• Jerry Thomas

Restaurant Certification, Explained

Before we dive into the particulars of the NSF & UL Certifications, it is important to have a deeper understanding of the importance of food safety and why it is required to use certified products within your establishment.

The Importance of Food Safety & Using Certified Products

If you find a good deal on a line of equipment, you need to make sure that it is certified. Getting a good price on a product does not justify compromising the quality and safety of the product in question. While saving hundreds or even thousands of dollars might be an attractive proposition, that same proposition will no longer be attractive if it causes a food safety issue, the closure of your establishment, and irreparable harm to your venue’s reputation.

You should note that food safety certification is distinct from other systems of proof of conformity like laboratory test reports and supplier declarations. Food safety certification is based on the results of testing, inspections, and audits. This higher-level process of product vetting is unlike any other process or system of testing.

Having a certified product shows that the food product is in compliance with the safety and fitness for use standards and any other applicable governmental and/or quasi-governmental health and sanitation standards. Even in the rare circumstance where there are no legal requirements for certification for your particular food and/or drink use case, having a certification will help gain consumer confidence and display a high level of professionalism and care.

Why Do Businesses Want Food Safety Certifications?

The reason food safety certifications are so attractive is because of what they embody. These certifications convey to the marketplace, employees, and stakeholders that the business has met the requirements for a national or international best practice approach. Third party certification is the best way to show corporate responsibility and customer care.  This is critical not only during health inspections and developing a reputation for professionalism and high standards, but also in the unfortunate event of a customer claiming they became ill from ingesting your products or services. Having all food-safe certified equipment will go a very long way in defending that your establishment was not the cause of the illness and any resulting damages that may have been suffered.

With high profile food recalls and other issues happening in the hospitality industry, everyone is on their best behavior by ensuring that everything is running up to standards. Food safety certification also often provide a competitive advantage in the marketplace. When venues show they only use the best products, health-conscious patrons will show their gratitude by returning and spreading the positive word.

How to Get a Food Safety Certification

Product makers need to keep certification requirements in mind from the very beginning when they are designing their product, or otherwise significant redesign may be necessary. Those that are new to certification or unsure about their product’s construction are encouraged to request a preliminary evaluation. The prototype is evaluated, and pre-testing advice can be helpful in keeping costs down, and any resulting savings can be passed on to the buyer. Using certified parts can reduce the time and difficulty of getting approved for certification.

As a professional in the hospitality industry, you have probably seen the NSF and UL certifications in your commercial kitchen or restaurant. While you might have an overall understanding of what these organizations do, it is helpful to have a full understanding of how these organizations help to ensure the equipment in your establishment meet food and personal safety requirements.

NSF International

Formerly known as the National Sanitation Foundation, NSF International is a non-profit organization that operates independently and certifies food equipment. To receive a NSF certification, the food equipment must be designed and constructed to promote food safety. This organization is internationally certified, and many equipment pieces have this certification.

What are the qualifications for certification through the NSF?

In order to have this certification, the following must be true about the equipment in question:

  • The manufacturer’s production facility is audited thoroughly by an NSF representative. This audit is done to make sure the product is made up to sanitary standards and that they are continually met throughout construction and product assembly.

  • Physical product evaluation is done to check for food and safety standards.

  • The materials used to make the product are tested and evaluated to ensure they meet standards.

  • Annual follow up audits are necessary to maintain the product’s certification.

The strict set of evaluations NSF certification products go through are designed to ensure that governmental food safety standards and requirements are met. Many commercial products in the hospitality industry are NSF certified.

Underwriter’s Laboratories (UL)

You will find UL on many products in your establishment. The UL symbol and UL certification mean the product and the components of the product meet certain safety and hazard standards to ensure the product user’s safety.

UL has become a primary authority on product safety over the last one hundred years. What does it mean? When you see the UL label on equipment, you know that it has met a set of standards to ensure your equipment operates safely. The safety of the equipment includes design, structural elements, and electrical elements.

Ongoing analysis is necessary to ensure the continuance of safety standards. Equivalent to NSF, UL also has a sanitation certification for equipment that validates the food safety of a piece of equipment, and, just as with the NSF Certification, is accepted by governmental and quasi-governmental agencies that inspect and regulate public health standards health and sanitation throughout the food service and hospitality industries. Look for this UL Certificate when dealing with food equipment to ensure food safety.


While NSF is currently the most widely known certification, you should know that UL certified products are up to NSF standards. UL is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) to have the ability to certify products to the NSF standards for drink water chemicals and products and food equipment. You should also know that code authorities and regulatory authorities accept UL certifications all throughout the USA and Canada.

Final Thoughts on Certification & Food Safety

The safety of consumers is always at the forefront of any proud hotelier or restauranteur which is why products that take the time to achieve certification through the NSF and UL are the best choices for these business. These products have undergone the series of tests and continue to go through testing and evaluation to keep the distinguished certification.

If you are the owner of a hotel or a restaurant, it is understandable that you only want to use the best. The two above certifications of NSF and UL certified have both proven to be the most reliable and prestigious marks to hold. Before purchasing any products, make sure they hold one of these certifications to keep your reputation at the highest standards.

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