A temperature data log is very important for a restaurant. Policies and procedures should be in place ensuring that employees are logging food temperatures multiple times a day. This is to make sure that food is within the proper range for food safety. It’s not good enough to do it once a day since there are many factors that can lead to temperature abuse, and these factors can change from one hour to the next. Temperatures should be logged from when the first employee arrives, before each service (lunch and dinner), and at the end of the business day. By logging temperatures at multiple times, the opportunity to catch a problem before it leads to a bigger problem increases.
Even though many restaurant organizations log temperatures, they differ in how they accomplish data logging. The most common way is to use a printed temperature data log sheet and simply write the temperature to record the data. Each cold-holding and hot-holding unit should be logged. There are also lots of companies that sell technology-based options for temperature data logging. On the surface this seems like a good idea, but the technology is very different from one company to another. Connectivity, cost and employee use are all factors to consider.
Pros: It’s easy to use and the cheapest option since you only need a pen and a piece of paper. You can even pre-populate the unit names on to the sheet and create a grid in excel to capture all the necessary information. Pen and paper is probably the best option for smaller operations since it’s so cost effective.
Cons: Sometimes employees can get lazy and won’t actually take the temperatures. They will simply write acceptable values without verifying. This can be identified by data log sheets that read 41 degrees F on every line all the way down. Anyone that has experience logging temperatures knows that the temperature is different in every unit and in every piece of food in a specific unit. So, a data log sheet with all the same temperatures just isn’t possible. Also, having temperatures logged on a sheet of paper probably won’t make it into a computer to be analyzed over a period of time.
Pros: This option is the least amount of work for restaurant employees. There is technology available that allows the user to put data loggers into each unit that automatically log the temperature. The frequency of logging can be programed to record a temperature every minute or every hour. This logging can either be downloaded onto a computer or directly linked into a cloud-based computer system connected through wi-fi or a cell-based service. These systems can identify problems without an employee finding it. Emails can be sent to service personnel to get the problem fixed quickly.
Cons: With any technology comes many headaches mostly centered around connectivity. There can be wi-fi dead spots, making it difficult for data loggers to link up with the cloud. Also, sensors can be damaged or break easily, which could be costly to replace. The overall cost of these systems can also be very expensive.
Pros: With this option, employees are still actively involved in taking temperatures, but they can use a thermometer that will automatically log the temperature when a button is pushed on the device. This eliminates the need for the employee to write down the temperature. This process can be coupled with ambient temperature loggers in each unit. So, each unit is logging an ambient and a thermometer-probed temperature. This will give the restaurant manager a fuller picture of how well the unit is working and if further maintenance is needed. These systems will also notify appropriate restaurant employees when temperatures are out of range.
Cons: Costs of the system, connectivity issues and durability of the product can all be problems that will surface through the use of a digital data logging system.
Technology is changing every day and using sensors to log temperatures is a good idea for many reasons. However, connectivity, durability, costs and user error need to be improved. To make digital data logging more appealing, companies are adding in digital checklists and other technology-based services. Don’t fall for a company that adds in a ton of extra services to mask the lack of functionality of their temperature data log system. Online services are cheap and easy to create, but temperature sensor hardware is expensive and hard to maintain. Make sure to get a demonstration of the product beforehand to test connectivity and to see if the functionality works for your restaurant.
To help you and your staff with keeping track of temperatures in your cold-holding and hot-holding units, download Food Safety Nation’s Temperature Data Log. This log can also be found on our Resources page. Make sure to frequently check there to access other free restaurant resources.