If you’re preparing food in large batches for guests in an effort to be efficient with your available resources, remind staff of food safety precautions to protect food as it cools. Steritech advises clients to cool cooked foods from 135°F to 70°F in two hours, and to 41°F within six hours. Divide dense foods into smaller portions and shallow containers to make cooling more consistent and avoid covering containers tightly until the food is fully cooled. If sending food home with guests, advise them to reheat their leftovers to at least 165°F and to freeze any food they won’t eat within three or four days.
Food safety tasks can be among those restaurant responsibilities that you pay closest attention to when something has gone wrong – a customer gets sick or leaves a negative review about the cleanliness of your facility, or an inspector notes something in your operation that needs to get better. But to set your business on the strongest possible course and improve staff behaviors in a lasting way, it’s important to focus on the positive. A recent Harvard Business School study found that regardless of the industry, business teams performed best when there was a positive-to-negative comment ratio around 6-to-1. In your training, team meetings and one-on-one interactions with staff, do you have plenty of ways to praise what is going well – through contests, positive comments or simple thank-yous? This may be even more important than reminding staff of what they need to do to improve.
Extreme weather events can threaten food safety if they cause power outages. If you have winter storms or other severe weather events in your forecast, take some steps beforehand to help make sure your food stays protected. The organization Food Safety Training Certification advises freezing extra containers of water and gel packs to keep food cool if the power goes out, to group foods together in the freezer to help them stay cold longer, and to freeze items like milk, fresh meat and poultry that you don’t need immediately. Buying block or dry ice may also be worthwhile to keep the refrigerator or freezer cold if an outage is expected to last for a prolonged period.
If, like most foodservice operators, you are struggling to keep your business fully staffed, make sure to assess how your food safety training procedures need to be adjusted for any temporary workers coming on board to fill shifts. Your procedures must also account for changes in how safety tasks are spread out among smaller numbers of staff if that is the case. Since temporary workers are likely less familiar with your food safety measures, they will need more step-by-step guidance to uphold them – ideally in an online, automated form they can review as needed without other staff having to take time out to address questions.
Consumers still care a lot about restaurant safety – and according to a new Deloitte survey of 1,000 consumers who had eaten in a restaurant in recent months, they want to see it in action. More than half of the respondents (55 percent) said they would be willing to pay 10-15 percent more at a restaurant if they were told about the safety and cleanliness measures the business was taking to protect their food during transport and preparation. Further, consumers are noticing both traditional cleaning measures and more recent Covid-safety measures more acutely right now. Find ways to make your safety efforts more visible – in cleaning surfaces around your facility, preparing food or protecting employees and guests, and even with signage that explains all you’re doing to protect the people you’re serving and employing
At a time when supply chain strains make it difficult to know if or when a key ingredient will arrive, there is even more reason for restaurant operators to turn to local suppliers for menu items. Just make sure to screen these suppliers for strong food safety practices, particularly if they are small or new businesses. Every supplier should be able to demonstrate its adherence to best food safety practices, including its protocols for preventing cross-contamination. Make sure you’re comfortable with their transparency and ability to trace a food item from its source to its delivery to you. Take care with deliveries and inspect every shipment for proper color, temperature and freshness.
For consumers with food allergies, eating out can be a minefield. But restaurants that earn the trust of these guests stand to win customers for life. To send the clear message that you take food allergies and sensitivities seriously, get out in front with your messaging. Online, ensure your website includes ingredient lists and identifies common allergens – that information can easily help an allergic guest decide in advance to eat with you. In your restaurant, post a QR code that guests can scan for allergen-specific information – and ensure it’s in plain sight on menus and in the locations where guests place orders.
Restaurant operators are being challenged to make their delivery menu items interesting, as well as appealing and safe to consume after a car trip. But when everything from coffee to ice cream is available and popular for delivery, food packaging becomes especially important. Your to-go packaging should lock out air and contaminants that can alter the integrity of the food being transported, so ensure lids and wrapping are sealed securely. When packing items for delivery, separate cold, hot and aromatic foods that could alter the temperature, taste and quality of the food or drink next to it.
Different parts of your facility are likely experiencing more sharp fluctuations in temperature this season than usual as you try to keep your building warm enough for the comfort of guests and staff but also well ventilated. When you turn up your thermostat, note that any increase in heat in your kitchen and dining room can pose food safety problems for cold tables, open display coolers, or buffets with cold food items in those areas (in addition to being less energy-efficient). Make sure those items are covered when not in use, and that you’re checking food temperatures on a regular basis to ensure foods stay out of the danger zone.
‘Tis the season for preparing large amounts of food for holiday gatherings – and finding ways to use the leftovers. To store leftovers safely and keep foods out of the temperature danger zone (between 40°F and 140°F), refrigerate or freeze any perishable food within two hours. Make sure you place hot leftovers in small or shallow containers to ensure thorough cooling during refrigeration – and use an ice bath to quickly cool a hot dish beforehand. Keep a thermometer handy to check the temperature of cooling food and ensure it remains out of the danger zone.