While it's true that washing your hands is an important part of keeping your restaurant clean and safe and keeping your customers happy and healthy, there is a lot more that needs to be considered when you think about food safety guidelines. Some of this may seem like common sense, but you might be surprised to learn that many of the items on our list are often overlooked. What might seem like a simple mistake or minor oversight can easily turn into a nightmare of foodborne illness and a whole host of compliance issues that can quickly escalate into a temporary closure or a full shutdown of your restaurant. Avoid the hassle, the headaches, and the stomachaches by following our quick list of food safety guidelines.
Everyone has seen the signs hanging in every restaurant restroom "Employees must wash hands before returning to work," but unless you work in the industry, you may not understand the importance. Hand washing is the most critical aspect of food safety guidelines that every single employee needs to follow. It should go without saying, but providing easy access to proper hand-washing facilities is a major requirement for a healthy restaurant. An effective soap and the use of warm water will go a long way in keeping your food prep and food service areas clean and free of most illness-causing contaminants, but unless your employees know the proper way to wash their hands, all the expensive soap in the world won't do you much good.
Rinse hands and exposed forearms under warm running water for 10-15 seconds; apply soap/cleaning compound to wet hands; lather for 10-15 seconds, making sure you cover hands and exposed forearms, paying attention to under the fingernails; rinse under warm running water; dry hands with a single-use towel or hot air dryer.
Any raw meat, seafood, poultry, or eggs can carry salmonella or other bacteria, so careful handling is required. These items should always be stored, handled, and prepared away from other food items. This includes keeping these foods away from sinks where vegetables or fruits will be washed and prepped. Every sink, surface, and kitchen tool needs to be washed, sanitized, and dried properly. Color-coding your cutting boards, kitchen tools, and prep areas is a great way to help stop cross-contamination. It's important to also keep an updated checklist of proper food safety guidelines and handling procedures, so employees are always prepared. Have an action plan in place in case of cross-contamination.
Different foods need to be kept at different temperatures to ensure they remain safe for human consumption and palatable, too. As a general rule, the "Danger Zone" is between 41 and 135 degrees Fahrenheit. Foods kept in that range are perfect breeding grounds for bacteria, and a great way to get your restaurant closed down for good. Keep tabs on your food storage, prep, and service temperatures with frequent temperature checks and logging. While this food safety guideline may feel tedious and time-consuming, you can make this process more streamlined by using a food safety management system like Zip HACCP, that syncs with your thermometers and logs temperatures for you.
Tip - Never thaw frozen foods on the counter. Always do so in the refrigerator or under cold, running water. If thawing raw meat in the fridge, be sure to only store it on the bottom shelf so no drips can reach other foods. Better yet, keep a fridge designated for meats only. Do not marinate foods outside of the fridge.
Food service businesses are favored feeding grounds for a variety of disease-carrying pests. While keeping your kitchen and food storage areas spotless and sanitized is a great first step in controlling pests, you might still end up with some unwanted visitors. In addition to hiring a dedicated pest control service to keep your restaurant pest-free, here are more tips you can use to help keep pests away.
Tips - Cleaning and sanitizing should include hard-to-reach areas such as under the fridges and freezer, under the stoves, and in the forgotten corners behind cabinets and storage racks. Dumpsters and the surrounding area should be swept and organized to reduce possible nesting areas. Don't forget to check the floor drains for loose food particles.
Nothing destroys a restaurant's reputation quite like a mix-up that causes a serious food allergy to flare up. It's more than a risk of an upset stomach as messing up an order for a person with allergies can spell a hospital trip and even death. Avoid this frightening situation by keeping impeccable food safety guidelines for handling allergy-warning orders. That means you will need a separate food prep area where "The Big 8" never touch. This includes fish, soybeans, milk, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and shellfish. Storing your food allergy safety products in special bins will go a long way in preventing any accidental contamination. It also helps to have a food allergy procedure in place, just in case.
Missing any one of the tips above could spell trouble for your restaurant and your customers. We know it's a lot to keep track of, but it isn't as hard as it may seem. With today's modern technology, keeping checklists, logs, and reports is as easy as using one simple app. Even if you're not on-site to supervise your team every moment of every working day, you can keep track of task lists and safety checks on your mobile device, all with one quick glance.
Zip HACCP can be used to track, monitor, and update every aspect of your business, including food safety information, with a click, tap, or flick. To learn more about HACCP standards and how Zip HACCP can help your business adhere, check out “The Definitive Guide to HACCP and Food Safety | 7 HACCP Principles” on the Hubworks Blog.