NRA Turns Food Safety Focus to C-stores


WASHINGTON, D.C. -- As convenience stores get heavier into foodservice, the National Restaurant Association (NRA) watched the number of c-store clients for its food safety training and certification program increase dramatically over the last few years.

“As the industry continues to evolve and become more of a foodservice element, we’ve seen a lot of c-store groups begin to use our products and services,” said Michael A. DiLillo, vice president of business development, National Restaurant Association Solutions LLC.

One such product is the ServSafe Food Safety Training Program, which DiLillo said represents roughly 75 percent of the food safety certifications done each year within the restaurant industry. Completion earns the nationally recognized "Food Protection Management Certification."

To better meet the needs of its growing c-store client base, the NRA recently began looking at ways it could better tailor the ServSafe content specifically for convenience retailers.

“A year and a half ago, the association started attending more convenience industry shows and events to get more familiar with the clientele and its needs for food safety training,” DiLillo told CSNews Online.

As of now, c-store operators undergo the traditional ServSafe program, which is available via an online course and exam, or a print-based course and exam that’s delivered by an instructor. Many of the major convenience store players – the top 50 chains or so -- have their own in-house ServSafe instructors; other c-stores contract with independent ServSafe instructors.

The issue for c-store retailers, however, is that the long-established ServSafe program content is written in a format that “talks” to major restaurant operators, such as McDonald’s.

The NRA is now working to change that. Over the past year, the restaurant association has been partnering with NACS – the Association for Convenience & Petroleum Retailing -- to modify the traditional ServSafe content to “make it more convenience store friendly,” said DiLillo.

This means adapting the training materials and exam to better reflect situations that will come up in the c-store environment, as opposed to a traditional restaurant. Every slide from the online ServSafe course is being reviewed by NACS, as well as the terminology used in the online exam.

The hope is to have a forum for the modified products this year, and release them next year.

“This will lead to better learning,” DiLillo said.

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