Restaurant Food Safety: Best Practices for Your Kitchen

Restaurant food safety is an integral part of every successful culinary institute. Your work as a chef brings joy to your guests, but even when embracing the artisan aspects of fine cuisine, you need to offer a clean and sanitary experience that meets the basic expectations for food safety. Here are some important notes on the best practices to prevent liabilities in your kitchen:

Allergy Challenges

When servers first approach a table, make sure they ask guests about any allergies. Wait staff should alert the kitchen immediately of any allergy concerns, with the intention of identifying any potentially hazardous foods. Involve a manager in every aspect of serving a table with an allergic guest to limit liability for the restaurant. If there's potential for cross-contamination with gluten-free or vegan food, make sure to mention it on the menu — failing to do so could seem like an intentional misrepresentation, or worse, cause harm to guests.

Food Liabilities

Some restaurants purposefully name the wrong ingredients on their menus — they may call regular beef "Kobe" or farm-raised salmon "wild" to secure a higher price point. NPR recently explored salmon fraud and found that instances of mislabeling can be as high as 43 percent. But restaurant owners, beware: Misidentifying foods, either intentionally or by mistake, is fraud and could result in a fine or penalty. To ensure an honest experience for guests, you need to understand the root of your supply chain and ensure all ingredients served in your restaurant are represented accurately.

In addition, any nutrient health claims — with titles like "low-sodium" or "healthy option" — must accompany nutritional information. Restaurants with 20 or more franchises must provide calorie information on their menus to comply with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), according to The New York Times.

Food Safety Tips

Another concern for restaurant food safety is potential sickness. Food-borne illnesses can cause lawsuits and big settlements, not to mention higher insurance premiums and negative press, according to the National Restaurant Association. Create a food safety plan for your restaurant with the following tips in mind:

  1. Maintain refrigeration temperature at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below, a recommended temperature according to the FDA.
  2. Prevent cross-contamination by keeping raw meat away from other ingredients in the refrigerator, as the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services suggests.
  3. Only defrost food in the refrigerator, a best practice according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service.
  4. Make sure your staff washes their hands with soap and hot water for at least twenty seconds before handling food.
  5. Use chemicals and heat to sanitize surfaces and all tools, containers and utensils. The water in a dishwasher should be between 160 degrees Fahrenheit and 194 degrees Fahrenheit, says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Always follow the directions for chemical cleaners, as they can be toxic in high quantities.

Food safety requires incredible vigilance, even in the most sanitary restaurant kitchens. Start by educating each staff member about the importance of safety protocols to the restaurant and their jobs. Armed with a strong understanding, your staff can maintain the highest standards in your restaurant.

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