Restaurant advice and tips


30 JULY 2019


1.   The Clean Rule

Cleanliness is a major component of food safety and one of the four C’s of food safety rules. It’s also a great way to eliminate the one C you should always avoid, cross-contamination.

As you change tasks in the kitchen, be sure to wash your hands between jobs. Hand washing goes beyond a little water; the process should take no less than 20 seconds and involve hot soapy water, with antibacterial soap, and thorough drying. In other words, don’t wash your hands like your kids wash their hands – clean your hands like a doctor going into surgery but without going all the way up to your elbows.

Washing should always take place after:

Using the bathroom

Handling raw fish, raw meat or raw poultry

Touching trash or dirty dishes

Taking a smoke break

Using your phone … while taking a smoke break

Eating on your lunch or dinner break

Sneezing, blowing your nose or coughing

Touching animals – if you own one of those trendy dog-friendly cafes

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2.   The Clean Rule Sequel

Cleanliness doesn’t just stop with warm water and soap on your hands. In a restaurant, it’s essential for everything to be clean at all times. When it’s the height of dinner hour, employees are moving quickly around the kitchen, and orders are completed under pressure. It’s easy to cut corners to get things done, but no matter how busy you are, cleaning is always a priority.

Here are a few general rules to follow:

Food should be cleared promptly. Dirty dishes and food residue should never come into contact with recently cooked food.

Wipe down all counters throughout the day, removing old food particles or pooling liquid.

Do dishes often, ensuring knives, plates, silverware and cooking utensils are always clean and sanitized.

Break down and clean ovens, stoves, flat tops, grills, and hoods nightly.

Clear prep areas and make sure everything in the walk-in is sealed correctly and free of residue.

Empty and replace prep pans nightly.

SEE ALSO: 10 Things To Get Right When Opening A Restaurant


3.   The Cook Rule

Monitoring temperature is critical when cooking, and cooking something under its suggested preparation temperature can create big problems. While some meats, like beef or lamb, can be served rare or, in the case of tartars, raw, others, like pork or chicken must always be cooked all the way through. When preparing foods, utilize a food thermometer to ensure all items meet the following internal temperature:


160°F: Any Ground meats such as beef, turkey, or chicken

165°F: Poultry, stuffed foods, casseroles and microwaved animal products

155°F: Sausage and hamburger

145°F: Eggs, pork, fish and beef

135°F: Vegetables that will be kept warm, and packaged and ready-to-eat foods like soup or hot dogs


4.   The Chill Rule

It doesn’t take long for food to spoil. A few minutes too many sitting on the line, near the grill, or on a prep table can be all the time required to turn a once-suitable dish into a severe foodborne illness.

Instead of gambling on whether a food item will be okay after an undetermined period, abide by the two-hour rule. In general, perishable food or prepared food should only be left out, at room temperature, for no longer than two hours before putting any leftovers in the refrigerator. Any longer than that, the food starts slipping into the ‘danger zone’ of temperatures that are primed for harmful bacteria growth, 40 degrees Fahrenheit – 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you suspect meat, fish, poultry, salad or any other such item has been lingering out longer than two hours, discard it immediately. Basic food safety should take preeminence over saving a few dollars on food cost.


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5.   The Cross-Contamination Rule

For food safety, cooked food and raw food should never be stored in close proximity, including in the walk-in refrigerator. Bacteria from raw foods can easily contaminate cooked food, and, without proper procedures, bacteria can spread extremely quickly.

When storing both cooked and raw food in the same space, designate one area of your storage facility to raw food and another to cooked food, preferably using individual shelving units if possible. And remember always to keep raw food as close to the ground as possible to avoid dripping or leaking onto other food items.

Another way to ensure you don’t cross contaminate raw meat with ready-to-eat cold foods and hot foods is to make sure you have different cutting boards. As part of the kitchen staff or even as a bartender, you’re going to do a lot of cutting to create your fabulous dishes and cocktails.

Make sure you have separate cutting boards and utensils for the different types of food you need to cut. Cold food such as fruits and vegetables should have their own designated cutting board, as should raw meat and poultry products.


6.   Keep It Covered

Whenever possible, gloves are a must in the kitchen. During a Saturday dinner rush, there’s not always time to wash up between handling different utensils and touching different ingredients, so the use of disposable gloves can save time and ensure all food preparation is up to code.

Gloves are especially important in food that requires hands-on contact, like preparing sandwiches or making a salad. While most cooks dislike gloves, it’s the law in some states, such as California.

Gloves are not designed to protect your hands from food; they are intended to protect food from your hands. Gloves can pick up germs too, so change them regularly, including after touching anything outside the immediate prep area, and when you change tasks in the kitchen.


7.   Replace Disposable Tools

Just as gloves are disposable, so are the sponges used to wash dishes, the towels used to wipe down the line, and the rags soaked in a cleanser for washing tables. Whether you know it or not, these kinds of items can be a breeding ground for germs and bacteria, rendering your supposedly clean surfaces a lot dirtier than you realize.

Rather than continually reusing disposable or washable products, keep use to a minimum. Throw away sponges every few days, limit paper products to only one use, and wash rags each day. These simple steps can reduce the spread of germs in your kitchen, helping you to keep your premises as clean as possible.

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8.   Focus on Health

In every industry, going to work when you are sick is discouraged. However, staying home when you’re ill is even more critical in the foodservice industry. Cooks, servers, bussers, bartenders, managers, cashiers, and even dishwashers should steer clear of the kitchen, and any restaurant surfaces when carrying any known contagious disease that may result in the spread of germs.

More specifically, food service workers should never be in contact with food under the following circumstances:

Presence of diarrhea or vomiting

Confirmed diagnosis of infections that can be transmitted through food, like E. coli, Hepatitis A, Salmonella, or Shigella

Any infected wounds or wounds of any kind that cannot be covered

Continued sneezing, congestion, coughing or a runny nose

The flu, although not known to be spread through food, can be spread quickly through contaminated surfaces. You don’t want your customer catching the flu and thinking it’s something they ate at your restaurant or bar.


9.   Employee Behavior Matters

In a restaurant, it’s relatively easy to disregard the rules, especially after a long day. Soup pans don’t always get changed regularly, fresh condiments are mixed in with old condiments, and hair occasionally falls into an open container. These kinds of incidents are, of course, unacceptable.

Little mistakes are inevitable, but reinforcing employee behaviors can help avoid recklessness or just plain negligence.

All hair should be pulled back or otherwise restrained. Cooks and all kitchen staff are required to wear hair nets. Facial hair like beards and mustaches must also be covered.

Fingernails must be short to avoid getting food caught underneath them.

Jewelry can carry germs, so back-of-house and front-of-house staff should leave bracelets, earrings, watches, and necklaces at home.

Bottom line, a dirty restaurant can cause plenty of problems, from poor quality to increased risk of foodborne illness. By adhering to the proper procedures and food safety rules and regulations in your restaurant or bar, it’s possible to prevent issues before they occur, keeping your diners as healthy and happy — and eager to return! — as possible.