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Outdoor Dining

Are salad bars coming back?

That's a question we've gotten a lot over the past few years. The pandemic coupled with supply chain issues and labor shortages has really tossed things up for in-store salad bars, and left many food retailers with a forkful of questions.

Let's get right to it—click below to jump to a specific question related to salad bars and health inspections, or simply continue reading.

  1. How cold does a salad bar have to be?
  2. What is the key to a successful salad bar?
  3. What are health inspectors looking for?
  4. How often do health inspectors come?
  5. What should be done following a health violation from an inspection?


The Do's

How cold does a salad bar have to be?

Many food retailers start with this question first for one simple reason: refrigerator temperature decides just about everything else. Too cold of a temperature can cause hiccups like spoilage, un-servable food, etc., while temperatures that aren't cold enough can cause molding, and all other types of food spoilage that's bound to violate a health inspection code. There really is a sweet spot for how to keep salad fresh, and it is easier than you think to find that sweet spot.

If you're wondering to yourself, “how cold does a salad bar or refrigerator have to be?” or “what temperature does a cold bar have to be? ”, or even “what temperature to store a salad? ”,we can tell you this. The ideal temperature is 40 degrees Fahrenheit in your refrigerators—this is the ideal temperature to prevent the growth of dangerous bacteria.

Food spoilage is one of the most common issues—not just for salad bars—but in food retail as a whole. After talking to customers, we discovered five common things they were all doing.

Read More


What is the key to a successful salad bar?

What is the key to a successful salad bar?

The word “success” can be measured in many ways. So, let's answer this question in two different parts: we'll cover health inspection success, along with what success looks like to your customers. After all, they're the ones using your salad bar, right?

Let's start with the health inspection portion. A few action items for success in your salad bar include:

  • Removing food immediately and salad bar containers after the last meal period.
  • Checking at least every two hours to verify that temperatures remain at or below 41 °F.
  • Covering, labeling, dating, and refrigerating food remaining at the end of service if it will be served the following day.

    View product suggestions

  • Discarding food that may have been contaminated, either unintentionally or intentionally since all food on a salad bar must be safe to serve your customers.
  • Using chemical sprays only after all food has been removed.

    Salad bar cleaning supplies

If you're interested in learning more about the health code regulations and food codes specific to your state, we compiled a table with all the information you need to know.

View My State

Now, let's talk about your customers. Customer insight is important, because many potential first time in-store shoppers may have found your space simply from googling or searching for a term like, “salad bar near me ”. First impressions are the most important—so serving popular or unique items in a salad bar could be all it takes to create a repeat customer.

The Do's

The Do's

  • Incorporate local and seasonal ingredients
  • A must-have: healthy, nutrient dense options
  • Add unexpected favorites—think brussels sprouts and seasonal items

The Do's

What are health inspectors looking for?

Avoiding health code violations can seem like a lot of work, especially when the list of cleaning and code requirements is so long. These requirements must not be taken lightly, as they exist to keep your salad bar operating safely and your shoppers safe while eating. The policies and guidelines set by the FDA have only gotten stricter since the COVID-19 pandemic, requiring health inspectors to increase their standards and even make changes to health codes.

We created another article taking a deeper dive into common health code violations and how to avoid them.

Learn the Signs


The Do's

How often do health inspectors come?

Specific guidelines and timing vary, but health inspections typically occur around every 6 months. We want you to be ready when health inspectors come knocking at your door. So, we compiled a list of the FDA's five most common health code violations and how to avoid them.

Be Prepared

The Do's

What should be done following a health violation from an inspection?

If your food retail space or other type of foodservice business has gotten a low-risk or any high-risk violations, here are a few suggestions we have to amend these situations.

Review any violations and their proper corrective action with your salad bar staff, and even other staff members so everyone is in-the-know.

If you receive a poor health inspection score, you can schedule a re-inspection in 5-45 days. In the meantime, you can correct those violations.

Be proactive and figure out how each violation occurred and how you can prevent it from happening again.

You're allowed to appeal a violation if you have reason to disagree with it. For next steps, call your local health department and connect with your inspector's supervisor.


Hungry for more?

View our resources we offer on health inspections, food codes, and even ideas to open your own self-serve salad bar.

Learn My State's Food Service Code

Top Five Health Code Violations

Creative Options For Your Salad Bar

Salad Bar Equipment

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