On the customer side of a restaurant, things look pretty rosy – neatly set tables, tidy floors, sparkling glassware, and convivial guests enjoying their meals. But that shiny appearance is made possible by everything happening in the background. In the prep area, heavy machines whir and grind. On the kitchen line, knives furiously chop and gas ranges flare. In the dish pit, oil and food particles inevitably find their way to the floor. And behind the bar, bartenders and servers work hard to avoid overservice.
There’s a lot that goes into making a restaurant safe. This article details the four critical elements of a safe restaurant environment – an environment deliberately engineered to ensure that every staff member and guest leave the establishment feeling cared for and confident.
The first element of a safe restaurant work environment is the uniform. While proper uniforms are especially vital for back-of-house employees (BoH), they are also an important safety measure for front-of-house (FoH) workers. A safe restaurant uniform includes:
- Slip-free shoes are essential for anyone that may come in contact with a greasy floor. (That is to say: every employee at a restaurant, BoH, and FoH).
- In addition, to slip resistance, restaurant staff should find steel-toed or hard-toed shoes. Restaurants often feature stacked, heavy, or sharp objects like knives, kegs, pans, etc. Steel-toed shoes provide effective safety against falling objects.
- Tucked clothing is especially important around heavy machinery.
- Hairnets and hats help keep guests safe from falling hair.
By wearing the proper work attire in the restaurant, you can ensure the safety of your employees and customers.
Remember, a dress code isn’t only necessary for appearance, brand identity, customer satisfaction, and team member motivation. It’s also essential for reducing the risk of accidents and injuries. Consequently, you can maintain a safe restaurant work environment at all times.
Training and Certification
As a restaurant owner, you should invest in training and certifications to keep your restaurant safe. With these requirements in place, you can provide your staff with the necessary skills to help them perform their tasks more efficiently and safely.
Restaurant staff can take several recommended (but not compulsory) training courses: food handling and safety, OSHA-led work safety programs, allergen awareness courses, harassment prevention, etc. These are fantastic resources for any restaurant manager looking to cultivate a safer work environment.
But let’s discuss a required training course, one that can help keep your patrons and staff safer: alcohol server training and certification. In California, Responsible Beverage Service (RBS) training and certification are mandatory. Through online training programs at Reserve, your servers and managers will learn about topics, including how to avoid service to minors and overservice, and the impacts of alcohol on health and communities. Armed with this knowledge, your servers can create a more secure environment for everyone – guests and serving staff.
Clear Protocol Around Equipment
As mentioned, OSHA-led training courses are a terrific resource for restaurant staff. Absent a restaurant-wide formal initiative, you should at least build clear equipment protocol into your training and onboarding processes. Make certain that every staff member understands the best practices surrounding:
- Electrical equipment
- Gas ranges
- Appliances and machinery
- And proper sanitation for all of the above
Knowing how to use the restaurant equipment and tools can minimize the risk of accidents and injuries in the work area. For example, if you know how to use the electrical equipment and the gas range in your kitchen, you can avoid the possibility of fire, electrocution, leaks, or short-circuiting.
Of course, proper sanitation is essential to provide safe conditions related to the appropriate management of waste and other similar situations.
If you want to manage your restaurant’s waste properly, you should develop an effective disposal strategy. Similarly, invest in quality commercial fridges for your business to minimize food waste. They can help keep the food fresh and safe for human consumption, which reduces the risk of food poisoning and infestations.
All these things can contribute to a safe restaurant work environment.
Sprinklers and Fire Detection
Lastly, give thought to fire safety. When did you last replace your extinguishers, service your sprinklers, or test your smoke detectors? Fire prevention may start with training (and a formalized “buddy system” for checking ranges at closing) but ends with these last lines of defense.
FoH and BoH managers should work together to outline a service and maintenance schedule for fire detection and prevention tools, looping in the entire staff.
Ensure your restaurant has enough fire extinguishers and sprinklers to minimize the fire risk. With these tools in place, you can have peace of mind knowing you have lines of defense should a fire occur.
If you own or manage a restaurant and want to reinforce your commitment to safety, start with these four key elements. A safe work environment gives rise to a happy staff – and happy staff can help you attract talent, please customers, and increase productivity.