Michelle Jones, Shake Shack
Retail Food Safety Forum

Simple Food Safety Training Combats Turnover

By Michelle Jones
Michelle Jones, Shake Shack

Restaurants must maintain a culture that continuously promotes food safety to empower employees to protect both their customers and their brand.

Retail food establishments face many challenges, and employee retention is one of the major concerns. Employee retention affects scheduling, hiring, and the overall effectiveness of training.  Food safety training usually suffers when turnover occurs.

The safety of customers is dependent on an employee’s knowledge and execution of the food safety standards that are in place.

The biggest challenge in training in the retail/hospitality industry is the risk that the employee may leave within the first year (or less) of employment. According to Restaurant.org, the average turnover rate for the restaurant/hospitality sector was 66.3% in 2014.1 This turnover rate creates a challenge for maintaining a solid food safety culture.

Restaurants can take proactive steps to create and maintain a food safety culture that is always visible to new and current employees by adopting various techniques.

Signage Is Your Friend

Signage throughout your restaurant is a great way to continuously relay a food safety message without confining employees to a computer or module-based system.  This signage should be simple, sometimes playful and right to the point. An employee or manager takes roughly 30 seconds, on average, to read a message, so the shorter the better.

Visual signage is always a great tool to use in the back of house to relay food safety standards (e.g., proper cooking temperatures, order of storing food in coolers, etc.).  Signage (photos specifically) may also assist employees who may not communicate in English proficiently.  A picture is worth a thousand words, so utilize photos, cartoons or captions in order to relay the message.

Target the Leader

A quality assurance/food safety team should focus its training on the leaders of a region and/or district. Managers have more incentive to stay with companies longer; therefore, food safety training will be retained for a longer period. They may also visit their locations more frequently than the food safety professional, which gives them additional contact with the restaurant-level staff.

To assist these managers in their communication and verification of standards, compose a customized checklist for them to complete during a restaurant visit. The checklist should fulfill the following:

  1. Highlight the top opportunities they seek out (hand washing, sanitizer concentration, etc.)
  2. Provide the proper corrective action to eliminate the opportunities
  3. Considers their time.  A manager does not have the ability to complete a five-page checklist. Keep it simple—just the facts!

If these managers are well versed on food safety and sanitation and procedures, they will be able to hold their restaurants to a higher level of compliance.  So provide them with all of the tools they need to communicate to their employees.

Informed Employees Are Powerful Employees

Creating newsletters or publications serve as a great tool to keep employees informed of food safety policies. These articles can highlight trends in your company and new products available for use (i.e., chemicals, thermometers, etc.).

By law, every restaurant must have an area where employee information is listed (minimum wage, disability rights, etc.).  This board is the perfect place to post your publication.

In conclusion, keeping employees trained on proper food safety standards is the best way to ensure your customers are safe and your brand is protected. Implementing various forms of communication of these standards will create a strong foundation for an excellent food safety culture to exist.


  1. National Restaurant Association. Hospitality employee turnover rose in 2014.  March 11, 2015.


  1. Ken Ward

    Nice job Michelle. You make a fellow K-Stater proud. Hope you are doing well. I’m on my glide path to retirement, another 14 months if everything goes well.

  2. Geraldo

    Good suggestion. We meet recently Michelle when you visit food plant facility in the Boston area. The turnover does affect food safety culture.

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