If you run a successful foodservice operation that doesn’t automatically qualify you to do off-site work. Be sure to take your food safety program with you, including your hand hygiene program.
I have traveled across North America, doing food safety work at conventions and conferences where thousands of meals were served. These included sporting events at permanent facilities, such as football stadiums, and at temporary facilities, such as a major golf tournament. These events have provided a unique opportunity and perspective to compare the approach to food safety between contract feeders accustomed to working in a high-volume environment to multiple independent foodservice operators who occasionally take part in an off-site event.
Many times, at an event like a multi-day golf tournament, the primary foodservice is provided by a foodservice management company, whose primary business is operating under these conditions. However, local independents may also be involved and operate an outlet at the event. Sometimes, an independent may be responsible for the entire event. The foodservice operators involved would typically have the option of preparing the food at their existing kitchens and transporting it to the event or they might transport raw food product and then cook and serve at the event. Simple enough, right? In fact, far too many of the local restaurants I have seen involved in events of this nature, have failed to show an adequate understanding of the risks involved in providing off-site foodservice. In many cases, if I had been a local health department official, much of the food delivered to these different events would not have been allowed into the various venues. In addition, the breakdown in basic safe food handling procedures and lack of handwashing has been a major concern.
Some of the more extreme examples have included:
If you have made the decision to have an off-site catering component of your business, you need to have an off-site food safety management plan (FSMP). You need to recognize that to have an effective off-site food safety plan you must first have an effective on-site FSMP. Just as off-site catering is an extension of your foodservice operation, the off-site food safety plan is an extension of your on-site FSMP.
The off-site plan needs to take into account the differences between preparing meals in your kitchen for customers sitting in your dining room and preparing meals for customers who are in a remote location miles from your kitchen. The plan also needs to recognize that the fundamentals of food safety are not somehow magically suspended because you are taking food to another location. In fact, there are additional rules and procedures to take into account if you are to operate safely. I am confident that many of the inappropriate procedures witnessed during the reception would not have been tolerated if they had been committed in the home-base kitchen.
First, make sure you have an on-site food safety management plan to keep food safe up to the moment it leaves your primary facility.
The off-site food safety management plan:
At the site:
Food Handler Personal Hygiene / Hand washing
Cleaning and Sanitizing
Off-site catering can be a significant source of additional revenue for a foodservice operation and an opportunity to improve the recognition of your brand. However, it makes no sense to do it in a way that increases your liability exposure and puts your brand at risk.
About the Author
Steven Sklare, REHS/RS, CP-FS, LEHP, Steven.firstname.lastname@example.org, is a UL Everclean strategic business development executive who has been working in the food safety industry for more than 20 years providing food safety audits and training, supply chain risk management, food safety management plan design and pest control services.
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