Dear Advice Guy,
Are aprons mandatory in restaurants? If yes, what are the positions that fall under this?
– Amine Kallala, Owner, Ruspina Global, LLC, California
Most municipal health codes do not go so far as to specifically mandate aprons but nearly all require clean protective garments to be worn in food preparation areas and when handling food. While other clothing like smocks or lab coats may be technically acceptable, aprons are a cost-effective, convenient way to be compliant. Especially for establishments that do not have laundry services, locker rooms, and so on, the apron provides some comfort that contaminated clothing (for example, a pair of pants that were worn during a commute to work) is at least a bit protected from food. The apron serves as a barrier to prevent microorganisms to some extent, but especially physical contaminants like hair, dust, and dirt from transferring to food.
In terms of which employees need aprons, regulations also vary but generally would be anyone who handles food (including FOH staff like bartenders) or works in a food preparation area (including people who are not handling food like dishwashers).
Aprons are a food safety tool but like any tool, they need to be used effectively to work—they need to be clean, changed frequently, removed before leaving the kitchen or using the restroom, and should be worn over clean clothes. Disposable aprons are also acceptable in most cases.
As always, the best authority on the topic is your local health department as they will be the ones enforcing the regulation. Your local restaurant association may also be a good resource on this topic.