Serving food to your customers puts a ton of responsibility on your shoulders. After all, just one mistake in how your business prepares, stores or serves food has the potential to make someone ill if not done properly. So how do you keep everyone safe? We asked Ray Walters of Walts Tavern about his allergy and sanitation practices for his successful restaurant.

Make Employee Training a Priority

Walters makes sure that every member of his team undergoes a training program that incorporates food sanitation regulations. He trains his kitchen and bar staff in sanitation best practices for every task, even ones that they aren't expected to manage. "I want everyone to know how to do everything because you never know when they might have to sub in," he explains.

According to Walters, he relies on his senior staff members to mentor new employees who are still learning the proper procedures.

Understand Your Allergy Risk

As Walts Tavern does not serve anything with peanuts, which are the source of one of the most common food allergies, the restaurant has a lowered risk of allergy complications. Still, Walters doesn't take any chances. Maryland law requires that he keep an allergy awareness poster in his staff area, and Walters makes sure that his staff understands what to do in case of an emergency.

Walters then works to accommodate food allergy concerns as they come up. "We had one employee who was allergic to shellfish," he recalls. "We all worked together to watch out for him. Whenever someone ordered shellfish we warned him because he couldn't even pick up an empty dish after [customers] ate without having an allergic reaction."

Watch Out for Early Signs of Problems

Your allergy and sanitation practices are only effective if your employees follow them. Unfortunately, it's easy for bad habits to develop over time. "I keep a close eye on when employees take shortcuts because if they start cutting corners on a small task, bigger issues can be right around the corner," notes Walters.

For example, Walters occasionally notices that his bartenders do not properly sort cash at the end of a weekend night. "It's no big deal and easy for me to fix, but I take this as a sign that we need to review our training," he says.

Remember That You Are the Final Line of Defense

At the end of the day, the responsibility of keeping people safe in your business falls on you. That's why Walters is typically the first one in every day to double-check the cleaning from the night before. "We have a cleaning lady come in every night who does a great job but she doesn't know all the exact standards," he explains. "For example, that we can't store fruit in the same fridge as alcohol, even if they will all end up in alcoholic drinks." Walters makes sure everything is ready to go before his staff arrives.

As always, it's important to remember that the health of your employees and customers depends on your allergy and sanitation practices. For more restaurant management best practices, read this article: How to Use Restaurant Management Strategies to Cook Up Success.

Tags: operations Training