How to Ensure Your Restaurant Meets Health and Safety Guidelines

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Managing a restaurant business will undoubtedly come with all sorts of challenges, not least of which is keeping a clean kitchen and dining environment for your employees and patrons. Not only do you have to satisfy your customers and kitchen staff with great food and desirable job positions, you also have to worry about satisfying the health department and meeting OSHA regulations that will hold your restaurant to a high standard on an ongoing basis. Fortunately, you can maximize your restaurant’s chances of doing well during any inspection by heeding the following tips:

Maintain Proper Refrigeration

Of course, the first thing to look at when running down a checklist of safety steps for your restaurant should be the refrigeration equipment and procedures. It’s important to have a well-maintained, industrial-grade refrigeration unit and freezer area to keep all of your foods fresh and clean.

Some restaurants choose to save prepared leftovers for sale on subsequent business days. According to KPS Global, a leading supplier of restaurant refrigerators, the general rule of thumb is to discard any leftover foods after 4 days of refrigeration. If the leftovers contain poultry or beef, you should discard them within 1-2 days. Have your refrigerators tested and maintained on a regular basis to avoid problems related poor refrigeration.

Clean Prep Stations on Schedule

Prep areas are some of the most used and abused areas in the entire restaurant, as they facilitate the handling and storage of almost every food item that’s served. However, prep stations make it easier to reset tables for the next customer because they provide convenient access to dishes, flatware, seasonings, and other utensils or accessories.

The solution to using prep stations to your advantage without creating unsanitary conditions is to quickly sanitize your prep stations in between every major task or table setting. Keep sanitizer wipes nearby so servers and bussers can quickly wipe down surfaces as needed.

Be Careful with Buffets

Buffets can get dirty quickly with so many people coming in and putting their hands and sleeves over the food. For this reason, hot and cold foods need to be kept above or below specific temperature ranges to limit bacterial growth and prevent food-borne illness.

Also, food trays need to be cycled and washed on a set schedule. It’s best to follow the 2-hour rule. if a food item has been sitting on the buffet for longer than 2 hours, it needs to be either refrigerated or discarded. Furthermore, you may want to have your wait staff inform guests that they should always refrigerate their leftovers within 2 hours of leaving the restaurant.

Have Kitchen Staff Practice Food Preparation Hygiene

All staff who are responsible for handling or cooking food should be required to follow certain safety rules, such as wearing gloves and hair nets. All employees should also be trained to wash their hands after using the restroom, and signs should be posted as a reminder of this as well.

Food preparation hygiene also applies to the loading and unloading of food products. When employees unload a new shipment, the old products should be rotated to the front of the storage area and the new products should be moved to the back. This is called the “first in, first out” rule and it should be followed by every restaurant to avoid the mistake of serving expired food products.

Prevent the Use of Dirty Rags and Wash Cloths

While wash cloths are necessary for sanitizing table surfaces between guests, they can get dirty very quickly. Many restaurants make the mistake of re-using dirty rags from a lukewarm bucket of water, effectively wiping the table down with the diluted germs of the previous guest’s dining experience.

The best way to avoid the unpleasant aesthetic and potentially bio-hazardous practice of using dirty wash cloths is to invest in more rags and require employees to use a new cloth every time they wipe down a table. A solid rule of thumb is to calculate the average amount of times you usually need to wipe down tables every shift and have twice that amount in wash cloths on standby.

Know the Temperature Safe Zone

If a health inspector walks through your restaurant looking for signs of unsafe food handling, temperature will be one of the first factors they’ll consider. In general, the temperature should be below 41°F for cold food storage or above 135°F for hot food storage.

These temperature ranges are known to prevent or limit the growth of bacteria. Instruct your kitchen staff on how to use a variety of thermometers to test food temperatures on a scheduled basis. Likewise, be sure to have a thawing timer that notifies you when a food item has been thawing out long enough.

Enforce Routine Cleaning and Maintenance of Equipment

Faulty or unclean equipment could be another cause for concern during a health inspection, so it’s best to safeguard your restaurant from such issues by scheduling routine cleaning and maintenance for all refrigerators, ovens, thermometers, and other commercial kitchen appliances.

While most of the cleaning can be done by in-house staff, you may need to enlist the services of a third-party maintenance provider to perform testing or repairs on your appliances as needed.

Require Staff to Wear the Proper Attire and Use Non-Slip Mats

Now that you’re aware of some the steps you can take to promote food safety, it’s time to ensure your employees are safe from slips and falls, or other mishaps. Placing non-slip mats at all of the entrances and exits to your kitchen is always a smart move. It’s also advisable to require that your employees wear slip-resistant shoes and other specified work attire.

Don’t Forget Fire Safety and Ventilation

Finally, fire safety is another important aspect to cover in order to make your restaurant as safe as it can be and stay in compliance with all local laws and regulations. Talk with a local fire inspector about the requirements for restaurants in your area. In closing, you may also want to consult with an HVAC company to make sure your ventilation system is up to par.

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