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Best Practices for Food Service Facilities

This compilation of Best Management Practices for for food facilities covers the following areas:

  1. Pollution Prevention
    1. Reduce Waste and Use Safer Alternatives
    2. Prevent Stormwater runoff
    3. Reduce air emissions
    4. Recycle/reuse hazardous and liquid wastes
  2. Solid Waste Reduction
    1. Office Paper Reduction
    2. Segregate, Reuse or Recycle materials
    3. Buy Recycled/Reused Products
    4. Equipment/Facility Changes
    5. Employee Practices
  3. Water Conservation
    1. Equipment/Facility Changes
    2. Employee Practices

  1. Pollution Prevention
    1. Reduce Waste and Use Safer Alternatives
      • Assess your business to identify ways to reduce use of hazardous materials.
      • Only purchase harmful products such as cleaners and pesticides in small quantities and when alternatives are not available.
      • Limit access to harmful chemicals to trained, authorized staff.
      • Reduce or eliminate the use of chemical pesticides by correcting situations that attract and harbor pests with proper food and garbage storage and landscaping.
      • Use a licensed, registered pest control operator for any chemical pesticide applications.
      • Provide containment for large amounts of liquid supplies.
      • Route used water for clean up to the sanitary sewer drain to avoid run-off going to storm drains.
      • Scrape grease from trays, grills and pans into the waste grease can to minimize kitchen grease going down sewer drains.
      • Avoid placing leftover beverages and wet food in the dumpster.
      • Place baskets in drains to catch solids, which then can be composted where available.
      • Post signs to keep outside dumpster lids closed.
      • Review your pollution prevention assessment and replace harmful products with safer alternatives. (e.g. Cleaning products, disinfectants, sanitizers, pesticides, etc.)
      • Eliminate aerosol cleaners and room fresheners.
      • Use one or a few multipurpose cleaners, rather than many special-purpose cleaners.
      • Replace standard fluorescent lights with low or non-mercury fluorescent lights.
      • Use a chalkboard for listing specials or switch to less toxic, water-based white board markers.
      • Use rechargeable rather than single-use batteries.
      • Purchase dishwashing detergent with reduced volatile organic compounds (VOCs, a source of air pollution).
      • Use natural or low emissions building materials, carpets or furniture.
      • Buy paper products (towels, napkins and copy paper) that are unbleached (no chlorine, or “PFC”).
      • Buy certified organic produce.
      • Support sustainable food and agriculture efforts (e.g. purchase seafood from sustainable sources, buy local grown, etc.)
    2. Prevent Stormwater Runoff
      • Clean private catch basins annually, before the first rain, and as needed thereafter.
      • Regularly inspect and service vents and kitchen hoods to prevent pollution from roof top equipment.
      • Label all storm water drains with “No dumping, drains to Ocean” message.
      • Use landscaping to prevent erosion problems, especially during construction or remodeling.
      • Use dry clean-up methods for sidewalks, walls and windows, parking lots, floor mats and dumpsters to avoid contaminating storm drains: sweep or vacuum before damp mopping or wiping.
      • Regularly clean grease from roof top equipment and surfaces.
      • Post signs at trouble spots (e.g., loading docks, dumpster areas, outside hoses) describing proper practices to prevent pollutants reaching storm drains.
      • Install containment or berms around liquid storage and transfer areas to capture spills.
      • Install shut-off valves at storm drains on property or keep temporary storm drain plugs on hand for quick spill response.
      • Regularly clean cigarette butts and litter from areas surrounding facility and dispose of properly (Ensure adequate ash trays are available to prevent cigarette litter).
    3. Reduce air emissions
      • Make transit schedules, commuter ride sign-ups, etc. available to employees.
      • Offer secure areas for bicycle storage for employees.
      • Set aside car pool/van pool parking spaces.
      • Offer lockers and showers for employees who walk, jog, or bicycle to work.
      • Offer employee incentives for car pooling or using mass transit (e.g. guaranteed ride home if needed).
      • Provide customer bicycle racks or other secure storage area.
      • Link trips to accomplish all errands for your facility in one outing.
    4. Recycle/reuse hazardous and liquid wastes
      • Grease and oil.
      • Excess paint (reuse as a primer, give to hazardous waste collection program or donate).
      • Spent fluorescent tubes.
      • Batteries (at local household hazardous waste facility or through a battery recycling program such as Rechargeable Battery Recycling:
      • Used toner cartridges (can often be sent back to manufacturer)
      • Waste electronic equipment such as computers, monitors, printers and fax machines.
  2. Solid Waste Reduction
    • Conduct a waste assessment to identify ways to reduce waste, increase recycling and increase use of recycled-content products.
    • Select products shipped with less packaging.
    • Buy shelf-stable food supplies in bulk to minimize packaging waste.
    • Check food deliveries for spoiled or damaged product before accepting shipments.
    • Store and rotate supplies to minimize loss through spoilage and damage.
    • Buy products in returnable, reusable or recyclable containers.  Request them if not offered.
    • Install air hand dryers in washrooms and properly educate staff on drying hands completely after hand washing.
    • Require produce to be delivered in corrugated (not waxed) cardboard boxes.
    • Replace disposable drink cups with washable, reusable ones, if approved washing facilities are available.
    • Require cleaning/sanitizing product suppliers to take back empty buckets or drums.
    • Switch from individual condiment packets to DEH-approved cleanable, refillable containers for sugar, salt and pepper, ketchup, and other condiments.
    • Switch from Styrofoam™ type products to paper.
    • Serve straws from approved dispensers rather than offering pre-wrapped.
    • Use reusable metal or nylon coffee filters.
    • Use reusable (laminated) menus; eliminate paper inserts for specials.
    • Offer clients smaller food portions and price menu items accordingly.
    • Eliminate paper placemats and paper tray liners; trays are sanitized after each use.
    • Use laundry service that provides reusable bags for dirty and clean linen.
    • Buy eggs shelled in bulk if using three or more cases per week.
    • Buy pickles, mayonnaise, salad dressings, etc. in containers other than non-recyclable hard plastic pails or buckets. Try them in plastic-lined cardboard, cry-o-vac, or foil pouches.
    • Work with supplier to eliminate inner-pack dividers in shipping containers for miscellaneous supplies.
    • Use cloth instead of paper napkins and tablecloths (in accordance with public health agency  requirements).
    • When preparing take-out food orders, minimize the amount of extra packaging used (double-wrapping, double–bagging).
    • Reduce number of garbage bag liners used by changing them out only when necessary.
    • Purchase cleaning supplies in concentrate and portion into labeled, reusable dispensing bottles.
    • Switch to reusable coasters instead of napkins or paper coasters for drinks.
    1. Office Paper Reduction
      • Set up a bulletin board or develop routing lists for bulletins, memos, and trade journals to minimize the number of employees receiving individual copies.
      • Set printer and copier defaults to double sided.
      • Design marketing materials that require no envelope – simply fold and mail.
      • Eliminate all mailings that are unwanted.
      • Use computer software programs that allow faxing directly from computers without printing.
      • Keep a stack of previously used paper near printers; Reuse backside for scratch paper, drafts or internal memos.
      • Reuse envelopes: Cover old addresses and postage with labels and affix new.
      • Serve carbonated beverages from a beverage gun or dispenser (post mix) rather than by the bottle or can.
      • Purchase reusable, washable hats for kitchen employees instead of single use disposable ones.
      • Use reusable beverage canisters rather than the bag-in-the-box containers.
    2. Segregate, Reuse or Recycle materials
      • Donate non-perishable excess food to shelters or food banks.
      • Designate space (away from food storage areas) for storing recyclables such as bottles and cans. (Check your local health codes or health authorities for approval first.)
      • Recycle glass, plastic and aluminum containers with deposit value.
      • Recycle newspapers.
      • Collect food waste and food-contaminated paper products for organics composting where such service is available.
      • Recycle wood, including pallets and wood from remodeling activities.
      • Send used toner cartridges back to the manufacturer or local service for recycling or refilling.
      • Recycle non-deposit glass and metal containers. (Jars/tin cans)
      • Recycle cardboard (corrugated cardboard boxes).
      • Recycle mixed paper:  junk mail, magazines, catalogs, phonebooks, etc.
      • For shipping non-food items, use shredded paper for packaging needs instead of purchasing Styrofoam™ pellets, bubble wrap, other packing materials.
      • Use old tablecloths, cloth napkins and washcloths as rags.
      • Leave grass clipping on mowed turf (“grass-cycling”) rather than disposing.
      • Compost or recycle pre-consumer vegetable/fruit/landscape trimmings if services are available.
      • Donate old uniforms and linens to shelters or nonprofits or otherwise recycle them.
      • Recycle metal, including scrap from remodeling activities and replacing equipment
    3. Buy Recycled/Reused Products
      • Take-out containers – paperboard and plastics (#1 and #2, not #6 and #7)
      • Garbage pails and bags (recycled HDPE trash liner bags instead of LDPE or LLDPE)
      • Mulch, soil amendments and compost made of plant trimmings, or green waste (for landscaping)
      • Construction materials when building/remodeling (such as plastic lumber for decking, benches and railing, carpet, carpet padding, etc)
      • Paper table covers
      • Storage bins and containers for recyclables
      • Floor mats
      • Office paper and business cards
      • Napkins and/or placemats
      • Toilet seat covers and paper towels in restrooms
      • Recycled or Remanufactured printer and copier toner cartridges
    4. Equipment/Facility Changes
      • Have your energy company or an energy service conduct an energy assessment of your facility.
      • Use an energy management system to control lighting, kitchen exhaust, refrigeration and HVAC.
      • Install occupancy sensors for lighting in low occupancy areas, including walk-in refrigerator/freezers.
      • Replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lights.
      • Install a programmable thermostat to control heating and air conditioning.
      • Upgrade existing fluorescent lighting with T-8 lamps with electronic ballasts.
      • Use an approved water-conserving dishwasher to save both heating and water costs.
      • Install dimmable ballasts to dim lights when daylight is available.
      • Insulate all major hot water pipes.
      • Use weather stripping to close air gaps around doors and windows.
      • Select electrical equipment with energy saving features (e.g. Energy Star).
      • Replace electric motors with high efficiency motors.
      • Use a low-flow pre-rinse spray nozzle for dish scraping/pre-cleaning (saves both heating and water costs).
      • Retrofit exit signs with LEDs or fluorescent bulbs.
      • Insulate refrigeration cold suction lines.
      • Install plastic strip curtains on walk-in refrigerator/freezer doors.
      • Install heat/energy recovery equipment on Refrigeration and HVAC.
      • Install and use computer hardware programs that save energy by automatically turning off idle monitors and printers.
      • Use solar energy sources/equipment.
      • Install ceiling fans.
    5. Employee Awareness
      • Perform regularly scheduled maintenance on your HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system. 
        • Clean permanent filters with mild detergents every three months.
        • Keep condenser coils free of dust and lint.
      • Check entire HVAC system each year for coolant and air leaks, clogs, and obstructions of air intake and vents.
      • Clean lighting fixtures and lamps so that they are lighting as effectively as possible.
      • Replace aging fluorescent light tubes for maximum light output.
      • Turn-off lights where possible.
      • Ensure that freezer defrost time clock is set properly to avoid peak energy use periods (noon to 6 p.m.).
      • Turn off exhaust hoods and hood lights when appliances below them are off.  (These must be on when appliances are on.)
      • Turn off back up fryers and turn ovens and toasters down or off during periods of low customer traffic.
      • Set hot water heaters to standard 140-150º F.
      • Reduce dishwasher hot water temperature to lowest temperature allowed by health regulations and consistent with the type of sanitizing system you are using.
      • Keep indoor refrigerator, freezer and ice machine condenser coils free of excessive frost, dust and lint.
      • Use NSF-approved wire or open shelving to allow for good airflow within refrigeration unit. Stack food containers to allow good airflow between items.
      • Operate dishwashers only when fully loaded.
      • During slower periods, group customers so that lights and heating/cooling can be turned off in unoccupied areas.
      • Turn room-cooling units off when the weather is cooler if not part of make-up air for hoods.
      • Drain and flush hot water tanks to the sanitary sewer every 6 months to prevent scale build up and deposits.
      • Institute a start-up and shut-down schedule for major cooking appliances, exhaust hoods, and for smaller appliances such as coffee machines, holding cabinets, steam tables, plate and food warmers, heat lamps and conveyor toasters.
      • Do not overload fryer baskets beyond the manufacturer’s recommended capacity.
      • Maintain refrigerator doors by replacing worn gaskets, aligning doors, enabling automatic door closers, and replacing damaged strip curtains.
      • Use light switch reminders to remind guest and staff to turn off lights.
      • Check and adjust lighting control devices such as time clocks and photocells.
      • Set thermostat to 76º F for cooling, 68º F for heating, and use the thermostat’s night setback.
      • Institute a policy that all electronic devices and lighting be turned off in non-occupied rooms.
      • Use cooking equipment to full capacity. Fully loaded equipment utilizes energy more efficiently.
      • Check pilot lights for proper adjustment.
  3. Water Conservation
    • Learn how to read your water meter/bill as a way to detect leaks and problems.
    • Regularly check for and repair all leaks in your facility.
    • If Irrigation System is in place:
      • Adjust for proper coverage. Check sprinkler heads regularly to be sure the lawn is being watered and not the sidewalk or parking spaces.
      • Adjust sprinklers to achieve even water distribution.
      • Repair all defective lines and sprinkler heads.
    • Adjust irrigation times and durations with the seasons. Water during early morning hours to decrease water loss from evaporation
    1. Equipment/Facility Changes
      • Have your local water utility or water conservation service conduct a water audit of your facility.
      • Install low flow aerators (80 psi): 1.5 gpm for sink faucets and lavatory sinks; 2.2 gpm for kitchen sinks.
      • Install quick closing toilet flappers
      • Install ultra low flow toilets – 1.6 gallons per flush max or dual flush toilets (look for WaterSense labeled fixtures, rebates or vouchers available in some areas).
      • Install signs in restrooms encouraging water conservation.
      • Install high-pressure, low volume spray nozzle for pre-washing dishes verses cleaning with running water.
      • Replace water-cooled equipment with air-cooled equipment such as ice machines.
      • Install water conserving batch dishwasher systems.
      • Reduce water pressure to no higher than 70 psi by installing pressure-reducing valves.
      • Landscape with drought resistant plants.
      • Use ground cover or mulch around landscape plants to prevent evaporation.
      • Install a low-volume irrigation, such as a drip system or soaker hoses.
    2. Employee Practices
      • Use a fan-jet sprayer before loading dishes into dishwasher.
      • Use dry surface cleaning methods, followed by damp mopping or wiping.
      • Adjust boiler and cooling tower blow down rate to maintain TDS (total dissolved solids) at levels recommended by manufacturers’ specifications.
      • Apply water, fertilizer, or pesticides to your landscape only when needed, rather than on an automatic schedule.
      • Look for signs of wilt before watering established plants. Ensure that your landscaper implements this practice.
      • Turn off food preparation faucets that are not in use. Consider installing foot triggers.
      • Shut off water-cooled air conditioning units when not needed.
      • Serve water in bars and restaurants only upon request.
      • Avoid runoff by making sure that sprinklers are directing water to landscaped areas, and not paved areas.
      • Turn off the continuous flow used to wash the drain trays of the coffee/milk/soda island. (Clean thoroughly as needed)
      • Plan ahead and thaw frozen foods in the refrigerator rather than under running water.
      • Adjust ice machines to dispense less ice if ice is being wasted.
      • Wash exterior windows with a bucket and squeegee rather than power washing.