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Food Safety Guidelines Overview: The Complete Guide to Restaurant Food Safety

Food Safety Guidelines Overview: The Complete Guide to Restaurant Food Safety

Last updated on 12/12/2017

Nothing can ruin a restaurant’s reputation faster than a negative review of sanitation and safety. Restaurant owners know that the health inspector has a major effect on their good standing, but today, they must also be careful of what customers write on social media sites. The best approach to keep your reputation intact and your customers coming back for more is to practice proper restaurant food safety in your establishment. Follow these food safety tips to keep your customers safe and coming back for more of your delicious food!

Avoid a Food Poisoning Disaster

If a customer gets food poisoning from your eatery, the experience is sure to leave a permanent negative impression. Then you have to worry about that customer telling others about the bad experience both in person and online. Avoid foodborne illness altogether with these simple tips that should be practiced in every kitchen.

Just Say No to Cross-Contamination

Plate Stack

Raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs are often sources of dangerous bacteria, such as salmonella and other contaminants. Keep raw items away from other foods at all costs. Also, it is important that meat and eggs never get rinsed in a sink that is used for vegetable prep. This practice can lead to a contaminated sink with the dangerous potential to harm customers. If you have a designated sink for rinsing meat, it is still important to wash, rinse, and sanitize when finished rinsing. Color-coded cutting boards, knives, and other products can help prevent cross-contamination by avoiding confusion. 

Our complete guide to cross-contamination prevention can be found here.

Avoid an Allergic Reaction

For diners with food allergies, going out to eat can be a life-threatening experience if the kitchen staff does not practice proper allergen safety. “The Big 8” are the eight most common food allergies: milk, fish, soybeans, tree nuts, peanuts, eggs, shellfish, and wheat. Avoid crossing these common allergens with other foods by using food allergy safety products, especially if you are labelling a specific dish “allergy free.”

For specific food allergy safety tips, check out our articles on food allergies in restaurants, and our detailed food allergy overview.

Steer Clear of the “Danger Zone”


When it comes to food safety, one of the most important things to remember is temperature. The “Danger Zone” is any temperature between 41 and 135 degrees Fahrenheit. Keeping food out of the “danger zone” is imperative for proper food safety in your restaurant. Food that resides in this temperature zone can grow harmful bacteria, including salmonella, which can make customers very sick. For this reason, never thaw or marinate outside of the refrigerator. When thawing frozen meat or fish, use clean, cold running water, or leave on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator to prevent juice from dripping onto other ingredients. During the thawing process, it is important that the product remains in its original, watertight packaging. When marinating, items should be stored in a sealed container.

Read our comprehensive guide to avoiding the danger zone and ensure that your food is bacteria free.

Put Pests in Their Place

Nothing can turn a diner’s stomach faster than seeing a rodent or bug in your establishment. Not only do pests stir up fear in guests, but they can spread harmful diseases to the food in your kitchen. Keep your restaurant free of creepy crawlies with this guide to restaurant pest control.

Utilize Proper Sanitation Techniques


It’s easy to wipe down a table or countertop, but there’s a special system for proper sanitation. First, clear the area of debris or leftover food. Next, clean the surface with hot soapy water. To avoid chemical contamination, the following step is essential: rinse the surface with water and a clean cloth. This prepares the surface for sanitation with a sanitizing wipe or other professional sanitizer. Use this process on tables, chairs, and all food prep surfaces.

For information regarding cutting board sanitation, check out our complete guide here.

Keep Staff in the Know

A kitchen’s staff must run smoothly and efficiently, working together to bring out the best possible food to your customers. In the same way, they must also work together in the fight against foodborne illness. Go over these food safety tips with your employees, and make sure they use their knowledge in the kitchen. Consider a ServSafe Certification for yourself and your managers to ensure that you know what to do in any food safety situation. 

For the benefit of all kitchen staff, conduct a mock health inspection and put specific emphasis on food safety guidelines. Don’t be afraid to quiz your staff on their food safety knowledge. What they know and put into practice could be the difference between a customer having an enjoyable meal or having a violent bout of food poisoning.

No matter how good the food is, without restaurant food safety, an establishment can be shut down. Don’t let improper food safety practices into your kitchen. You and your staff should review our restaurant safety tips to ensure quality, safe, and delicious food leaves your kitchen during every rush.

Related Resources

Food Handling Certification: How to Obtain a Food Handling Certificate

When it comes to keeping your food safe, proper handling is just as important as proper storage. Ensuring your employees know the principles of safe food handling is not only critical to the success of your business, but also the health of your customers. Unsanitary handling can lead to food contamination, foodborne illness, lawsuits, and other problems that have the potential to harm the reputation — and the bottom line — of your restaurant. To keep your customers well and your health inspectors happy, the first step is to implement an  HACCP plan . The next is to have your staff earn their food handling certifications. ServSafe Certification Duration: 5 Years ServSafe is one of the most popular food safety courses in the United State

How to Prevent Cross-Contamination

Cross-contamination of food can lead to serious health risks like food poisoning or unintended exposure to food allergens. If your kitchen staff members know how to store and prepare food correctly to avoid cross-contamination, you can save the time and money that would be wasted on improperly handled food. By making the effort to separate your foods while storing and preparing them, sanitizing your kitchen surfaces and equipment, and practicing proper personal hygiene, you can create a safe and sanitary kitchen environment that is better for your customers, your employees, and your business. What is Cross-Contamination? Cross-contamination occurs when disease-causing microorganisms, like bacteria and viruses, are transferred from one food

Preparing for a Health Inspection

Health inspections can be a frustrating and stressful experience, but it’s important to remember that health inspectors don’t come knocking to shut down your operation. Health inspections are held to make sure food products are handled and prepared according to state and local regulations to protect the public. Once you understand the food codes and have a plan in order for cleaning your restaurant, health inspections become a routine experience. What to Know Before a Health Inspection Health inspections are usually conducted between 1 and 4 times a year, so it is important that your operation is always ready. Before your health inspection, it is important to know about the various regulatory agencies that create and enforce the food safety

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