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Restaurant Startup Tips: Make the Most of Your Food Budget

By Janet Campbell

As a new restaurant owner, you already know that rising food prices are a problem. However, there are many ways to save money on operational costs that won’t impact quality. From closing your brick-and-mortar location to saving on your taxes, the following tips can help you keep your finances intact so you’ll have the money available to grow when the time is right.

Make food safety a priority.

One of the best ways to save money is to simply ensure that all the food you serve is fresh. This both reduces food waste and keeps your customers safe. The Always Safe Company offers training for food handlers that covers everything from food safety and the law to allergens and how to ensure that your food is at the right temperature all the time.

Consider a food truck or delivery-based food service.

If you’re currently considering opening up a storefront and money is tight, take a moment to determine if this is actually the right choice. As DoorDash explains, there is a huge demand for convenience and nine out of 10 people look for restaurants online first. This means that even if you have an eat-in establishment, your customers will find you online, and offering delivery is a smart move. When you prefer to be face-to-face with your customers, opening a food truck or kiosk is an affordable option.

Reduce your menu offerings.

Although it might sound counterintuitive, offering less can actually be more valuable to your customers. When you have fewer menu options, you’ll save on labor costs, simplify training, and, importantly, help your customers have a better understanding of your restaurant’s concept. A smaller menu is more efficient and, as TouchBistro explains, makes it easier to order online. This is also an excellent way to further reduce food waste.

Save on taxes.

No matter how large or small your business, you have to pay taxes. But, you may be able to reduce some of your tax liability while protecting your personal assets by establishing your legal business structure. Fortunately, if you’re planning to file as an LLC, Minnesota makes it easy by letting you do this online, skipping the attorney fees. You’ll want to do your research first, however, to find out how this flexible business structure can actually help you grow.

Pay your staff more than the competition.

Whether you file as an LLC or not, your business structure also determines how you pay your staff. And, if you can save money by streamlining, you can afford to pay your staff more than your next best competitor. Remember, employee turnover costs you money, so pay them well and treat them even better.

Participate in food festivals.

No matter where you live, there is a food festival near you just about every season. These events help you reach out to your community to show them exactly what you offer. If your business is already accustomed to making large batches (and following proper safety protocols) then opening a pop-up at a local food fair or vendor event can get you great exposure for a fairly reasonable cost. You can take your easiest-to-prepare and most popular food offerings as a teaser to bring people through your doors or to your online ordering portal.

Look for low-interest lending or grants.

Many small restaurants are launched purely with the owner’s personal savings as capital. But, there are many different ways to find financing, including traditional bank loans, a merchant cash advance, or crowdfunding. No matter what avenue you choose, make sure that you get a fair interest rate and that you do not borrow more than you can pay back.

All small businesses cost money, and your restaurant is no different. But, what is different about opening a food service company is that food is your biggest expense. The above tips can help you offer the best quality and dining experience while still earning a profit.

 

The Always Food Safe Company was founded in 2016 and offers a range of training services to help restaurant owners and employees reduce foodborne illnesses.

Groups at High Risk for Foodborne Illness

Anyone can acquire a foodborne illness. However, some groups of people are just more susceptible to foodborne illnesses due to a compromised immune system.

The following are the four groups that the CDC lists as at a higher risk for foodborne illnesses.

Adults aged 65 or older

Adults ages 65 or older are more likely to have more severe symptoms when contracting a foodborne illness and are more at risk of hospitalization or death.

Children younger than 5 years

Children under the age of 5 are still developing their immune systems, meaning that it is easier for children to get sick.

Immunocompromised

Certain health problems can lead to a weakened immune system, making it harder for their body to fight off sickness, including foodborne illnesses.

These include, along with others:

  •        Cancer patients going through treatment
  •        Diabetes
  •        HIV or AIDS
  •        Transplant Recipients
  •        Autoimmune Disease

Pregnant women

Pregnancy changes the immune system, putting the baby at an increased risk for foodborne illnesses.

Foodborne illnesses symptoms can be worse during pregnancy, and could possibly lead to miscarriage, premature labor, and issues with the babies development.

Preventing Foodborne Illnesses in These Groups

When working with these groups, it is important to follow safe food handling practices, such as washing your hands and temperature control.

To get even more insights on how to protect these vulnerable groups from foodborne illnesses, check out our Food Protection Manager, Food Handler, and Allergen Awareness courses.

5 Best Practices for Front of House Food Safety

Food safety isn’t just for the kitchen.

Keeping the front of your restaurant clean seems like a given, considering a dirty restaurant can scare off customers. And while presentation is important, you might not know how important having a clean front of house is when it comes to preventing cross-contamination.

Here are some best practices when it comes to keeping a clean and safe front-of-house.

Properly set the table

You might not have thought this was a food safety risk, but it can be when it comes to cross-contamination from your hands. Be sure to properly wash your hands and use the following tips:

  • Only hold silverware by handles
  • Never touch the rim of a glass; always hold by the middle or bottom
  • Always hold plates from underneath

Clean where people touch

It’s important to clean and sanitize the table after use, but there are a few other things that you may not think of but are touched very frequently. These include laminated menus and electronic ordering systems. Just think about how much these are touched throughout the day, and how high of a risk for cross-contamination this can become.

So, if applicable, when cleaning off a table after use, take the time to sanitize the menu and electronic ordering system as well.

Clean off your bar area

This area can be overlooked, but throughout the day, people are eating and spilling drinks on the bar area. Be sure to sanitize the counter throughout the day, and properly clean any spills—which leads us to our next point.

Properly clean spills up

Throughout the day. There will be spills. Use a wiping cloth to clean and sanitize these. But remember, be sure to do a proper cleaning and sanitizing at the end of the day.

Follow buffet best practices

Having a buffet can be hard to navigate when it comes to food safety. We have a whole blog article discussing how to safely run a buffet.

Here are the main points from that article:

  • Track temperatures and keep food out of the temperature danger zone
  • Have only one utensil per food item
  • Watch out for customers cross-contaminating food.
  • Monitor and switch out food if necessary

These are just a couple of the ways to keep your front of house germ-free and your customers protected. For more food safety information, check out our Food Protection Manager, Allergen Awareness, and Food Handler training.

Virginia Law Change Requires Person in Charge to be a Certified Food Protection Manager

The state of Virginia has updated their Food Regulations to include changes to the FDA’s 2017 Food Code.

One important change to note comes from section 12VAC5-421-55, where it now states that the Person in Charge (PIC) must be a Certified Food Protection Manager (CFPM).

But what does this mean for you?

In Virginia, a PIC is required to be on the premises during all hours of operation. This change means that every PIC should have their Food Protection Manager Certification, so at least one person must be a CFPM during all hours of operation.

This change will be enforced starting June 24, 2023.

Until this date, at least one PIC on staff must be a CFPM.

Although this new requirement will not be enforced for over a year, it might be useful to get a head start on getting staff their Food Protection Manager Certification.

Looking for Certified Food Protection Manager training to fulfill this new requirement? Always Food Safe’s Food Manager training will fill this requirement. Learn more about our CFPM training.

Safely Running a Buffet

Food safety is vital to operating any restaurant, and it is especially important when it comes to buffets.

Buffets and self-service areas can be a food safety challenge, with many things that could go wrong—from temperature abuse to cross-contamination.

Here are the most important things to remember when operating a self-service food area.

Keep food out of the temperature danger zone

One of the challenges of buffets is keeping food out of the temperature danger zone. As a food handler or manager, it is your job to ensure that hot food is held at a minimum of 135°F, and that cold food is kept at a temperature no higher than 41°F.

Have only one serving utensil per food item

There are two different reasons to use separate utensils. The first is to prevent cross-contamination between foods, especially raw and ready-to-eat foods. Having the same utensils can cause harmful pathogens to transfer between foods.

The other reason is to prevent allergen cross-contact. When a serving utensil is used for different foods, the proteins from an allergen can transfer between them. To prevent an allergic reaction from happening in your restaurant, be sure each food has their own serving utensil.

Monitor self-service areas

Any area where guests are plating their own food need to be monitored to ensure that there are no food safety issues.

Check the temperatures

To prevent temperature abuse, you should be checking the temperatures of the food consistently. If any food has been sitting in the temperature danger zone for too long, you should discard and replace it.

Switch out food and utensils if necessary

You can’t control what your guests will do, which is why you should keep an eye on the self-service area.

If you see someone using the same utensil for multiple different foods, switch out those foods with fresh ones and discard the contaminated ones. Also supply a new, clean and sanitized utensil for each food.

Another thing to watch out for is guests using their hands to pick up food. If this happens, discard any food they touched and replace it to prevent cross-contamination.

Buffets are not the only area of food safety you should worry about. To learn more about safely operating a foodservice business, check out our Food Handler, Allergen Awareness, and Food Protection Manager courses.

FDA Releases Plan to Improve Foodborne Outbreak Response

The FDA, as part of their new era of smarter food safety, has released their Foodborne Outbreak Response Improvement Plan (FORIP). They seek to enhance the speed, effectiveness, coordination, and communication of outbreak investigations.

In the United States, tracking foodborne illness outbreaks involves many different states and jurisdictions. With the FORIP, the FDA hopes to make this process even more efficient to prevent the outbreak from spreading further, and to prevent similar outbreaks from happening in the future.

FORIP focuses on four different areas:

  • Tech-enabled product traceback—Digitizing the traceback process
  • Root cause investigations—Conducting timely root cause investigations and expediting process of getting any necessary public health information out there to prevent the situation from happening again
  • Analysis and dissemination of outbreak data—Strengthening analysis of outbreak data and share this with other regulatory partners
  • Operational improvements—Improving operations for root cause investigations, product tracing, and distribution of outbreak data

With these improvements, the FDA will be better equipped to respond to foodborne outbreaks, helping to prevent future foodborne illness outbreaks in the United States

For more information and specifics on this new plan, read about it  on the FDA’s Website.

Benefits of Implementing Continuous Training at Your Restaurant

We all know by now how important food safety training is to a successful restaurant, but good training goes beyond onboarding.

You may think that continuous training is a waste of time, but in reality, there are a number of benefits, including increasing job retention, keeping up with new regulations, and keeping employees better informed so that food safety mistakes are not made.

Here are just some of the many benefits of implementing continuous training at your restaurant.

Keeps Up With New Regulations

Food safety is constantly changing and evolving, so it is important to stay up to date on the latest food safety rules and regulations.

Make it a point to keep up with the current food code. When there are changes, have a way to communicate these changes to employees.

Keeps Knowledge Fresh

Employees will have forgotten 90% of their training in 6 months. If employees aren’t using the information on a regular basis, they are at risk of forgetting it.

Continuous training reminds employees of the information they may have forgotten and keeps knowledge fresh.

That’s why food safety training has to be repeated every few years. In the meantime, you can help employees retain their food safety knowledge with training refreshers, such as these short recap videos.

Increases Employee Satisfaction and Job Retention

The restaurant industry turnover rates have been historically high.

Forbes’ research found that 28% of all employees who quit within the first 90-120 days of employment do so due to a lack of training and support. That’s because proper training can make employees feel valued and see potential within their job.

Onboarding training is important to keeping new hires on, and implementing continuous training helps increase employee satisfaction overtime, leading to lower turnover rates.

Creates a Food Safety Culture

At Always Food Safe, we talk about creating a culture of food safety. Implementing continuous training helps achieve this by making food safety the norm and bringing it to the forefront of people’s attention.

Making food safety a part of company culture will ensure that proper food safety procedures are being followed, reducing the risk of foodborne illnesses arising and in turn keeping everything running smoothly.

Need to get your employees trained? Check out our Food Protection Manager, Food Handler, and Allergen Awareness training programs.

Always Food Safe donates training to Food Recovery Network volunteers

Always Food Safe has partnered with the Food Recovery Network to give food handler training to their volunteers.

The Food Recovery Network is a student-led movement that donates surplus food from campuses to those in need. Started by four college students back in 2012, their program is now on 172 campuses and has recovered 4.1 million meals.

Food Handler training will teach volunteers about food safety topics such as temperature control, avoiding cross-contamination, proper storage techniques, and personal hygiene. This will help volunteers package and transport food safely, and help their communities.

Interested in contributing the Food Recovery Network? Visit their website to see how you can help.

Top 10 Food Safety Myths

Have you fallen for any of these common food safety myths?

Leftovers are safe to eat unless they smell bad

Smell is NOT an accurate way to determine whether your leftovers have gone bad. Not all bad bacteria create a fowl smell. The FDA food code cites that prepared foods can only be stored for 7 days max.

For more information on how to tell whether your food has gone bad, read our tips on when to throw food out.

Hamburgers are done cooking when the middle is brown

The middle of your hamburger being brown does not mean that your food is thoroughly cooked. The only way to be certain is with a thermometer. Hamburgers should be cooked to 155°F for 17 seconds.

Here is a breakdown of all recommended internal cooking temperatures.

If you are peeling fruits or vegetables, you don’t need to wash them

If you are peeling vegetables or cutting open a melon, you still need to wash it. As you cut or peel, the bacteria from the outside gets on the knife or peeler and carries the pathogens to the edible portion, contaminating it. For that reason, always remember to wash ALL fruits and veggies!

Rinse meat, poultry, or seafood to get rid of bacteria

Typically, washing food removes bacteria. But, rinsing your meat causes bacteria to spread to surfaces and utensils through the juices. Do not wash meat, poultry, or seafood to prevent cross-contamination.

Microwaves kill off bacteria, so the food is safe

In a microwave, the heat is what kills the bacteria, therefore it is not guaranteed that if you microwave food it is safe to eat. If not properly cooked, harmful bacteria can still be present. Even if microwaving, you must cook the food to its minimum safe internal cooking temperature.

Freezing food kills bacteria

You may be under the impression that freezing food kills off bacteria, but that is not the case. Freezing food only slows the growth of pathogenic bacteria. So while freezing food prevents harmful bacteria from multiplying, it does not get rid of what is already present. When it comes to preparing frozen foods, still follow safe food handling procedures.

The 5-second rule

The popular 5-second rule—if food falls on the ground and you pick it up in less than 5 seconds, it’s still good to eat. Sorry, but pathogens can travel to your food and contaminate it faster than that. If you drop food on the ground, either wash it again or throw it out.

Wait for food to cool completely before placing it in the fridge

You don’t actually have to wait for food to cool before putting it in the fridge. In fact, leaving food out at room temperature will leave it in the temperature danger zone for too long, leaving it susceptible to bacteria growth.

We recommend cooling food within 30 minutes. Best practice is to divide food into shallow trays and in smaller portions.

You can defrost food on the kitchen counter

Similar to cooling hot food on the kitchen counter, defrosting food at room temperature leaves it in the temperature danger zone for too long. Instead, you can thaw it in the refrigerator, run under hot water (in the package; remember what we said about rinsing raw meat), or let the meat thaw while cooking.

Cross-contamination doesn’t happen in refrigerators

This myth stems from the false assumption that refrigerators are too cold for bacteria. Bacteria can survive these temperatures, and some can even grow.

To prevent cross-contamination in the refrigerator, clean your refrigerator regularly and follow proper storage practices, such as storing meat on the bottom shelf.

September is Food Safety Education Month!

This month, take time to learn more about food safety and spread awareness of the dangers of foodborne illnesses.

Every year, an estimated 1 in 6 Americans acquire a foodborne illness. That is about 48 million people! Of those people, around 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 lose their life—all because of contaminated food.

That’s why food safety education is important this month, and every month after!

September serves as a reminder to review and educate yourself on food safety. To help, all month long, we will be taking to our social media to share information on preventing foodborne illnesses. Take a look and share any posts you think may be helpful to others from our Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

Another helpful resource is our blog. Here are some links to learn more about food safety:

To learn even more about food safety, take a look at our Food Protection Manager, Food Handler, and Allergen Awareness training.