Restaurant Food Safety- 9 Tips to Swear By

In the restaurant industry, businesses must abide by preparation, storage, and cooking regulations to ensure that food is safe for customers. Failure to follow food safety laws can result in serious illnesses and financial consequences.

By prioritizing restaurant food safety, companies can protect their employees and guests from harmful bacteria and focus on providing the best customer service possible.

9 Tips for Restaurant Food Safety

Improper food safety can lead to foodborne illnesses, resulting in infections and even death. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that approximately 48 million Americans contract foodborne infections each year, causing nearly 3,000 deaths.

However, by following the food safety best practices, restaurants can ensure facilities are hygienic and food is safe for consumption-

1. Keep the Kitchen Clean

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Cleanliness is one of the primary components of food safety as it helps prevent cross-contamination, spoilage, and the spread of germs.

Employees should be trained to wash their hands between tasks, even if they remain in the kitchen. Proper handwashing involves scrubbing hands with antibacterial soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. Afterward, hands should be thoroughly dried with a fresh cloth or paper towel.

Workers should wash their hands immediately after-

  • Using the bathroom
  • Handling raw meat, fish, or poultry
  • Taking out the trash
  • Cleaning dirty dishes
  • Taking a smoke break
  • Using the phone
  • Eating lunch
  • Sneezing, coughing, or touching one's face
  • Touching animals

2. Clean Messes Immediately

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Aside from washing hands, restaurants must keep their kitchen and dining areas clean at all times. As orders enter and leave the kitchen, things are easily spilled, misplaced, and broken, creating a messy workspace.

This fast-paced environment makes it easy to cut corners and forget safety protocols. Supervisors must ensure employees immediately clean messes and maintain an organized, safe workstation.

The kitchen staff must-

  • Clear dirty plates immediately to avoid contact with freshly cooked food.
  • Wipe down all surfaces throughout the day to remove leftover food and liquid particles.
  • Consistently wash dishes to have access to clean utensils and dishes.
  • Disassemble and clean ovens, stoves, flat tops, grills, and hoods every day.
  • Organize preparation areas and ensure all ingredients are stored properly.
  • Replace preparation pans daily.

3. Check Internal Temperatures

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Food must reach safe internal cooking temperatures to be deemed safe for consumption. When food is not cooked entirely, bacteria has the chance to grow and infect consumers. Therefore, restaurants must utilize a food thermometer to ensure ingredients meet the correct internal temperatures-

  • 160 F- Ground meats, including beef, turkey, and chicken
  • 165 F- Poultry, stuffed foods, casseroles, microwaved meats
  • 155 F- Sausage and hamburger
  • 145 F- Eggs, pork, fish, and beef
  • 135 F- Vegetables, soups, and ready-to-eat foods

4. Chill Foods

Even after a dish is cooked correctly, foodborne bacteria can still fester if the food is not stored correctly.

Generally, food can sit out for two hours at room temperature before it must be cooled. After two hours, the dish enters the "danger zone" of 40-140 F, where bacteria grows the fastest. Freezing food significantly slows bacteria growth, preserving dishes and reducing food waste.

If employees are unsure of how long food has been sitting out, they should discard it immediately.

5. Avoid Cross-Contamination

Cooked and raw ingredients should never be stored or prepared together as they contain different types of bacteria that can contaminate the other. They should be labeled and stored on separate shelves, with raw ingredients closer to the ground to avoid drippings contaminating other foods.

Employees must ensure they use different tools, such as cutting boards and knives, when preparing foods. This is not only important to prevent the spread of bacteria, but also allergens, such as pine nuts and seafood. Restaurants can designate a specific color of cutlery and dishes to each food to avoid cross-contamination.

6. Keep Hands Covered

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During busy rushes, employees do not always have time to wash their hands between stations. In this case, workers should make sure to wear and interchange disposable gloves when handling different ingredients.

However, gloves are absolutely mandatory when making direct contact with food, such as assembling a sandwich or pizza. Even if employees remain in one station, they must change their gloves regularly as bacteria can linger on surfaces for long periods of time.

7. Regularly Replace Disposable Tools

Aside from gloves, other disposable tools, such as utensils, dishes, sponges, and rags, must also be replaced often. Especially for cleaning supplies as they can make surfaces dirtier if they are not changed out routinely.

Sponges should be discarded every other day and towels should be washed every day to prevent the spread of germs.

8. Prioritize Employee and Customer Health

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While employees in every industry are encouraged to stay home while they are ill, it is critical for restaurant workers to isolate themselves when they are sick to avoid infecting customers. The kitchen staff, servers, bussers, bartenders, supervisors, and cashiers must all take sick days seriously.

Employees should stay home if they experience-

  • Diarrhea or vomiting
  • Confirmed infection diagnosis
  • Infected wounds
  • Sneezing, coughing, runny nose
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Elevated temperature

9. Monitor Employee Behavior

Especially after a long day, employees may be inclined to skip safety rules, such as taking out the trash, changing out food pans, and refreshing condiments. While these tasks may seem menial, failure to follow safety precautions and practices can result in illnesses and the spread of germs.

By reinforcing proper food safety, restaurants can maintain cleanliness throughout their establishment-

  • Hair should be pulled back and in a hairnet, including facial hair.
  • Fingernails should be short and clean.
  • Jewelry should be left at home.

Supervisors should closely monitor staff to ensure all employees are fulfilling their duties and practicing proper food safety.