Risk Description

Traditional table service restaurants range from casual dining chains to unique fine dining establishments distinguished by menu, decor, price and service. They differ from “fast food” restaurants in areas including preparation, breadth of menu choice, level and speed of service. (Fast food is covered by a different Risk Description.) While many chain restaurants share elements of fast food chains (signage, locations, consistent decor and menus), they differ in these key areas.

Restaurants may be housed in structures ranging from historic or older repurposed buildings, to large, modern purpose-built buildings. The typical layout includes “front of the house” which involves dining areas, bars, stages or entertainment areas and waiting areas. The “back of the house” includes kitchen, pantry, refrigerated storage, prep areas, wine cellars, offices, etc. Some restaurants provide off-site catering services (see separate Risk Description), or rent the facility for special events. Many have separate rooms for meetings and private parties.

Restaurants employ nearly 10% of the U.S. working population. Typically, restaurants will have a general manager and assistant managers, head chef and assistant chefs, bartenders, waiters/waitresses, hosts/hostesses (maître ’d), bussers and dishwashers. Entertainers may be employed or independent contractors. Employees may work late into the night, particularly on weekends. In major urban centers and resort destinations, restaurants may offer remarkable amenities and unusual features which require special staff and unique risks.

Both workplace safety and food safety are major concerns. In the U.S., the FDA and USDA are responsible for food safety regulations. Such regulations include raw food preparation and handling (“raw bar” items, sushi, Carpaccio, etc.), limitations on unpasteurized milk products (artisanal cheeses) and others. Most local governments require food safety training, and the National Restaurant Assn., has established standards for training accredited by ANSI. Menu language regarding organic, heart-healthy, low-fat and similar ingredients and recipes may be regulated and proof required.

While some fine restaurants have always sourced fresh foods from local meat, fish and farmer’s markets, most have traditionally received both fresh and non-perishable foods from food distributors who in turn source products from across the U.S. and around the world. However, there is a growing trend toward local sourcing, with some restaurants maintaining their own gardens and establishing networks of local suppliers.