Does Your Church or Charity Run a Café?

August 15, 2016 - 5 minutes read


coffee2Australia’s love of all-things coffee (especially Melbourne but then we’re not really biased!) means that many churches are joining in and establishing their own cafés as part of the services they provide to their communities.

Setting up a café however is no mean feat and is also not without considerable risk – especially if it is staffed by volunteers or workers who are not experienced or trained in hospitality. There are regulations that need to be complied with as well – such as food handling and safety laws, ensuring your café is registered with the local council and so on.

Some of the more common risks for cafés include:

  • Fires – e.g. from electrical sources or from a build-up of grease.
  • Equipment breakdown – which could lead to food spoilage.
  • Food poisoning – which may result in harm and litigation.
  • Injuries to customers – such as slips and trips, which could lead to injuries and to liability claims.
  • Other – lack of hygiene, theft and fraud, allergic reactions to food, poor security and cash-handling procedures, and inadequate waste disposal.

Managing the risks

Food handling:

If your café is going to be serving food, safe food standards must be complied with for reasons of health and safety. There are two main standards that must be met by all food businesses – these being Standard 3.2.2 (Food Safety Practices and General Requirements), and Standard 3.2.3 (Food Premises and Equipment). More information on this is available at Food Standards Australia & NZ here.

It’s also important to ensure that all volunteers and workers who will be handling food are trained in food safety and hygiene practices. Accredited courses in safe food handling and supervision can be done at various schools and institutions around the country.

Risk management program:

As a part of your overall church risk management policy, you should develop a risk management program for your venue to keep it as safe as possible for workers and customers. This will need to include conducting regular risk assessments and developing procedures and methods for dealing with hazards and for mitigating risk (see below).

Regular procedures:

Creating a procedures schedule for your café can help with both safety and efficiency. Suggestions include –

  • Cleaning schedules to ensure cleanliness and good hygiene. Cleaning tasks need to include hood filters and ducts, refrigeration and cooling equipment, and floors and restrooms.
  • Collection of used cooking oil if your facility will be serving fried food.
  • Additional waste disposal (on top of your regular waste collection).
  • Dealing with and reducing the risk of burns and scalds.
  • Regular inspections for slip and trip hazards, and prompt cleaning of spills.
  • Emergency evacuations in case of fire or other dangerous event.
  • Fire safety – including use of fire equipment. Our previous article on safe use of fire extinguishers has more information on this.
  • Premises and cash-handling security measures to reduce the risk of theft and fraud.
  • Maintenance of kitchen instruments and implements, and training in correct usage.
  • First aid training and responding to injuries and food allergies.
  • General maintenance – e.g. for equipment, floor surfaces, and amenities.

You also need to make sure that all entrances and exits are clear of obstructions and that lighting is adequate to reduce the risk of injury.

As you can see running a church café is no walk in the park! In light of this it would probably be a good idea to develop checklists for the various regular tasks and procedures that need to be carried out, to ensure that nothing is left to chance or risks being overlooked.

We also have a number of other articles on the website that might be relevant to this issue:

Safe use of fire equipment
Food safety at church events
Prevention of slips, trips and falls on your church property
Risk management and Redbook
Prevention of scalds and burns
Food allergies in children
First Aid training and kits
Emergency Evacuation procedures
Written by Tess Oliver


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