Purpose ‐ Despite extensive investments in food handler training, research suggests that training programs are inconsistent, and rarely evaluated for efficacy. The generic prescriptive content and school-like delivery methods used in current food safety training may be a barrier to application. The purpose of this paper is to develop a food safety communication tool, food safety infosheets, targeted specifically to foodservice food handlers, utilizing popular media stories to illustrate the consequences of poor food handling. Design/methodology/approach ‐ Food safety infosheets were designed to be surprising, connect food handlers' actions and consequences, and generate discussion through a verbal narrative framework. A Delphi-like exercise (n=19), a posting pilot (n=8) were carried out to assess the appropriateness of the concept of food safety infosheets. An intense participatory ethnographic study with an Ontario, Canada, restaurant, and in-depth interviews with food service operators in Manhattan, Kansas, and Lansing, Michigan, (n=17) were conducted to gather qualitative data on the food service kitchen environment, including barriers to food safety practices, and the communication preferences of those who work in such kitchens. Findings ‐ The expert group, foodservice operators, and food handlers accepted food safety infosheets as an appropriate concept and valued storytelling as an effective communication strategy. Learning in the kitchen environment is largely hands-on and visual, and time pressure dictates practices. It is often difficult to attract and keep the attention of food handlers. Storytelling, celebrity and local outbreaks are of interest to the target audience. Originality/value ‐ This paper provides a blueprint for the design and refinement of food safety communication tools targeted towards a specific audience. By utilizing multiple methodologies, it provides a framework for other researchers to follow.