The COVID pandemic has got people thinking about hygiene and food safety now more than ever. And while authorities such as the European Food Safety Authority have reported that there is no evidence that food is a source or transmission route, you can fully expect that when you reopen your business, food sanitation safety and hygiene standards will be at an all time high for both customers and regulators.
But developing a food safety culture among staff and management has always been a requirement for businesses seeking long-term success. Hygiene in your restaurant will have an impact both on the customer experience, with over 57% of consumers saying that they will overlook bad service if a restaurant is clean, and on your reputation as a safe choice for diners.
If you get bad press for giving your customers food poisoning, it can become incredibly hard to undo the damage. Even worse, you can risk having your business temporarily shut down by food safety inspectors for not following the right restaurant food safety guidelines, or risk facing a lawsuit from your customers.
Turning around a chaotic kitchen where no one follows the rules can feel enormous challenge, but you’ll find that if you follow these restaurant safety tips, you can minimize health hazards without having to waste too much time and energy!
1. Make sure your staff are washing their hands
It all starts with this simple gesture. Washing your hands for 20 seconds is one of the most effective ways to promote food safety in restaurants. Some rules on when your staff should wash their hands apply to both your front of house and back of house staff. Make sure they’re all washing their hands after:
Coughing or sneezing. Moreover, you should encourage your staff to cough and sneeze into their elbows, not their hands.
Going for a smoke break or on their lunch break
Touching animals. Even if you have a pet-friendly cafe or restaurant, it’s key to keep animals away from food preparation areas and gloves if you have to handle them.
Touching their smartphones.
And for your kitchen staff, make sure they’re also washing their hands after:
Taking out the trash or touching waste.
Handling raw meat and fish. In general, they should try to wash their hands after handling any food that poses a risk of cross-contamination, including dairy, unwashed vegetables, allergens, etc.
2. Prevent cross-contamination in your kitchen
One of main contributing factors to food poisoning in restaurants is cross-contamination. To prevent this, you need to make sure that your staff are not only washing their hands, but also keeping surfaces clean and prep stations properly separated. To achieve this, you should:
Use different cutting boards and knives for each food group. Some people will find it even easier if you pick colour coded kitchenware!
Make sure that the dishes are being washed regularly and all waste is removed from surfaces. After clearing up a station, give it a quick clean with disinfectant spray.
Keep your fridges and cupboards clean and organised, making sure all containers are properly labelled and sealed.
Always wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly before preparing them! Pay special attention to root vegetables such as leeks and carrots, as they’re more likely to carry soil residues.
Besides the cleaning you do throughout the day, it’s also important to keep up certain daily and weekly habits, such as breaking down your ovens, grills and stoves, checking mousetraps, and deep-cleaning your walk-ins and storage rooms.
3. Focus on the health of your staff
This rule is often overlooked by restaurants owners in favour of increasing productivity, but remember that if your staff is feeling unwell, they could risk spreading germs not only to your food, but also to your other staff members, and your customers.
Make sure your employees stay at home if they:
Are carrying any viruses that can easily spread through food, such as Salmonella, E. coli, or Hepatitis A.
If they’ve had diarrhea or if they’ve vomited in the last 24 hours
If they’re constantly coughing and sneezing, or if they have any symptoms of the flu. While influenza isn’t known to spread through food, it can easily travel through contact with the surfaces in your restaurant.
In the long term, it will always pay off to have a small shortage of staff to prevent the spread of disease!
4. Implement rules for better food preparation safety and sanitation
Besides washing their hands, you should also encourage your staff to stick to the following food safety rules for restaurants:
Staff should avoid wearing watches, jewelry or any unnecessary accessories that could potentially carry germs.
Make sure kitchen staff are wearing hair nets at all times when they’re in the kitchen (this also applies to facial hair).
Your employees should avoid coming into the kitchen with their street clothes, having clean uniforms is crucial to avoid bringing in germs from the street.
On top of this, your staff should also pay close attention how they’re handling the food they’re preparing. Your staff should always look out for:
The temperature at which high-risk ingredients such as meats, fish, eggs and dairy are being cooked. Cooking food at the right temperature is the best way to kill germs, and all raw animal products should be cooked to at least 165°F, and kept at 135°F until served.
Conversely, your staff need to make sure that all your chilled foods are being kept until 40°F, as anything above this temperature encourages germ growth.
The condition of deliveries from suppliers. Encourage your staff to always inspect food upon arrival, and to refuse anything that is out of date or unsafely stored.
Proper labelling of all your inventory. To prevent out of date products from accidentally slipping into one of your dishes — and also to prevent unnecessary waste — one of the easiest things you can do is make sure your staff are keeping all labels up-to-date.
Make sure that your staff is properly trained in HACCP procedures, and encourage them to see these food safety tips for restaurants as an important part of the job, rather than tedious chores.
5. Train your staff and lead with example
While you’re not required by law to have HACCP training or to train your staff, food safety inspectors will hold you to these standards nonetheless, and it’s much harder to convey the importance of these restaurant food safety regulations if you’re not properly trained yourself. It’s best to follow these guidelines if you want to keep up with current food safety rules and regulations!
If you haven’t had a chance to get training, it might even be a good idea to book an instructor or a course that you and your staff can take, participating in this kind of activity can even help with building team spirit!
In whichever way you decide to implement your food safety and sanitation practices, remember that keeping your restaurant clean and safe doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming, and it’s the best way to keep your customers healthy and happy with your service!