney in-house.
“The training is very user-friendly. We offer it in multiple languages to our cast members,” he says. “And I know that it said a lot, but there are a lot of programs out there that try to make microbiologists out of food service people.”
Food safety training, Yiannas explains, needs to be risk-based, with the goal of minimizing or even eliminating foodborne illness from the picture. It is also critical to understand the differences between education and training.
“Education is teaching people why food safety is important; food has to be cooked at certain temperatures or else people will get ill. That’s education,” he says. “Food safety training is how to do it and what you need to do that with food safety education. Cast members go through that at Disney University and then once a new employee arrives at their job, they are trained on that specific piece of equipment or set of procedures. You’ll get specific, on-the-job training.”
Training, however, isn’t the silver bullet, Yiannas warns.
“Making sure the expectations are understood and documented is also important,” he says. “They need to have a clear understanding of expectations—regulatory, HACCP, that’s the first element.”
The second and third elements are training cast members on expectations and continually communicating and reinforcing the importance of food safety protocols.
“I can walk into an establishment, any establishment, and know right away if food safety is part of the culture,” Yiannas says. “If I walk in and I do not see things posted on the walls or if I don’t hear people talking about it, then I know food safety is not part of that culture.”
The fourth element, he adds, measuring food safety and HACCP activity. “It’s measuring everything that we’re doing and forming accountability goals,” he says. “Are we getting the desired results? It’s about providing feedback, positive and constructive, and reinforcing the values.”