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Stand-Up Training: Servers and Food Contamination

Restaurant server carries food to customers correctly.

Empower Employees Through Food Safety Training

Preventing food contamination isn’t just a concern during its preparation. It can also be contaminated when it’s being served to the customer. Use this training to teach servers how they can help keep food safe while it’s being carried to the customer.

Learning Objectives

You may choose to read these learning objectives with your employees as a part of the stand-up training.

After this training, employees will be able to:

  • Describe common ways servers can contaminate ready-to-eat meals
  • Explain the proper methods for handling eating utensils
  • Identify appropriate ways to scoop ice
  • Properly handle customer orders

The Facts

You may choose to read these facts with your employees as a part of the stand-up training.

  • Each year, hundreds of foodborne illness outbreaks are traced back to a sick food worker.
  • You must report the following symptoms to your manager so they can decide whether it’s safe for you to come to work:
    • Vomiting (within the past 24 hours)
    • Diarrhea (within the past 24 hours)
    • Infected sores
    • Jaundice (yellowing of the eyes)
    • Sore throat with a fever
  • Bare-hand contact with ready-to-eat foods, like prepared customer orders, causes about 30% of restaurant foodborne illness outbreaks.
  • Practicing good hand hygiene is essential for all food workers, including servers.
  • Hair is a common biological and physical hazard. If you’re a server with long hair, keep it pulled back while you’re working.
  • When filling a glass with ice, always use the ice scoop. Don’t use your hand or the glass itself.
  • To avoid cross-contaminating food, servers should not touch the eating and drinking surfaces of dishes, utensils, or cups. For example, you should carry utensils and cups by the handle or base.
  • When carrying orders to customers, hold plates in the palm of your hand with your fingers tucked below the rim.

Training Activities

Choose the activities that will be most beneficial for your employees. Modify them as needed to fit the training needs of your establishment.

When You’re Feeling Sick

Discuss: What symptoms must be reported to a manager? Why is it important to stay home when you’re sick?

Explain: Go over your company’s sick policy, or show employees where they can find a copy of the policy.

Display (optional): Post the Feeling Sick? Poster in your establishment to remind employees what symptoms they must report before working.

When and How to Wash Hands*

Discuss: When should a server wash their hands? Make sure your employees mention these scenarios:

  • After using the bathroom
  • After touching their hair or clothing
  • After handling money or credit cards
  • After handling dirty dishes

Demonstrate: Ask an employee to demonstrate the proper way to wash hands, or demonstrate it yourself. Have your employees talk about each step as it is performed.

Display (optional): To remind employees how to properly wash their hands, print and hang the Steps of Handwashing poster.

Watch (optional): Watch one or more videos from the Hand Hygiene series.

How to Serve Food Safely*

Demonstrate: Ask one of your employees to explain how to carry plates, utensils, and cups safely. Have another employee follow their instructions exactly, or do it yourself. Point out any mistakes, explain why it’s a mistake, and show how to fix it.

* Note: If your servers wear gloves while delivering food, you may also want to use an activity from our stand-up training Why Food Handlers Should Wear Gloves.

Following Up

Health inspectors are trained to look for potential health hazards when they come to your establishment. You can help your servers prepare for a health inspection by making sure they understand the concepts in this training and develop good habits.

Observe employees as they serve customer orders. When needed, give constructive tips for improving their service. Praise workers who follow the guidelines in this training.

Make sure your shift managers and supervisors can answer questions that servers may have about cross-contamination and serving food safely. Encourage employees to ask questions when they need help instead of guessing at the right answer.

As needed, review this training with your employees.

Training Resources

The Feeling Sick? Poster can be used to remind servers which symptoms they must report before working.

Managers can use the Food Worker Illness Flowchart to remember how they should react if food workers tell them they’re sick.

Post the Steps of Handwashing Poster in your establishment to remind all your food workers how to properly wash their hands.

The Hand Hygiene video series explains why handwashing is important and how to do it correctly. View the Spanish version of this series: Serie Centrada en la Seguridad Alimenticia: Higiene de las Manos.

If your servers wear gloves when delivering orders, include additional facts and activities from the stand-up training Why Food Handlers Should Wear Gloves.

Did you use this stand-up training in your establishment? We’d love to get your feedback! Take a minute to do our feedback survey.

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— Jessica Pettit

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