When it comes to kitchen organization and safety, labels are crucial. The right kitchen labeling system can make your kitchen more efficient while reducing the risk of foodborne illness. But restaurant food labels are more than just an organization hack – they're a requirement by the FDA.

Learning how to properly label your food will provide your restaurant with long-term benefits and save you money along the way.

Why are Food Storage Labels So Important?

Labeling storage bins will allow your staff to quickly identify foods and also determine whether the food is past its prime. Having accurate date stickers for food will benefit your kitchen and patrons by helping to prevent foodborne illnesses.

Here are some of the many reasons why food labels are so important in a commercial kitchen.

Save Time

Restaurant food labeling will make your kitchen more efficient. Rather than having to guess what food is in the storage container, staff will know by reading the label exactly what’s inside.

Labels will also take the guesswork out of trying to determine whether a food is fresh or not. With the right labeling system, you can be confident that you’re serving the freshest food.

Save Money

Kitchen labels will also help you cut down on waste, which will save you money.

More importantly, having an accurate and efficient labeling system will improve food safety and ensure that you’re in compliance with the FDA’s rules. Illness and FDA violations will both cost your restaurant money and tarnish your reputation (which will also cost you money in the long-run).

Prevent Illness

Use by date labels are crucial for every commercial kitchen. Labels for time and temperature-controlled foods require three important pieces of information:

  • Type of food
  • The date the food was added
  • The expiration date 

Food that is served after the expiration date could potentially cause food-related illnesses. 

If your restaurant does not have accurate and detailed date stickers for food that’s time- and temperature-sensitive, your staff won’t know whether it’s safe to serve such food to your patrons. That’s a risk that no restaurant wants to take.

Reduce Waste

Knowing that certain foods will expire in the next few days will also inspire you to create menu items that feature these foods before they’re past their prime.

Reducing waste will not only save you money, but also reduce your environmental impact. 

Stay Organized

Looking for commercial kitchen organization ideas? A food labeling system should be at the top of your list. Food labeling will help you maintain a well-organized pantry.

Using food rotation labels will allow you to keep all of your labeled vegetable storage bins close to each other as well as your fruits, meats and other products with similar labels. This type of system will prevent cross-contamination of foods and will further help prevent foodborne illnesses.

Labels will help ensure that fruits and vegetables are stored away from raw meat, which will help prevent diseases like salmonella from contaminating your produce.

Simplify Your Inventory

When foods are accurately labeled and organized, it makes it easier to take a quick inventory of your kitchen items. When it’s time to order new inventory, you will know exactly what you need to purchase.

Color-Coded Food Rotation Labels

Day-of-the-week colors are standard across the industry to maintain consistency and eliminate confusion. Color-coded labels make it easy for staff to identify and remove expired food from the kitchen quickly and easily.

Before we talk about these colors, let’s take a moment to discuss the importance of filling out rotation labels with important information. There are different types of rotation labels, so it’s important to find one that works for your kitchen and your needs. But generally speaking, there are some important bits of information that every label should include:

  • Product: The first and most important thing is to identify the product. Which food is inside of the storage container? Identifying the product is key to maintaining organization and efficiency while reducing waste.

  • Employee Name: Employees should write their name or initials on the label for accountability if something goes wrong.

  • Prep Date/Time: Include the date and/or time the food was prepped to determine the shelf life of the product.

  • Expiration Date/Time: Include the use-by date to prevent spoilage and food-related illness.

Depending on your restaurant and needs, you may also want to include allergy warnings, handling instructions and/or preparation instructions.

The color of the label will further help staff maintain an organized kitchen while reducing waste and improving food safety. 

Each day of the week has a particular color:

  • Sunday: Black
  • Monday: Blue
  • Tuesday: Yellow
  • Wednesday: Red
  • Thursday: Brown
  • Friday: Green
  • Saturday: Orange

Daydots introduced color-coded, day-of-the-week labels in 1985. Today, restaurants still depend on Daydots food labels, and their color-coded system has become the industry standard. But you’ll also find many other brands that offer food rotation labels.

Choosing the Right Labels

Some restaurants take shortcuts and use masking tape for their food storage labels to cut costs. Yes, pre-made labels cost money, but investing in a real label system will ultimately save your restaurant money. 

There are a few things to consider when choosing labels.

Material

One of the first things to consider is the label material and the types of foods that you serve. There are dissolving labels that will disappear in any water temperature, and there are cold temperature labels that are made for cold items. 

Label Type

Pre-made labels eliminate the guesswork and mistakes. Employees may not always be clear about how to label the food or what information is required. Commercial food rotation labels guide employees to fill out the right information, such as:

  • Use-by dates
  • Employee names
  • Prep dates and times
  • Item names
  • Quantity 

Pre-filled labels help restaurants stay in compliance while ensuring that they are serving customers the freshest food possible.

It's important to find a labeling system that meets your needs and works for your restaurant. But it’s also important to ensure that your staff is properly trained on how to use and maintain the labeling system.