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
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
- 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
- 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
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
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.