Did Social Media Expose Unhygienic Food Practices at Golden Corral Franchise?

Video allegedly showing unhygienic practices prompts chain to respond.

ByABC News
July 9, 2013, 9:26 AM
A whistle blower made a video showing a Golden Corral restaurant storing hamburger patties near trash dumpsters in Florida.
A whistle blower made a video showing a Golden Corral restaurant storing hamburger patties near trash dumpsters in Florida.
Ben Jammin/YouTube

July 9, 2013 — -- Local health authorities are investigating a Golden Corral restaurant franchise in Port Orange, Fla., after photos and videos were posted on Reddit and YouTube exposing what appeared to be unhygienic practices.

Brandon Huber, an employee of the restaurant, opens the YouTube video by saying, "Apparently what my company likes to do to get ready for inspections is to put their food by the Dumpsters." He subsequently shows raw hamburger patties swarmed by flies and raw ribs sitting by the Dumpster.

"To me this is disgusting," Huber says on the video. "I'm an employee here. I've been working here for a long time. I don't feel this is right."

The video was posted on Reddit this morning, along with photos of the restaurant showing a kitchen overflowing with garbage and dirty dishes. The video garnered more than 280,000 views and 2,500 comments on YouTube. One person commenting called Huber "the Edward Snowden of the buffet business."

Golden Corral released a statement saying that none of the food on the video had been served to customers, and it was all destroyed within an hour. The manager involved was subsequently terminated for failure to follow food-handling procedures.

The statement maintained that while Huber made the video, he also helped throw out the same food he was ridiculing. The statement said that the following day, Huber's father offered to sell the video to the franchise owner for $5,000.

Neither Huber nor his father could be reached for comment.

Golden Corral is a national chain of restaurants with approximately 500 locations in more than 30 states. According to its website, it offers "real, wholesome foods in a family-friendly atmosphere at a great value."

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The Florida Department of Business and Regulation told ABC News that a complaint had been filed with the Division of Hotels and Restaurants, which will be conducting an investigation into the matter.

Huber is still employed by the restaurant, but is on paid leave, according to the company.

The last inspection for the Port Orange franchise of Golden Corral was last January, according to the website of the Florida Department of Business and Regulation, and the restaurant met inspection standards. But in October 2012, a follow-up inspection was required, citing violations of Florida's sanitation and safety laws.

In January, ABC Affiliate WFTS reported that a Golden Corral in Tampa was shut down for 24 hours after the state found 35 roaches, both alive and dead, around the restaurant.

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This location had a different owner than the Port Orange franchise. The company issued the following statement about this violation report: "The two situations are not similar as the now closed Tampa franchise had a poor health record and had allowed conditions in the restaurant to deteriorate. In the current situation, the Port Orange restaurant has a very good health inspection record, and the franchisee reacted swiftly when alerted to the situation."

WFTS conducted an investigation into a Golden Corral franchise in Port Richey, Fla., in 2010, where it found garbage, maggots and flies near the Dumpster. According to the WFTS report, the restaurant was subsequently shut down for rodent activity, with the inspector finding rodents under the buffets, dry food and the kitchen baseboards.

This location also had a different owner, and is now a corporate owned store.