A buffet can be a very convenient food option for hotel guests, permitting them to select what they want and take only what they need, as well as reducing staff cost. However, if you decide to offer a buffet, you must also consider the safety precautions required to avoid cross-contamination, which can cause serious illness.
Should a guest suffer food poisoning, or similar illness, as a result of food consumed at your hotel and hold you responsible, you could face a legal compensation claim under the products liability section of your Hotel or Guest House Insurance policy.
Buffet food safety is not something to take lightly, it begins prior to service through meticulous preparation work and continues until the final buffet serving has been completed and it is closed for business.
Prep Work Tips
Even Before putting food out for customers, fruit and vegetables should be washed thoroughly under running water (if applicable). Specific utensils should then be used, along with clean chopping boards to slice and dice.
Make sure that the utensils are used only for individual products to remove contamination risk, using separate utensils and chopping boards for meat, poultry and other food items containing animal by-products.
One of the biggest risks is that buffets for functions may be prepared, or assisted, by non-kitchen staff who may not be aware of best practices in food hygiene. With this in mind you should ensure that all hotel staff are fully trained in all areas of kitchen health and safety.
Buffet Setup Best Practice
Once the food is fully cooked, the staff can begin to place it on the buffet. To protect your dishes, ensure that sneeze guards or food shields are properly placed and are clean.
- Place long-handled spoons and tongs into foods for customers to serve themselves easily. We would recommend all utensils are replaced at least every four hours.
- All food and dressings should be properly labelled, including the ingredients and allergy information. This will avoid the risk of adverse allergic reactions, but will also ensure that guests will not be tempted to taste dishes to identify what the items are before putting it on their plates.
- Avoid setting the buffet earlier than required. In a busy hotel it is tempting to set the buffet up around the multiple number of other tasks in hand – however, If some foods sit out too long, they will spoil quickly and bacteria may start to build up.
To prevent foodborne illnesses, foods must be kept at specific temperatures. Hot items should be kept at 60 ºC and cold items should be kept at 5 ºC.
- Check food temperatures with a thermometer at least every two hours to ensure that they are still safe to eat.
- Egg and meat products, cooked foods and items containing mayonnaise should be monitored closely. These products can spoil very quickly, particularly in warm conditions and should not be kept out for more than four hours.
- Encourage your guests to use new plates when they visit the buffet for additional helpings, reducing cross contamination exposures.
- If any items spill or utensils dropped or be placed in the incorrect trays, ensure that staff clean up spills and replace serving dishes and utensils immediately.
- Ensure that food is replenished frequently – staff should never place fresh foods in the same containers as others that have been sitting for a while.
The simplest way to ensure consistent buffet quality and outstanding food hygiene is to implement a clear risk management plan, supported by appropriate staff training. This document should outline each stage in detail and business expectations.
Once the plan is in place, regular checks and reviews should be undertaken to ensure consistent best practice is being achieved. A good buffet experience can deliver some very positive online reviews and increase occupancy rates, however, should standards drop or should a guest suffer ill-health, negativity can spread extremely quickly in today’s social media world.
Taking food safety precautions isn’t just a good idea – it’s expected.
FREE Business Insurance Review
Good housekeeping and risk management is appreciated by insurers and the ability to demonstrate and document best practice will support your Hotel Insurance programme, reducing claims frequency to ensure premium levels are consistent and manageable.
Insync specialises in cover for the hospitality industry, we can Compare Hotel and Guest House Insurance from the UK’s leading insurers to ensure you find the right level of cover at the right price.
Request a quotation online, alternatively, why not book a free review with one of our expert Gurus and get some expert advice on your specific requirements.