Restaurant owners and managers sometimes focus more on quality assurance (QA) than food safety. Evidence of this is increasingly found in news stories about restaurants that don’t have comprehensive food safety programs getting implicated in foodborne illness outbreaks or other food safety–related crises. It’s important for all restaurant operations to have a program that incorporates QA and food safety, and it could be easier than you think.
Restaurant Food Safety vs. Quality Assurance (QA)
Almost all restaurants have some sort of QA program involving cleaning, customer service, food tasting, presentation, secret shopper, and other criteria designed to improve and protect the brand. Managers usually incorporate these items in a checklist that could be called an audit.
This is where QA crosses over into food safety. Most food safety programs involve an audit, checklist, log sheet and so on. In the food manufacturing industry, QA is food safety. But in some restaurants, a food safety auditing program is viewed as a non-starter for owners and operators. If the taste of a restaurant’s food is important—shouldn’t it also be important that the food is safe to eat? Obviously, the answer is “yes.”
Easy Ways to Add Food Safety to Your QA Program
To get you started with incorporating food safety into your QA program, here are some easy steps to follow:
- Take and log temperatures: All cold and hot holding units should be checked multiple times a day. The temperatures should be recorded on a log sheet and saved in a file for future reference.
- If you are checking for cleanliness in the dining room, you should also check the cleanliness of the kitchen. It’s just as important to have a clean kitchen as a clean dining room. A clean dining room is important because it’s what customers see and producing food in a clean environment is important for customers’ health.
- Store your food properly to prevent cross-contamination. Keep food off the floor, store raw meats separately, and keep all prepared foods covered and protected.
- Label and date all prepared foods. After preparing food items that will be stored for more than 24 hours before service, make sure to label and date them. Also be sure all dated food is rotated, and the oldest product is used first. In addition, prepared food shouldn’t be kept for more than seven days.
- Cool hot food properly. When cooling hot food, there are specific time and temperature guidelines that must be followed. Incorporate a cooling log and make sure it is used, properly followed, and saved in a file every day.
- Be sure to observe employees wearing gloves and washing hands when necessary. Glove use and hand washing are important to prevent contamination of food from employees’ hands.
- Log when employees are sick and don’t let them work until they’re healthy. Every year, there are sick employees who contaminate food while working. Making employees work while sick will undoubtedly cause an outbreak and lead to closure from the local health department.
- Manage your chemicals to prevent injury. Improperly managed chemicals can make someone sick as well as cause bodily injury. Make sure all chemicals are labeled and stored in designated areas.
- Clean uniforms and appearance are already part of your QA program, so why not add restraining hair, limiting jewelry and banning fake nails for kitchen employees? Long hair on the head or beards, large pieces of jewelry, and fake nails can all find their way into food when unrestricted. Think about how embarrassing it would be for a customer to find false fingernails in their food!
- Do you have a pest management program for the dining room? Make sure they stay out of the kitchen and food storage areas as well.
All restaurant operators will agree that having a good QA program for the front of house is a must, but back of house can often be missed. If you really want to control every aspect of a customer’s experience, add back of house items to your quality assurance program. Being proactive about this will have a big payoff for your business when customers come back to eat because you didn’t make them sick the last time.