It looks like outdoor dining is here to stay for a while – particularly as many restaurants around the U.S. are closing or limiting their indoor seating due to the spread of the Delta variant. If you plan to serve guests outdoors in the months ahead, ensure the safety of your outdoor service capabilities. Have yours evolved past the temporary measures you may have had in place over the past year? Create permanent and well-stocked outdoor service stations to minimize your staff’s trips around your facility. Check that footpaths are flat and clear of obstructions. Ensure that awnings and all covered outdoor spaces are structurally secure and don’t pose safety risks.
At a time when so many restaurants are short-staffed, it’s especially important for your food safety practices to be infused in your operation’s daily dialogue. Restaurant leadership should weave food safety into their communications – with their messages cascading to employees frequently and via a range of written and verbal communication channels. Managers should model the food safety practices they expect from their staff. Reminders of key safety practices should be posted around your facility – and be a regular topic in meetings and conversations. Consider how you can reinforce safety messages through staff contests, quizzes and shift checklists.
Would your staff know at what temperature food falls into the temperature danger zone? Could they explain how they ensure food that needs to be discarded is removed at the proper time? Chances are your staff roster has seen some drastic changes in recent months – and you may have had to compromise on the skillsets of the newer people you have hired. As you onboard new staff, it’s important for them to understand and be able to correctly answer questions about your food safety program. Make food safety education an ongoing part of your training and conduct surprise mock inspections on a regular basis so the official ones aren’t a challenge to pass (and don’t create the need for additional formal inspections throughout the year).
Standing water – whether inside or outside of your facility – spells trouble. Outdoors, it is a breeding ground for pests. Indoors, it harbors pathogens and can release aerosols that contaminate your food preparation areas. In a recent report from Total Food Service, hospitality and food safety specialist Dhruv Kishore Bole advises operators to ensure food waste and water doesn’t accumulate in drains – and to cover all drain and food intersections so there is less opportunity for debris to collect and attract pests.
When the exterior of your facility is clean and tidy, it doesn’t just appeal to guests who are being more vigilant about cleanliness – it also deters pests looking to enter the building. Colder weather is coming and pests will be looking for warm places to hide. Ensure that any trees or shrubs are cut back a few feet from the sides of the building, seal any cracks in your concrete, and remove any stagnant water near your facility as it can help pests breed. Have your staff check the restaurant’s entrances and exterior walls regularly for signs that pests are gathering or looking for entry points.
In your restaurant, is there a stark division between food preparation areas and the areas where staff store and access their personal belongings? These items can introduce pathogens to your food preparation areas. To minimize contamination risk, make sure all personal electronics, clothing, and even items used on the job, such as uniforms, are stored in a room away from food. Employees should access these items on breaks only, and with thorough handwashing afterwards.
A moist, warm environment like your kitchen – particularly in the summer – can lead to the buildup of moisture and grease around your facility, which can, in turn, create mold contamination risks and increase the likelihood of workplace accidents. Hospitality and food safety specialist Dhruv Kishore Bole advises operators to ensure proper ventilation, schedule deep cleaning tasks at regular intervals and to have the hood and ducts cleaned by an outside vendor at least once every three of four months to prevent the accumulation of grease and minimize fire hazards.
As careful as your kitchen team may be about wiping up regularly, if they use rags that aren’t washed, sanitized and/or replaced frequently enough, they run the risk of spreading pathogens around your facility and potentially contaminating food. Warm kitchens are especially effective breeding grounds for bacteria. Make sure your cleaning rags are replaced or washed daily and that between uses, you store wet reusable cloths in a container with sanitizer at the required concentration.