Food safety standards have been around for centuries to keep diners safe as the enjoy their meal. The rules as we know them today were established in 1938, when the FDA was given oversight of U.S. standards. Since then, restaurants have only gotten better at prioritizing the safety of their diners and making sure their kitchens are sanitary and safe.
That doesn’t mean food safety is no longer an issue, however. It simply highlights the importance of strong food safety practices in restaurant kitchens – and the need to remain diligent with staff so no guest ends up sick (or worse!)
And – how quickly a restaurant’s reputation can falter when food safety is not taken seriously.
The Importance of Food Safety in Your Restaurant
Here’s the thing – food safety is one of the most important concerns in the kitchen, but also one of the easiest pieces for food service staff to ignore. When a restaurant kitchen is swamped with orders in the middle of a rush, it can be easy to cut corners just to get an order out the door.
Process and Standards for Food Safety
- Proper food storage practices – never let perishable food sit out for more than two hours, and follow FIFO (First In, First Out) practices to make sure nothing is served past its due date or forgotten on the shelf
- Monitoring food and equipment temperatures – keep information on file for 6+ months
- Proper hygiene – always wash hands and surfaces!
- Avoidance of cross contamination
- Employee Illness protocols – sick employees should never be at work
- Cleanliness and sanitation –Keep prep and service areas, utensils, and equipment clean
Easy, right? And the benefits are manifold: Not only is your kitchen sure to pass your next food safety inspection, but you’ll know that you won’t put your guests in danger, and risk ruining your hard-earned reputation with poor food handling practices or contaminated kitchen surfaces.
How to Handle Food Safety Incidents
Even with all processes and standards in place, food safety incidents can still occur. Accidents happen. And the unfortunate truth is that when you’re dealing with food, especially in restaurants serving raw or undercooked menu items, there are some things for which you simply cannot plan.
Should this happen, handling the situation in a quick and professional manner to protect your reputation is key.
How to Handle a Food Safety Crisis
- Respond immediately – Identify the problem and its scope, and then contain the risk by isolating contaminated food and cleaning everything the contamination might have touched
- Investigate and correct – By conducting a thorough investigation, you can to identify the root cause and implement corrective action so it doesn’t happen again
- Communicate and recover – Being transparent and taking responsibility is hard, but it will earn you respect in the long run. Communicate with customers promptly and transparently and let them know the steps you are taking to remedy the situation
- Prevent reoccurrence – Establish a comprehensive food safety training program to ensure the same issue doesn’t arise again. Develop a detailed food safety plan for everyone in the kitchen and conduct regular food safety audits. Maintain a clean and sanitized kitchen, cook food to proper temperatures and store food appropriately as outlined above
It’s important to identify the cause and correct the problem as quickly as possible to limit negative effects. The best thing a restaurant manager can do in this situation is review procedures and implement an action plan to address the issue. After the situation is resolved, get feedback from the team on how they addressed the problem, and how they will mitigate future problems to let customers know they are in good hands.
Food Safety Training & Products
Always Food Safe food training videos ensure restaurant managers have all the tools they need to keep their kitchen safe – and handle a crisis if, or when, it occurs. These courses are ANSI accredited, specialist web-based e-learning provider for the food service sectors that offers Food Protection Manager, Food Handler, and Allergen Awareness training courses that are 100% online to work around your lifestyle and busy schedule.
Supporting staff with the proper food safety tools will help ensure high standards of safety in the kitchen as well. The DateCodeGenie® completely automates your labelling system and prints prep, sell-by, and use-by dates at the simple press of a button, which helps keep inventory organized and ensure there is no confusion over which items need to be used first.
NCCO also offers a DateIt™ Food Rotation Labeling System to improve inventory management, prevent cross-contamination, and help keep customers safe with a variety of FDA-approved styles.