Restaurants and Food Safety Culture

Low Angle View Of Happy Restaurant Staff Forming Huddle

Learn what contributes to a strong food safety culture in restaurants.

Restaurant managers help set the tone for a strong food safety culture by showing a personal commitment to food safety and having food safety training and policies in place. Adequate supplies for food safety practices and employee commitment to food safety are also critical to having a strong food safety culture at a restaurant.

Restaurant managers can use our tool to assess their food safety culture.

Explore workers’ beliefs about food safety, track progress over time, and see what practices are strengthening or weakening your restaurant’s food safety culture.

Download our food safety culture tool [XLS – 40 KB] with

  • Tab 1 – Form to give restaurant workers
  • Tab 2 – Scoring tool for restaurant managers
  • Tab 3 – Scoring tool with automatic tallying based on workers’ responses
  • Tab 4 – Example of scoring tool with automatic tallying

What is food safety culture?

A restaurant’s food safety culture is the shared beliefs of restaurant personnel that affect their practices in ways that impact food safety. A weak food safety culture is emerging as a common risk factor for foodborne outbreaks.

The food safety beliefs and behaviors of restaurant personnel could affect a restaurant’s food safety practices. The food safety culture of a restaurant either promotes or discourages safe food practices.

We found key components of a strong food safety culture.

Our Environmental Health Specialists Network (EHS-Net) surveyed staff members from 331 restaurants across eight states and localities. We asked what they thought about the food safety culture at their restaurant.

We found four key components of a strong food safety culture in restaurants:

  • Leadership – Managers offer food safety training and policies.
  • Manager Commitment – Managers are committed to and prioritize food safety.
  • Employee Commitment – Employees are committed to food safety.
  • Resources – The restaurant has sufficient resources to support food safety, such as enough soap and sinks for handwashing.

An EHS-Net study in Southern Nevada also found that training promoted a strong food safety culture, along with restaurant managers expressing appreciation for staff and routine 2-way communication between managers and staff. They found obstacles to strong food safety culture included staff reluctance to talk to managers, short staffing, and lack of space and resources.

EHS-Net is a collaborative forum of environmental health specialists that researches restaurant food safety policies and practices.

Want more information?

Food safety culture tool [XLS – 40 KB] for restaurant managers (spreadsheet)

Scientific article this plain language summary is based on: Development of an Empirically Derived Measure of Food Safety Culture in Restaurants (access data for this study)

Related EHS-Net study in Southern Nevada: Focus Groups among Retail Food Establishment Staff and Management Reveal Obstacles and Promoters of Good Food Safety Culture

More EHS-Net publications by Study Topic

More Food Safety Study Findings in Plain Language

Persons with disabilities experiencing problems accessing the food safety culture tool for restaurant managers (spreadsheet) should contact CDC-INFO and ask for a 508 Accommodation [PR#9342] for A0209-NCEH-WBL8.