In order to run a commercial kitchen properly, you must comply with health department regulations and fire safety rules. Both of these agencies will inspect your operation periodically. Compliance with their rules is not merely a matter of avoiding penalties and possible closures; these regulations also help to keep customers safe and healthy and to maintain the reputation of your business.
Fire Safety Rules
Commercial kitchens almost always use cooking appliances, which require attention to fire safety. You must charge fire extinguishers and fire suppression features in ventilation systems annually, and display the tags that document when the servicing occurred. Ventilation systems for cooking appliances that use grease should be professionally cleaned twice a year. Exits should be unobstructed and electrical outlets should not be overloaded.
Health department rules require you to keep surfaces clean and disinfected, and to wash dishes and equipment with a disinfecting solution after use. Keep a bleach bucket on hand with a towel, with a solution of one teaspoon of bleach for each gallon of water. Wash dishes in a three-compartment stainless steel sink, using one compartment for washing, one for rinsing and the third for sanitizing. Have a separate sink for washing hands, and keep it stocked with soap and paper towels.
The health department requires you to store all potentially hazardous foods at a temperature of above 140 degrees Fahrenheit or below 41 degrees Fahrenheit. Definitions of "potentially hazardous foods" change frequently, but they generally include meats, dairy products, beans, rice and cooked vegetables. To cool foods from temperatures above 140 degrees to temperatures below 41 degrees, spread them 2 inches deep in restaurant pans and store them, uncovered, in the refrigerator. They should cool in four hours or less in order to comply with health department rules. Check temperatures regularly with a metal stem thermometer with a range of 0 degrees to 220 degrees.
Devra Gartenstein founded her first food business in 1987. In 2013 she transformed her most recent venture, a farmers market concession and catering company, into a worker-owned cooperative. She does one-on-one mentoring and consulting focused on entrepreneurship and practical business skills.