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Slow the Spread- Handwashing Tips for the Foodservice Industry

By: Kim Lorang

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought handwashing to the forefront, reminding us that the simple act of washing your hands can slow and even prevent the spread of germs and bacteria. In the foodservice industry, handwashing is especially important, as unwashed hands can quickly contaminate surfaces and food in your establishment. The handwashing tips you’ll learn here will ensure your establishment is doing its part to create a healthy environment for both your team members and your guests!

While it seems obvious that your kitchen staff should wash their hands frequently as they come in direct contact with food, it is equally essential that your front-of-house team maintain clean hands as they are regularly touching surfaces that your guests come in contact with frequently.

A study conducted by the Environmental Health Specialists Network (EHS-Net) found that only 1 in 4 workers washed their hands after touching raw meat or dirty equipment. 1 in 10 workers washed their hands after touching their face or body.

Handwashing Tips

Keep your staff and guests healthy by implementing these handwashing protocols.


Foodservice employees should wash their hands frequently during their shifts to protect themselves and others. It is essential to practice proper handwashing at these times:

  • When entering the establishment at the beginning of a shift or after a break
  • When moving from one area of the venue to another (EX: from the office to the dining room, the dining room to the kitchen, etc.)
  • After smoking
  • After touching common surfaces (POS system, tables, phones, countertops, door handles, etc.)
  • After touching money
  • After taking out the trash
  • After using the washroom
  • After touching their face, hair, or body (or someone else’s)
  • Before touching food, kitchen equipment, or supplies
  • After touching dirty utensils or menus
  • After coughing, sneezing, or using a tissue or handkerchief
  • Immediately before and after touching raw food
  • Before and immediately after removing gloves


While handwashing seems like something that needs no instruction, many people do not follow proper protocols when they scrub! The proper handwashing steps are:

  1. Wet your hands with warm water (it is recommended that the water be at least 110 degrees F)
  2. Apply soap and work it into a lather for at least 20 seconds. Be sure to scrub between your fingers, underneath your nails, and on the tops of your hands and your wrists
  3. Rinse your hands with warm water
  4. Dry hands and arms with a clean paper towel or a hand dryer
  5. Use a paper towel to turn off the faucet to prevent coming in contact with germs on the faucet handles

Other Tips for Clean Hands

In the foodservice world, proper hygiene goes beyond hand washing. Here are some additional tips for ensuring your staff is reducing the risk of spreading germs or bacteria:

No Jewelry– Rings and bracelets can harbor germs and bacteria and cause workplace injuries when using kitchen equipment. It’s best to leave these items at home or use gloves when wearing them.

Fingernail Etiquette– Clean, short, natural nails are ideal in the foodservice industry. Long nails can be hard to clean underneath and can break off in food. Nails are best left unpainted as polish can chip and fall into food and make it hard to see if nails are clean.


Frequently reminding your team to practice proper handwashing is imperative in the foodservice industry. The more you remind staff to wash their hands, the more it will become a frequent habit! Make it a point to watch movement in the establishment and note when people are failing to wash their hands at important times. Be sure to remind them to wash their hands and do your best to keep track of your findings to share numbers with your team during staff meetings. Encourage your staff to kindly remind one another to stop and scrub when they see someone forgetting to suds up during their shift.

Encouraging Guests to Do Their Part

There is only so much you can do to prevent the spread of germs in a crowded foodservice establishment. Here are some ways you can encourage your guests to slow the spread:

Eliminate Touchpoints– Consider removing non-essential items from the table and consider using paper menus or putting your menu on a QR code so that guests can scan the code with their phone to pull up the menu. Remove tabletop items when possible to limit the number of things guests touch while seated.

Use Sanitizing Stations– Make hand sanitizer readily available. Put stations in high-traffic areas, especially at the entrance and exit, to encourage guests to clean their hands when entering and leaving the building.

Post Handwashing Tips in the Restroom: Your team members aren’t the only ones who may be washing their hands incorrectly! Consider posting proper handwashing techniques in the restrooms to remind guests how to best clean their hands.

By training your staff to wash their hands frequently (and properly!), you’ll be at a much lower risk for spreading germs and bacteria. Be sure to share these handwashing tips with your staff and your guests to ensure everyone is doing their part to keep your establishment as healthy as possible!