Here’s a comprehensive food safety guide to keep your restaurant in the safe zone.

According to the World Health Organization, unsafe food containing harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemicals cause more than 200 diseases. An estimated 1 in 10 people in the world fall ill after eating compromised food, and 420,000 people die every year. Following standard food safety and sanitation measures is a necessity for any business that handles food. Your goals should consist of avoiding a food safety outbreak, and easily passing your health inspector visits. Let’s get started!

Food safety organizations

It’s important to understand the various organizations that impact your business from a food safety perspective. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the governing body responsible for protecting the public, assuring safety and security of our food supply and more.

Our local and state health departments check in with food establishments regularly to assess any potential risk. They utilize the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) system to address food safety. It analyzes problem points in the production of food and develops ways to address the hazards efficiently.This process ensures customer safety in your restaurant. The HACCP system is based on seven key principles.

HACCP 7 principles

The HACCP system is a scientific and systematic approach to identify, assess and control hazards in the food production process. The seven principles of a HACCP system are:

  1. Hazard analysis
  2. Identify critical control points
  3. Establish critical limits for each critical control point
  4. Establish critical control point monitoring requirements
  • Establish corrective actions
  • Establish record keeping procedures
  • Establish procedures for verifying the HACCP system is working as intended

Tips for a successful food safety program in your restaurant

See below for a comprehensive guide for creating a successful food safety and sanitation program in the front and back of house at your food establishment.

Certify and train your staff

At least one member of your staff should be certified by a food safety training program. This is a requirement held in most HACCP programs. Partner with a certification like ServeSafe or NEHA to ensure that your staff is properly trained. Regardless of whether you train your entire staff through a program or not, your staff needs to be formally trained internally and that training should be documented.

Once your staff is trained, it’s important to create some sort of accountability program to ensure 100% compliance. Spot check areas and manage it through a checklist. These types of programs are proven to be much more successful than a one-time training program.

Maintain your equipment

Keeping your equipment on a regular maintenance schedule is essential. When your equipment isn’t functioning at its best, you’re putting your customers at risk.

Gaskets – check your refrigeration and equipment gaskets regularly to make sure you don’t have a broken seal. Broken seals can compromise the temperature of your refrigeration, therefore compromising your food.

Water filters – make sure you’re replacing your water filters regularly. We recommend every 3-6 months. This will keep your equipment running smoothly, and water you’re serving clean.

Clean your equipment  – it’s important to keep your equipment on regular cleaning cycles. Whether this be your ice machine, your water/soda/beer taps, or even your cooking equipment. All equipment should be consistently maintained and cleaned to avoid a food safety issue.

Consult with your local health department

Each state is different in how it manages food regulation and safety. Contact your specific health department for food code regulations for your state prior to implementing an HACCP plan. They will likely have guides like this one from the USDA.

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Implement an HACCP plan

Now that you’ve determined the regulations for your state, it’s time to implement an HACCP plan for your food establishment. This usually includes keeping accurate and organized records about training, procedures, illnesses and more. It’s important to follow these four steps; clean, separate, cook, and chill. Whether you utilize an automated system and tool for records, or do it on paper, outline this process and keep it for training purposes. Some states even require that you document hand washing, glove use, and sanitizer concentration and usage. For more information take a look at this complete guide to HACCP food safety.

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Areas of the restaurant checklist

1. Front-of-house

Food safety tools you need

Back-of-house food safety tips

  • Constantly wash your hands
  • Replace or clean your dirty gaskets
  • Store food at least six inches off the ground
  • Properly heat and warm your food, and chill it
  • Consistently clean your surfaces with clean sanitizer water
  • Use sanitizer wipes vs. rags
  • Hang your utensils on a storage rack

2. Back-of-house

Food safety tools you need

Font-of-house food safety tips

  • Constantly wash your hands
  • Ensure the safety of condiment stations, including behind the bar
  • Change your sanitizer buckets every 4-6 hours
  • Consistently clean your soda and beer taps
  • Keep your disposables covered

3. Restroom

Food safety tools you need


  • Hand washing signs
  • Keep your restroom clean