A buffet or salad bar is a great way to offer your customers a variety of fresh produce, salads and meal options. They appeal to customers looking for a quick and satisfying meal, as well as those individuals looking for the option to sample many foods. Creating an attractive buffet and salad bar goes far beyond food presentation. Maintaining proper food-safety guidelines will ensure that your buffet dishes are safe for consumption. Below are a few tips and ideas on keeping your buffet and salad bar clean and sanitary.
Teach the importance of personal hygiene
Proper buffet and salad bar sanitation starts in the back of the house with your employees’ personal hygiene. Employees should be educated on proper hand washing techniques, as well as when and how frequently to wash their hands. Employees who are sick or have visible, open wounds or skin infections should not be permitted to handle food that will be served in your buffet or salad bar.
Encouraging employees to wear gloves while handing food is another easy way to ensure proper hygiene. Employees that have a cut or burn on their hands should be required to wear gloves until the injury has healed properly.
Hot and cold food placement
Careful consideration should be given to the layout of your buffet or salad bar. Foods need to be kept at their respective safe serving temperatures to prevent the growth of bacteria.
Hot food, especially meats and gravies, should be cooked and kept at a temperature of at least 140 degrees. Hot foods should ideally be displayed with a heat source under them to keep them at temperature.
Cold food items, such as dairy products, need to be kept below 40 degrees. Cold foods should be displayed by sitting the food container in a tray of ice. The ice needs to be constantly monitored, and replaced as it begins to melt.
Dry foods, high-sugar foods, fresh fruits and vegetables are the safest foods and can be kept at room temperature.
Know how to prevent cross-contamination
Food-borne illness can be quite serious, so to prevent the possibility of contamination make sure that all food on your buffet or salad bar is refreshed often. Food that has the potential to spoil should not be left out for more than two hours. Never combine old food with new food. Any food that remains should be removed from the buffet or salad bar and discarded.
Make sure that you avoid cross-contamination on your buffet or salad bar by ensuring that each item has its own serving utensils. Long-handled spoons, ladles and tongs are ideal for self-serve areas because they allow access to the product, while reducing the possibility of the customers’ hands or clothing accidentally contaminating the food source. Be sure to use clean serving utensils each time an item is refreshed on your buffet or salad bar.
It is also important to require your customers to use a clean dish each time they visit your buffet or salad bar. Make sure that clean plates and bowls are brought out often, and placed in a prominent place that can easily be seen by customers. It can also be a good idea to have your servers to remove used dishes from tables as quickly as possible, to reduce the risk of customers accidentally returning to the food areas with a used dish.
Protect food from air-borne contaminants
Placing covers over the items on your buffet or a sneeze guard over the length of your salad bar is another way to prevent food from becoming contaminated from air-borne pathogens. Customers and employees are going to sneeze and cough, so make sure that your food is as protected as possible from germs in the air.
It’s also important to ensure that your sneeze guard is kept clean. It should be thoroughly sanitized each day and wiped down periodically throughout the day. Never use spray sanitizing solution or spray cleaners on the sneeze guard or food table when food is present.
It is also important to thoroughly clean and sanitize your buffet and salad bar areas at the end of each day. Hot or cold food tables that use hot water or ice should be completely drained. All exposed surfaces should be wiped down with cleaning and sanitizing solutions. Any leftover food should be properly stored or discarded, depending on the item. Buffets and salad bars can be a great way to draw customers into your restaurant, and when kept clean and sanitary they can be a great source of revenue as well.