January 10

These basic tasks, when followed, will go a long way in making your restaurant a safe-food operation.

Ask your employees, “What’s the most important contributor to our restaurant’s success?” You’ll likely hear “good food,” “great service,” “good value” and other experience-based qualifiers. It’s doubtful “safe food” will come up because it’s assumed. It's assumed that you're receiving, storing, cooking, cooling, holding, handling and serving your food safely. Are you?

Nothing erases your years of restaurant success faster than a foodborne illness outbreak. Even the hint of it can take on a life of its own through social media (social media is a reputation game changer). Food safety has to be as important as the quality, speed and accuracy of your foodservice. Implementing non-negotiable safe-food practices (“this is how we do it, no exceptions”) comes from the top down – from leaders who can share the restaurant’s vision and purpose with their team members, be open about the business’s challenges and successes, and inspire employees to continuously learn and improve.

Food-safety-first checklist

Serving food safely is science, but it’s not rocket science. Mostly, it’s common sense and a little bit of smart planning. Here are some basic tasks that, when followed, will go a long way in making your restaurant a safe-food operation.

1. Put all food handlers through ServSafe® food safety training. ServSafe teaches foodservice professionals about how food becomes contaminated and the best food handling practices to prevent foodborne illness outbreaks. Certification is good for three years before you need them to renew. Managers will need the manager course.

2. Reinforce safe food practices on a regular basis. Reminders should be verbal, visual and consistent. Remind employees about these critical food safety steps:
  • Handwashing
  • Cooling hot foods quickly (from 135°F to 70°F within two hours, then down to 41°F within another four hours). Using an ice bath, an ice paddle or a blast chiller, and separating contents into shallow containers before putting them in the walk-in all help cool foods quickly and safely.
  • Cooking foods to appropriate time and temperature (the Food and Drug Administration’s Food Code contains time-temperature recommendations)
  • Tossing expired/compromised foods
  • Holding hot foods above 135°F and cold foods below 41°F, and
  • Keeping food surfaces and utensils clean and sanitized before and between tasks

3. Equip your employees to prepare and serve foods safely. Keep your hand sinks accessible and stocked with soap and towels, buy digital thermocouples for employees and temperature monitoring systems for the walk-ins, buy ice paddles (or a blast chiller!), provide plenty of cutting boards and utensils, and keep cleaning and sanitizing solutions accessible. If employees don’t have the tools they need to keep foods safe, it’s hard to keep foods safe.

4. Anticipate how you operate. It’s easy to get caught up in the heat and insanity of a meal-time rush. So anticipate that onslaught and set up your kitchen stations to prepare foods quickly and safely. Where and how will you hold ingredients, prepare and season foods and place them after cooking? Where and how will you hold foods hot or cold? Walk it through and have the areas staged for speed and safe handling.

5. Get outside help. In addition to an extensive line of food safety solutions, including warewashing, hand hygiene, floor care, sanitizing, food treatment, and food rotation products, Ecolab offers a full range of exceptional auditing services to help you identify risks and take steps to protect your operation. Strategic partners like Ecolab can help you put a plan in place that’s tailored to your operation, your local health codes and your staff situation.

This content brought to you by Ecolab.