Health Department Readiness Guide



Behold, dear CREW MEMBER, welcome aboard our vessel. She's trusty and seaworthy. The purpose of this parchment is to impart unto thee knowledge of the things that lie within our power to ensure the health and safety of ourselves, our guests, and our establishment. 'Tis crucial that we take a keen interest in the path to upholding safety, and commit to memory and practice the guidelines laid before us.

In the realm of food, there exist two primary means by which we may subject our patrons to peril or ill fortune: Firstly, the retail kitchen space may be fraught with inherent deficiencies and hazards, rendering the operation unable to handle dangers such as insects, leaks, improper refrigeration, or sundry other dangers. Secondly, the culinary team may fail to comply with safety standards.

If our operation be plagued with health and safety woes, it is owing to either a faulty establishment, team members who create problems, or perchance both. Let us therefore strive for excellence in all aspects, and emerge victorious in our quest for safety and good health.


Ensuring a kitchen stays organized is important and it all starts with the people who design it. If the design is poor and items don't have their own place and purpose, it can lead to a lot of mess and distraction. Working in a disorganized kitchen can make it hard to focus and feel motivated to work. 

The solution is for management to focus on organizing everything and training the team to maintain order every day. This way, the kitchen will remain efficient and productive, and everyone can focus on creating delicious food without getting bogged down by clutter and chaos.

It's important to clean up spills as soon as they happen, rather than waiting until later. Similarly, it's important to put things back in their proper place as soon as possible. To fight laziness in the kitchen, it's important to stay active and constantly moving. In a busy kitchen, it's crucial for everyone to transition quickly between tasks without delay. Leaving messes or incomplete tasks disrupts the operation and creates extra work for others. By cleaning as you go throughout the day, you can keep the kitchen in a battle-ready condition, ensure compliance with health codes, and create a visually pleasing environment for guests.


The management team is responsible for ensuring that employees work harmoniously with one another in the kitchen. Management in any field and in any operation is always responsible for making sure that the team works well together. That harmony must exist at all levels: If those in management or ownership are in turmoil, it will be difficult for the team to be relaxed and cooperative.

It’s important to realize that we have relationships with our coworkers that really are not that much different than relationships that we have with family and friends. Even if we don’t like a certain coworker, we have a relationship with that individual and we must work together. In such situations we build up resentments and over time we don’t work well within that given team. Management must detect this when it occurs. Management must create a safe working space where team members can learn to work well with each other. If underlying resentments and hostility is occurring, individuals on the team will overlook dangers to the public health to spite the team member they don’t like. They will be hesitant to report things as well.

Solution: Consider that in prison you would never rat on your cellmate for not being clean: This might be because something terrible would happen or did happen to you. A business that involves safety must operate within a leadership gradient. The lead person in the kitchen must ensure that those on their team can speak their minds. People should learn to feel comfortable communicating about the work environment.

You may not like working with someone because you feel they’re lazy, they’re sloppy, or they show up late. Or you may feel that they’ve been given special privileges by management when they don’t deserve them. You have to speak your mind to your management about such things. To not do so could lead to a failure in the system. That could have a negative effect on the safety that we’re trying to provide. Ensuring that clear and honest communication occurs at the appropriate times is one of the hardest steps in ensuring success in this health and safety program. But it’s very crucial.


This can be difficult, particularly for young people. To be truly present and focused at what you’re doing is not easy, particularly when you don’t like what you’re doing. When you see your work just as a job and you’re just biding your time, you’re not going to be adequately focused on your work. You’re likely to instead be focused on things that are going to happen later in your life, things that happened in the past, your relationships, your hopes, your dreams, and other things instead of your work. It’s incredibly dangerous to yourself and others when you’re in the kitchen with a sharp knife and you’re not focused on what you’re doing. 

Many accidents in the kitchen happen because a team member is distracted by all the thoughts that are flowing through their mind. This is not necessarily a guide to how to become mindful and enlightened. But I want to suggest to you that you must have a way of bringing yourself to the present moment and keeping yourself from feeling bored.

Boredom obviously is one of the reasons why we like to drift into the fantasies of our mind. But it’s incredibly important that you bring yourself to being present with what you’re doing. When you're present you could actually bring yourself to enjoy whatever you’re doing (provided that what you’re doing is not painful and humiliating). When you bring yourself to the present moment, you keep your workspace tidy and you regard every task that you do to be of great importance.

If you work at this, you will surely be more happy in your job. You will not be suffering. You will not be counting every second on the clock in anticipation of leaving. People who are present with their work do a better job than people who are distracted and apathetic. Although distracted and apathetic people may do a good job, they’re not putting the right spirit behind it. It’s difficult to excel and grow until you are committed in your mind and body to doing well at your work!

Excessive talking can be a major distraction for team members who are trying to complete their tasks efficiently. Although management encourages a friendly atmosphere, it's important to remember that everyone is busy and has a lot of responsibilities that require focus and concentration. When team members engage in excessive talking, they not only risk distracting themselves, but they also risk distracting others. This can be particularly concerning if they are preparing food, as they may inadvertently contaminate it with saliva. Therefore, it's important to avoid excessive talking and to prioritize the completion of tasks.


Creating thorough checklists and ensuring that they are adhered to is a crucial responsibility of good management. The team relies on these checklists for opening, midday, and closing tasks. Relying on people's memory is risky and can result in important tasks being overlooked. That's why it's essential to follow these checklists just as an airline pilot follows a pre-flight checklist before takeoff. 

Even with years of experience, pilots still rely on their checklists to ensure that nothing is missed. In the same way, when it comes to sanitation and food safety, the margin for error is zero. That's why we must follow our checklists every day, even if we think we've memorized them. We should review them with our team members and divide tasks to ensure that everything is completed thoroughly and efficiently. By doing so, we can maintain a safe and sanitary environment for our customers and ensure that our operation runs smoothly.

5. Cover Your Head - Hair Containment: 

Hair shedding is a common occurrence, with most people shedding hundreds of hairs every day. However, this poses a significant health hazard, particularly in a kitchen environment. For instance, if one strand of hair falls from a person's head and attaches itself to someone's shoe, it can easily end up in a customer's mouth. Therefore, it's essential to keep hair completely covered and contained. Wearing a baseball cap or other loose headwear is not sufficient. Hair must be fully contained to prevent it from ending up in food. It's also crucial to inspect every garment for strands of hair and dandruff before entering the kitchen. By taking these precautions, we can ensure that our customers are not chewing on unwanted hair or debris and maintain a safe and sanitary environment in the kitchen.

To maintain a safe and sanitary environment in the kitchen, it's essential that all hair is fully contained at all times during a shift. This means that a hat or other approved covering must be worn on the head at all times. Long hair must be contained in a net or under a cap, and locs, ponytails, and braids must be fully contained as well. It's important to note that hoodies are not an acceptable substitute for hair nets, baseball caps, knit caps, or other substantial head coverings. By following these guidelines, we can ensure that our customers are not exposed to stray hairs or other debris and maintain a high standard of cleanliness in the kitchen.

6. Ensure Frequent and Thorough Hand Washing

Hand washing works with soap and water regardless of the temperature. Health codes require that we produce hot water, but keep in mind that the only temperature that water could actually kill bacteria would burn your hand so badly that you would have to go to the hospital. But water combined with soap will kill bacteria. The importance of this is to prevent the spread of bacteria that can cause a huge, wide variety of terrible diseases. 

In the health business the customer is very sensitive to our hygiene habits. Our customers watch us in an open kitchen. So make frequent visits to the sink, wash your hands, and make a big deal about it when you do. Every time you move away from preparation to do another task (e.g., cleaning), wash your hands before returning to preparation. Every time you leave the kitchen and return, wash your hands because you’re going to touch surfaces and possibly contaminate them.

If you work at a retail environment where you handle food and then have to ring up a customer at the register you must wash your hands before returning to preparation. And if you go to the bathroom, wash your hands for 30 seconds or longer.

The area of the kitchen that is generally most contaminated is the retail area where there is cash. Anytime you go into that area and handle things, go to the sink and wash your hands. It is likely that on any given eight hour shift to perform your duties properly you’ll have to wash your hands at least 10 times.

You must wash your hands before you put on latex gloves. This is a requirement.

You must wash your hands if you sneeze or cough, even if you do not sneeze or cough into your hands.

Start every shift by washing your hands for 30 seconds using soap. Wash your hands frequently during your shift. Health Code law stipulates that you must wash your hands at the following times/events: The start of our shift, every time you sneeze, every time you touch your face, after handling the trash (picking up anything that’s dropped, moving trash, changing trash bag), after eating or drinking, whenever leaving the kitchen area and re-entering, serving soup, and after using the restroom.

Change gloves if you change “roles” (e.g., from making smoothies to ringing up customers). You must wash your hands before putting on new gloves.

7. No open toed shoes:

Team members and kitchen staff may never enter the kitchen with open toe shoes or sandals. (Besides looking unprofessional it’s simply a state and local health code rule without much logic of why it applies.)

Outside worn jackets, backpacks, and cell phones should never touch a food surface.

Personal books and note books should not sit on food preparation counters.

Boxes of things like produce or deliveries from UPS, etc., that should never go on top of counters or food preparation tables because they can bring in contamination.

8. Do not eat meals or snacks in front of the store or in back of house kitchens

Please eat only on your break and only in the designated break or seating areas.  Do not bring unkosher or non-vegan foods inside this business.

9. Never pet a dog during your shift and never feed a dog during your shift.  DO NOT USE KITCHEN BOWLS TO SERVE ANIMALS WATER.

By Health Department Law, dogs are not allowed in the store. The only exceptions are service dogs. Please allow customers to come into the store with their dogs as they may be service dogs. DO NOT ARGUE WITH CUSTOMERS OVER THEIR DOGS. Do not ask for proof of ADA (service animal certification.)

10. Do not wear gloves to count money. If you count money, wash your hands first before putting new gloves on.

11. Do not handle any frozen fruits with bare hands (even if your hands have been washed).

12. Every item in our back of house refrigerator must be labeled with an expiration date and the common food name, whether the items are in boxes from the commissary or boxes from other sources. Label everything carefully before putting it into the refrigerator with an expiration date.

Personal open foods cannot be stored in the back of house refrigerators.

Watches, bracelets, dangling necklaces, and/or looping or ornamental earrings may not be worn. Wedding bands are permitted. 

Food containers (cups, lids, bowls, tops, forks and spoons, etc.) should be kept facing down, stored in a sanitary clean location, and always handled with gloves on. 

Every bathroom must have a covered garbage can so that feminine hygiene napkins can be disposed of in a sanitary manner.

Every soap box by the hand dryer must always have soap and something to dry the hands. The hot water faucet must reach a warm enough temperature in less than 60 seconds so that a health code violation cannot be issued.

Regarding bathroom doors that automatically close, they must be in good working order at all times: If an automatic closing mechanism is broken it is a health code violation.

Bathrooms must have adequate ventilation, and an operational ventilation fan must be in place: Lack of a ventilation fan is a health code violation.

Soup: Reheating and serving of hot soup entails very detailed and specific procedures. (Listed below in additional information)

13. Everything inside of the refrigerator must be labeled with what is in the container and the expiration date. 

The made date is of no value to the team. It may be good for the chef, but the team will not know how to calculate what is going bad. Put in the word “EXP” with the specific date that it expires based on the chef’s order or an expiration date sheet which we will put together.

14. Food must be covered in the refrigerator.

The refrigerator must be organized, and the interior walls of the refrigerator must be kept clean.

15. Every refrigerator must have an independent thermometer. Refrigerators that have external thermometers that you can read must be working, but they’re not required. If your refrigerator is missing a thermometer, you must report it immediately because it is a health code violation.

Monitor the refrigerator at all times to ensure that it is working.

Storage on ice: Regarding the many products that we store on ice, make sure that the ice is regularly refreshed and that each product sits on ice in such a way as to keep it at refrigeration temperature. There is no exact way to gauge the temperature inside of the product. But if the product is properly stored on ice it will not freeze: That is because it is sitting in ambient room temperature but it will stay as cold as it would in any refrigerator. Inspect all products stored on ice frequently throughout your shift to make sure that the items are properly placed on the ice.

Fruit flies and insects: The kitchen must at all times be free of even one fruit fly, house fly, or any other creature other than a human being. Especially loathsome and damaging to our reputation are encounters with mice, rats, water bugs, and roaches.

Insects and vermin result from operational failure of management to take preventative measures. Management must ensure that the kitchen is free from crawl spaces that insects can get into. Not keeping a kitchen thoroughly clean, especially leaving food debris on top of servers and floors, invites insects.

Fruit flies are mainly a problem in the warmer months. The kitchen may be impeccable and spotless and free from any food residue, but fruit flies may still invade the space. It’s possible that fresh fruit coming from a farm and left anywhere outside of refrigeration may have fruit fly eggs embedded into the body of the fruit. For that reason, all produce (including pineapples, oranges, limes, lemons, and grapefruits) must be washed thoroughly in the produce washing machine. Continually monitor your facility for fruit flies, and immediately report fruit fly issues to management.

16. Sharp knives must not be unattended. If you’re doing food prep and you walk away, that knife must be put into a knife holder. Separate knife holders properly. There cannot be a knife holder every five feet, as this would cause its own separate problem.

When you are producing food, avoid talking to your coworkers because if you’re talking then you are spitting. And if you’re producing food then you’re spitting into the food.

Violation of any of those items constitutes immediate infraction of rules and laws stipulated by Department of Health Codes and/or Department of State Health Regulations

Additional Important Information:

17. Three Compartment Sink Instructions:

Step1: Rinse thoroughly.

Step 2: Dip item in soap (hot water).

Step 3: Rinse.

Step 4: Dip item in sanitizer (cold water) making sure it’s fully submerged.

18. Blender Beakers:

Please note that blenders must be rinsed, washed, and sanitized after each and every use. 

19. Critical Temperatures For Food Service: 

  • Refrigeration (food and juice) temperature: Must be 41º F or below. This applies to all items on ice in our displays.

  • Make sure that ½ of the glass jar or bottle is submerged in the item display. 

  • Freezer (food) temperature: Must be 16º F or below.

20. Soup: Soup Must reach 175 F or above within two hours to be ready to serve (if soup does not reach 175 F by the two hours mark it must be discarded).

Using the COOKTEK SOUP Kettle makes it easy to be health code compliant.

  • Turn the soup base on, and then put the stainless steel kettle into the base Period press the reheat button.

  • The 175F display should appear on the screen. The soup is now reheating.

  • The kettle will beep every 15 minutes to indicate time to stir.

  • Stirring is required and necessary for even cooking and best taste.

  • Once the kettle reaches 175, Press the hold button on the display. You are now ready to serve.

  • Once you reach the desired temperature of 175 and press the hold button, then press the little blue kettle stir button, Until the option to turn on or off the alarm button is displayed. Turn the alarm off or it will beep every 15 minutes and drive you crazy. Are you still must stir the soup

  • Once or twice every hour or so it will begin to burn