Are you running a restaurant? If yes, as a restaurateur, you must ensure that food safety is always your top priority. Safe handling and proper food storage will prevent your guests from falling sick. Did you know that according to the World Health Organization (WHO), foodborne illnesses, such as food poisoning, can cause long-lasting disability and even death.
It is therefore important to train your staff on food handling and storage safety protocols to prevent any foodborne illnesses. To help you and your staff learn the best food safety practices, we have compiled a list of guidelines and tips. Read on to learn what these tips are!
Basics of Food Handling & Storage in a Restaurant
Whether you’re new to the hospitality industry or a veteran, it’s your responsibility to ensure that all staff members are fully trained and well versed in all food handling and storage areas. A clear understanding of the following basics is non-negotiable:
- Personal hygiene: The restaurant workers should wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 30 seconds.
- Clean surfaces: They should always keep the storage area and other surfaces clean to prevent food contamination.
- Proper segregation and storage: It’s important to store different types of food, including meat, dairy, fish, vegetables, and others separately, in different containers to prevent cross-contamination.
- Food prep: There should be separate cutting/chopping boards for raw meats, vegetables, fruits, ready-to-eat foods, salad leaves, etc.
- Food should be cooked at the recommended temperature: Every food needs to be cooked at a specific temperature. For example, the safe cooking temperature for poultry products like chicken and turkey stays at 165 ºF. Thus, the kitchen workers/chefs must keep a cooking thermometer handy to ensure that food is cooked correctly.
- Refrigerate to keep your foods from spoiling: Refrigeration protects food from spoilage in the short term because it slows the activity of natural enzymes and the growth of microorganisms. But you must remember that if the temperature range is 40°–140°F, it’s the most favorable temperature at which bacteria grows. To protect food like fresh fruits, vegetables, and leftovers from spoilage through refrigeration, you must always keep the internal temperature between 34°–40°F.
With a staff trained and well-versed in these basics can help you curb food wastage and ensure optimum food preservation.
5 Useful Tips to Handle and Store Food in Restaurants
1. Keep a check on the inventory and food labeling
Every food item you buy for your restaurant should always be labeled with a ‘use-by date and then stored at an appropriate temperature in the right place. Do not buy and stock raw material without a ‘use by date label. This is a good practice to significantly reduce food contamination and avoid wastage. The ‘use-by-date label on the food item is to inform you and staff members that it is best to consume it before the mentioned date. Besides, it helps your staff decide which food item should be used first.
2. Understand dates for packaged foods
The first and the only way to protect a restaurant against potentially spoiled food is following the Stock Rotation. This rotation is generally based on the last date, also known as expiration date, used by date, or best before the date mentioned on the packaging. The expiration date is the recommended shelf life for products of the best quality. The ‘use-by date on the packaging tells you whether you can eat the food safely or not. If you have an inventory of the same products with different ‘best before’ dates in your restaurant, always follow the FIFO rule, which means First-in, first out.
3. Refrigerate at appropriate storage temperatures
Storing the food at an appropriate temperature is critical for restaurants to prevent bacterial growth. If the food is stored at a temperature above 8°C, the risk for the development of food poisoning bacteria is more likely. For this reason, it is legally required that restaurants always keep their refrigeration units' temperatures below 5°C. However, it’s recommended that you always maintain the temperature between 1 to 4°C. Similarly, frozen foods must be stored at -18 degrees or less.
4. Don’t overstock the inventory
A good cleanup of your storage spaces will set your restaurant business up for success. The amount of stock in your restaurant is linked directly to the temperature changes. You, as a restaurateur, must always avoid over-packing or overstocking the fridge. Keep enough free or open space in the refrigerators to allow cold air to circulate and chill the food properly. Overstocking refrigerators may lead to hot spots where bacteria can quickly develop and thrive. So, always make sure that your team at the restaurant always keeps a regular check on the stock. If your storage spaces are full of items you’re not using, it’s better to discard, distribute, or donate to orphanages or nursing homes for now. Besides, ask your team to always keep an eye on the temperature of freezers, refrigerators, cold rooms, etc. This monitoring can quickly be done by installing a wall-mounted thermometer in your restaurant’s storage rooms.
5. Use the Right Storage Containers
Whenever it arrives at storing the food while maintaining its freshness, it’s best always to use airtight containers. This is because food starts to spoil from the very moment it comes in contact with air. Fruits like apples, when cut, start oxidizing. If you want to increase the shelf life of the food dramatically, storing it in airtight containers will help you effectively do so. Using such containers, food hygiene and safety are never compromised as it doesn’t allow the food to get exposed to air and, as a result, prevents contamination. But always ensure that you don't forget to label the containers correctly to prevent mixing ingredients and foods.
Wrapping it Up
Did you know that the United States discards more food every year than any other country in the world. Yes, and that’s nearly 30 to 40 percent of the entire US food supply. Not just that, the restaurant industry bears an estimated cost of $162 billion in food wastage every year. But if the right steps are taken at the right time, it will become easy to tackle food waste in the US. So if you’re into the restaurant business and have got extra food or leftovers, follow the tips mentioned above to reduce the food waste and keep it safe to eat for as long as possible.