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Q & A - Buffets - Warm Not Hot Food!

Q - I have often dined at Hometown Buffet, the nation's largest chain of buffet restaurants. I have never seen them check food temperature of the buffet, although I have frequently had cold or luke warm food @ various restaurants including buffets. What would be so hard for restaurants to use infrared thermometers to quickly check food temperatures on buffets or other restaurants? It would be cheap, quick, accurate, non-invasive & safe; plus it would insure food safety and customer satisfaction.

Photo courtesy of the Oregonian.

A - Hello buffet patron,

Thank you for the question. When we do a semi-annual inspection of buffets we take temperatures of food at the time of inspection and ask what their procedure is for making sure the cold food stays cold and hot food stays hot on the buffet line.

Some facility also use 'Time as a control' for food safety. This means they time stamp when the food was removed from temperature control and it can stay out for 4 hours and is then discarded if any is left. This is often how fresh rolled sushi is monitored for safety and customer satisfaction.

Many buffets keep a temperature log of the food for us to review. A large chain most likely has a similar procedure in place. Infrared thermometers take temperatures of the surface of the food and a more accurate thermometer would be a digital thin-tipped probe thermometer that goes into the food. I agree that most of us would like to see the staff taking temperatures to display to the customers their commitment to food safety.

I encourage you to talk directly to the facility manager at the time you do come across ‘warm’ food or something that looks off to you. Any restaurant manger worth his beans will appreciate your help.



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