Safety first! That’s right. It’s not second … it’s numero uno. That goes for the restaurant, the employees, and the guests.
In today’s post-Chipotle foodborne illness outbreak world, the focus on food and food safety is on the minds of every operator and nearly all consumers.
A 2016 North American Restaurant and Foodservice Outlook survey by the global business advisory firm AlixPartners found that 90 percent of respondents said they take note of food safety incidents at restaurants. One-quarter of survey respondents also said food safety should be one of the foodservice industry’s top three areas of concern.
Restaurant safety is a hot topic, but it’s not by any means a sexy one. If your restaurant isn’t safe, well, you’ll probably be facing some serious consequences.
All food service establishments are subject to local, state and federal food codes. These codes are put in place to prevent the public from contracting foodborne illnesses. While the rules are different for each county and each state, the food code generally covers the same basic ground rules.
Here are the most important areas to keep track of when operating a restaurant:
An employee’s hygiene routine at home is their prerogative, but at a restaurant, they’ve got to keep it clean. The transmission of pathogenic bacteria from raw food or from your employees’ hands to your guests’ meals increases when good hygiene habits are standardized and put into practice on a regular basis. Best practice is to read up on your State-specific food handling policy and set your own policy.
If an employee is sick, you must send them home so that you reduce the risk of putting them in contact with food or food preparation stations.
Make sure you have the proper notifications and postings from the Occupational Health and Safety site (www.osha.gov), including worker’s compensation information and injury notification policies.
Restaurants are usually inspected before they open and then twice a year. If they are found to be in violation of the health code, they may be shut down until the corrective action is taken. Make sure your employees are consistently in compliance with the health code, and any complaints are dealt with in a timely fashion.
Cross-contamination is the sixth largest contributing factor to foodborne illness. Avoid cross contamination by using a color-coded system for restaurant workers (i.e. cutting boards, knives, and gloves), washing your hands and changing gloves frequently and using food labels to determine which foods need to be used quickly or need to be discarded. Of course, the most important way to reduce cross-contamination is by encouraging your employees to wash their hands consistently and observe proper glove use during food preparation.
Proper Cooking Methods
Different foods have different minimum cooking temperatures, and your local health department can give you a list of them. There are many guidelines across all of the food groups, but here are some baseline examples that you should include in your safety manuals and in your training.
- Roasts, steaks, and fish must be cooked to a minimum of 145 degrees for 15 seconds.
- Poultry must reach 165 degrees for 15 seconds as measured with a food thermometer in the innermost part of the thigh, wing or the thickest part of the cut.
- Ground and hamburger meat, where bacteria can spread during grinding, must be cooked to at least 155 degrees for 15 seconds.
- Eggs must be cooked until the yolk and white are firm, not runny.
- Leftovers must be thoroughly heated to 165 degrees for 15 seconds.
Equipment Standards & Maintenance
Much of your equipment will have to meet local state rules for things like regular maintenance schedules and temperature. Dishwashers, for example, are required in every operation according to health code. For three-compartment sinks, health code stipulates that there must be a specific slope to prevent pooling. It’s important to know the standards and regulations for each piece of equipment and maintain proper checklists and check-ins to meet the guidelines and pass inspections.
Your employees need to be properly trained to handle equipment at the restaurant. It’s also important to teach them strategies on how to use the equipment without injury. Back strains are the most common injury in the restaurant workplace and account for a significant portion of missed time. Without training, a mistake on a simple machine could put your employee in harm’s way. Regular certifications and online training classes through HotSchedules Train make it easy to manage and track training.
Make sure employees know the processes in place in case of a fire or another emergency. As a precaution, make sure specific employees are certified in basic first aid, CPR and AED training.
While inspections occur every six months, safety should be an everyday priority. Following these guidelines will help ensure your restaurant continues to be a safe place for your employees and your guests.
For more comprehensive information on restaurant and food safety, visit www.cdc.gov.
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