Sunday, April 19, 2009

How Can I Become a ServSafe Instructor?

A lot of people ask me this when they take my class, so I’ll share some of the requirements and challenges you must meet to become an instructor.

Although everything I write here is based on my own experience, verify it yourself by going to and checking out the procedures.

For those of you who don’t know, ServSafe is arguably the most renowned certification a food service manager can acquire to verify a complete knowledge of food safety practices. It comes from the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation. ServSafe has been around for years, and its certification is recognized nationwide (although some states have additional requirements). ServSafe updates its programs and tests as standards change, based on the FDA Food Model Code.

Although several food safety testing programs exist, ServSafe has become one of the most recognized. So if you are looking for just one manager-level certification, ServSafe is your best certificate.

Since being certified by ServSafe is such a good thing, it makes sense that teaching it is a good choice as well. Here are some advantages, in my opinion, for being an instructor:
1 – Certification is recognized in all 50 states.
2 – ServSafe offers its instructors great support via purchased books, emails, and the web.
3 – The test is offered in several languages.

There’s always a flip side, so here are some disadvantages I find:
1 – Some of the material “over-teaches”; in other words, it may go into further detail than an average food service operator needs.
2 – It often fails to approach food safety from a practical-application perspective.

ServSafe offers three different roles for people who want to use this training:
1 – A certified instructor has demonstrated that he/she understands food safety and is willing to teach prospective testing students.
2 – A certified proctor is able to GIVE the test, but is not certified to TEACH the class.
3 – Dual Role: ServSafe’s dual certification allows an individual to work in both roles (Instructor and Proctor). This is the certification that interests most people.

Make sure that you fill out the right paperwork for the role that you want to play.

To become a Proctor:
1 - Go to and click on the link for becoming a ServSafe instructor/proctor.
2 - Meet the proper qualifications:
a - Agree to follow the proper exam procedures.
b - Provide verification of employment.
3 - Take the proctor tutorial and quiz.

To become an Instructor or a Dual Role Instructor/Proctor:
1 - Go to and click on the link for becoming a ServSafe instructor/proctor.
2 - Meet the following qualifications:
a – Have a current ServSafe manager’s certificate (if you are not certified, see below).
b – Have a high school diploma or GED.
c – Meet one of the following requirements:
have previous teaching experience
have a position with the health department or other regulatory agency
have at least one year of experience working in food service
be hired to teach food safety to your organization
have a bachelor’s degree in a related field
3 – Meet your state’s requirements to teach the class. See Some states have more requirements for teachers than others.
4 – Agree to follow the same guidelines that proctors do for administering the test.

If you do not have a current ServSafe certification, then you must take the manager’s certification test (the same test you will be teaching down the road), which MUST be administered by a certified ServSafe proctor or instructor. IF YOU WANT TO TEACH A CLASS WITHIN 90 DAYS OF TAKING YOUR OWN TEST, YOU MUST REQUEST THE SPECIAL VERSION OF THE SERVSAFE EXAM (request the INSTRUCTOR VERSION). Understandably, ServSafe does not want an instructor who just took the test administering the same test. By taking the special instructor version of the manager certification test, you won’t see the same questions your students will.

After meeting these requirements, you must then take the ServSafe instructor’s test. This open-book exam can be taken online. Passing the instructor’s test shows that you have learned - or can find - answers to the more detailed food safety questions that the typical class covers.

Once you have completed the requirements - assuming you have taken the instructor’s exam or have waited 90 days after taking the manager’s certification exam - you are ready to teach a class.

How do I set up a ServSafe class?
You’ve finished the instructor program, and now you want to teach. Determine the date on which you want to teach (it’s best to schedule at least one month in advance) and register it with under your user name (which you will have set up already).

Next, find a classroom. I use hotel meeting rooms, office meeting rooms, churches, and other locations. Just make sure that your location can provide all the requirements that ServSafe demands - especially in allowing students as much time AS THEY NEED to complete the test.

If you are teaching only for your organization, you don’t have to worry about publicity, but if you are opening your class to all interested students, you will want to do some advertising and marketing. is a good place to start, and will advertise your class, but it’s also wise to find some clients who need to send people to a class on a regular basis. For years I have been teaching employees of certain restaurants; they expect me to send out emails every few months announcing the next class date.

After you have registered your date, purchase the materials (such as the manuals) that you will be handling out to your students. In addition, purchase the exam scantrons and any training tools you may use. You can order these through, your local restaurant association, or companies specializing in training materials and scantron forms. I order scantrons from Paster Training, Inc. (contact us at for more information). Different tools are sold through different sites; email us for recommendations.

Make sure you practice your presentation until it is smooth and easy to understand (draft friends or family members to be test audiences). Test all your training materials before you use them.

What tips can you give for a successful class?
Be organized! Know who is attending the class. Have your paperwork ready. Make sure the tests have arrived if you’re using the print version, or have seat numbers and info if you’re conducting the online test.

Smile! When you’re the teacher, you’re on stage! I can’t tell you how many seminars and training sessions I have attended at which the instructor did not have a winning personality. Many of your students aren’t used to sitting all day long, and their attention spans peter out quickly. You’re not up there to be entertaining, but you need to be worth sitting up and listening to!

Schedule a break once in a while, so your students can recharge, stretch, and take care of any necessary business. But make the breaks short and sweet. Taking too many can really slow down a class.

How much should I charge?
If you’re teaching an open class, price it in a way reasonable both for your students and for yourself. Different instructors do this differently. Some charge a flat fee, with costs of materials on top of that; others work on a per-person basis, including materials in the fee for each one. Some instructors have fixed prices, with discounts for regular clients; others give a discount if an organization sends a large number of students to the class. However you do it, price yourself to be successful. Figure up your costs for materials, room rentals, tools (they should be paid for within a few classes), and anything else you may need. Be sure you can cover your expenses and give yourself a little profit for your hard work.

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