Hot Dog!

By Sydni Dunn | LSU Student

Visitors to Alex Box Stadium can be assured in the fact that food vendors have been given a clean bill of health after routine inspections by the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH).

The LSU Dining concession stands at the other major sports venues – the Pete Maravich Assembly Center and Tiger Stadium, including the Stadium Club and concession trailers outside – also yielded perfect scores. Nearly 70 campus stands are inspected one to four times a year.

The only problem child on campus: the AgCenter concession stand, which LSU Dining officials said is not affiliated with their department.

The facility, located in the Parker Coliseum, garnered eight non-critical violations in its last inspection. Tagged items included dirty floors, an inaccessible lavatory and stand openings not being protected against potential rodent entry.

Some facilities are permitted operation for one year, but other facilities, such as the individual stands in Tiger Stadium, have seasonal-only licenses, according to DHH spokesperson Meghan Speakes. Both types are inspected.

Inspectors arrive unannounced and evaluate various aspects the facilities based on a checklist of items, such the cleanliness of the area and the storage of food. Violations are documented in two categories: critical and non-critical. Critical, the more severe, refers to issues that could cause food-borne illness.

"We pride ourselves in taking care of the fans," said Don Koshis, director of operations for LSU Dining. "Nothing is a greater feeling than going through the game and realizing we've had no complaints."

In addition to routine inspections, Tiger Concessions Director Larry Wallace said a crew of state inspectors visits nearly every home athletic event to monitor the seasonal stands' operations. If a problem is noticed, the official attempts to correct it on the spot, Speakes said.

The process to achieving 100 percent compliance begins long before the gates open for the first home game, Wallace said. In the off season, the individual concession stands are stripped and thoroughly cleaned, he said.

Once spotless, they receive a seasonal operations permit. The next step is educating the staff on what's to come. Koshis said all concessions personnel – three managers, 15 associates and a slew of volunteers – are trained on food safety by the DHH.

In addition to the DHH presentation, supervisors in charge of food production are required to be certified by food training company ServSafe. To attain certification, Wallace said employees must take an intense course and exam detailing food preparation, potential illness involved in the food industry and managing it all.

Employees must score 90 percent or above on the exam to gain certification, Wallace said. ServSafe certification must be renewed every five years, but LSU Dining requires its management to retest every three years.

He said the training is some of the best, which is one factor that contributes to the stands' inspection results. "In eight years, I've served about 10 million fans," he said. "There's not been one sick person."

He said he clocks about 78 hours a week working during home game weeks during football season. Among all the staff, he estimated there's about 1,000 hours that go into each game – from moving food from stadium warehouses to the stands to getting the last volunteer to signing a health safety waiver.

By the time fans step into Tiger Stadium, Wallace and his task force have been working for hours. Wallace said he arrives at the stadium around 7 a.m. on Saturday and doesn't leave until Sunday around 3 a.m.

About six hours before the gates open, the supervisors that oversee operations at the stadium's 50 stands arrive to prepare. Hours later, their nearly 1,200 volunteers show up to what will be a fast-paced shift. But by the time they arrive, the stands have been cleaned and stocked with food for the event. Workers review health procedures and open for business about two hours before game time.

Food safety doesn't stop when the action begins, Wallace said, noting things like time logs kept to track how long food has been stagnant and hot buttons safety reminders for volunteers.

Koshis noted that fans don't attend the game to stand in the concessions line. LSU Dining must provide for the customer and get them back in the stands smiling and healthy.

Added Wallace: "I take care of my fans one at a time. And it's a bonus if someone says, 'Damn, that was a good hotdog.'"