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9 & 10 NOV 2021


Don’t fall into the Christmas trap – how to maintain safety standards during the festive season

With an influx of temporary staff during your busiest period, managing risks and food safety at Christmas can create a headache.

Any reputable food business has watertight processes in place, whereby staff are fully trained and understand what is expected of them, but how do you address this with temporary employees who are only going to be with you for a short period during your busiest trading time?

In our experience, keeping it simple and having a clear plan in place are key.  At Food Alert, we have witnessed the consequences when things go wrong during the Christmas period due to lack of planning, and it can be disastrous.   

Top Tips for Festive Staff

Here is our top 5 checklist to help make sure your Christmas is a cracker and not a turkey:

Keep it simple.  At this time of year, you may not have the time to train temporary staff to the same high levels as your permanent team. However, it’s still important to make sure that you cover all the key basics: emergency procedures, allergen control and sickness reporting procedures. We recommend you keep records of the training provided – this is where online training could be a useful tool to consider.  It’s flexible and staff can do it in their own time and helps you ensure they have a good understanding of the ‘essentials of food hygiene’.

Supervision. During busy periods, such as Christmas, it is too easy to expect your temporary staff to hit the ground running.  From the temporary employees’ perspective, it’s so much harder to ask questions when the venue is really busy.  Therefore, proper supervision is key.

At Food Alert we recommend that all new staff are buddied up, have regular short catch-ups with supervisors and initially given duties that are easy to supervise.   

Making sure that teams are fully briefed and that your processes are clearly outlined will not only protect your people, but ultimately your customers and your business.

Plain Talking. Communication is vital and it’s likely that some temporary staff will have English as their second language.  Consider how you present your food hygiene and health & safety notes to make them as easy as possible to understand.  Using graphics instead of words and / or buddying up with a member of staff who speaks the same language are simple, but great ways of overcoming the language hurdle.

Keep it healthy. Coughs, colds and sickness bugs are commonplace over the winter months. Your teams must know, they need to inform their Manager if they have suffered from food poisoning symptoms and that they can’t return to work until 48 hours after the symptoms have stopped.  We recommend providing essential food hygiene notes that must be signed to demonstrate they understand your procedures and expectations.

Keep it risk free. From dangerous equipment to allergens, restaurants are full of potential hazards.  Despite your best efforts, all it takes is one minor mistake and the consequences can be enormous.

You need to identify your high-risk food processes and dangerous equipment. Make sure they are communicated to your temporary staff and that they have signed documentation to confirm they have understood.

High on everyone’s list of risks, especially during Christmas, is the issue of allergens. Temporary staff need to be clearly briefed on your allergen procedures but should not be given the responsibility to provide allergen information.  Appointing ‘allergen champions’ within your team is recommended, so that agency staff know who they can turn to if asked about allergens. 

Ultimately, it all comes down to communication, supervision and training. If you invest time up front to make sure that agency staff are fully briefed on key policies and procedures, it will be worth it in the long run, to make sure you have a cracker of a Christmas.

The Food Alert team will be available to answer your food safety and health & safety questions at Restaurant & Bar Tech Live, stand H158 2019.

 By Food Alert’s Managing Director Technical Services, Peter Christopher-Ohrt.