Running a restaurant is not for the faint of heart. You’ve got to be a managerial maestro, a curator of creative cuisine, and a heavyweight health and safety officer. While far from glamorous, the latter is a crucial role, and if not taken seriously, can be the beginning of the end for your eatery.

An incident happened in Germany and France in 2011, where raw sprouts that were contaminated with E. coli were then supplied to restaurants and resulted in 53 deaths. In addition, 852 people contracted kidney disease and over three thousand people suffered from bloody diarrhoea. This incident is a sobering reminder of just how crucial optimal health and safety in a restaurant is.

What’s more, in a society saturated by social-media, patrons are able to vent their frustration with sub-par service instantly. In short, the reputation of your restaurant can be destroyed by a single tweet of a disgruntled customer.

Keeping your restaurant pest-free, hygienic and safe for staff and patrons relies on having a water-tight plan that is embraced by every single employee.

It’s useless having a printed out guide to health and safety in a restaurant if the document is sitting in the back office gathering dust. One of the most crucial aspects of your job is to know the laws pertaining to health and safety in a restaurant. Furthermore you need to ensure that all staff are aware of them, and that they’re adequately enforced.

If getting your head around the non-negotiables of health and safety in a restaurant seems like something of a slog, listen up. We’ve broken this seemingly mammoth task into the most important aspects.

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Food safety is your number one priority, which means food-safe chemicals are a pre-requisite.

Your establishment exists to provide food of superior standards to customers. Whether you run a boutique bakery, a fast food joint or an award-winning steakhouse, making sure that the food you serve is free from chemical contaminants is your obligation. The Department of Health requires that all cleaning chemicals used are food-safe, and are approved by the SABAS and SANS.

Ensuring that your staff are following protocol when it comes to hygiene best practice is crucial.

Restaurants must comply with various SANS codes, which includes the wearing of protective clothing, hair nets, and the like.  We recently wrote about the importance of hand hygiene in restaurants (educate yourself about this crucial practice over here). It’s your responsibility to ensure that hand washing stations placed around the kitchen and food prep areas are serviced regularly by a reputable cleaning company.

Any food-related operation is required to have a cleaning schedule signed off by the relevant cleaners, in order to prove that optimum hygiene levels are maintained on a daily basis.

You’re legally required to provide proof that your restaurant has been treated for pests on a regular basis.

The last place anyone wants to encounter a cockroach or a rat is in the place that they’re eating or purchasing food from. While you may have a formal pest management programme in place, in the eyes of the Department of Health, your efforts are moot if they’re not religiously recorded.

Any establishment that produces or sells food must have a ledger of all documentation that pertains to pest control and food safety. An auditor needs to be able to see what was done, and when, as well as whether or not your pest control provider is qualified to do the job. It’s crucial then to use the services of a company who’re accredited by the South African Pest Control Association.

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If your establishment is audited and exposed as being riddled with pests, you’ll be given seven days in which to rectify the problem. If you fail to comply with this request, you’ll be forced to shut up shop until your operations are compliant.

Health and safety in a restaurant isn’t solely focused on the food.

The most common cause of a fire in a restaurant is a dirty kitchen canopy. Neglecting to clean this is grossly negligent, putting the safety of your staff and patrons at risk. It’s essential that you use an industry-accredited cleaning company as opposed to attempting to do this in-house, in order to safeguard your premises. (Read our blog here about the whys and hows of kitchen canopy cleaning).

In addition, the safety of your staff and patrons also relies on you ensuring that all emergency exits are clearly visible and free from obstruction.  Store a first aid kit in an easily-accessible place that’s clearly demarcated. While you’re not legally required to undergo first aid training, it’s advisable to do so.

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