With the weather warming up and the sun making a more regular appearance in all parts of Minnesota, many ServSafe food managers open up their patios, beer gardens and other outdoor eating areas. One problem that always arises is making sure that your guests are safe from the food safety hazards that come from having serving utensils and condiments stored in outdoor areas. This week, we’ll take a look at a few things that you can do to keep your customers safe as they enjoy a meal in the sunshine.
Outdoor Service and the Certified ServSafe Food Manager
There are two different approaches to preventing contamination from the elements depending on what style of service your establishment chooses to offer. Many restaurants and institutions choose to provide full service whether they’re seating guests indoors or outdoors. Smaller outlets may decide to go with a self-service approach that is less labor intensive and more cost effective.
If you’re a small operation such as a food truck or snack bar, self-service is the way to go. Sealed condiment packets, individually wrapped plastic forks, spoons and straws and non-refrigerated condiments are safe and can easily be left in containers in your eating area. Bottles of ketchup and mustard or tower dispensers are also legal according to current food codes, but be aware that the taps on your dispensers must be kept clean and condiment bottles must be sealed when not in use. We suggest you avoid reusable squeeze bottles as guests may not replace the lids and expose whatever is inside to the elements. Many manufactures package products such as ketchup and mustard with table service in mind and using these may be your best option.
If you’re offering full-service dining, the solutions are a little more complex, but with simple preparation outdoor service can be a breeze. The same rules apply if you leave condiments on the table, using sealable condiment bottles is a fine procedure, but if you’re looking to add a little more elegance and class to your service, we recommend you use pre-portioned individual sized dishes that are properly stored inside your kitchen or server stations. The same rule should apply to servingware and napkins. It’s a good idea to keep them stored away from potential outdoor contamination hazards such as insects and the occasional stray bird.
Here at Safe Food Training, we like to enjoy the occasional lunch or dinner under the sun’s rays. How do you feel about outdoor service, is it something that you find easy to offer your guests, or is it a source of frustration in your establishment?