Restaurant Food Safety Matters


Restaurant Food Safety Matters


food safetyRestaurant Food Safety in today’s world matters. No restaurant is immune in compromising food safety. Things happen, although there are certain factors that must happen when receiving, storing and serving food and drinks to your customers and staff members.

What is the flow of food?

Step 1 – Purchasing and receiving

When purchasing any food or drink items always buy from reputable vendors. Use a food order sheet with par amounts when ordering food and drinks. The use of the food order form will allow you to order the right amount of food without over or under ordering.

Homemade or uninspected food is not allowed. Inspect all incoming food for torn, damaged or stained boxes. Inspect the condition of the delivery truck. Check the temperature of incoming food. Refrigerated foods must be at (40ºF) or less. Frozen food must be between (0ºF to -5 ºF).

Always check each food and drink product during the delivery process for temperature and quality. Temperature of foods and drinks during the delivery process is vital in food safety. As your manager is checking the truck in, it is very important that each product is inspected. Meat, seafood, produce and perishable items need to be inspected for quality, temperature, and freshness ensures food safety is not compromised. Sight, touch and smell are key factors in pinpointing what foods or drinks are safe to eat or what foods are potentially dangerous to serve.

All frozen food being delivered to your restaurant should maintain a temperature of 0°F to -5°F. If the frozen product is above 0°F and if the product has ice crystals, then reject the item and request a food credit. Ice crystals usually form on frozen food when food was partially or fully thawed, then refrozen, or when an item has been frozen for a long period of time past the recommended shelf life.

All refrigerated foods delivered to your restaurant should maintain a temperature of 40°F or below.


Step 2 – Storage

Always put all food away immediately as it comes off the delivery truck.

What is the temperature the danger zone and why is it so important to food safety? The temperatures between 41°F to 135°F degrees Fahrenheit, with the most rapid bacteria growth occurring between 70°F and 125°F degrees.

Keep all food storage areas clean, sanitized and organized at all times. Keep all foods and drinks at least 6 inches from off the floor. Always rotate foods and use date dots to identify what the foods are along with the shelf life information.

Use food approved storage containers when storing opened foods or prepped foods, then cover them. Use date dots and use by stickers on all opened and unopened foods. Rotate all food, especially newly delivered foods, first in, first out (FIFO). Store all raw foods below cooked or ready to eat foods to prevent cross contamination.

All refrigeration units including reach-in units must have a working thermometer in them. Temperatures must be maintained at (40ºF) or less.

All freezer units, including reach-in units must have a working thermometer in them. Temperatures must be maintained at (0ºF to -5 ºF).

Dry Storage – Keep food at least (6 inchs) off the floor to facilitate cleaning and to easily identify rodent problem.

Step 3 – Preparation (including defrosting)

Follow all recipe specs and proper temperatures during the food preparation process. Always wash your hands and use gloves when preparing foods. Always use hats/hair nets and beard nets when preparing all foods. When preparing foods, start off with the proper tools, such, as a sanitation bucket, gloves, proper utensils, mixing bowls, recipe guide and storage containers. Always prep one item at a time. Once done clean up using a food approved surface cleaner and sanitizer, let air dry, then go on to the next item to prep. Prepare food in small batches. Prevent cross contamination by cleaning and sanitizing utensils and work surfaces in between tasks, or by using color coded cutting boards for different foods. Prepare the food as close to serving time as possible.

Use the pull thaw sheet to determine the right amount of food to pull from the freezer to the refrigerator without creating spoilage or waste. When thawing product, there are several ways to thaw them out correctly:

  1. Place the frozen item into the refrigerator to thaw naturally. Always use date dot and use by stickers.
  2. Thaw items in a food approved sink by running cold running water directly on it.
  3. In the microwave on the defrost cycle

Raw food defrosted should not be refrozen; Use item within 2 days.

Step 4 – Cooking

Cooking temperatures:

  1. Whole (chicken, turkey) minimum internal temperature of 180 ºF.
  2. Poultry pieces or ground poultry to a minimum internal temperature of 175 ºF.
  3. Hazardous mixed foods, such as stuffing to a minimum internal temperature of 165 ºF.
  4. Ground meats (beef, pork or lamb) to an internal temperature of 160 ºF.
  5. Pork or pork products to an internal temperature of 160 ºF.
  6. Fish to an internal temperature of 158 ºF.

Use a probe thermometer to check the cooking temperatures. Temperatures must be maintained for at least 15 seconds.

Microwave Cooking

When microwaving food occasionally stir the food to ensure that it is cooked at the correct temperature. Use only microwave approved containers.


Step 5 – Cooling Foods

Food should be cooled from (140ºF) to (40ºF) within 4 to 6 hours.

How to reduce cooling times:

  • Place pots of food in an ice water bath.
  • Divide large quantities of food into smaller containers (4 inches) in depth.
  • Stir frequently.
  • Slice or divide large cuts of meat into smaller pieces.
  • Place in the refrigerator and once it cools to (40ºF) cover the container

Step 6 – Hot and Cold Holding

Proper Hot Holding

  • Maintain temperature of hazardous food above (140°F).
  • Check internal temperature of the food using a metal stem probe thermometer every 2 hours.
  • Never cook or reheat food in hot holding equipment.

Proper Cold Holding

Keep food cold in refrigerated units or on ice. The internal temperature of the food must be maintained at (40ºF) or less.

Step 7 – Reheating

  • Reheat cold hazardous food to original cooking temperature. Reheat quickly on or in the stove. Never reheat slowly over several hours in hot holding units. Place food in/on stove or in the microwave to reheat, then place in hot holding units. When foods drop below 140°F, it must be reheated to an internal temperature of 165°F for 15 seconds. Foods can be reheated using the following methods: Stove top, steam, oven or microwave methods

Step 8 – Serving Food

Before all foods are stored in hot holding unit or if foods need to be heated prior to serving it to the guest, it must maintain an internal temperature of 165°F for 15 seconds. Always use gloves, hats/hair nets and beard nets when in contact or serving foods. Foods stored in a hot food holding unit must maintain an internal temperature of 140°F or higher. When foods drop below 140°F, it must be reheated to an internal temperature of 165°F for 15 seconds. Foods can be reheated using the following methods: Stove top, steam, oven or microwave methods.

Do not stack plates when serving meals to customers. Ensure service areas kept clean, and regularly wipe down menus. If transporting foods, ensure vehicles are clean and foods are held at proper hot or cold holding temperatures.


Does the food look fresh and appealing? For example, meats should be bright red in color.


Using gloves, touch certain food, for example, meats during the touching step will spring back, which in indicates the meat is okay to prepare and serve to your customers. If the indentation does not spring back, don’t accept it, request a full credit. If the meat or seafood is slimy defiantly don’t accept it, request a full credit.


If the item has a foul- odor don’t accept it, request a credit. If the item is on the borderline in reference to sight, touch and smell don’t chance it, reject it and request a credit. It’s not worth serving food that was compromised. If you do accept it you are risking foodborne illnesses and your reputation and possible legal consequences.

Remember when I said, no restaurant is immune in regards to compromising food safety:

In 1982, McDonald’s had an outbreak due to E.coli.

In 1993 Jack in the Box Jack had an outbreak due to E.coli.

In 1997 Burger King sever ties with Arkansas-based beef processor Hudson Foods after it recalled over 25 million pounds of meat, including hamburger patties that made 16 people ill due to E-coli.

In July of 1999, Kentucky Fried Chicken had an outbreak due to E/coli.

Other restaurants, such as Taco bell, Sizzler, Wendy’s, Jimmy Johns and recently Chipotle also had E. coli outbreaks from tainted beef or contaminated vegetables.

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These severe outbreaks sicken hundreds of people and damaged the above restaurant’s reputation. Ultimately the restaurant’s revenue was effected big time. It only takes one potential safety issue to affect your restaurant’s future. Do you really want to chance that?

Food Safety Inspection Checklist

This checklist can be used daily, monthly, semiannually or annually. Allow plenty of time to properly do this inspection based on your business size. It could take up to 1 hour to several hours to conduct this inspection. Be thorough and detail orientated. The purpose of this form is to identify potential food safety issues in your restaurant or bar. If the food safety issue poses a direct health threat to your customers or staff members, then it should be corrected immediately, and then documented during the inspection process.

All in a nutshell, be proactive and identify food safety issues before it becomes a major problem, which can result in the closing of your business along with fines and incarceration.



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