1. If you are in a food-handling business, following a thorough food safety training program is vital for both public health and personal business growth.
Below, we’ve touched upon why food safety is essential in the restaurant industry and the methods of staff training that can help your business effectively manage food-safety issues.
Food safety refers to the practices observed during food handling, processing, and distribution that ensure food prepared for consumption is contaminant and pathogen free.
According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 600 million people globally become infected with foodborne illnesses caused by consuming unsanitary food. And 420,000 of these individuals die every year. Consuming contaminated or unsanitary food can cause health issues such as diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, life-threatening infections, and long-term diseases. And these numbers point to a significant foodborne disease burden.
As a restaurant owner, you play an important role in protecting individuals from food-borne illnesses that contribute to this disease burden. Food safety issues can have fatal outcomes for both business productivity and consumer health, and the importance of a comprehensive food-safety program should never be ignored.
Your restaurant food safety training program should apply to all food handlers who work in your business. This includes serving, preparation, and cleaning staff, whether they are full-time, part-time, or seasonal workers.
Below, we’ve outlined the three main stages of a food hygiene training program.
This basic level training introduces your staff to the essentials of food hygiene. It must be completed by any person handling food before starting work for the first time.
Some of the vital points to cover in this training include:
For staff handling wrapped or low-risk foods only (such as bar staff, food delivery drivers, and servers), stage one training should suffice. For more involved workers, stage two becomes necessary.
Once the basic training is complete, all staff should undergo thorough food-handling training in line with the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP).
Ideally, full-time staff should complete this training within four weeks and part-time within eight weeks. This training is essential for any handlers who prepare “high-risk” open food, such as catering supervisors, kitchen staff, and chefs.
To ensure you abide by all legal requirements, here are some key points to incorporate into this stage of training:
Formal training is necessary for any staff handling high-risk food or fulfilling a supervising role, such as chef managers, bar managers, or owners/managers of the restaurant/food business. This is an in-depth training program that generally covers the following:
Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) is an internationally recognized method of identifying and combating risks related to food safety. Creating a comprehensive HACCP plan can help you detect and control potential food preparation hazards, develop effective prevention techniques, and create a system where these risks can be regularly monitored and controlled.
Developing and documenting a practical HACCP plan also assures your customers and regulatory agencies that your business’s food safety program is well-managed and effective.
If you’re ready to develop a food safety training program for your business, below is a simple step-by-step breakdown of training methods to help you get started.
Conducting onboarding and orientation for new employees is essential irrespective of whether the employee is experienced or not. You should hold a comprehensive introductory session where the employee is briefed about the company’s working culture, given basic training, and informed of their expectations regarding performance and hygiene.
For the best possible outcome, you should be open to customizing food safety training in line with the competency level of each employee. You should conduct regular performance evaluations, identify core areas where they can improve, and widen training as you go along.
Creating a custom training pathway is highly useful in ensuring the required skills are developed and allows restaurant staff to learn and track their training on the job more efficiently.
While orientations and meetings are great for introducing food safety, they are not enough.
One way to bring out the best in your employees is by establishing a mentorship/coaching culture, where new employees are mentored and overseen by experienced staff or supervisors. This allows them to watch the experts at work, receive hands-on coaching, and have a reliable source of guidance when they make mistakes or have questions.
While most people today can be expected to know at least the basics of technology, there might be some people in your team who are not very well-versed in the digital world. As part of your staff training program, you should ensure that all staff members receive basic tech training, such as handling a point of sale (POS) terminal, using mobile payment systems, or using an AI-based tool to create an HACCP plan.
Whether you employ a digital food safety management system or a preventative maintenance management platform, your employees should be introduced to how these systems work and help streamline everyday tasks.
While most restaurants conduct performance evaluations during annual appraisals, they should ideally be done more often. It is the responsibility of the managing/supervising staff to conduct regular performance evaluations to understand the employee’s learning arc and support them wherever they need help.
If you establish a mentoring culture in your restaurant, you could have an employee’s assigned mentor evaluate their performance each month, identify areas of improvement, and customize training accordingly.
Employee recognition is an important aspect of your engagement strategy but it also ties in with your overall food safety training program.
Each month, you should recognize employees that have demonstrated outstanding commitment to food safety. This helps keep their morale high through training, helps you retain your best talent, and foster an environment of growth and productivity.
Although following these six methods can help with the basics of food safety training, this is in no way a one-and-done proposition. You should consistently re-evaluate your food safety program, training methods, policies, and practices in line with business growth and changing legal requirements.
Investing in your restaurant staff as a food business owner is extremely important as they are your guests' direct point of contact.
With thorough training, support, and skill development, your employees can contribute to the value of your brand.
In addition, abiding by food safety and health regulations and staff training requirements will help protect your consumers and boost business productivity and growth. So make sure you incorporate the ideas discussed in this article in your food safety program!
Violetta Njunina is the Head of Sales at FoodDocs and is an experienced restaurant and event manager with a demonstrated history of working in the food & beverages industry.