Nothing ruins a delightful night at a restaurant quite like a hair in the minestrone soup. Imagine for a moment the journey this intrepid traveller, this hitchhiker, must have taken from the waitress’ head to your customer’s bowl. Right now, your customer is imagining this very journey, only her imagination is populating the tale with background images of a dirty sink, chefs without hairnets, and cockroaches in your kitchen. How can you hold onto something as elusive, as precious as your customer’s high esteem of your restaurant, when fantasy can grow larger than reality?
If you’re the business owner or second-in-charge at a restaurant, you’ll be able to list the shake-ups that can dismantle the atmosphere you’ve worked hard to cultivate in your restaurant. Forgotten orders. Customer allergies. Poor quality service and food.
Food safety is about more than taking steps to reduce food-borne illness. It is about ensuring quality – the quality of food and quality of ambience. Food safety forms a vital part of quality assurance.
More in your food sector than in any other, Food Safety Supervisors play an integral role in ensuring that high quality through creating and maintaining a Food Safety Program. This guide has been developed to help you improve food safety in your restaurant, both as a measure to protect your restaurant’s brand and to meet customers’ increasing concern for safety.
A Restaurant’s Food Safety Program
To deliver an effective Food Safety Program in a restaurant, you will need to design your Food Safety Program to anticipate the unique challenges faced by restaurants. These include:
- Building strong relationships with food suppliers
- Capitalising on partnerships with cleaning suppliers
- Ensuring food product traceability
- Optimising a restaurant-style kitchen
- Ensuring personal hygiene in employees
- Training wait staff incorrect food safety
Building Strong Relationships with Suppliers
In the restaurant industry, establishing a strong working relationship with your supplier is imperative. As the Food Safety Supervisor, your job is to improve food safety and reduce long-term costs from mishandling a supplier relationship by analysing your business’ food sourcing practices and developing quality assurance guidelines. Your relationship with your supplier should be carefully built and maintained to guarantee longevity.
Here are a few guidelines to help you develop your business’ supplier policy.
Select a food supplier that has undergone an audit and has a strong reputation
Shop around before selecting a food supplier, and once you find a strong, deserving candidate, stick with them. Building a sustainable restaurant-supplier relationship involves mutual trust and loyalty.
Opt for a supplier that consistently delivers high quality
Use your quality assurance guidelines each time a delivery is made to ensure that the produce meets stringent safety standards.
Strive to build a long-term relationship
Make the extra effort to get to know, network and build rapport with your supplier. Communication is key here. Mix email communication with regular face-to-face contact and phone calls, as well as visits to their offices. Always remember that suppliers can be advocates for your business; their industry contacts might even become useful to you in the future.
Always pay your supplier on time
Suppliers should always feel comfortable that your restaurant won’t renege on an agreement. If something unexpected happens, call your suppliers and talk to them. It’s much better to reach out to your supplier before they start calling you to follow up on overdue bills.
Communicate your needs on an ongoing basis
Give your suppliers adequate lead time and communicate your needs clearly on an ongoing basis. Crises are sometimes unavoidable, but if you’re that annoying client who always calls suppliers with a last minute request, it can lead to supplier-purchaser relationship breakdown.
Let your suppliers know about any special promotions you’re thinking of cooking up, so that they are better prepared to fulfil your order if it is larger than normal. This also offers your supplier the chance to market useful services to you if they spot an additional service they can provide.
Cleaning Product Suppliers
Forming a partnership with a cleaning supplier can help improve your business’ food safety standards and construct a robust Food Safety Program.
Use their expertise to your advantage
With help from your supplier, you can negotiate special deals to take advantage of personalised cleaning solutions, tailored to your restaurant. This will allow you to home in on cost-effectiveness using economies of scale, and the increase the quality of your cleaning efforts.
Build a thorough cleaning schedule
Make a list of every area of your restaurant kitchen. When evaluating your restaurant’s cleaning needs, consider everything from the exterior of your restaurant, kitchen equipment and prep areas to stoves, refrigerators, floors and drains. It’s also important to keep the hotspot areas that customers frequent, such as bathrooms, in top shape without dirt or unpleasant, lingering odours. Your aim here is to control bacteria, such as salmonella, E.coli and Listeria, from festering in your restaurant unnoticed.
As Food Safety Supervisor, you also have a duty to ensure that your business has an efficient product traceability system in place, both as a way to increase transparency with customers and to keep up to date with product recalls that can create upheaval in your business.
Organise Your Kitchen
Build your kitchen around your workflow
Kitchens should be designed to maximise cleanliness, organisation and efficiency.
- Organise your kitchen space to save time on daily tasks by adopting the Golden Triangle Principle
- Assign space to each kitchen utensil (for example, place measuring cups next to mixing bowls, the grater next to the vegetable peeler, for optimal retrieval)
- Invest in time-saving kitchen utensils (ensure that you only purchase utensils that you will use regularly and aid efficiency)
- Consider hazard control when designing your kitchen, including limiting floor obstructions
- Find the quickest way to trash the food waste
- Use a 5L plastic bowl to collect food waste and, once the bowl is filled, empty it into the large garbage bin
- Build a hole in the kitchen counter and install a garbage bin underneath
- Create a FIFO (First In, First Out) food rotation system to ensure your food is always fresh
- Clean and sanitise kitchen utensils as you go, after you complete a task
- Before cleaning floors, make sure floor drains are unobstructed and functioning properly
- Foodservice floors should be sealed with a low- or anti-slip coating to ensure sanitation and reduce the possibility of a slip-and-fall accident
- All floor care work should be performed before cleaning food handling/processing equipment to help prevent floor soils and debris from becoming airborne and landing on workstations or equipment
- Mops and buckets should be changed and cleaned daily, as soiled mops and buckets can spread contaminants across the floor
- A 175-rpm buffer should be used at least once per week, or daily if necessary, to loosen soils, grease and oil that may build up on floors
- Mops, buckets, squeegees, chemicals, and all floor care equipment should be stored off the ground on shelves or racks to keep the equipment clean and deter pests
The personal hygiene of workers should be incorporated into the Food Safety Program and reviewed frequently, as this can have a huge impact on food safety. To start with, workers:
- Should be trained on when and how to wash their hands properly
- Must understand the importance of coming to work in good health to help stop the spread of germs
- If appropriate, should relinquish their uniforms to the Food Safety Supervisor to be properly washed at the end of each shift
Food Safety Supervisors should prominently display food safety posters and charts in the workplace to encourage workers to adopt hygienic work practices.
Training Wait Staff In Food Safety
Food safety training is sometimes abysmally absent in wait staff, simply because restaurant owners forget to think about how food safety permeates the whole picture. From the owner and the kitchen staff to waitstaff, there is no one in your business who should underestimate the importance of food hygiene.
The truth is, your wait staff are your front-line ambassadors, and if they commit crimes against food safety, they do it in full view of your customers. To observe higher standards of food safety and presentation, train your wait staff to:
- Replace and clean water jugs more than once throughout the session
- Dress appropriately, pinning hair back if it is long
- Ask customers about their allergy risks and suggest alternative options if necessary
- Handle chilled glasses with care; glass is more fragile when cold
- Carry only the weight that feels safe and comfortable
- Regularly wash their hands for 20 seconds, following hand-washing guidelines
- Wash their hands after touching their hair or face, or sneezing