Improving Hygiene To Create A Safe Environment For All

With huge numbers of staff in the catering sectors reporting sick, the issue of hygiene has never been so critical. Rupert Lynch, Client Relationship Manager, at allmanhall (, the independently owned food procurement expert, looks at how a good hygiene regime can instill confidence in staff, and will ensure catering operations can continue operating.

The last two years has seen huge changes in the way catering teams source and deliver food, as the pandemic challenged the long-established way of doing things. Many new ideas have been tried and put in place, to establish an infrastructure to meet the ever-changing demands of providing an environment that is safe and COVID compliant. As we begin a new year, there are still many new challenges ahead, most notably staff shortages due to self-isolation and sickness. With so many changes already implemented to keep staff and customers safe, how can catering teams go the extra mile to ensure an even better level of safety. Kitchens have adapted to an ever-changing environment that was outside of their control and devised systems that could cope with the guidelines laid down by the Government. There is still a requirement for employers to complete and communicate a COVID-19 risk assessment, a key part of the Government’s ‘Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19)’ guidance, which remains unchanged. With varying rules still in place across the whole of the UK, catering teams have undertaken risk assessments to ascertain whether all or some of the changes made are still required, or whether they could adapt and implement some of the ‘enforced’ changes to enable a better and more efficient operation.

Social distancing, PPE and staff working patterns all play a key part in the “new norm”, but hygiene is crucial in ensuring everyone remains safe and healthy, and therefore should necessitate particular attention.

Many kitchens will be designed with good hygiene in mind, and continuing the changes implemented during the pandemic is crucial. Creating a safe, hygienic working environment necessitated new working practices, with the need for social distancing resulting in the staggering of the time of staff arrival and departure, creating shift working and introducing flexible rota systems. These new processes are still as important today as at the start of the pandemic. With the danger of complacency creeping in, now is the time to review existing procedures and practices and implement changes that may have been previously considered.

Cleaning schedules can be revisited and updated, concentrating on key touch points, cleaning every two hours, and cleaning seats and tables after every sitting. Look to reduce contact with certain surfaces and equipment, removing unnecessary furnishings and other items from eating and cooking areas which can harbor germs. Regular deep cleaning of the whole kitchen area during quieter periods, will ensure a healthy working place, and staff uniforms should be cleaned more frequently. Regular staff training will ensure all the team are on board for implementing new processes, and that they are smoothly and efficiently executed..

One key consideration caterers have had to deal with, and is currently an even greater threat, was addressing the risk of a complete kitchen shutdown due to one or more staff being off sick. This is a very real concern and limitation, and allmanhall has heard that a number of kitchen teams will be maintaining a ‘bubble’ status, whilst still trying to ensure an element of flexibility.

Once measures are in place catering operators need to communicate the measures they are taking to make staff feel safer. This can be done through good staff training so there is confidence in the measures and everyone is clear.