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ServSafe Manager Certification

ServSafe Food Protection Manager Certification

The ServSafe Food Protection Manager is the highest certification awarded by ServSafe. The certificate is earned by passing the ServSafe manager exam. The exam focuses on six aspects of food service that can affect the safety of food:

  • Foodborne Microorganisms & Allergens
  • Personal Hygiene
  • Purchasing, Receiving and Storage
  • Preparation, Cooking and Serving
  • Facilities, Cleaning/Sanitizing and Pest Management
  • Regulatory Authorities

Below is an example of the ServSafe manager exam. This example contains only eight questions, but the real exam grades you on 80. You have to score 75% to pass the real exam, that’s six out of eight for this example. Click the arrow to see the next question.



ServSafe Manager Example

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Who Needs a ServSafe Manager Certificate?

Some jurisdictions require there to be at least one Certified Food Manager or CFM on the staff. A CFM is an employee who has had food safety training and has passed an accredited exam. Usually the CFM plays a supervisory role over most of the other staff.

Other jurisdictions may only require “Demonstration of Knowledge”. This means that at least one staff member (of a supervisory position) can answer questions related to food safety when quizzed by an inspector. In these jurisdictions the health inspector will actually give the supervisor a verbal quiz to test their knowledge. But if the supervisor can show the inspector a ServSafe manager certificate they can usually avoid the quiz all together.

Some jurisdictions may have no requirements at all. But if the restaurant is part of a large chain, there will probably be internal policies that require certification or training.

Click on the map below then hover over your state to see the food manager regulations.


ServSafe Manager Regulations


How to Get ServSafe Manager Certification

The first step to earning your ServSafe manager certificate is to study the subject of food safety. ServSafe sells online courses, textbooks and training videos. Your jurisdiction may require that your certificate be ServSafe. Even your corporate policies may require that your certificate be issued by ServSafe. But usually there’s no requirement that the training be provided be ServSafe.

It is reccommended by ServSafe that your training course consits of eight hours of instruction, but it’s not required. However your state or local rules may require more or less time in attendance of a training course. For example Cook County, Illinois (Chicago) recently changed there requirment from 16 hours of training to only 8. Most online courses and classroom trainings are designed to be 8 hours for this reason.

Some options for training are online courses, classroom instruction, self-study or years of experience in a comercial kitchen. Check with your municipality for any specific requirements.

If you’re specifically required to get a ServSafe certificate then you will need to pass the ServSafe exam. There are other certificates and exams that are approved in many states, but ServSafe is honored in the most places. You will need to find a certified proctor to administer the exam and then buy the exam from ServSafe for around $35. A “certified proctor” is a person who is approved by ServSafe to give the exam. You’re not allowed to take the test alone, you must be in the presence of a proctor.

There is a directory of certified proctors on the ServSafe website. But many people find the information there to be outdated or inaccurate. We have a smaller directory here on our website that is more accurate.

When your ready its time to take the exam. The ServSafe manager exam has 90 questions and you have two hours to finish. The questions are multiple choice, with four possible answers. You must achieve a minimum score of 75% to pass the exam. Although there are 90 questions on the exam, you’re only graded on 80 of them. The extra 10 questions are “pilot questions” and they are there to determine if they will be included on future exams. You can use this ServSafe practice test to help you prepare.


ServSafe Manager Certificate
ServSafe Manager Certificate

ServSafe Manager vs. ServSafe Handler

The ServSafe manager certificate is intended for those who are considered the “Person in Charge” (PIC) of a food service operation. It is their responsibility to ensure that good food safety practices are being observed by the entire establishment. They are responsible for the food safety instruction of the other employees. They are also responsible for the proper receiving of shipments, storage of food, preparation of food and the sanitation of equipment and facilities. The “Certified Food Manager” (CFM) doesn’t have to perform each of these tasks themselves, they just have to make certain that they are done correctly.

The ServSafe handler certificate is for the employees who are not in charge, but still have direct contact with food or food contact surfaces. They are often times the ones who can most dramatically affect the safety of food. They are your prep cooks, line cooks and servers. Some states require food handlers to have certification also, but it is always the PIC’s responsibility to ensure that safe food practices are adhered to by everyone.

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