Why Technologies that Help Restaurants Prioritize Health and Safety are Nothing to Sneeze At

Improving health and safety in your establishment is easier than ever due to advancing technologies that not only prevent issues but can also predict what could become an issue later on.
By Jori Hamilton, RTN Feature Writer - 1.15.2023

It is no secret that the last few years have been a tough time for many restaurateurs as COVID-19 forced many owners to shut down their establishments while losing an incredible amount of business. Now that we are starting to see a return to normalcy, there is a chance for restaurant owners to open their doors and prioritize the health and safety practices that are so important to patrons after a worldwide pandemic.

Luckily, improving health and safety in your establishment is easier than ever due to advancing technologies that not only prevent issues but can also predict what could become an issue later on. Today, we will talk about the tech that can help keep your restaurant clean, avoid contamination, and make your employees feel safer while at work.

Food Safety

If there is ever a time to focus your efforts on the cleanliness of your restaurant, it is after the COVID-19 pandemic. Patrons want to know that they are eating in a sanitary establishment where they can enjoy their meal with the guarantee that everything has been washed and sanitized. Although COVID-19 is fading away, we are still seeing the emergence of seasonal flus and respiratory illnesses that are the result of changes in the weather, so there is always a chance to get sick, and restaurants can do their part to keep the sickness from getting worse.

A major part of keeping your patrons healthy is ensuring that the food is kept at a proper temperature so it cannot become contaminated. We know this is a problem, as one in six Americans gets sick from food contamination every year. One issue at restaurants is that food is left out or is not left at a proper temperature. This is a good time to upgrade to a high-tech refrigerator that has an automated temperature monitoring system so you can be notified if the temp is dropping too low. You can get faster alerts by looking into a smart refrigerator that can send alerts directly to a manager’s cell phone, so they can jump into action when necessary.

Many restaurants still use a manual process of checking the food in the refrigerators and sorting out what is usable and what may be contaminated or nearing expiration. While this type of system can work a lot of the time, humans are capable of errors, and you only need to let one customer get sick in order to bring your restaurant down. You can avoid these issues by entering everything in your kitchen into a database so you can have real-time alerts for when food needs to be changed out.

Of course, the refrigerator is not the only place where foods need to be kept at proper temperatures. If you have a larger establishment with storage rooms and other areas, then you can also install sensors around your facility that can tell you when the temperature is at an unhealthy level.

Keep Employees From Making Patrons Sick

Another issue that many restaurant patrons may have is the belief that if a sick employee touches or is near their food, then they can also get sick, and that is a legitimate concern. Again, technology can come to the rescue, and it can start at the front of the house.

In addition to continuing to wear masks and socially distance, you can help to prevent customers from getting sick while ordering by installing self-ordering kiosks that allow people to order their food without coming in contact with another person. Some of the newer kiosks also allow customers to speak their order, so they don’t even need to touch a screen. Of course, all touch screens should be cleaned by restaurant staff multiple times per day.

With COVID-19, the flu, and other illnesses still making the rounds, it is essential that you do not let sick employees stay at work. As soon as an employee begins their shift, they should be tested for potential illness. Currently, there is great tech available to help, including the Squadle Sense Thermal Scanner, which is a device that attaches to the wall. The employee simply stands in front of it, and it will check their temperature and give the applicable feedback. You can also ask your team screening questions about their health over the last few days to make an educated decision about having them work or not.

When you get the inevitable visit from the health department, it is important to be prepared. You can stay one step ahead by implementing predictive analytic software that will comb over millions of records of data about other restaurants in your area to determine potential risks that you could face as well. You can then investigate and take the proper precautions so you can pass the inspection and keep your customers safe.

Overall Employee Safety

In addition to food safety, avoiding contamination, and keeping sick employees out of the kitchen, there are other ways that you can use tech to help your staff stay safe wherever they may be. For instance, you should continue to use fire and carbon monoxide detectors throughout the restaurant and inspect them regularly to ensure that they are in proper working order.

You can bring that concept a bit further by installing panic buttons in the areas where your employees work and congregate the most. If an employee gets injured during food prep, spots a fire, or feels threatened in any way, then they can hit the panic button, and your team can spring into action. Combine that with a proper security system and cameras, and management can always be aware of potential risks.

While technology can do wonders to keep your team safe, it is important that you continually train your employees on how to use this tech and also how to react properly in the case of an emergency. Continue to have daily safety meetings at the beginning of the workday to go over all immediate risks and ask your team if they have any questions. Management must always keep an open-door policy and address customer concerns as soon as they come up.

As you can see, technology will continue to influence the restaurant industry and its impact on health and safety, both for your staff and the patrons. Continue to look for ways to evolve, and your eatery will make it through the bumpy times.

Jori Hamilton is a Feature Writer for Restaurant Technology News. She has over 8 years of experience in the restaurant and fine dining industry and has worked at a number of well-known establishments over the years. Jori covers a wide range of subjects but because of her past industry experience, she takes a particular interest in covering topics related to restaurant productivity, FOH and BOH management, and restaurant technology. To learn more, follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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