Restaurant work is physical labor – and at a time when it’s more challenging than ever to have a complete team ready to work, it’s important to do what you can to prevent on-the-job injuries. Consider how you’re managing manual-handling risks. Heavy or frequent lifting and carrying of bulk food containers can cause back injuries, as can reaching up or down into awkward or difficult-to- access spaces. Markel Insurance advises operators to store heavy items at a height between workers’ hips and chest, or to use carts to move heavy items from storage areas and coolers. Limit repetitive lifting where possible and ensure that when it must happen, workers are lifting with their legs and with the load directly in front of them and close to them. Adapt other areas in the restaurant that may not seem like big risks but can pose repetitive stress injuries, like pass-through windows that are too high or deep.
Reusable menus are so 2019 – and they are also among the grimiest items in your restaurant. If you want a more eco-friendly alternative to paper menus, consider blackboard menus, digital menus or menus available via QR code. The transition away from the large, reusable, multi-page menu doesn’t have just safety benefits, either – it can also help you make more frequent changes to your food selection, encourage you to whittle down your menu and allow you to focus on delivering a smaller variety of items especially well.
Summer often coincides with a spike in food poisoning as hot temperatures help foodborne pathogens thrive. The CDC advises that all perishable items are refrigerated within one hour, particularly if it’s 90°F or warmer. If you’re preparing food and serving guests outdoors, make sure employees are wearing gloves and using tongs for serving. Provide hand sanitizers or wipes if a handwashing sink isn’t immediately accessible. Finally, take extra care with marinades and sauces that may have touched raw meat and could spread bacteria to cooked foods through direct contact or splatter. When removing cooked meat from the grill, always use clean utensils and a clean plate.
Do you keep salt and pepper shakers on your tables, or even containers for condiments like ketchup and mustard? They are the kinds of items less likely to be cleared from tables between guests – and are therefore likely to be among the grimiest items in your restaurant, according to research from The Rail. If you haven’t done so already, edit down the items you keep on each table that guests are apt to touch. Ideally, provide packets or reusable containers for guests who request these items. If you need to keep the items on tables throughout the day, make sure they are included in your cleaning and sanitizing routine.
It's more than enough to make you lose your appetite: One of the least sanitary places in a restaurant is the ice machine – not what anyone wants to hear, especially during the season of cool drinks. As The Rail reports, a 2006 study found that 70 percent of ice in ice machines contained more bacteria than the water in a toilet. How can you avoid this, right now? A weekly cleaning with a chlorine solution can keep mold and slime at bay, while a water softener or phosphate filter can prevent scale buildup. Have the machine professionally serviced on a regular basis as well. Look for traces of mold, slime, scale or sediment in your ice machine regularly, and use a clean scoop (stored outside of the machine) to scoop ice.
Cleaning tools such as sponges and wiping cloths can become contaminated with bacterial pathogens and harbor these contaminants for more than two weeks, according to a recent study by researchers at the Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management at the University of Houston. The researchers found that E. coli, Salmonella and S. aureus survived for up to 16 days in sponges and 13 days on microfiber towels washed in sterile water – and that sanitizing solution is ineffective at sterilizing these tools after four hours. Are you replacing sanitizing solution frequently enough in your kitchen?
Amid labor and supply shortages, it’s more important than ever to be able to prepare items in bulk and find uses for all of them. Your labeling system can ensure you stay on top of food expiry dates and prioritize the use of items that have been placed in storage first, but an inconsistent system can lead to confusion on staff about the final usable date of a stored product. If that’s the case in your operation, Foodinspector.org advises using colored weekday-style stickers that are applied according to the expiration date of an item – so a food product with a Tuesday label can be used through the end of Tuesday but should be discarded prior to any food preparation on Wednesday.
Summer is prime time for fruit. If you are surrounded by a bounty of berries or other summertime favorites that you’d like to use later in the year, freeze them as close to harvest time as possible. To preserve quality and taste, rinse fruit in cool water in a colander and drain well. For fruits apt to brown or darken during freezing, dissolve ascorbic acid in water and then drizzle it over the fruit (or mix it into a sugar syrup if you’re freezing the fruit in one). Berries do best if they are dried and placed on a tray in a single layer, frozen for 30 minutes and then packed into freezer bags or high-quality freezer containers. Peach slices can be prepared the same way, frozen for several hours on a tray and then transferred to containers for freezing.