The Importance of Documenting Your Restaurant’s Gluten-Free Practices and Procedures

It’s simply a fact that restaurants are busy places. Getting good food out and serving customers promptly and attentively is the recipe for success, whether your establishment is a large franchise chain or a single location restaurant.

Because restaurants are such fast-paced environments, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that operational policies and procedures are often conveyed “on the fly” to employees by the chef or owner. Particularly in non-franchised establishments, procedures are often simply “in the chef’s head” and not written down, except for whatever regulations are required by the local health department.

The important thing is to write the procedures down and have the plan in place.

While the lack of formal procedures in many restaurants is understandable, it is problematic for establishments that want to safely serve the gluten-free community or other patrons with food allergies. Putting procedures in writing that are carefully followed to ensure safe food preparation and handling is a best practice that every establishment offering gluten-free or other allergy safe dishes should have in place. While it will require a little time, it will be time well spent in order to avoid the risk of a patron becoming sick as well as provide a solid resource for employee training and transparency with customers.

Restaurants don’t need to follow a particular format or complete formal paperwork to put these procedures in writing. It doesn’t matter if they are written on the restaurant letterhead or lined notebook paper. The important thing is to write the procedures down and have the plan in place. That way, if the chef or owner gets sick or isn’t available for some other reason, employees can refer to the written document if there are questions about safe food preparation.

A practical way to get procedures in writing is simply to have an employee follow the chef around during a normal day and write down what the chef is doing as they do it. The employee can put in writing important steps, such as keeping pots and pans used for gluten-free preparations on a top shelf to avoid the potential for cross-contamination. With written procedures in place, everyone in the restaurant can reference them and ensure that the business runs properly and safely at all times.

Of course, another excellent way to develop written policies and procedures to ensure safety with gluten-free preparations is to work with a competent third-party certification organization. The third-party certification will entail reviewing the restaurant’s unique environment and establishing written best practices for safe restaurant operations. Achieving certification will provide assurance to diners that your restaurant is committed to safety and will follow the same practices and procedures with every gluten-free dish it prepares. Certification will also involve a commitment to ongoing training of front and back of the house staff. The certification process can be accomplished in as little as six weeks.

Establishing written practices and procedures for the safe preparation of gluten-free dishes will reduce the risk of mistakes occurring as a result of inconsistent practices and will demonstrate your restaurant’s commitment to the well-being of every customer. Whether you choose to engage in the process internally or to obtain assistance from a third-party certification organization, standardizing and memorializing your establishment’s practices and procedures will result in a win-win for your customers and your restaurant.