Food Safety Guidelines That Every Restaurant Should Follow
Consistency is key when it comes to food preparation in the restaurant world, especially when you're talking about food safety temperatures. It's the easiest way to make sure that every appetizer, entree, and to-go order is not only delicious but safe to eat, as well.
Many times, restaurants will actually overcook their food to make sure that it is not overcooked and does not get customers sick. However, the cook-time isn't the only way people can fall ill when eating mass produced food.
In fact, cross contamination is one of the biggest issues in restaurant kitchens nowadays. Unclean preparation stations and raw meat and the mess raw meat can leave behind mixing with other foods can be just as big a risk as undercooked steaks, burgers, and chicken.
And, this should go without saying, but you want your regulars and first-timers to enjoy the same quality of food any time they come into your establishment, with very little to no variance in qulaity or taste.
Making sure that medium, medium-rare, and well-done meats are cooked the same way every single time is easy. A lot of the best kitchens in the world will utilize timers and strict cook times to ensure that food doesn't get to the table under-cooked. Setting timers when meat hits the grill is an easy and surefire way to keep things consistent.
If someone orders their burger medium-rare every time they go to a specific restaurant, then they want that medium-rare burger to be consistent every time it's ordered. If their burger is cooked for the same duration on each side and gets to them the same way every time, they will leave a happy customer.
This shouldn't be news to you, but happy customers tip better and write great reviews about your restaurant. They also bring their friends and make recommendations when they find a place that takes the extra time to do things the right way.
Food Thermometers Are an Essential Tool
Another essential tool to pair with your kitchen cook timers is a food thermometer. Food thermometers are an inexpensive purchase and are able to quickly and accurately give you a read on the exact temperature for meat and shellfish.
You are going to want to keep beef, poultry, and shellfish at temperatures of 145 degrees or hotter to stay in the safe cooking zone and keep your food out of the danger zone. And when that thermometer is paired with food safety software, it makes things 10x easier.
The same rules apply for any reheated food. You can successfully reheat most foods without causing danger to your diners if you pay attention to the thermometer and keep an eye on cooking temps.
The internal temperature of reheated foods made in-house should always be 165 degrees to ensure that the food is cooked properly and all the way through. A common mistake made when using thermometers is not plunging the thermometer deep enough into the meat, poultry, shellfish or reheated item.
This mistake won't give you an accurate reading of the food, itself, because the outside of the food will always cook and heat faster than the inside of the item.
Cold/Chilled Foods & Salad Bar
As important as it is to cook meat, shellfish, and eggs at a specific temperature to keep your customers and patrons from getting sick, the same goes for foods served cold/chilled and your salad bar.
The sneeze guard isn't the only thing that protects the salad bar, so do chilled pans and refrigerated units to keep the bar at 41 degrees or less. There is a few degrees of grace between perfect and frozen so keeping things right around 41 degrees is the ideal temperature.
Warmer than 41 and your lettuce and other fruits and veggies will start to brown. Rotten vegetables can make a person just as sick as undercooked meats. While checking and maintaining the proper temperature on the salad bar making sure that foods are rotated properly will also get extra life out of the items in your serving dishes and containers (and having a way to remind you when exactly you should rotate is key).
Continuous upkeep and maintenance on your refrigeration units will make them last longer and keep them running smoother.
Cleaning Reminders Are a MUST
As stated above, cross-contamination is the biggest cause of foodborne illnesses. Cleaning and recleaning surfaces, cooking utensils, and pans as well as the salad bar throughout the day can stop cross-contamination and keep your customers and employees from getting sick.
Not only can keeping things clean maintain the health of everyone that walks into your establishment, but it can also keep your business up and running by helping you pass health inspections.
While passing those inspections is key, you also want to get a high grade because those grades factor into many things like reviews and reputation locally. Obviously, these ratings are super important with tourists coming to your area looking for a great place to grab a drink and a bite to eat.
Even when it is busy and there are orders and tickets coming in non-stop, you should be able to clean the grill, utensils, and all surfaces to reduce the chance of raw or uncooked foods contaminating foods that you are about to serve to your customers.
The cleanest and best kitchens in the world recommend keeping a sink full of hot water and soap to continuously wash and clean items that get the most use. When the water starts to cool down, replace that water and soap and repeat throughout the night.
There should also be smaller bins with hot water and soap at every station in your kitchen so you can clean on the fly. Those bins should have clean towels next to them and also be rotated out routinely throughout the day.
The next most overlooked cause of foodborne illness is the handling of your food by chefs and servers alike. This includes not washing hands after touching other raw or uncooked foods and not washing hands properly after using the bathroom. The spread of germs and bacteria in the restaurant business is constant if hands and trays aren't washed constantly.
The easiest way to make sure that germs and bacteria aren't spread by hand is to wear gloves and change those gloves after preparing, serving and/or handling any cooked or uncooked item in the kitchen, at the bar as well as at the servers stations.
Any time food changes hands in the kitchen or from the kitchen to the servers and/or bartenders, gloves should be changed and hands should be washed. Also, the cleaning of the table and the bar after patrons leave can cut down on contamination.
Towels and rags should be swapped out and cleaned every time they are used to clean a surface or utensils as to not transfer contaminants from one area to the next. The type of constant cleaning being referred to is noticed by patrons and customers as well as health inspectors when the time comes.
Creating Lists to Stay on Top of Things
Owners, as well as kitchen and bar managers, should create lists to help employees maintain a safe workspace and environment. The cleaning list should include all surfaces, utensils that may be used during the course of the day and workstations that should be cleaned routinely before, during and after a shift.
These lists will help break down what needs to be cleaned and maintained every single day and will cut down on missed opportunities and items that should be cleaned multiple times per day.
Using hot water to clean the kitchen, salad bars, and beverage stations will help to kill any bacteria that may be left behind. The hotter the water the better, because germs and bacteria cannot survive at high temperatures.
Expressing the importance of these lists and cleaning to employees will help get the point across that keeping a clean kitchen will provide your employees and customers alike a clean workspace and dining experience.
But don't stop there - you should also have another list solely for the proper food safety temperatures. Post it in the kitchen so your chefs can easily access, and if your kitchen is big, post it in a couple of different food prep areas.
New Technology Is Here for a Reason
There is a wave of new technology being administered to the restaurant world that is helping keep restaurant kitchens safe and clean while also improving techniques in the organization.
These technological advancements reduce errors all while speeding up the process and precision of completing even the most mundane of tasks.
While traditional lists are a great tool to keep things running smoothly, the software alternative is designed to streamline jobs while also keeping your kitchen within safety rules and guidelines. That's right there are some great food safety software options out there that can really help you stay on top of things.
There are products that produce apps which include cook timers along with temperature gauges that sync directly with digital thermometers which minimize errors both on the user's end and within the tool itself. With the tap of a phone, tablet or computer screen you can check in on the temperature of your grills as well as your walk-in freezers and refrigeration units for salad bars and regular bars.
There are also lists within these apps and systems that can keep track of tasks performed by staffmembers, including how often each task should be completed while providing tracking software to make sure that each job was done not only properly but in a timely manner. This helps keep employees on track, while also creating a safer work environment and increasing productivity and making the most of the time spent on the clock.
Ultimately, the wave of new technology will pay of fin the longrun, becuase it will decrease waste by keeping track of the shelflife of stored food items, cutting down on wasted time spent by employees and management staff managing such inventory. More importantly, utilzing these advanced resources will prevent restaurant closures that may have consequently been a result of customer and employee illness and failed health inspections.
These tools help you get the most out of the food you purchase, the employees you hire, and the customers that you serve on a daily basis.
While consistency is a massive part of any food preparation and service business, so is efficiency. When things are done right in the fastest amount of time, every time, you keep your customers and employees happy which cuts down on people being fired or quitting and creates an atmosphere where your customers not only feel safe but treated well.
If someone trusts you enough to handle and prepare their food, then they should be rewarded with a great experience and one that they can count on time and time again.
A restaurant should work like a well-oiled machine. For everything to run smoothly and cohesively, everything needs to be under constant watch and surveillance.
Keeping an eye on even the smallest details such as meat being cooked to 165 degrees instead of 170 or 150 might not be a big deal to the layperson, but it could mean the difference between a happy customer tipping well on a one hundred dollar tab and someone walking out because a simple order couldn't be executed within reason.
These food safety tools will assist you in making sure that every burger, steak and chicken breast is cooked perfectly.
Food safety software like Zip HACCP is a super useful tool to help you with reminders and information use it! It will help keep your kitchen employees on task and make sure that you are following all safety procedures and guidelines.
Ultimately, it'll help to keep your business running smoothly for years and years while not overspending and having to throw food away because it has expired or wasn't prepared correctly.
With food costs being what they are and employee wages being the bulk of your spending you want to make sure that nothing is wasted at the end of the day whether it be product or time.