Once upon a time, restaurants relied on pencil and paper systems for their inspections, and trusted that their employees conducted these important safety checks regularly and properly. If there was a safety breach and the town or state safety inspector investigated, the restaurant’s manager had to find the right paperwork from an overflowing file cabinet to prove compliance. Luckily, those days are long gone, and innovative tech tools have replaced antiquated manual systems.
Each year, millions of people become ill from preventable food safety breaches. Don’t let this happen at your restaurant. Tech tools are instrumental in maximizing food safety and mitigating risks, protecting brands by optimizing inspections, equipment monitoring, temperature checks, reporting, and more. Tech solutions also provide key data and insights for more informed decision-making.
September’s Food Safety Month is a good time to remind your employees about the importance of following proper food safety protocols. Here are some essential tips to accomplish this:
Elevate training with tech tools. Regular, ongoing food safety training is non-negotiable. Teach employees about food safety best practices, including cooking foods to proper temperatures, avoiding cross-contamination, properly sanitizing surfaces and equipment, washing hands often, etc. Technology can make training more interactive, engaging, and memorable. For instance, many restaurants are using Virtual Reality (VR) to train staff, role play common scenarios, communicate expectations, etc. Using a VR headset and custom software, employees can participate in fun, unforgettable training exercises that emphasize the importance of food safety protocols. Many brands also find it helpful to send reminders and updates to employees’ smartphones so critical information is always at their fingertips.
Improve temperature monitoring. Your staff should know the importance of cooking foods to – and storing foods at – proper temperatures. Are you giving them the proper tools to do so? For instance, Bluetooth thermometers are a simple but effective temperature monitoring technology that restaurants should employ in their kitchens. Some restaurant brands use real-time tracking devices in their walk-ins to monitor temperatures. If temps deviate outside of predetermined intervals, these devices automatically notify management so the situation can be remedied before any food is compromised. These tech solutions can ensure that proper temps are being maintained (for cooking and storing food) and that all equipment is working properly. This helps reduce food waste, avoid contamination, and prevent foodborne illness.
Monitor food safety and quality. The Internet of Things (IoT) is an important tech development for the restaurant industry. The same types of IoT-based sensors that can track temperature changes in walk-ins to prevent food spoilage can also help protect foods in transit. IoT solutions can alert drivers (and other key stakeholders) in real-time about any temperature fluctuations that put food safety at risk. That way, the team can make any necessary changes, such as delivering products to a closer restaurant or store if a truck’s refrigeration unit has failed, to prevent perishable items from spoiling.
Track food safety compliance. Restaurants can use tech tools to track food safety compliance to ensure that all employees are following proper food safety protocols. For example, digital checklists make it quick, easy, and convenient for restaurant employees to conduct regular safety inspections. Because these digital checklists are simple to use (and easy for managers to determine whether they’ve been completed), employees are more likely to finish them properly. Using tech tools vs. manual systems also improves traceability and reduces the likelihood of misplacing documents. Some systems require employees to take photos or videos as part of the inspection, giving managers peace of mind (and tangible proof) that the inspection was completed as directed.
Analyze trends. Rely on tech tools to gather and analyze data so you can see when (and where) you need to take corrective actions most frequently. For instance, are there more noncompliance issues during certain shifts or when certain employees are working? Do some of your brands’ locations have more food safety incidents or “near misses” than others? Use data gleaned from digital solutions to determine where you should focus your time and resources to boost compliance. Then, focus there, retraining staff, adjusting processes, and/or increasing inspections. Creating an environment of continuous improvement will help boost safety, quality, and compliance.
Explain why the rules are in place. Even when you provide the most innovative tech tools necessary to do their jobs correctly, you must still motivate your employees to do the right thing! Don’t just tell employees what to do. Tell them why to do it. When you explain why it’s important to follow food safety protocols – and the reasoning behind the rules – your employees will be more likely (and more willing) to comply. Tell them even an innocent mistake – like serving one little peanut to a peanut-allergic guest – could sicken or even kill them. If you don’t cook the pork chops to proper temps – or if your walk-in malfunctions and rises to unsafe temps overnight – it could cause a foodborne illness outbreak that could seriously sicken your guests. Remind employees that following best practice food safety protocols will help prevent food safety breaches at your restaurant as well as the financial, legal, and reputational fallout that often accompanies them.
Keep in mind that today’s tech tools are affordable, accessible, and user-friendly for restaurant brands of all sizes, so don’t be intimidated by the potential price tag or learning curve. During Food Safety Month and throughout the year, use tech tools to keep your guests, employees, and business safer.
CJ Pakeltis is Director of Business Development at RizePoint, a technology leader in the food safety, quality management, compliance, and social responsibility space. RizePoint’s quality management software solutions help companies, including Starbucks, McDonald’s, Hard Rock International, and more, keep brand promises through their quality, safety, and compliance efforts. Customers gather better data, see necessary actions earlier, and act faster to correct issues before they become costly liabilities.
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