COVID-19 dining restrictions are being lifted nationwide, but it’s important to make sure you’re still paying attention to all of the best-practice food service guidelines when planning your event. You may also want to consider which COVID-19 restrictions you’d like to keep in your regular playbook as you plan ongoing events, in case conditions change.
Of course, you want both your food and your event to be memorable and rewarding for all the right reasons, so we’ve put together a list of tips around safety requirements for events.
Safely selling food at events
First and foremost, there are legal safety requirements for events that you must meet to ensure that no one gets sick from the food you provide.
Anyone handling or selling food at events in the United States has to ensure the food provided is safe to eat, as well as in line with state food laws and food standards. To help you keep up, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has developed a food standards code that you need to follow. This is enforced by your local state and county health departments.
Before any food handling begins, you need to obtain a license from your local health department to sell liquor and prepare and sell food (often called a food vendor’s license). This process includes subsequent inspections of your food preparation facility and an annual renewal process. Food licenses are required for restaurants as well as to ensure food safety at temporary events.
Training your team on food safety
This might go without saying, but all food handlers (whether they’re donating, preparing, cooking, or serving food) should be well-trained and competent in hygiene practices. The FDA sets the standard for keeping food safe and minimizing food-borne illnesses.
- Clean. Keep workspaces and hands clean by thoroughly washing throughout the food preparation process.
- Separate. Use different utensils and food prep equipment to keep raw meat separate from other foods.
- Cook. Use thermometers to check the internal temperature of all cooked meats, and sufficiently maintain food safety temperatures for all prepared food (either cold or hot).
You have the knowledge to ensure your team members are clean and careful and your food is safe to eat. You can obtain events food safety guidance from your local health department.
Consider assigning work health and safety responsibilities to one team member to help you spot hazards and reduce any risks. While everyone on your team is responsible for food safety, this team member can serve as a go-to leader for training, questions, and implementing best practices.
Safely serving food at events
While event and gathering restrictions have been lifted across the United States, event planners can still choose to keep some pandemic safety precautions in place. Check with your state’s health department for the latest guidelines as your event nears. And you know your attendees best. Some might be comfortable as the restrictions are lifted, while others are more hesitant and would appreciate extra space or the open air of an outdoor event.
Ensure food-safe disposable gloves are on hand, sanitizer and hand wash are available, and that your staff members follow food safety protocols. You’ll want to be sure that all communal spaces are disinfected between customers with a food-surface sanitizer that kills a broad spectrum of bacteria.
Common-practice food safety — which existed long before COVID-19 — is also important for serving food in a safe environment. All fixtures, fittings, equipment, and vehicles should be designed and built for easy cleaning. And as much as possible, food premises should exclude dirt, dust, fumes, smoke, and other contaminants. Make sure you always eliminate entry and hiding places for pests if your event is spanning more than a day. Premises also need water, waste disposal, light, ventilation, cleaning and personal hygiene facilities, storage space, and access to restrooms for your staff.
COVID-19 practices you may want to keep
While COVID-19 changed every aspect of events and gatherings, some of the protocols might be worth keeping around for the future. Germs, bacteria, and viruses have always been around, and they’re not going anywhere anytime soon. Consider these recommended practices to help ensure the safety and comfort of your attendees.
- Assess the risk at your event, given the activities and setting
- Require staff to remain home if they’re not feeling well — and ask attendees to do the same
- Clean surfaces between uses and disinfect shared surfaces throughout the event
- Limit the number of attendees and create a spacious layout for your event
Browse through the CDC’s full list of recommendations for restaurants and bars.
Putting your food safety knowledge into action
Now that you’re on top of the basics of food event safety, you can easily scope out any additional safety requirements for your particular food events. The next steps are to successfully promote your event, increase interest, sell more tickets, and improve your marketing strategy and tactics. Following our guides will give you a great chance at making your first food event a fabulous success.
Ready to serve up a grand experience for your attendees? First, let us take the hassle out of selling tickets for your next event.