There are countless variables that affect the health and safety of restaurant customers, beyond hand washing and temperature control. Two variables that are critical for developing a culture of food safety are allergen awareness and responsible alcohol service. During the final week of National Food Safety Month
, let’s see how these essential restaurant elements factor into food safety.
Allergens to Be Aware Of
There are many different food items that can cause dangerous allergic reactions among customers. Allergic reactions can range in severity, from stomach problems to an itchy throat to complete anaphylactic shock. Regardless of the severity, if a customer notifies you of a food allergy, you must ensure that their meal isn’t contaminated by that food item.
Referred to in the industry as The Big Nine
food allergies are caused by nine food items: milk, eggs, soy, fish, tree nuts, peanuts, crustacean shellfish, wheat, and sesame.
To keep customers protected, there are certain protocols servers and kitchen staff should follow to prevent an allergic reaction.
Serving Customers with Food Allergies:
- Tell the customer exactly how each dish is made. If the server isn’t sure, they should ask a manager.
- Suggest menu items that do not contain the allergen.
- Identify the allergen special order on your order ticket and alert kitchen staff about the allergen.
Prepping Food for Customers with Food Allergies:
- Check the recipe and ingredient labels to make sure the allergen is not present.
- Wash, rinse, and sanitize cookware, utensils, and equipment before prepping the food. This includes food-prep surfaces.
- Make sure the allergen does not touch anything coming in contact with the customer, including food, beverages, utensils, equipment, and gloves.
Cross-Contamination Vs. Cross-Contact
- Cross-contamination happens when a bacteria or virus is transferred to a food item through contact.
- Cross-contact happens when protein particles of a food allergen come in contact with a non-allergen food item. For example, say a guest is allergic to peanuts. If a peanut falls into the guest’s salad during prep, this is cross-contact.
- If either cross-contamination or cross-contact occurs, the food item should be discarded.
If food destined for a customer with a food allergy has been cross-contacted or cross-contaminated, even through cooking oil or utensils, DO NOT serve the customer that dish. Set the food aside and ask your manager how to proceed. If a customer has a severe allergic reaction, call 9-1-1 and immediately notify your manager.
Download our Allergens Awareness poster
to display in your restaurant’s kitchen or break room.
Responsible Alcohol Service
Serving alcohol can be highly profitable for restaurants—but irresponsible drinking behaviors can put your patrons, and your business, at risk. To protect your customers, it’s imperative that you prevent them from becoming intoxicated by knowing the risks.
Blood Alcohol Content
is the amount of alcohol in a person’s bloodstream at a given time. Nearly all 50 states have defined the legal level of intoxication for driving at .08. While it can be difficult to calculate a person’s exact BAC, measuring standard drink sizes
can help you maintain a drink limit and prevent intoxication. Here are some smart alcohol service techniques to follow:
Standard measurements for one drink:
- Wine: 12% - 5oz.
- Beer: 5% - 12oz.
- Mixed drink: 80-Proof Liquor – 1.5oz.
- Straight shot: 100 Proof Liquor – 1oz.
After estimating a customer’s BAC
and using the standard drink guide, track a customer’s drink count by using a tally sheet, printed receipts of each drink, the POS system, or the back of a receipt.
Serving food with alcohol
- Better food choices: high fat, high protein
- Poorer food choices: high carbohydrate, high salt
Keeping guests hydrated
Dehydration caused by alcohol can cause guests to drink more than they normally would in attempts to quench their thirst. It’s crucial to keep guests well hydrated with frequent water refills.
Slow service techniques
Try to be mindful of how often you pass a customer’s table. If you pass a table often and you find a guest ordering a new drink each time you pass, give the table some distance. You can keep your eye on the table to ensure guests are satisfied while slowing down alcohol service. Consider talking to your manager about implementing a drink limit.
Serving alcohol to-go
Check your state’s ABC guidelines for serving alcohol to-go and always remember to verify your customer’s age before serving them their preordered drinks.
Download our Smart Alcohol Service Techniques eBook
for more information on responsible alcohol service.
Continue Developing a Culture of Food Safety with ServSafe
As scientific research on food safety continues to advance, so should your commitment to implementing the best food safety practices in your restaurant. Take your food safety to the next level with ServSafe
’s full range of training and certification products developed by industry experts.