How to Avoid Surprise Health Inspections at Your Restaurant

How to Avoid Surprise Health Inspections at Your Restaurant

A restaurant can be a dangerous place, filled with razor-sharp cutting utensils, slippery floors, super-heated liquids and bodies moving at lightning speed in a confined area. It’s the type of hazardous environment that is a magnet for health inspections conducted by both the Occupational Safety and Hazards Administration (OSHA) and other workers’ compensation authorities. 

However, it doesn’t have to be this way. The key is to think safety, starting from senior management all the way down to the people bussing tables. It also comes down to something as simple as the design of the restaurant itself. Here are some suggestions, courtesy of Restaurant Hospitality and OSHA, on how the design of your restaurant can go a long way in reducing workplace injuries.

In the kitchen:

  • Buy countertops and cutting surfaces that can be adjusted to the right height for different workers.
  • Install dumbwaiters to transfer food products between floors.
  • Install sinks that are at the height of most workers’ hips. This helps prevent strain in dishwashing.
  • Buy thick rubber mats for use when kneeling.
  • Make sure that all the equipment, utensils, pots and pans needed in the kitchen are within reach of the shortest worker.

In the front of house:

  • Install coat racks at chest height.
  • Install hip-height bar sinks and ice storage at bars.
  • Install computer workstations for ordering that are adjustable with touchscreens.
  • Install lights at ordering computer workstations with dimmers that direct light upward, toward the ceiling.
  • Design at the bar is important, too. The distance between the bartender and customer should measure 22 inches or less.

Workers in the restaurant should:

  • Store heavy and frequently used items on racks that are no lower than hip height and no higher than chest height.
  • Limit very low and overhead storage to items not often used.
  • Rather than bending, stooping or kneeling, work at levels between your hips and chest. You should work in your power zone while sweeping the floor.

Owners and managers should:

  • Create a written safety policy in your handbook. This should address separately the hazards most frequently encountered by employees. Work rules must meet or exceed OSHA standards. Work rules need to be in writing and be distributed to all.
  • Communicate the rules to employees. Ensure management is on board and all new employees are properly trained prior to starting. Implement continued training safety and establish safety committed, view vendor demos and educate workers on most frequently encountered hazards.
  • Take steps to discover violations. Oversee safety inspections, walk-throughs and audits. Watch for hazards or rule violations. Do periodic safety self-inspections.

Eventually, health inspections will find their way to your location, preferably just on a routine inspection and not because of some catastrophic workplace injury involving hot soup. But by using the information we’ve outlined above you will survive your next OSHA visit because you will have substantially reduced your risk profile.

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Training and Certifications Required For Bartenders

Training and Certifications Required For Bartenders

Serving alcohol is a big responsibility, both in the eyes of the law and in terms of safety. Because of this, if you’re going to be bartending, or serving alcohol in any capacity, the proper training and certifications are not just advisable but most likely mandatory. While the specifics vary from state to state, here are some of the general rules to be aware of as a bartender or server.

The act of serving alcohol is hedged around rules to keep people safe, so many municipalities require bartenders, servers, or anyone else who physically handles/serves alcoholic drinks to have certification in responsible alcohol serving. Furthermore, most places require that training be completed and certification be in hand within 30-60 days of starting.

The course can go by many names depending on the state. For instance, those in California call it Responsible Beverage Server Training while Texas folks call them Texas Alcohol Bureau Control Classes. Whatever the name, they are all about the same thing: making sure everyone complies with the law and that they’re safe while doing so. As for specifics, here are the topics covered:

  • Current state and local laws
  • When and how to check IDs, including how to spot the fakes
  • Legal consequences of serving someone who is under age
  • Effects of alcohol and signs of impairment
  • Intervention methods and techniques

Most of the time, these classes have to be in person and you will want to check with your local government to make sure the town will accept that particular class’s certificate especially if you’re moving elsewhere.

Where can you find such training programs? Sometimes the local police or state alcohol boards provide classes as well as the certificate, but you can get it just as easily from certifying bodies such as ServSafe and Server Certification Corp. These certificates can last a year or two, depending on the issuing body and municipality.

Fortunately for bartenders and others serving alcohol, the legal requirements end there. There isn’t any place that requires a bartender to take classes or be certified in drink-making, just to be trained in safety, which is always the #1 priority.

Need to get certified?

Click here to get all of the information you need, including training options, class dates and times and links to register.

Get ServSafe Certified in Denver

Get ServSafe Certified in Denver

The ServSafe Program leads the way in providing comprehensive educational materials to the restaurant industry through face-to-face and online instruction. Certification classes are provided monthly by the Colorado Restaurant Association. If you’re not located in Colorado, check your State’s Restaurant Association website for event information.

ServSafe Alcohol

The purpose of the ServSafe Alcohol ® is to ensure that servers, bartenders, and managers have the information they need to understand and implement the skills of responsible service. Participants should leave the program confident in their ability to make sound decisions and handle potentially intoxicated guests. A workbook is provided as a reference tool for your operation.


Next Class:

9:00 AM – 1:00 PM
Colorado Restaurant Association
430 E 7th Ave
Denver, CO 80203


Who Should Attend: Managers Supervisors Bartenders, Servers, Barbacks, FOH, Owners, Operators
Cost: $40 CRA members, $55 non-members
Registration form (REQUIRED): View/Download here


ServSafe Food Safety

ServSafe Food Safety® is a program of the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. The Manager Certification course is a 1-day immersion course, offering basic food safety concepts. This program has a certification exam; passage of the exam is acceptable in 95% of American jurisdictions with a training requirement.


Next Class:

8:30 AM – 5:00 PM
Colorado Restaurant Association
430 E 7th Ave
Denver, CO 80203


Who Should Attend: Managers, Supervisors, Chefs, Line Cooks, Prep Cooks, Kitchen Managers, Owners, Operators
Cost: $140 CRA members, $180 non-members
Registration form (REQUIRED): View/Download here
Getting ServSafe Certified As Efficiently As Possible

Getting ServSafe Certified As Efficiently As Possible

Food and beverage safety is the number one priority when running a restaurant, especially a successful one. That means making sure your managers, service staff and bar staff are trained and that their certifications stay up-to-date.

Enter ServSafe, the most popular food and beverage safety training program in the industry. Accepted in every state, it’s the obvious choice in terms of training resources. Now, you just have to figure out when and how to make sure your employees get ServSafe certified and that’s where we come in…

Here are the pro-tips to ensure your staff has all the training they need:

Create a schedule for everyone to get certified routinely

The ServSafe certificate is good for 5 years. In addition, many states mandate that you get re-certified once every certain number of years. For instance, California wants recertification once every 5 years, in Utah it is every 3 years, and Alaska is every 5 years.

No one expects you to keep track of all your employees hire-dates in your head, so have a schedule up in your break room that shows re-certification dates by hire date. For instance, if you hired 3 people in 2014, all three get a training day together in 2017.

Pro-tip: Make sure managers are also on the schedule, since many states (Rhode Island and California, for instance) mandate that a manager certified in safe food handling is always on site when food is being prepared.

Let technology be your friend

ServSafe has online courses that allow employees to take classes in the comfort of the break room or their own living rooms. Online courses make it easy to get new hires certified quickly and lets you work around everyone’s busy schedules.

To make things even more convenient, you can request eCertificates.

Students can request that the PDF file of the certificate be emailed to them immediately after they pass the exam, which means that you can have the proof of their training displayed right away.

Get all your certificates at once

ServSafe certifies in food safety for managers, food safety for food handlers, responsible alcohol serving, and allergen safety. Their website also has links to National Restaurant Association programs for food management professionals.

Line everything up at once so you don’t have to keep track of different expiration dates and which certificates you are missing.

Make sure everyone passes the first time by offering study help

Honestly, some people don’t take tests well. They may be fantastic Chefs and Managers, with sterling records regarding safety and sanitation, but they have a hard time taking notes or they freeze at the word ‘exam.’

Remind your staff that if anyone needs a little assistance in note taking or understanding questions, you’re more than willing to help, and that ServSafe has links to quizzes and other study guides.

This way, your world-class employees can spend more time doing their jobs and less time fretting about a test.

Food safety certification is mandatory in most states and counties. These tips will make complying with these regulations easy and efficient, and will keep your establishment focused on producing good food, instead of keeping up with paperwork.


Are Bartenders To Blame If Customers Drinks Too Much?

Are Bartenders To Blame If Customers Drinks Too Much?

The best bartenders get a kick out of knowing they’re helping people have a good time – but what if it goes too far? Should bartenders be to blame if someone drinks themselves into injury or illness?

Bartending is a profession dedicated to the art of hospitality, but working with alcohol is not a position of power that should ever be taken lightly.

While the cocktail sector is exploding with boundary-pushing innovation, it is imperative the industry does not become detached from the dangers associated with what is, after all, an intoxicating drug.

In numerous countries including the UK, the US and Australia, legislation has been put in place making it illegal to sell alcohol to a person who is obviously drunk, and similarly, to buy an alcoholic drink for someone you know to be drunk.

However, despite the foundation of such laws, questions abound over who is responsible for ensuring the industry is not plagued with a problem of over-consumption.

During recent months, the media has been awash with a string of high-profile tragedies involving the apparent “over-serving” of alcohol, a handful of which have had calamitous consequences.

In April 2015, Martell’s Tiki Bar in Point Pleasant Beach, Jersey Shore, US, was fined $500,000 and had its licence revoked for a month after allegedly over-serving alcohol to a woman who later died in a car crash.

Tragic incident

The incident unfolded in 2013 after Ashley Chieco, 26, left Martell’s in another person’s car, which collided with an oncoming vehicle, killing herself and injuring the other driver, Dana Corrar.

The survivor suffered two broken legs, broken ribs and will “never work again, never walk again normally and never be pain-free,” according to her lawyer, Paul Edelstein, a personal injury specialist. Martell’s pleaded “no contest” to the charge of serving alcohol to an intoxicated person in exchange for the fine.

“Businesses that profit from the sale of alcohol are well aware of its dangers, particularly when combined with people who then get into vehicles.”

Edelstein adds that “it is akin to a shop selling bullets and then allowing its customers access to a gun when they leave. Hopefully, the attention alone will make a bartender think twice before continuing to serve someone and inquire as to how they are leaving a location that does not provide access to mass transit.”

So when it comes to alcohol consumption where does the responsibility of the bartender start and that of the consumer end?

For some, all persons involved – the consumer, bartender and management – have a collective duty for the wellbeing of both patrons and staff.

Know your limits

“It’s everyone’s job to make sure the guests are happy and safe at the same time,” comments Kate Gerwin, general manager of HSL Hospitality and winner of the Bols Around the World Bartending Championships 2014.

First and foremost, obviously the customer should know their own limits, however we all know that is not always the case. Bartenders should make safe service of alcohol a huge priority in day-to-day business and the owner of the bar should take a vested interest in the education of the staff about over-serving and the dangers and consequences.”

But for others, the responsibility rests with those in a managerial position who need to step up to their line of duties.

“Inevitably, the responsibility lies with the management chain – they are the licensees,” says British bartender and entrepreneur JJ Goodman, co-founder of the London Cocktail Club.

“In the UK we have an inherent history of binge drinking, so customers aren’t very perceptive to being told they’re not allowed another drink. When that sort of situation occurs, someone more senior and experienced needs to come in to handle it and command control as quickly as possible.

Diffusing the situation

Similar snippets of advice surrounding this irrefutably sensitive subject are echoed throughout the industry.

Accusing guests of being drunk is deemed as the biggest faux pas, and a sure fire way to escalate an already testing episode.

Avoiding embarrassment, ascertaining a first name basis and gaining the aid and trust of any peers who may be present are all recommended methods when it comes to diffusing any drama involved with this task.

Various initiatives have been instigated to curtail irresponsible service and consumption. At the end of 2014, the British Beer and Pub Association launched a poster campaign in the UK to drive awareness among consumers and on-trade establishments of the law surrounding serving people who are obviously drunk.

“It’s not about getting more prosecutions; it’s about raising awareness.”

Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, continues by explaining that, “it’s important we don’t turn pubs and bars into fortresses – we want to encourage people to go to these socially responsible places. But we need to find a balance between staff responsibility and personal responsibility.”

This article originally appeared in The Spirits Business.