Before the COVID-19 pandemic upended the restaurant industry, less than 25% of US restaurants’ handwashing practices were in compliance with FDA food code handwashing frequency requirements.
Now, needless to say, restaurants reopening amidst the global health crisis are taking a renewed interest in both staff and customer hygiene.
Most experts agree that ensuring proper handwashing and employee training will be critical in the new normal environment. That being the case, the timing could not be better for solution providers of restaurant hygiene management systems to grow their businesses.
One system that has proven especially effective in protecting against the threat and spread of illness is made by PathSpot Technologies, which this week secured $6.5 million in a Series A funding. The company was co-founded in 2017 by biomedical engineers Christine Schindler, who serves as CEO, and Dutch Waanders, who serves as CTO.
The round was led by Valor Siren Ventures I L.P. (VSV), bringing the company’s total funding to $10.5 million. Formed with an anchor investment from Starbucks and in collaboration with Valor Equity Partners, VSV is a leader in early-stage food, food technology, and retail technology investing. Richard Tait, a partner at VSV, will join PathSpot’s board of directors. Existing investors FIKA Ventures and Walden Venture Capital also participated with a follow on investment.
PathSpots’ hand scanner tracks handwashing frequency and effectiveness. “PathSpot works alongside the food industry to promote handwashing and enhance a positive culture around sanitation, using data to help plan and protect against future risk,” said Schindler. “I’m thrilled to partner with VSV, which comes at a time when the entire world is more conscious than ever about handwashing safety. We’re eager to help positively impact even more lives more quickly and continue working with the food industry in prioritizing safe handwashing.”
Thirty percent of diarrhea-related sicknesses and 20% of respiratory infections are preventable by proper handwashing, and among these are the 48 million Americans who get sick each year from foodborne illness. As an example, the spread of germs from food handlers to food accounts for 89% of all foodborne illnesses that are contracted in restaurants.
PathSpot’s hand scanner can reportedly detect invisible signs of bacteria and viruses that cause illnesses and outbreaks in less than two seconds. According to the company, PathSpot customers see an average 3x increase in handwashing, reduced instances of contaminants on hands by 75% within just 30 days (97% reduction after six months) and consistent compliance with FDA Food Code handwashing recommendations.
PathSpot’s scanner is an NSF certified solution. Key components include:
- Instant Contamination Scan: After washing, team members scan their hands under the PathSpot device to confirm they are safe to handle food.
- Real-time Feedback: Team members complete a 2-second scan of their hands and are instructed to rewash and rescan before returning to work if contaminants are detected.
- Handwashing Data: The technology can recognize team members by ID codes, providing operators with data on who is washing their hands, how often, and how effectively.
The New York-based company reported that 97% of employees report PathSpot made them think more critically about food safety on a daily basis. PathSpot reduces management time spent on training and monitoring handwashing, including 89% of managers reporting “time-saving” when it comes to PathSpot helping them monitor handwashing and food safety.
“PathSpot has given us the tools to measure and improve our sanitation practices. But more importantly, working with the PathSpot team has created an even greater overall sensitivity to and awareness of food safety in our restaurants. Having already engaged the PathSpot system well before the coronavirus outbreak, I’m confident in how our team prioritizes handwashing and in this unprecedented environment, that priority will remain a critical focus,” said Colin McCabe, co-founder, Chopt Creative Salad Company. Chopt is a PathSpot customer and McCabe is an early investor in the company.
Using a network of sensors plus visible, audible, and electronic cues, PathSpot immediately notifies team members when invisible contamination is detected on their hands. In the future, PathSpot will also detect contamination on food, equipment and surfaces. If the contamination or handwash frequency requirements are not addressed, notices can automatically escalate to management to ensure complete protection of the customer, brand, and bottom line in one location or across a chain.
Restaurants pay a monthly fee starting at $175 to deploy the PathSpot hand scanner, which also includes the data analytics platform capabilities.
Earlier this week, PathSpot announced a partnership with Miso Robotics, a startup focused on commercial kitchen automation. The company is the maker of Flippy, an autonomous kitchen assistant. As part of the partnership, Miso will work directly with PathSpot to facilitate the use of its hand scanning technology in restaurants and food service locations where Flippy will be deployed.