When customers enter a restaurant or food establishment, they expect an attentive wait staff, friendly service, tasty food, enjoyable atmosphere and, most importantly, a clean environment. The health inspector has a major influence on your business’s good standing, but in today’s digital environment, you must also be mindful of what customers write on social media sites. The best approach to maintaining your good reputation and keeping customers coming back is to practice proper restaurant food safety. Here are some basic food safety tips to follow.
- Avoid cross contamination. Raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs are often sources of dangerous bacteria, such as salmonella and other contaminants. Keep raw items away from other foods at all costs. Also, it is important that meat and eggs are never rinsed in a sink that is used for vegetable prep. This practice can lead to a contaminated sink with the dangerous potential to harm customers. If you have a designated sink for rinsing meat, it is still important to wash, rinse, and sanitize when finished rinsing. Color-coded cutting boards, knives, and other products can also help prevent cross-contamination.
- Maintain proper temperature. The “Danger Zone” for food temperature is defined as any temperature between 41 and 135 degrees Fahrenheit. Food that resides in this temperature zone can grow harmful bacteria, such as salmonella, which can lead to illness. Keeping food out of the zone is imperative for proper food safety. Never thaw or marinate outside of the refrigerator. When thawing frozen meat or fish, use clean, cold running water, or leave on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator to prevent juice from dripping onto other ingredients. During the thawing process, it is important that the product remains in its original, watertight packaging. When marinating, items should be stored in a sealed container.
- Prevent allergic reactions. For people who suffer from food allergies, going out to eat can be a life-threatening experience. The eight most common food allergies, often referred to as The Big 8, include milk, fish, soybeans, tree nuts, peanuts, eggs, shellfish, and wheat. Avoid crossing these common allergens with other foods by using food allergy safety products, especially if you are labeling a specific dish “allergy free.”
- Implement pest control. Not only do pests stir up fear in guests, but they can also spread harmful diseases to the food. Keep your food establishment free of creepy crawlies by contracting with a reputable exterminating company. The company should be experienced with business/restaurant environments and will therefore have a better understanding of sources of infestation and proper extermination/mitigation techniques. It is recommended that such services are performed on a monthly basis to be proactive.
- Ensure proper training. The staff is the heart of any restaurant, and it takes a well-trained staff for a kitchen to operate smoothly. The same applies to food safety. Employees should possess all applicable food handling permits. Such licenses and permits vary from state to state and, in some cases, municipality to municipality. Therefore, it’s important to research all applicable guidelines for your jurisdiction. In addition, management or senior level employees should go over these food safety tips with the employees, as well as conduct new and existing employee training. It is also suggested that mock health inspections with emphasis on food safety guidelines be conducted monthly. Identify areas where safety and health violations exist within your operations, as well as gauge and make sure this knowledge is being applied in the kitchen.
- Ensure proper sanitation. While it may seem common sense to wipe down tables, chairs, and all food prep surfaces, the following three-step process must be applied to ensure proper sanitation,:
- Clear the area of debris or leftover food.
- Clean the surface with hot soapy water.
- Rinse the surface with water and a clean cloth. This prepares the surface for sanitation with a sanitizing wipe or other professional sanitizer.
Remember, no matter how good the food, service, or atmosphere, without food safety, your reputation can take a severe hit or you could even be shut down. Don’t let improper food safety practices into your kitchen.