Certified Food Protection Manager: Expectations & Easy Pathways

Everything You Need to Know to be Compliant
(and the easiest path to get there)

Covid reminded us that new regulations for our industry are often poorly communicated and expectations are unclear. Many operators are still trying to catch up with the state's requirement of having a Certified Food Protection Manager (CFPM) for their business.

If you're one of them, here's all you need to know to ensure compliance without wasting time, money, and resources.

I’ll address the two most common misunderstandings, provide best practices, and share a ranked list of certification providers.


  1. ServSafe Manager is not the only approved certification. While ServSafe is well-known, there are 7 approved providers in total. I have reviewed and rated all 7; there are other options that cost less time & money and are more flexible(see below).
  2. CFPM is not equivalent to a First Aid Certification. It is not necessary to have someone on staff with the certificate at all times. Your business just needs to have someone associated with it who can conduct inspections (more below).

Explanation of Certified Food Protection Manager (CFPM):

Every foodservice operation in Washington State must have at least one person associated with their business who is 'Certified' by March 1st, 2023.

  • Certification can be obtained online from any of the 7 providers.
  • One CFPM can cover multiple locations.
  • The CFPM does not have to be an employee of the business.
  • A physical copy of the restaurant's CFPM certification must be kept on-site.

Best Practices:

  • Get more than one person in your business to get certified, but stagger their certifications by a year or two. This will help ensure redundancies. (Certification is valid for 5 years.)
  • Your CFPM does not have to be a manager or even work in the kitchen. Choose someone who will stay with the business long-term, including owners.
  • Start by ensuring that all new rules from the previous year are incorporated into the business, such as:
  • Cleaning Kit for Vomit & Diarrhea
  • Employee Health Reporting
  • Date Marking for Ready-to-Eat Foods
  • [NEW] Bare Hand Contact with Ready-to-Eat Foods

Ranked & Reviewed List of Certification Providers

1) State Food Safety

Clarity (great)
3 teirs: Training & exam, training only, exam only
Expense (great)
Full course with exam: $80
Skip to the test: $30
Flexibility (great)
Unlimited practice tests
90-day window to complete the exam

2) AAA Food Handler

Clarity (great)
4 clear options
Expense (good)
Basic full course with exam: $100 -no sample questions/no free retest
Full course with exam: $120 -160 sample questions/1 free retest
Skip to the test: $70
Flexibility (great)
1 free retest
6 month window to retest

3) Always Food Safe

Clarity (okay)
3 teirs: Training & exam, training only, exam only
Expense (okay)
Full course with exam: $80
Skip to the test: $30
Additional $50 for ‘remote proctoring’ (this isn’t clear to me)
Flexibility (fair)
Only 1 practice test
90-day window to complete the exam

4) ServSafe Manager

This is more-or-less an honorable mention based on name brand recognition & the many positive mentions I’ve received personally.

Clarity (poor)
There are multiple offering that don’t convey the differences very clearly
Expense (high)
Full course with exam: $180
Skip to the test: $100
Flexibility (rigid)
90-day window to complete the exam
One chance to pass or pay for a retest

5) Learn2Serve: MEH. Better options above
6) Responsible Training: Unclear and pricey
National Registry of Food Safety Professionals

Need more information?
Email Andy Cook andy.cook@harborfoods.com