5 Tips for Practicing Proper Food Safety at Your Restaurant
How do you like your food? Everyone would agree that it has to be good, but safety has to come before taste.
Only when food is freshly cooked with ingredients that are properly stored and used well before their sell-by date that food is guaranteed to be good. And it starts by establishing a culture of food safety in the restaurant, all the way to the staff interacting with customers.
Food safety is the cornerstone of the food industry. Without health guidelines for storing, handling, and preparing food, guests and staff could quickly become sick.
Worse, any isolated incidents can quickly snowball into a reputation issue, resulting in further revenue losses and sanctions from public health authorities that could force a closure.
Safe Food is Good Food
Restaurants are loved by their patrons for their signature dishes and unique flavours, but underlying these memorable dining moments is a culture of food safety, which starts at the top.
Restaurant food safety starts with the owners: as creators of a memorable dining experience, it’s your responsibility to make sure that both customers and staff can take part in it safely.
Basic guidelines for restaurant safety include emphasizing the importance of good hand hygiene, safe food handling, and sanitation protocols. These standards have to be maintained despite the all-too-common kitchen chaos and the demands of unique recipes. Restaurant food safety should be practiced during every shift, by every employee, and with every dish served to ensure a safe and pleasant dining experience.
Common Restaurant Food Safety Mistakes
Everyone has witnessed — or even committed — the cardinal sins of food safety. But in a high-stakes environment like a restaurant, there is no room for error. A simple mistake that causes the smallest instance of cross-contamination could easily cause damage to your reputation.
These are some of the most common food safety shortcuts that cost restaurants reviews, official sanctions, and even lawsuits:
Kitchen and waitstaff neglecting to wash their hands properly and frequently due to the space between food prep stations and handwashing sinks
Cross-contamination resulting from using the same equipment to handle raw ingredients like poultry, meat, and ready-to-eat salad greens
Neglecting food temperature checks using an internal thermometer, resulting in undercooked food
Poorly maintained commercial freezers and refrigerators, resulting in improper food storage conditions.
Restaurant Food Safety Checklist
1. Train employees
Restaurant food safety starts with instilling a strong safety culture among staff. It’s not enough to orient new employees to practice good hand hygiene and safe food storage and handling techniques; these reminders should remain visible at all times, and routinely emphasized in staff meetings.
It’s equally important to lead by example, and show staff that owners and managers themselves follow basic restaurant food safety guidelines.
When training employees in restaurant food safety, emphasize the importance of regular handwashing and proper food storage in commercial freezers and refrigerators, as well as the risks of cross-contamination. Understanding the importance of these guidelines encourages better follow-through than simply imposing them.
2. Use the right commercial kitchen appliances
Where should ingredients and ready-to-eat food be stored — and how should they be organized? Restaurant food safety starts with proper inventory management using the right kitchen equipment.
Ensure that your commercial appliances are up for the job, and book regular maintenance to ensure that freezers and refrigerators are cooling food items at appropriate temperatures to preserve fresh, quality taste, and avoid spoilage, freezer burn, and waste.
Similarly, stock up on essential supplies and extra equipment to ensure that staff have the right tools to prepare food safely, and avoid cross-contamination between raw proteins, greens, and common allergens.
3. Check the temperature
Heat is any food’s best friend — but only on the stove. Elsewhere, heat exposure — or even a slightly lower than desired storage temperature — can cause spoilage; if it doesn’t discolour or smell bad and makes it to the cook line, you risk serving it to guests.
Restaurant food safety should include regular temperature checks on food stored in freezers and refrigerators. Just because food is frozen or kept chilled doesn’t mean it’s stored in optimal conditions.
Staff should regularly check both interior temperatures and food items themselves to make sure that these are properly stored. Make regular temperature checks part of your inventory management: upon delivery, while in storage, and throughout cooking.
4. Sanitize frequently
Food safety doesn’t start and end with personal hygiene, such as frequent handwashing when handling food. For restaurants, this means ensuring that clean hands touch clean equipment used in preparing, serving, and disposing of food to reduce any risk of passing on harmful bacteria.
Instilling good hand hygiene among employees isn’t limited to handwashing before and after meal preparation — it includes before and after each shift, after using the washroom, sneezing or coughing, and after taking out the trash. It’s equally important to monitor personal hygiene in the kitchen. Ensure your staff have clean hair and fingernails, wear protective gear, avoid drying their hands on aprons and dish towels.
Aside from regular handwashing, staff should change aprons upon switching between preparing raw and ready-to-eat food, launder their uniforms regularly, and limit the use of their work shoes to the restaurant.
It’s important to establish a kitchen and restaurant-wide sanitation protocol. Ensure that all commonly touched surfaces are regularly sanitized, and all equipment and cutlery are thoroughly cleaned before and after use to prevent contamination.
5. Avoid cross-contamination
No matter how clean you keep kitchen equipment, there is always a risk of infection and illness when food items are not stored and handled properly. You could wash knives, pots, and chopping boards and still risk cross-contamination if staff use the same set to prepare a single meal using different ingredients.
To ensure food safety in your restaurant, make sure to eliminate any risk of cross-contamination. Remember that cross-contamination can also occur due to contact between packaging material and juices while items are in transport or storage. This is why it’s important to store items correctly. When shopping for a commercial freezer or refrigerator, consider models that feature open shelving to maximize airflow but avoid overstocking.
To learn more about food safety in restaurants and the role of high-quality commercial kitchen appliances, call Ancaster Food Equipment at 866-711-5486, or contact us here.