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.