Dirty Dining: Golden Corral, Yummy House & Subway among 50+ restaurants with repeat violations

When you go out to eat, you expect the restaurant to be clean and serving safe food.

But that's not always the case.

An I-Team investigation found several Tampa Bay restaurants with serious repeat violations and requiring several follow up inspections in one year— even though the state only requires one to two inspections every 12 months. 

Golden Corral

We met a customer named Dan right outside out of Golden Corral located at 10050 Ulmerton Road in Largo and quickly realized, he was a big fan of the restaurant. 

"We eat here about every day," Dan told ABC Action News anchor Wendy Ryan.

"Every day?" Ryan asked.

"Every day we can," Dan said proudly.  

And Dan didn't seem worried at all about any problems inspectors found inside Golden Corral over the last year including 185 violations, returning 16 times due to violations not corrected with food at dangerous temperatures. 

"They've had roaches and rodents as well. Does that concern you?" Ryan asked Dan.

"More protein!" Dan joked and laughed.

"So you're really OK with it?" Ryan asked.

"Yeah, I'm fine with it." Dan said emphatically.

Despite Dan's lack of concern, inspectors have been very concerned with food safety conditions over the last couple of years.

In 2017, the state closed the restaurant for 24 hours in July after seeing a dead rodent and too many rodent droppings to count under the salad bar and several other parts of the buffet and kitchen. 

Meanwhile, Golden Corral had been warned about rodent activity two months before that in May, after inspectors found over 30 rodent droppings near the salad bar. 

The state saw flying insects in the kitchen, food prep area, food storage area, meat cutting room, dessert area of the buffet and drink station which was a repeat violation during other visits. 

The state also discovered cold food held greater than 41 degrees in the cooler including deviled eggs at 69-degrees, blue cheese at 70-degrees, raw chicken breasts at 57-degrees, raw sliced beef at 51-degrees and cubed ham at 70-degrees.

They also found hot food on the buffet not hot enough with fried shrimp at 117-degrees when it should be held 135-degrees or above.

Two stop sales in 2017 forced Golden Corral to throw out a long list of food due to dangerous conditions.

In January, inspectors demanded the restaurant throw out eggs, cheese, pepperoni, ice cream, raisins, dried cranberries, peppers, sour cream, margarine, spices, sugar, hush puppy breading, brown sugar, chicken breading and more due to either being moldy or past their expiration dates.

And in August, 10 cups of lettuce had to be thrown out because insects were seen on the produce.

Ryan went inside Golden Corral to get some answers and she met the manager on duty.

"Can you speak with us about the violations?" Ryan asked her. 

"No ma'am. I can ask you to leave the building for me please," she responded.

"We can leave but can you answer some questions outside?" Ryan asked.

"I cannot. I'm sorry." she said.

Even as far back as 2015, the state returned ten times that year with similar repeat violations of rodents, insects and food temperature issues. 

Under the state's new risk-based inspection requirements, Golden Corral is only required to undergo two inspections per-year, but inspectors came back repeatedly due to violations not being corrected.

Golden Corral Statement:
"At Golden Corral, we pride ourselves on the high standards we set for operational excellence. Our Ulmerton Road location in Largo, FL has not met these standards and we are deeply disappointed by that.  We have brought on an experienced general manager and engaged a district supervisor who with the new employees we recently hired, represent a strong team well-equipped to correct gaps. We’ve already begun to see significant improvement and we are confident the restaurant will perform at a level that Golden Corral customers deserve and expect."
-Sun Steaks, LLC, a Golden Corral Franchisee

 

Subway
In Clearwater Beach, the Subway located at 696 South Gulfview Blvd. had 21 inspections over the last three years due to repeat violations, mainly due to food temperature issues. 
 
In June, Subway was forced to throw out over 35 pounds of food at dangerous temperatures that could make you sick.

Inspectors discovered ham at 57-degrees, tuna salad at 56-degrees, pepperoni at 56-degrees, turkey at 57-degrees, sliced cheese at 56-degrees, roasted chicken at 56-degrees and shredded lettuce at 46-degrees in the coolers. 

All cold food should be 41-degrees or below in the coolers.

And just a few months before that, Subway had to destroy 113 pounds of food again because of improper temperatures.

The long list included pepperoni at 48-degrees, salami at 47-degrees, cold cut combo at 49-degrees, provolone cheese at 46-degrees, pepper jack cheese at 49-degrees, mozzarella cheese at 48-degrees, Monterey jack cheese at 47-degrees, Black Forest ham at 48-degrees, turkey at 47-degrees, roast beef at 48-degrees, Swiss Cheese at 48-degrees, and White American Cheese at 48-degrees.

In October, the state found no proof of required employee training. 

So Ryan went inside to find out if conditions were fixed and she met Subway's Manager Ayman Atia.

"Inspectors have had to come back again and again for repeat violations?" Ryan asked.

"Well, I'm the new manager. I just got here a couple months ago and I have my certificate hanging over there," Atia explained.

Since Atia was so new, he says he didn't know about Subway's six Administrative Complaints over the last few years including one in 2017, one in 2016, two in 2015 and two in 2013. 

Warnings and fines came with those complaints since violations were not being corrected along with a suspension of Subway's license, which happened this year on September 15 and September 16, 2017. 

According to the state, Subway was shut down on those two days and not allowed to serve food.

"Do you think they brought you on because the other manager wasn't doing the job?" Ryan asked Atia.

"I don't think so. It's just stuff happens when you work with a machine, always breaks part. Then, you call people to come fix it. That's how it goes," Atia explained. 

Subway's track record has not been good with inspectors returning eight times in 2016 and seven times in 2015, again due to violations not being corrected. 

But Atia feels confident the repeat violations are a thing of the past now.

"Everything is running cold now. Everything is fixed so thank God," Atia said.
 
Yummy House

Yummy House China Bistro at 2620 East Hillsborough Avenue in Tampa is very popular for its 'Salt and Pepper Calamari' but it's also been popular with inspectors over the last three-years from 2015 to 2017— as they've had to go back 24-times to re-inspect.

The state wrote up 200 violations in 2017 with dangerous food temperatures, a repeat issue.

In October hot food was not hot enough and below the minimum of 135 degrees with duck at 109-degrees, ribs at 111-degrees and pork at 108-degrees. 

And cold food was not below 41-degrees as required by Florida's food safety standards with butter at 50-degrees, cream at 48-degrees and cut lettuce at 79-degrees.

Other serious violations documented this last year include cross contamination issues with raw animal food stored over ready-to-eat food in the walk-in cooler. The cook not using soap or hot water to wash his hands and just a few months before that, dead roaches and roach droppings were spotted under the bakery oven and in the server's station. Other small insects were seen along the cook's line and prep area. Food was not date marked, the dish machine was not sanitizing properly, black/green mold was discovered in the ice machine. 

And many of these are repeat violations with warnings given due to food safety violations not being corrected.

And repeat violations are nothing new for Yummy House.

According to the state's inspections, in 2016 there were 225 violations documented with more dangerous food temperatures held greater than 41-degrees in the cooler. 

The food items include beef strips at 48-degrees, shrimp at 44-degrees, crab at 45-degrees, duck at 49-degrees, chicken at 47-degrees, calamari at 46-degrees, raw pork at 45-degrees, calamari at 45-degrees, and fried tofu at 47-degrees.

Also in 2016, a roach infestation closed Yummy House for two days after inspectors found dozens of live roaches near the prep table, cooling rack, sinks and other parts of the kitchen and roach droppings in other areas too.
  
All those conditions caused the state to issue an administrative complaint and fines the restaurant $2,000 for repeat violations not fixed.

Yummy House Statement:
"Every day we come to work to take care of our customers and it is the American dream that I am expanding, which is the reason for some of the extra inspections. Our customers have always been invited into our kitchen and that will never change."
-John Zhao, Owner of Yummy House

 

The List of Repeat Violators 

The following restaurants have also had repeat violations.  Click the location name to see full reports.

 

You can read more about Florida's Risk-based Inspection Frequency Requirements here.

 

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