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The 9 Food Safety Golden Rules for Restaurant Owners

We have all cringed as we read the news about Chipotle, The Chicken and Rice Guys, and Jack in the Box and the food safety holes that they have had to dig themselves out of. No restaurant owner wants to be in that position.

According to the Center for Disease Control, approximately 48 million Americans experience foodborne infections each year, and 3,000 deaths occur annually.To learn more about food poisoning and common pathogens, read The Ultimate Guide to Dangerous Restaurant Food Poisoning Pathogens.

Since food safety is our specialty, we have put together the 9 food safety golden rules designed to keep restaurant owners out of food safety hot water.

1. Train Employees for Personal Cleanliness

When employees understand the importance of cleanliness to food safety, you have crossed a big bridge towards eliminating cross contamination. Employees should be trained to wash their hands between jobs according to the CDC handwashing criteria.

Handwashing is so much more than a little soap and water. Proper handwashing should take at least 20 seconds and involve hot antibacterial soapy water followed by a thorough drying. Employees should scrub their hands like a doctor going into surgery.

Hand washing should occur following:

  • Handling raw meat products
  • Touching trash or dirty dishes
  • Use of the bathroom
  • Smoke or vape breaks
  • Handling a phone
  • Eating
  • Sneezing, blowing your nose or coughing

2. Train Staff for Restaurant Cleanliness

Beyond personal cleanliness is the cleanliness of the actual restaurant. It is easy to skip over tasks that ensure cleanliness when the lunch or dinner rush takes over. Train staff to follow these general food safety guidelines:

  • Clear food quickly. Dirty dishes and discarded food should be kept away from fresh food.
  • Wipe counters throughout the day with a clean rag and antibacterial cleaner.
  • Wash the dishes often and always sanitize.
  • Disassemble and deep clean ovens, stoves, flat tops, grills, and hoods nightly.
  • Quickly clear prep areas.
  • Correctly seal all food product in the walk-in.
  • Empty and replace prep pans nightly.

3. Get Food Temps Right Every Time

While it is safe for some meats to be served rare or even raw, pork and chicken must always be cooked well to avoid the risk of food poisoning. When cooks are preparing food, they must use a food thermometer to make sure that recommended internal temperatures are reached.

  • 160°F: Ground beef, turkey, or chicken
  • 165°F: Poultry, stuffed foods, casserole dishes
  • 155°F: Sausage and hamburger
  • 145°F: Eggs, pork, fish and beef
  • 135°F: Vegetables and packaged foods

Additionally, any food products that are served from a buffet or bar type set up must be food safety temperature checked on a regular basis. FreshCheq can help with that.

4. Avoid the Food Safety “Danger Zone”

Although most restaurant kitchen managers report that they have formal cooling processes (86%) and train staff on proper cooling (91%), a large number of managers indicate that they do not use tested and verified cooling processes (39%), they do not monitor time or temperature intervals during cooling processes (41%), and do not consistently calibrate kitchen thermometers (15%). Additionally, 86% of managers report that their cooling processes do not comply with FDA recommendations.

When food is cooked and will be cooled to serve at a later time, cooling logs must be used to avoid the risk of spreading food poisoning to your customers.

Read more about the stages of food cooling and how to automate this important food safety process: The Importance of Using Restaurant Cooling Logs

5. Avoid Cross-Contamination

We mentioned it above but it is important enough to be its own rule. Cooked food and raw food should never be stored near each other, even in the walk-in cooler. Bacteria from raw food can easily contaminate cooked food and cause big food safety issues.

Be sure to designate one area of your food storage to unprepared food and another to cooked food. Keep raw food close to the ground to prevent juices from leaking onto other food items.

Another way to prevent cross contamination is to always use different cutting boards. Designate separate cutting boards and utensils for different types of food prep.

6. Cover it Up

The more covered up the kitchen staff is, the better. Gloves are a must. Disposable gloves can save time and make sure that food is not being improperly handled.

Aprons or chef’s coats are important for protecting the kitchen from possible germs and bacteria that could be carried into the kitchen on clothes.

All hair should be pulled back or otherwise restrained. Cooks and all kitchen staff are required to wear hair nets and facial hair must also be covered.

Fingernails must be short to avoid getting food caught underneath them and jewelry should be avoided.

7. Disposable Tool Replacement Schedule

If it is disposable, it needs to be replaced. Sponges, towels, and rags are all disposable and must be replaced regularly. Disposable items are a breeding ground for germs and bacteria and without regular replacement, your staff could be spreading germs more than they are cleaning them up.

Create an automated checklist with FreshCheq that will alert staff when it is time to replace disposable kitchen items.

8. Health Comes First

While some offices may encourage employees to come to work when they have “a small cold,” going to work at a restaurant is highly discouraged when an employee feels ill. Staying home when you’re ill is critical in the restaurant industry.

Restaurant staff should never be near food under the following circumstances:

  • Experiencing diarrhea or vomiting
  • Received a diagnosis of infection
  • Have an infected wound or an open would that cannot be easily and safely covered
  • Sneezing, congestion, coughing

9. Enforce Food Safety Systems

In a restaurant, it’s relatively easy to cut corners on the rules, especially during a busy day in the weeds. Pans don’t always get changed regularly, new salsa is mixed in with old salsa, and hair isn’t always tied back. By creating and enforcing food safety systems, cutting corners will occur less frequently.

Reinforcing employee behaviors with systems like FreshCheq can help avoid food safety negligence.

A dirty restaurant can cause plenty of food safety problems, from poor food quality to increased risk of customers becoming ill. Adhering to the 9 food safety golden rules in your restaurant will allow you to prevent issues before they occur. Creating a safe, comfortable environment for dining customers is every restaurant owner’s priority.

Everyone in the restaurant industry is dealing with high employee turnover rates.

Everyone in the restaurant industry is dealing with high employee turnover rates. Some may be facing this problem more than others
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