Restaurant Safety: The Ultimate Guide To Operational Excellence

Published on:
June 7, 2024
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Many restaurateurs are aware that running a successful restaurant involves more than simply choosing an attractive location or developing a winning concept. 

The success of your business depends on your ability to comprehend restaurant safety, including food safety and health regulations as well as restaurant safety procedures. When you initially open a restaurant, this is one of the first things you do.

Any new restaurant owner can find it overwhelming to keep up with the various food standards, food handling permits, and general safety regulations. It's difficult enough to operate your restaurant in different situations, such as COVID and all that.

Even though we are way beyond the pandemic, there is always a looming degree of risk where food needs to be safe, overall restaurant safety operations need to be in order, and vice versa.

Our goal is to facilitate your understanding of the fundamentals of the industry by going over the rules governing restaurants and the details you must be aware of to follow restaurant food safety requirements.

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What is Restaurant Safety and Why is it Important?

Restaurant safety is the process of preparing and storing food in a way that reduces the possibility of contracting a food-borne illness while dining there.

While some food safety precautions are well-recognized and commonly used, others are a little more subtle and counterintuitive, such as cleaning your hands after visiting the restroom or using a hair net.

Food safety is a crucial aspect of the restaurant industry, even though it may not be the most glamorous.

The CDC estimates that 48 million Americans have food poisoning annually, with 128,000 requiring hospitalization and 3,000 dying as a result.

Lawsuits for serious food poisoning instances are relatively rare, yet they can be very harmful to your organization. For instance, a man from California paid $1 million in a settlement after developing serious food poisoning from eating at a restaurant.

Of course, a reputation for serving contaminated food will not help your business, even if you avoid having to deal with legal action.

10 Restaurant Safety Tips For Employees

  1. Dress Appropriately

Wearing safety footwear, such as non-slip restaurant shoes, is perhaps the safety advice that staff members and restaurant workers hear the most. Falling, tripping, and slipping are some of the most frequent causes of injury in restaurants. Not only that, but 39% of general liability claims against restaurants are the result of slip-and-fall accidents, which hurt over three million restaurant workers annually.

However, anyone who has ever worked in the food service industry is surely not surprised by that. After a shift of these things happens, restaurant floors can quickly turn into a maze of slip hazards: 

  • Spilled beverages
  • Splattered sauces 
  • Dripped oil and/or grease 

What's your greatest option for navigating slick, slippery flooring safely? Slip-resistant work shoes, you can be sure that you will remain upright during your shift because of the excellent slip- resistance, and grip provided by long-lasting rubber outsoles. 

  1. Use Wet Floor Signs

It's never a good idea to charge across wet surfaces, even if you're wearing slip-resistant shoes. Even the most sure-footed servers can falter when they come across rough areas unexpectedly. It's critical to notify others when spills occur so that anyone passing by can stay away from the affected area. 

Fortunately, wet floor indicators are designed for just that purpose. There are probably a few in your restaurant; find them so you can start using them immediately. A fantastic addition to safety protocols for reducing workplace injuries is wet floor indicators.

  1. Clear The Way

Workplace accidents aren't limited to spilled liquids. Boxes, brooms, mops, bus buckets, server trays, tray stands, and all the other tools you use for your shift can pile up in restaurants during peak hours. When these things aren't stored where they belong, they can easily trip people.

Thankfully, there are a few restaurant safety guidelines that you and your colleagues can adhere to to prevent slips and falls. Everyone must use diligence concerning: 

  • Keeping pathways clear
  • Putting items away after using them
  1. Use Your Signal Words  

A sense of urgency is one of the prerequisites for employment in the restaurant and food service sectors.

However, you run the risk of running into your coworkers, kitchen appliances, and even the walls as you're racing through the dining room, the kitchen, and even the corners. All of these things can be harmful. 

The answer? Using signal language. In most restaurants, you are expected to state your intentions. It nearly feels like you're providing a play-by-play in real time to people nearby so they know where you're headed next. Typical signal terms and expressions consist of: 

  • Coming in/out
  • Behind
  • Corner

It's crucial to understand the vocabulary used in your particular restaurant and utilize it effectively because these verbal cues are only effective if everyone understands what they mean.

  1. Prevent Restaurant Fires

BBQ and cooktop open flames, combustible objects, hot bulbs, gasoline and electrical fires. These represent only a handful of the variables that lead to the over 5,000 restaurant fires that occur annually.

To avoid fires in restaurants, put out those that do break out, and protect customers from burn damage, the following restaurant kitchen safety advice is recommended:

  • Putting fire extinguishers in your restaurant: You should put several fire extinguishers all over your restaurant. Everyone should be able to utilize them and have easy access to them. 
  • Installing exit signs and emergency lighting: Make sure your restaurant has safety lighting to guide patrons and properly marked exits because fires can quickly burn out the electricity.
  • Investing in fire suppression systems: A fire extinguisher might be useful in putting out a small fire, but a commercial kitchen or larger restaurant may require a fire suppression system. Get kitchen equipment with integrated fire suppression systems and fire sprinklers to put out small fires before they start.
  1. Practice Fire Safety Training 

Important preventive measures include emergency lighting, fire extinguishers, and fire suppression systems.

They do not, however, constitute the whole picture when it comes to restaurant fire safety. The remaining half? Ensuring everyone on staff is informed about the latest fire safety guidelines.

To ensure the safety of all customers, ensure that your restaurant partakes in: 

  • New employee training
  • Veteran refresher courses
  • Evacuation drills
  1. Be Smart about Sharp Edges

Laceration injuries like cuts, punctures, and other abrasions, are important to consider when it comes to restaurant safety tips. You can keep yourself and others safe from these hazards by: 

  • Storing Sharp Instruments Safely: It is important to keep knives, shavers, slicers, and other sharp objects securely. This involves placing items in out-of-the-way locations and employing equipment guards, which can help prevent accidents for staff members and maintain kitchenware in better shape.
  • Quickly Cleaning Broken Glass: Breaking glass should be cleared away as soon as it occurs when dishes and glasses fall. To properly dispose of the glass, use a dustpan and a broom to sweep it into. 
  • Knowing How To Use Tools Properly: Ensure that every employee understands how to use potentially hazardous kitchen utensils properly. This involves having a solid grasp of the necessary safety precautions that each tool requires. 
  1. Practice Chemical Safety

Keeping restaurants clean is essential for patron safety. However, if you use cleaning and sanitizing chemicals recklessly, they can pose a risk to your safety. Restaurant cleaning supplies frequently include abrasive chemicals like:

  • Ammonia
  • Chlorine
  • Iodine 

Although these chemicals are great at eliminating bacteria and germs from eateries, they can cause allergic responses, skin irritation, and even chemical burns. 

When handling chemicals, always wear gloves to avoid these risks. Cleaning supplies should be kept out of the way and away from food to prevent spillage and contamination.

  1. Respect The Flow of Traffic 

Everyone's safety must observe the foot traffic flow at a busy restaurant.

People are moving in all directions all the time, from hosts and cooks to waiters and bussers. A well-planned area with clearly marked walkways, exits, and entrances are just a few strategies to keep things flowing and everyone safe. 

Regarding foot traffic, don't forget to take into account:

  • Designating In/Out Doors: Doors that lead to the kitchen and other busy restaurant areas are frequently labeled as "in" or "out" doors. People must enter these doors from the approved path to avoid accidents and other harm.
  • Avoiding Obstructing Traffic: If you are not moving, make sure to move aside so that your colleagues who are there can continue. Avoid standing in front of doors or cramming densely populated locations.
  1. Keep a First Aid Kit Handy

Accidents and injuries will inevitably occur, even with the strictest safety procedures in place.

As a result, treatment comes before prevention. Please dial 911 without delay if someone has suffered a serious injury. On the other hand, common first aid supplies are indispensable for treating minor injuries.

All restaurants are required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to have sufficient first-aid supplies on hand. It's time to invest if your restaurant doesn't already have one. First aid kits for restaurants must contain supplies for:

  • Burn care – Bandages, dressings, and burn relief gels are just a few of the supplies you should have in your first aid box for burn treatment. 
  • Emergency care – Tourniquets, antimicrobial ointments, antiseptic wipes, and other emergency supplies should be included in your first aid box. 
  • Eye care – Eyewashes, eye covers, and saline flushes can all help stop minor cuts from getting worse. 
  • Wound care – When someone sustains a cut or puncture wound, bandages, band-aids, and trauma pads are all required.  

Having said that, keeping a first aid kit nearby is insufficient. It's also critical that all staff members are aware of the location, usage instructions, and contents of the kit.

6 Best Restaurant Food Safety Practices

  1. Read Through Your Government’s Guidelines

Doing your homework should always be the first step in creating any kind of plan. Evidence-based information is abundant on how to reduce the dangers, and food safety is a topic that is regularly researched.

Governmental groups in several nations have established detailed criteria for the best practices in food safety. The FDA Food Code is the best place to start in the US. You should review the UK's Food Standards Agency rules, and the EU Commission also has business-specific standards.

Make sure that the internal processes you follow comply with the guidelines provided by the relevant regulatory authority.

  1. Ensure All Workers Properly Wash Their Hands

Everyone has been instilled with the need for hand washing for the past few years. But washing your hands isn't just for COVID-19; it was a crucial strategy to stop the spread of disease even before the outbreak, and it will continue to be so long after things have returned to normal.

Employees at restaurants should develop the practice of washing their hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water after:

  • Going to the bathroom
  • Arranging the tables or washing the dishes
  • Sneezing, coughing, touching their face or body in any other way, or using a tissue
  • Consuming food, liquids, or smoke
  • Making use of chemicals
  • Both before and following the handling of raw meat
  • Touching unclean clothes or aprons
  1. Abide by the 2-Hour Rule

Food left out at room temperature can spoil quickly. While non-perishable items like peanut butter, oats, and bread can be safely left out indefinitely, perishable foods such as meats, dairy products, and sauces can become unsafe to eat if left out too long.

As a general rule, it's wise to discard food that has been left out at room temperature for more than two hours. Beyond this point, the risk of bacteria growth increases significantly, which can lead to foodborne illnesses.

Even if food appears, tastes, or smells fine, early stages of spoilage may not be detectable. Therefore, it's better to err on the side of caution and dispose of any perishable food left out too long to avoid potential health risks.

  1. Separate Cooked and Raw Food

While adding flavor and texture, the primary goal of cooking food is to eliminate any harmful bacteria present in raw ingredients. However, storing cooked and raw foods in close proximity can undermine this safety measure.

Cross-contamination can easily occur in such scenarios. For instance, if you handle a raw steak and then touch a cooked steak without washing your hands, you could transfer bacteria from the raw to the cooked meat.

Similarly, keeping raw and cooked foods too close to each other increases the risk of accidental contact, posing a safety hazard for your patrons. Proper separation and careful handling of raw and cooked foods are essential to maintaining food safety and preventing foodborne illnesses.

  1. Don’t Overuse Disposable Tools

We've all seen those kitchen sponges that seem to have overstayed their welcome by the sink. While they may appear harmless, disposable kitchen tools like sponges can become breeding grounds for bacteria.

Unlike utensils and plates that get regularly washed and disinfected, sponges often go neglected. This neglect allows bacteria to accumulate over time, which can eventually cause illness.

To maintain kitchen hygiene, it's essential to replace disposable tools like sponges frequently. Consider opting for sustainable alternatives to reduce waste and lessen environmental impact. Regularly changing or disinfecting your sponges can significantly enhance kitchen safety and cleanliness.

  1. Monitor and Train Employees

A top-notch restaurant food safety program is ineffective if not properly implemented. This is why comprehensive employee training is crucial.

Every staff member should receive a thorough education on all aspects of your restaurant’s food safety protocols. This includes detailed instructions on proper hand-washing techniques, methods to prevent cross-contamination, appropriate attire, and other best practices.

Additionally, it's beneficial for employees to be aware of which foods are most prone to causing foodborne illnesses. This knowledge ensures they take extra precautions when handling high-risk items, thus enhancing overall food safety in your establishment.

How Can Xenia Help In Streamlining All Your Restaurant Safety Needs

Xenia is an invaluable tool for streamlining restaurant safety by integrating advanced technological features into daily operations.

One of its standout features is automatic temperature monitoring. Using Bluetooth and LoRaWAN technology, Xenia's sensors provide continuous, accurate temperature readings, ensuring food storage conditions are always within safe limits. 

This real-time monitoring system immediately alerts managers to any deviations, enabling prompt corrective actions to prevent food spoilage and mitigate the risk of foodborne illnesses.

Moreover, Xenia's smart inspection workflows enhance operational efficiency. These workflows utilize customizable templates and conditional logic to create detailed inspection checklists tailored to specific restaurant needs. 

If an inspection step fails, the system can automatically generate a corrective action work order and notify the relevant personnel, ensuring swift resolution of any safety issues. This proactive approach ensures compliance with health standards and helps maintain a high level of safety.

Compliance management is another critical area where Xenia excels. The platform automates record-keeping and generates detailed compliance reports, which are essential for passing health inspections and audits. Managers can easily export these reports in PDF and Excel formats, simplifying the process of sharing compliance data with health authorities and other stakeholders.


While food safety might not be the most glamorous aspect of the restaurant industry, it is undoubtedly one of the most crucial. Adhering to the tips provided in this guide will significantly contribute to ensuring the health and safety of both your customers and employees in 2024 and beyond. 

By prioritizing food safety, you are not only protecting your patrons but also enhancing the overall reputation and success of your establishment.

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