Food Safety Spotlight: Golden Corral

Golden Corral, an American family-style buffet and grill chain, first opened in 1973. The Raleigh, NC-based privately-held company has approximately 500 locations in 41 states with 9,000 employees. About 100 are company owned; the rest are franchised stores. In 2014, on average, a new Golden Corral restaurant opened every 11 business days. Also in 2014, on average a new franchise market was awarded every 13 business days. Systemwide sales for 2015 totaled $1.740 billion.  

How important is the issue of food safety?

Food safety is paramount at Golden Corral. We take the safety of our guests and employees very seriously. From a business perspective, it only takes one incident in one restaurant to have a detrimental impact on an entire chain. In the age of social media not only is information spread more quickly but also more widespread. What used to be a local issue can now become a national issue overnight.

What practices are in place to ensure food safety and quality?

We start with food safety training. All managers must be ServSafe certified. All new employees must take and pass our on-line food safety course prior to starting training in their skill position. Managers conduct a sanitation walk-thru a minimum of twice a day. The sanitation walk-thru includes checking calibration of all sanitizing dispensing units and buckets, checking cleanliness, cooler/freezer temperatures, etc. All recipes include a food safety section and all critical control points are highlighted. In addition to verifying food temperatures as part of the cooking process, temperatures of all prepared items on the buffet are verified four times a day. 

Lisa Schweickert
Lisa Schweickert

We also use a pre-wash for all of our fresh produce items.

All Golden Corral restaurants receive a quarterly third-party food safety audit. In addition, our internal quality assurance (QA) department audits each franchise location five times a year and each company location eight times per year.

What is typical prep work each day?

Each day we have employees prepare fresh vegetables and fruit for our hot and cold buffets. We also cut and grind all of our steaks, ground beef, pork and pot roast in house. We have specific food safety standards in each department. 

What kind of food safety training do back of house and front of house staff undergo?

All Golden Corral restaurant staff must successfully complete our Safe Tracks (food safety) on-line program. Recertification is determined by the local health department requirements. We also have a series of posters and job aids in various areas to highlight the key food safety items in that area. Periodically we will have a system-wide emphasis on various key points such as hand-washing or using our produce pre-wash. 

And how does it differ or is fit to match each job?

We use both overall food safety training for everyone that focuses on hand-washing/personal hygiene, hot food hot/cold food cold, preventing cross-contamination, allergens and employee health. We then follow up with specifics in each area.  

Is the training ongoing to instill the best practices in staff?


When you dine out, what do you look for in a restaurant regarding quality and cleanliness and have you ever walked out of a place because your expectations were not met?

I look for cleanliness of facilities, employees, food/smallwares handling, etc. Yes, I have left a restaurant because of the overall lack of sanitary conditions.

What are things you do you would like to see modeled in other restaurants?

I would like to see continual reinforcement and follow-up. Having an internal QA audit in addition to third-party food safety inspection helps ensure we continue to improve as a system. Golden Corral also has a system of rewards for great performance and a system for correction/follow-up if any inspection benchmarks are not met.