Top 5 Skills Every Food Handler Needs for Success

Enhance your food industry career with expert insights from the Australian Institute of Food Safety

October 25, 2023

When it comes to working in the food industry, there's a lot more to it than just serving delicious meals. The responsibilities of a Food Handler are broad and critical to ensuring the safety and satisfaction of customers. 

Whether you're just starting your Food Handler training journey or have been working in the industry for many years, there are essential skills you need to master in order to excel at what you do. In this blog article, we'll explore the top five skills every Food Handler should possess to thrive in their role. 

Skill #1: Attention to Detail

One of the most crucial skills a Food Handler can have is a keen attention to detail. This skill is the foundation of food safety, and it plays a significant role in every aspect of food handling, from preparation to serving.

Always approach your tasks with a meticulous eye, consistently check for potential issues, and make sure everything is in its proper place. Remember, it's the small details that make a big difference in food handling. Here are some key areas where attention to detail is paramount:

Food Inspection

As a Food Handler, you must inspect the quality and freshness of the ingredients you use. Pay close attention to expiration dates, unusual odours, and any signs of spoilage. Your ability to spot potential issues can prevent food-borne illnesses from occurring.

Food Storage

Proper storage is essential to maintaining food quality and safety. Ensure that food items are stored at the correct temperature, and double-check that containers are tightly sealed to prevent contamination.

Hygiene and Sanitation

Maintaining personal hygiene and workspace cleanliness is non-negotiable. Attention to detail in handwashing, the use of disposable gloves, and the cleanliness of utensils is crucial in preventing cross-contamination.

Labelling and Documentation

Accuracy in labelling food items, noting preparation and storage dates, and keeping records is essential in any food establishment. Without attention to detail, mislabelling can occur, which can in turn lead to traceability issues and food safety breaches.

Equipment Maintenance

Pay close attention to the condition of kitchen equipment. Regular inspection, cleaning and maintenance ensure that appliances and tools are safe to use and perform at their best.

Skill #2: Time Management

In a fast-paced environment like a restaurant or catering service, time management is key. As a Food Handler, you'll often be juggling multiple tasks simultaneously, from food preparation to serving customers. Here's how time management skills can ensure food is served promptly and safely:


Know how to prioritise tasks based on their urgency and importance. For example, cooking raw meat before vegetables to avoid cross-contamination should be a high priority in any kitchen.


Being able to handle multiple tasks at once is a valuable skill, especially for chefs. For instance, while the chicken is cooking, you can prepare the side dishes.

Staying Organised

Staying organised can enhance efficiency and help avoid making errors when it comes to food safety. For example, having all necessary tools within easy reach will help you maintain your concentration levels, no matter how busy things get.

Time-sensitive Preparation

Timing is everything in the kitchen. Know how long it takes to cook each dish, so you can coordinate everything to be ready at the same time.

Food Temperature Control

To prevent food-borne illnesses, food must not remain in what is known as the Temperature Danger Zone (TDZ) for too long. Food Handlers must follow the 2-hour / 4-hour rule imposed by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ):

  • Food held between 5°C and 60°C for less than 2 hours can be used, sold or put back in the refrigerator to use later.
  • Food held between 5°C and 60°C for 2-4 hours can still be used or sold, but can’t be put back in the fridge.
  • Food held between 5°C and 60°C for 4 hours or more must be discarded.

Skill #3: Food Safety Knowledge

Food establishments and their staff are responsible for the safety of the food they prepare and serve. Having a solid foundation of food safety knowledge is not only crucial for your success but also for the health and well-being of your customers. 

Certain food safety knowledge is mandatory under Australian law. From December 8 2023, all Food Handlers in Australia must achieve certification as stipulated by FSANZ Standard 3.2.2A in order to work in the food industry.

Ensuring food safety isn't just about following the rules; it's about understanding the "why" behind those rules. This knowledge can be acquired through various training courses offered by the Australian Institute of Food Safety (AIFS).

Here are some key aspects of food safety you can learn more about by participating in AIFS training:

Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP)

Understand the principles of HACCP and how to implement them in your work. This systematic approach helps identify, evaluate, and control food safety hazards. The official AIFS HACCP Food Safety Plan Kit provides you with everything to build a HACCP Food Safety Plan for your business.

Safe Food Handling

Be knowledgeable about proper food handling practices, including safe temperature ranges, cross-contamination prevention, and personal hygiene.

Allergen Awareness

Recognise common food allergens and take steps to prevent cross-contact with allergenic ingredients. This can be a matter of life and death for some customers.

Food-borne Illness Prevention

Food poisoning is a key concern within the food industry due to the wide-ranging impact it has on society. The Food Safety Information Council estimates that more than 4.1 million cases of food poisoning arise each year, leading to more than 31,000 hospitalisations and 86 deaths.

Food Handlers should know the common causes of food-borne illnesses and how to prevent them. Proper cooking, cooling, and reheating are essential.

Food Safety Regulations

Stay up-to-date with food safety regulations in your region. Non-compliance can result in fines, business closures or even legal action.

Skill #4: Adaptability

The food industry is dynamic, and every day can bring new challenges and surprises. Adaptability involves responding to changing situations, and it's a skill every Food Handler should develop. Here's how adaptability can benefit you:

Menu Changes

In restaurants, the menu can change frequently due to seasonal availability or customer demand. Being adaptable allows you to quickly learn how to prepare and serve dishes while also staying on top of potential food safety factors such as allergens and intolerances.

Customer Requirements 

Adaptability helps you cater to various customer preferences and requirements. Again, this includes allergen management – being able to offer allergen-free alternatives to a customer keeps them safe without impacting their dining experience.


Unexpected events such as equipment breakdowns, power outages, illness and allergic reactions can all disrupt your work. Being adaptable means you can find suitable solutions and put your training into action on the spot.

New Technologies

As technology evolves, new equipment and computer systems may be introduced to your place of work. Adaptability enables you to embrace and master these tools, using them to improve efficiency and adhere to food safety standards.

Skill #5: Communication Skills

Effective communication is essential in any workplace, and the food industry is no exception. As a Food Handler, you'll need to communicate with colleagues, managers, and customers on a regular basis. 

To excel in communication, practice active listening, use clear and concise language, and remain calm and professional, even in high-stress situations. Here's how these skills could come into play:


In a kitchen, teamwork is crucial. You need to communicate with other kitchen staff to coordinate tasks, ensuring that orders are prepared and served promptly in a way that guarantees customer safety and satisfaction.

Customer Service

When dealing with customers, good communication is essential for taking orders, addressing special requests, and ensuring customer satisfaction.

Handling Complaints

Even in the best-run establishments, issues can arise. Good communication skills are key to addressing and resolving customer complaints professionally.

Training and Supervision

If you move into a supervisory role, you'll need to train new staff. Effective communication is critical to conveying procedures and expectations clearly.

Conflict Resolution

Conflicts can occur behind the scenes in any food establishment. Being able to address and resolve conflicts diplomatically is a valuable skill that contributes to a harmonious work environment.

Putting It All Together

Attention to detail, time management, food safety knowledge, adaptability, and communication skills are all key to becoming a successful Food Handler. These skills will not only enhance your career progression but also contribute to the overall safety and satisfaction of your customers.

Food Handler training is a crucial step in acquiring and applying many of these skills. If you're looking to embark on a career in the food industry or enhance your existing skills, enrolling with the Australian Institute of Food Safety can help you achieve your objectives. 

The AIFS Food Handler course is nationally recognised and meets all the requirements of FSANZ Standard 3.2.2A. AIFS helps you achieve certification while providing the knowledge you need to excel in your role as a Food Handler.

Becoming a skilled and successful Food Handler is a journey that requires dedication and continuous learning. By focusing on these essential skills and staying updated with industry best practices, you can ensure that you provide safe, high-quality food and create a positive dining experience for your customers.

Continuing Your Development

Remember, your journey as a Food Handler is ongoing. Stay curious, stay informed, and keep refining your skills. The food industry is a dynamic and exciting field, and your commitment to excellence will take you far. 

After completing your Food Handler course, consider taking part in further training to aid career progression. The Australian Institute of Food Safety can also help you achieve Food Safety Supervisor certification, opening up new opportunities within the food industry based on your commitment to food safety and quality.

Are you ready to take the first step towards becoming a superior Food Handler? Enroll in the AIFS Food Handler course today and start your journey towards culinary excellence. Your skills and knowledge will not only benefit your career but also contribute to the health and well-being of those you serve.

Want to learn more before enrolling? Contact us and discover all the benefits of professional AIFS Food Handler training.