BBQ Season: How to Sizzle Safely

Regardless of the weather, the first May bank holiday opens the summer season for many foodservice businesses, and signals the time to get the beer gardens scrubbed up and barbecues dusted off. Barbecues are a great way to tempt passers-by to stop for a pint and a burger and, as long as hygiene standards are maintained while cooking outside, the BBQ season can give a great boost to sales.

The Brits love a barbecue – research by National BBQ Week reveals that approximately 130 million barbecues were hosted in 2015, making Britain Europe’s leading barbecue nation and the number is expected to grow. However, the love of a sizzling grill has also some less positive consequences. According to the Food Standards Agency (FSA), the number of food poisoning cases almost doubles each summer compared to the winter season. While food poisoning is dangerous and unpleasant for private cooks and their friends and family, for a food service business, food hygiene incidents can lead to serious financial consequences and irreversible damage to reputation.

We are listing here some tips to help you ensure the BBQ season is a success:

  1. Train staff on hygiene standards

Good food hygiene is everyone’s responsibility, from the bartender serving cocktails next to be barbecue, to the chef cooking the burgers and the waiter handling the transaction with the customers. When everyone knows the drill, identifying and addressing possible hygiene breaches becomes easier.

  1. Make sure the outdoor kitchen layout is practical

Outdoor food preparation facilities are rarely as well-organised or protected as the ones in the permanent kitchen. While your staff know their way through the daily hygiene routines in the kitchen, carrying out the same tasks outdoors can be a challenge. Some areas worth considering include access to hot water, the location of the raw meat preparation area, heated storage for leftover food, and access to the bin and cleaning products.

  1. Ensure everyone knows the rules

When it comes to food safety, the customer is not always right. Customer requests can conflict with the food hygiene guidance, for example if a customer request a burger to be served rare. You can pre-empt problems by ensuring the kitchen and serving staff know how the barbecued products need to be served. This can also reduce the stress on the waiting staff who deal with customer requests and have to explain why some can’t be accommodated.

  1. Pre-cook when possible

High-risk food, such as chicken, can be pre-cooked in the permanent kitchen and only finished off on the barbecue. This way customers get the authentic barbecue taste, but the waiting time is reduced and you can be sure the food is thoroughly cooked.

  1. Don’t take risks

Always make sure the food is cooked throughout before serving. If in doubt, cut through the product or perform a temperature check. Checkit research shows that customers are becoming increasingly aware of food hygiene and it is affecting their decision on where to dine. Performing checks openly is a way of showing commitment to customer safety and proving that your business maintains high food hygiene standards, in- and outdoors.

Technology can further support these tips and help take the stress out of summer. Checkit’s digital food hygiene management technology can be used outdoors as well as in the regular kitchen. The temperature probes, as well as the easy-to-use digital checklist, can help staff maintain their daily routines in the new surroundings and any specific checks relating to cooking on the barbecue can be added to the digital checklist. The digital hygiene records can also provide proof that the food has been cooked to the required temperature and crucial hygiene checks have been completed on schedule, if any incidents do occur.