Technology for restaurant hospitality has rapidly grown over the last several years. POS technology, online ordering, tabletop tablets, apps for reservations, mobile payments—there are plenty of options that have either improved the dining experience for restaurant consumers or boosted the efficiency of front of house operations. Recent research reported that 95% of restaurant owners believe technology improves efficiency, and 4 out of 5 restaurant operators agree that technology helps increase sales and make their restaurants more productive. With digital technology becoming more ubiquitous in the restaurant industry, restaurant owners and managers are now looking at the back of house operations and ways to use technology for restaurant food safety.
Many restaurant technology companies are adding food safety features and components to their existing platforms, whereas other companies are providing a suite of services solely focused on food safety. Services can range from online checklists to email alerts for equipment failure to automating temperature monitoring.
With the wide variety of restaurant technology companies and services available, it can be hard to know what you’re looking for in food safety technology services or why you need them. Below are 10 ways restaurants can use technology to help with food safety management.
Technology can help document everything a restaurant does to manage food safety. Features such as online checklists, temperature logs, corrective actions and employee illness logs can assist greatly during a foodborne illness crisis. If a customer calls or the health department visits because of a foodborne illness complaint, a restaurant needs this documentation to prove all of its food safety practices were functioning during the time the sick customer ate in the restaurant.
Most food safety technology companies provide some sort of temperature monitoring. It can be as simple as a Bluetooth thermometer that connects to the system or using small ambient devices installed into cold-holding units to track ambient temperatures in real time. Temperature monitoring is critical to the success of any food safety program. These systems can notify management and maintenance personnel of units that are not working properly. This will cut down on food waste and ensure the units are maintaining proper temperatures at all times, which will also help to prevent foodborne illness from temperature abuse. These systems can also help restaurant managers track temperature checks conducted by staff throughout the day.
Training materials can be enhanced and added to a digital network to make it easily accessible and targeted to staff. Restaurant employees can use their own smart devices to access the training materials anytime, and managers can track who has accessed training and who hasn’t. This can improve a restaurant’s training program by ensuring necessary training materials are provided to employees at key moments as well as keeping track of employees who have completed the training.
Corrective action of problems is very important. What good is it to have a food safety program that identifies problems if there’s no way to show when the problems are corrected? A technology program that notifies you of a problem should also have a way to track when the problem has been fixed.
A good program will have the ability to customize task lists for different staff responsibilities. You may have different lists for a bartender, line cook, hostess and manager that need to be completed at different intervals. Look for a company that allows customization of lists that can all be housed in the same online location.
Many restaurant groups use third-party auditors. When choosing a technology company, try to integrate your current auditing program into the new program. Having one location for all components of your food safety program will make it easier to manage and enhance its benefit.
Analytics can help you collect data related to the food safety activities in your restaurant, and you can use the information to track progress and identify trends. Make sure you use a system that includes analytics and allows you to review data for strengths and weaknesses in your food safety program. It’s your data—make sure it works for you.
Many restaurant technology platforms allow users to set up email notifications so that staff members are alerted when audits or checklists are completed or if there’s a problem with important kitchen equipment such as refrigerators and freezers. This helps to get the right information to the right people when they need it.
For restaurant groups, the benefits of using technology can be exponential. Processes can be standardized across all locations to make sure all staff members, no matter the location, are doing their tasks and following procedures. This makes it much easier for a corporate office to keep track of a broader food safety program.
A robust digital program should allow you to tie all components of a food safety program together. Temperature monitoring, checklists, task management, corrective actions, crisis management, food safety audits, foodborne illness complaints, and many other features should be housed in one location, easily accessible and analyzed for owners and management to develop, improve and document every aspect of a food safety program.
With the increasing complexity of restaurant operations, technology can help to organize and simplify food safety processes and standards. As always, it’s best to do your due diligence when considering new technology for your restaurant.
What technologies are you using in your restaurant to help with food safety? Are there any that you recommend other restaurant owners and managers should try? Shoot us a note to let us know what you recommend.