The classic “sit, be served, and eat” restaurant model changed in 1954 when a visionary named Ray Kroc introduced a whole new “fast food” system of food service at McDonald’s that let patrons order their food at a counter and take it to their tables. That was all new, but it wasn’t the final change that changed how restaurants work.

Here are some of the new arrivals that have followed in Ray Kroc’s steps and arrived on the American restaurant landscape:

  • More and more fast food restaurants have arrived, including Burger King, Dunkin’ Donuts, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell. Like the original McDonald’s, they let diners order food at a counter and carry it out or to their tables. Drive-through service has also become part of the style. Even though utensils and plates are disposable, the fast-food model requires employees to understand and observe strict protocols for storing and preparing food, for preventing food contamination, and for keeping restaurants clean and sanitary.
  • Buffet restaurants have grown in popularity over the last few years. They are “all you can eat” restaurants where patrons serve themselves from hot tables. Most fall into two categories: Asian/Chinese and American. Although they offer limited table service, their way of delivering food requires all employees to be strictly trained to maintain sanitary conditions.
  • Fast casual restaurants, like Chipotle, Q’doba and Panera Bread, are a step up from fast food restaurants because more of the food is prepared to order, often from fresh ingredients. Most fast casual restaurants do not offer table service; patrons pick up their food selections and carry them to tables. Even though speed of delivery is of top importance, cooks and food preparers need to be thoroughly schooled in the science of cooking food thoroughly to required internal temperatures.
  • Casual dining restaurants, like Applebee’s, Red Lobster, and TGI Friday’s, are a step up from fast casual eateries. They offer a wider range of entrees at higher prices and offer table service and beer and wine. A great deal of the food that these restaurants serve arrives in trucks, and some of it is frozen. It is critically important that all employees make sure that arriving frozen foods are really frozen and that they are stored quickly in freezers where temperatures are low enough to prevent thawing. As is the case in all other restaurants, it is critically important that all employees know how to keep the premises clean and avoid food contamination.
  • Ethnic restaurants come in more and varieties today, including Italian, Greek, Chinese, and Japanese. Restaurants in this category generally offer table service, use metal cutlery, cloth napkins and table cloths, and ceramic plates. Servers need training to keep these eateries clean and to prevent contamination from used utensils and linens.
  • Fine dining restaurants are sometimes part of chains and sometimes independently owned and run. They often have bars, wine stewards, and the kind of high-quality service that builds relationships with customers. Some have well-known or even celebrity chefs. Food is prepared individually to order from fresh ingredients that are often obtained on the day they are served. Employees need to be trained to inspect fresh produce, seafood and meat for the utmost freshness. And again, cleanliness and good sanitation are of great importance.
  • Coffee bars, like Starbucks and Peet’s Coffee, can be found in stand-alone stores, but are increasingly found in hotels, shopping malls, and even highway rest stops. They now serve not just coffee, but a variety of pre-packaged foods that must be stored correctly to prevent spoilage and contamination. Although customers think that coffee shops are places where no food is prepared on site, a lot of good behind-the-scenes training is needed to prevent food contamination and other problems.
  • Hotel breakfast areas have become another popular place for diners to eat breakfast. Generally, they are staffed by attendants who put out food and beverages, replenish food as it is consumed, clear tables and keep the premises clean. Disposable cups, plates and utensils are almost always used. Although it might be tempting to skimp on training attendants, doing so is unwise. Like all other employees, they need to be trained to wash their hands, clean the areas where food is prepared and served, and observe other safe protocols for food handling.
  • Counters that sell prepared meals can now be found at many supermarkets across America. They offer busy people the chance to purchase hot meals that can be taken home and quickly served. You have seen these counters, and possibly purchased meals at them. But have you stopped to think that they pose special training challenges? Not only must food preparers and servers take steps to avoid food contamination, they must also understand how long it takes prepared entrees to spoil, whether unsold inventory can be put out for sale on a second or third day, and many other considerations that customers might not think about. All serving areas must be thoroughly cleaned in ways that avoid contamination from cleaning chemicals. Plus, there is the absolute necessity of correctly washing all serving dishes and serving utensils that are reused day after day.
  • Juice and snack bars in health clubs are growing quickly in popularity. Although they are about the most basic food-service outlets, they too pose special training demands. One often-overlooked issue is that employees need to be trained to maintain juicers, which are among the most difficult to clean of all food-preparation machines. Juicers that are not thoroughly and promptly cleaned with hot water after each use can be an invitation to contamination and spoilage.
  • Delivery-only food services have become part of the way Americans buy and consume food. Some of them, including Domino’s Pizza, sell virtually all of their food via delivery. And many more eat-in restaurants now offer delivery too. How does this trend impact food service training? Immensely, because each delivery person must be skilled in observing the highest standards of cleanliness and sanitation when handling food. You might think that training delivery people is not of the utmost importance – but it is.

The Solution? Training

So, what kind of restaurant are you, and what special challenges do you face as you create your training programs for new and current employees? No matter what kind of food you serve or how you serve it, this special report will explore the most important – in many cases, critical – skills that your food service training program should include. At The Food Safety of America Institute, we offer a convenient, affordable and effective online Food Handler Training Program. Contact us to learn more.