ServSafe Manager Certification - A Step-By-Step Guidebook

The food service industry is one of the largest, employing over 11 million people in the United States. This includes food service managers, waiters, waitresses, chefs, cooks, bartenders, dishwashers, bakers, hosts and hostesses, all of whom play an important part in providing the best experience for the customer.

A critical element of that experience is to prevent foodborne illness by ensuring the safety of the food being served, which is why every food establishment should have at least one Person in Charge (PIC) who is a Certified Food Protection Manager.

What is a Certified Food Protection Manager?

A Certified Food Protection Manager is someone who has demonstrated that they possess all the necessary knowledge to identify and prevent potential risks in all the different areas of a food service operation. This involves tasks like identifying approved vendors, inspecting deliveries, ensuring correct cooking and holding temperatures, proper storage of food, proper cleaning and sanitization, developing and implementing preventive and corrective actions, among many others.

How do you become a Certified Food Protection Manager?

A person can become a Certified Food Protection Manager by passing an ANAB-CFP accredited exam, which means the exam has been accredited by the Conference of Food Protection and the American National Standards Institute National Accreditation Board.

There are multiple approved certification exam providers. ServSafe® is one of them.

Why Choose the ServSafe® Certification?

Although there are several approved exams, the ServSafe® Certification is the only certification exam developed by the National Restaurant Association. Because of this, it is the preferred choice of many employers, and is often the only one that major national chains and franchises will accept as a requirement for employment.

The ServSafe® Exam is developed and reviewed by a team of qualified industry experts and foodservice professionals who possess the most up-to-date knowledge of food safety and best industry practices.

The certification exam is developed according to a rigorous analysis and validation process, which ensures a match between the skills needed on the job, and the areas that candidates are being tested on in the exam.

Is it mandatory for every food manager to obtain the ServSafe® Certification?

That depends on the State and/or county where you work. However, the majority of the States now require food service establishments to employ at least one Certified Food Protection Manager (CFPM) This includes California, Texas, Utah, Colorado, Florida, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, among others.

Where do I find training and certification requirements specific to my State or County?

ServSafe® provides a very useful tool that allows you to check different regulatory requirements for each State.

Premier Food Safety has also compiled a comprehensive guide including information about different state requirements.

For other specific questions and additional requirements, always contact your local health department. They will have the most recent and accurate information.

Some States and/or counties require proof of completion of a training program in addition to passing the ServSafe® Exam. In some cases there is a specific number of training hours required.

In addition to this, some jurisdictions may require you to pay a fee to obtain a separate county or city-issued certificate in addition to the ServSafe® certificate. A good example of this is the City of Chicago in Illinois.

Does the ServSafe® Certification require training?

No. The only requirement to become a ServSafe® Certified Food Manager is that you pass the certification exam with a minimum score of 70%.

However, we always recommend that you complete a training course before taking the exam. If you are a new manager, you will need it to become familiar with all the concepts you will be tested on. But even if you are a veteran of the food service industry, a training course or book will refresh your memory and update you on any recent changes to the FDA food code and other regulatory guidelines.

When preparing for the ServSafe Exam, not all courses and training materials are created equal. You should invest in high-quality materials and training programs from experienced and ServSafe-certifed trainers. Not only will this increase your chances of passing the exam. It will increase your knowledge of food safety, making you a more valuable employee with a better chance of advancing your career.

Read more tips on how to choose a training provider and how to best prepare to

pass the ServSafe Certification Exam.


What is the difference between the ServSafe® Certification and a food handler card?

The ServSafe® Certification is obtained by passing an ANAB-CFP accredited exam, which must be administered by an approved live proctor. It is used to certify the person in charge (PIC), usually the owner or manager of the establishment. This certification is meant for employees who are in a supervisory role.

The food handler card (sometimes also referred to as a food handler certificate) can be obtained by completing an online training program and exam, and does not require a proctor. It is not a certification, and is usually required of anyone working with food, such as servers, cooks, chefs, dishwashers, etc.

How do I know if I need a Food Manager Certificate or a Food Handler Card?

This will depend on your State and/or county regulatory requirements. However, as a general rule, if you are the person in charge of the establishment, you will need to become a Certified Food Protection Manager.

If you are working under the supervision of a Certified Food Protection Manager, and your job involves preparing, serving, or coming into contact with food, then you will need a Food Handler Card.

How much does the ServSafe® Certification Cost?

The ServSafe® Certification Exam varies in price depending on the format you choose (i.e. paper vs online), but it ranges from $69 to $99 when purchased by itself. Packages including a training course and the ServSafe® certification exam vary based on the provider, but range anywhere from $119 to $189.

Are there places to get my ServSafe® Certification for free?

No. Any individual looking to get ServSafe® Certified must pay, at the very least, the fees associated with the exam itself, and the proctor who administers it. As a nationally-accredited certification program, there are many costs associated with developing and maintaining a certification exam that meets the highest standards for validity, reliability, and security.

How long is the ServSafe® Certification valid for?

The ServSafe® Certificate is valid for 5 years from the date you passed the exam. Your CFPM status must be renewed every 5 years.

Looking for more information about the ServSafe® exam? Check out our other guides:

How to pass the ServSafe Exam.

How to Schedule the ServSafe Exam.

Ready to get certified? Find the best option for you below.

ServSafe Instructor-Led Class and Exam Option

Register and attend an in-person class with an Approved ServSafe Instructor

ServSafe Online Self-Study and Exam Option

Purchase Premier Food Safety’s self-paced online ServSafe Food Manager course and complete your training from home. Schedule the ServSafe Exam Online with a live proctor.

ServSafe Books and Supplementary Materials

Order the latest Edition of the ServSafe Manager book from our store and study from home at your own pace. Additional learning materials are available to students seeking additional training.