Prioritize Food Safety This Month and Throughout the Year

The food your restaurant serves should taste good, look appealing, and be safe! Each year, food safety breaches sicken 48 million people in the United States and, of those, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die. Prioritize food safety and avoid mistakes that could contribute to these statistics – like serving undercooked burgers, allowing employees to work when ill, accepting a delivery of temperature-abused products, etc.

September’s Food Safety Month is the perfect time to reinforce the importance of food safety protocols – and ensure that your employees are compliant. Restaurant brands should build (and maintain) a strong food safety culture, give employees the proper tools and training, and uphold the highest food safety standards. 

During Food Safety Month – and throughout the year – follow these tips to boost food safety and mitigate risks:

  • Build a strong food safety culture. Food safety must be “baked in” to your brand’s culture so key audiences know that you prioritize it. Consumers now demand more transparency so they can feel more comfortable and confident about the products they eat and the brands they support. All employees must work diligently to protect your food, customers, and brand.
  • Prioritize training. Provide ongoing training to keep important food safety protocols top-of-mind for all employees. Use trusted resources to cover critical topics, like how to avoid cross-contamination, how to cook and store foods properly, the importance of using food thermometers, etc. Role play common scenarios to make training more interactive, engaging, and memorable. Regularly send “bite sized chunks” of information to employees’ smartphones to reinforce key information. Ensure that all employees understand – and follow – your food safety protocols.
  • Rely on technology. Tech tools are instrumental in boosting food safety, enforcing safety standards, reducing risk, and protecting brands by optimizing line checks, inspections, auditing, equipment monitoring, temperature checks, and reporting. Additionally, tech solutions can provide a comprehensive view of your enterprise, offering key data and insights that allow you to make more informed decisions to elevate safety.
  • Consider trends. Does your brand have a certain location – or certain shifts – where mistakes happen frequently? Tech tools collect and analyze data, providing at-a-glance reports so managers can pinpoint noncompliance trends. Identifying potential “problem areas” allows you to focus time and resources accordingly to increase compliance and reduce risks. Armed with this data, you could decide to retrain staff, adjust processes, increase inspections, etc. 
  • Follow gold standard protocols. Ensure that employees follow best practice food safety protocols. Reinforce the “basics,” like cooking foods to proper temperatures, washing hands frequently, storing foods properly, not cross-contaminating, not working when ill, etc. Require employees to wash their hands before working with food, after using the restroom, coughing, blowing their nose, and after handling money, raw proteins, or chemicals. Only work with suppliers that follow the strictest food safety protocols, and don’t accept food deliveries if you’re concerned about products’ safety.

Food Safety Month is the perfect time to reinforce your commitment to food safety.

  • Empower employees. Emphasize that everyone is responsible for food safety, and empower employees to be part of the solution. Provide the proper tools and training so employees can do their jobs correctly (and safely). Don’t just tell employees what to do, but explain why the rules are in place. Employees will be more likely to comply if they understand the reasons behind the protocols, and the possible ramifications of non-compliance. Give employees ownership of your food safety program, and empower them to speak up when they see possible infractions.
  • Prioritize cleanliness and sanitation.  Everything in your restaurant should be meticulously clean. Enforce proper handwashing, with easily accessible handwash sinks. Insist that your staff properly clean and sanitize all surfaces, cooking equipment and tools, utensils, dishes, etc. Employees should wear clean hats or hair restraints (including beard restraints) when prepping and cooking food. 
  • Monitor your suppliers. It’s important for your restaurant to follow gold standard safety protocols, but that alone is not enough. You must also ensure that all your suppliers are prioritizing food safety – and following proper protocols – because a breach anywhere along the supply chain can put customers – and your restaurant – at risk. Work only with approved suppliers that prioritize food safety and are aligned with your values. Conduct regular reviews to confirm that your suppliers are compliant to help reduce risk for your brand. Prioritize supply chain transparency. Work collaboratively with suppliers to exchange information about safety protocols and certifications. If they’re not willing to disclose this information, find new suppliers!
  • Be transparent. Key audiences (including customers and employees) expect to see safety protocols being implemented correctly and consistently. Promote your commitment to food safety on your website, social media, and onsite signage to reassure priority populations that your restaurant is committed to food safety. This can help drive more traffic – and attract and retain employees who want to work for companies that prioritize safety.

Food Safety Month is the perfect time to reinforce your commitment to food safety. Prioritize training, build a solid food safety culture, rely on tech tools, be transparent, work with like-minded suppliers, and empower employees to maximize safety and mitigate risks. These efforts will help keep your restaurant – and your guests – safer.