Preventing food safety problems should be every caterer’s top priority as it takes only one sick customer with a social media platform to ruin a catering business. Catering and restaurant food safety procedures are very similar, but there are additional considerations like transport procedures, which must be taken into account. When you open your catering business, think about these seven pillars of food safety.
Any great catering business starts with good food. Your food suppliers should already have a food safety certification process in place, something which is especially important for high risk foods. Make sure that your suppliers follow HAACP guidelines for food safety and ask about the procedures they follow. By starting with great food, that removes one piece of the contamination puzzle.
Preparing food for catering is no different than preparing food for any restaurant. Employees must follow standard food sanitation procedures like regular hand washing and using gloves to avoid cross-contamination. Foods thawing for transport must be kept away from raw foods and no wood must be used in the preparation of food.
This is the tricky part for caterers. Hot and cold foods must be held at the proper temperature (Above 145 F for hot, below 40 F for cold) during transport and checked afterward to make sure they stayed there. All food must be kept in food-safe containers and stored in a location that can be sanitized. The foods which are likely to cross-contaminate should be separated from each other during transportation.
Temperature controls must be maintained throughout the entire catering event, so it’s necessary for caterers to have the proper equipment on hand for that proper serving. Chafing dishes can keep hot foods at the right temperature. All temperatures should be checked with a probe thermometer at regular intervals. Also, all serving dishes must have their own utensils. Depending on local laws, a sneeze guard might need to be employed.
All staff and volunteers must be thoroughly trained on food temperatures, safe preparation, and safe transportation. Refresher courses might be needed for those experienced within the field, as the regulations occasionally change. Make sure that ‘not knowing’ isn’t an excuse.
One thing which caterers regularly encounter is food allergens. If possible, caterers must disclose the ingredients of the dish to the patrons, so that they are aware of any potential reactions. The servers also need to know what is in each dish, and if there are any known allergens which could cause a reaction.
Finally, you will want to thoroughly document all your food safety procedures and temperature checks. These not only confirm that your employees and volunteers are following their training, but also provide a way to show a health inspector that you are following local laws if you get audited. There are several sources for catering food safety check lists that you can use as inspiration.
Following these seven pillars of food safety for the catering industry can lead to fewer complaints and less worries. Just doing it right and sticking to food safety procedures can make for a much smoother event.
Note: Members of The Chef Alliance are covered by Liability Insurance, which is included in their membership benefits. For more information, please contact our Success Managers.