Technology will be vital in the months – and years – ahead as the pandemic continues to change the conversation about food safety. Restaurants now must prioritize the overall safety of the restaurant environment, in addition to addressing food safety itself. In fact, today’s consumer is demanding total transparency, so it is incumbent on restaurants to provide assurances that both the premises and the food are safe.
Unfortunately, many restaurants are currently operating with fewer staff and less financial resources. But in that challenge is also an opportunity. Deploying food safety technology is the way forward in these uncertain and constantly changing times.
Deploying RFID for Supply Chain Traceability
An RFID solution offers automated end-to-end transparency. The opportunity to verify food handling safety throughout the supply chain gives restaurant operators confidence in what they are serving customers.
Applying RFID downstream in the supply chain helps maintain traceability and transparency for such important back-of-house processes as:
- Delivery accuracy
- Inventory cycle count
- Expiration management
Because restaurants are being tasked to monitor a whole new level of safety, the monitoring itself is requiring a whole new set of processes. RFID tagging solutions can give individual items unique digital identities enabling verifiable chain-of-custody data to be captured throughout the supply chain.
Why is transparency so important? Take for example, the urgency of a food recall. RFID solutions allow recalled products to be located in seconds, quickly identifying the source of outbreaks and pulling them out of the food supply before they cause widespread illness. That means a restaurant will be less likely to unknowingly serve illness-causing food.
Traceability + Transparency for Back-of-House Operations
The ability for full-service restaurants to track inventory, keep food safe, and address consumer demands for food provenance became essential during the pandemic. It proved that restaurants need solutions that are adaptable and resilient.
In addition to traceability and transparency for quick, accurate food recalls, automation helps protect the restaurant by providing data that can be used to promote:
- Food safety by providing correct expiration and use-by information and facilitating proper food rotation
- Processes that provide oversight and accountability for non-food prep tasks
- Enhanced consumer experience by providing provenance information to reinforce consumers’ positive attitudes toward the food they're consuming
Another example is temperature tracking. On average, kitchens experience refrigerator failures at least twice a year. With typical refrigeration inventory averaging over $10,000, these failures can result in significant food waste and lost revenue. Food safety can be compromised, jeopardizing both customer safety and brand loyalty. Automated temperature monitoring systems let kitchen managers know the minute their refrigeration units are out of range.
Task Tracking is also an area that automation improves. Checklists are a part of every successful kitchen manager’s toolkit. They give supervisors a quick, at-a-glance snapshot into the completion of critical daily tasks and serve as a roadmap for expectations for employees. But paper checklists are notoriously unreliable when it comes to tracking task completion accuracy or employee productivity. A digital task tracking solution takes the guesswork out of task completion compliance.
Automation + Workforce Safety
There is one place that has historically needed improvement, and that is employee hand hygiene. In their efforts to keep employees and customers safe, monitoring hand washing often falls to a question of trust and individual responsibility. The challenge has always been that restaurants have not had an effective way to quantify and ensure that their employees are cleaning their hands thoroughly or frequently enough.
The status quo for hand hygiene—posted signage at sinks, hand sanitizer, and gloves—can provide a false sense of security and potentially make matters worse when it comes to stopping the spread of foodborne illnesses like Norovirus, Salmonella, E.coli, Hepatitis A, and Listeria.
In these days of heightened awareness of hygiene, handwashing rules such as the CDC’s guidance that hands be washed with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, can be reinforced through actual technology-based protocols that help prevent COVID-19 spread as well as foodborne illnesses.
The latest hand scanning technology can identify viruses and bacteria which informs associates that they must re-wash their hands before the dangerous microbes are transferred from their hands to the food they are handling. Data captured can be integrated into the RFID solution.
Being able to automate and deploy technology that ensures safety will make the difference for restaurants in the current environment and beyond. The time is now to explore technology that meets the post-pandemic future.