Thanks to the variety they offer and the high volume they can serve, buffets are popular with customers and restaurants alike. And while they’re great at drawing a crowd, if you don’t follow proper protocol to keep them safe, they can be a dangerous breeding ground for bacteria. Considering there are 48 million cases of foodborne illness annually, you can’t afford to take risks.
To ensure you have a bacteria-free buffet that’s in tip-top shape, take these precautions:
Serve food while it’s hot
Buffets get busy, and the crowds can be overwhelming. But in the midst of the buzz, you need to keep your food hot — warm doesn’t cut it. To serve your food at optimum temperatures, make sure you’re taking advantage of the proper equipment, such as buffet warmers, holding cabinets and heated wells.
Avoid the “danger zone”
Take a cue from Goldilocks and keep your food temperatures “just right.” Cold foods should be at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and hot foods should be at or above 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Steer clear of that middle ground to prevent bacteria from growing. Check out our handy temperature chart for more safety tips!
Keep 'em separated
To avoid cross-contamination, always create a healthy distance between your cooked and raw foods. For example, use a carving station that allows you to set your meat apart from the cold food you’re serving. Or better yet, serve hot and cold foods at separate stations entirely if your setup allows for it.
This should be a no-brainer, but when dealing with food, wash your hands, utensils, and surfaces regularly. Foodborne illness often travels as a direct result of hand contamination, so uphold the highest standard of cleanliness and communicate it to your staff.
While you need to use proper equipment to keep your food warm on the outside, monitor temperatures from the inside too. Use meat thermometers to ensure you’ve eliminated harmful bacteria, and you’re serving your meat at a safe temperature.
When in doubt, throw it out
Regardless of how busy your buffet gets, make sure you’re watching the clock. If there’s any food left at room temperature for more than two hours, throw it away. And if you’re catering an outdoor event where it’s hotter than 90 degrees Fahrenheit out, toss it after one hour.
Start with safety-first equipment.
With a little planning and the right precautions, you’re well on your way to a safe buffet. And, when it comes to the right products, we’ve got your back. With our safety-first and innovation-led buffet equipment, you can rest easy knowing that your buffet will be bacteria-free. To hear more about Hatco’s buffet solutions, contact us today!