Top 10 Bartender Food Safety Tips You Need to Know

By Susan Tellem and Jeff Nelken


Most of us are knowledgeable about food safety tips our waiter should follow – washing hands after using the bathroom, not putting their thumb into our food, etc., but did you ever think about what bartenders should be doing to protect the public health? Probably not. Check out these 10 tips and make sure the next time you ask for a gin & tonic with a lemon and olives, make sure the bartender is following the rules.

  1. He or he possesses a food handler’s card with a valid expiration date.
  2. Allergy warnings for mixed drinks and liquors are displayed (i.e., the White Monkey at a New York bar has vermouth and almond syrup, for example).
  3. Tools of the trade should be washed/rinsed/sanitized in the same manner any restaurant does .
  4. Ice can be a harbinger of filth. Transport and use from in its own container which is sanitized regularly, keep covered and use only plastic scoops.
  5. The bartender should wash his or her hands often – best if there is a sink behind the bar.
  6. How about that bar towel? Is it clean or has it mopped up counters, spills and hands repeatedly?
  7. Clean the soda gun/holder often.
  8. One study showed half of lemon wedges for glasses were contaminated with human fecal matter, as are onions, limes and cherries. Skip the garnish or wear
  9. Pests thrive in food areas. Sure the restaurant kitchen got a clean bill of health but what about the foodstuffs in the bar? Insects, rodents present?
  10. Just like a restaurant, behind the bar can be a breeding ground for dangerous mold. Check refrigerator gaskets, shelves and fan guards for mold.


Tellem Grody PR, Inc’s Food Issues Group (FIG) has a unique program for restaurant and bar establishments that provides both front of the house and back of the house support. FIG pairs TGPR partner Susan Tellem, APR, RN, BSN, who has 30 years of crisis preparedness and management experience with Jeff Nelken, MA, RD (retired), an experienced professional in all aspects of food safety and inspection. For more information, click here