Using technology in restaurant operations, such as Digital HACCP and operations systems, is how many savvy restaurant operators are improving their businesses today. Let’s start by talking about some of the major issues facing the restaurant industry. There is a labor shortage crisis that could have disastrous consequences for consumers and some of the leading food brands. With restaurant turnover rates higher than ever and restaurant brands struggling to keep up with food sales in other sections of industry, the challenges facing operators are more difficult than ever. The impact is not only felt on the front line, where hourly workers are leaving the food service industry for jobs in other industries. It is also impacting general management and supervisor roles, where brands have concerns about turnover and filling open positions with qualified staff.
Without the right level of training, operators are putting their customers at risk. The question for consumers is whether their favorite brands and restaurants have sufficient controls in place to serve food safely, especially with such high levels of turnover.
Add to this the sales growth in non-traditional food service locations. The growing grocery, convenience stores and home delivery services are putting more pressure on food service operators. With new and innovative products, modern food service establishments are frequently updating their menus, putting even more strain on already complex operational processes. The question remains if leading restaurant brands can run safer, more efficient and effective operations so they can reclaim their market share and provide customers with a great experience.
There is a way for owners and managers to use technology in restaurant operations to improve food safety systems while increasing staff productivity and make training more effective compared to the manual (paper and pencil) systems currently utilized in the vast majority of restaurants. Digital HACCP and operations systems are effective for helping large multi-location brands, franchisees and single-location operators manage food safety and restaurant operations with real-time data capture. The significant evolutions over the last two years means these systems are now more affordable and capable than ever before. Simple task management and checklist software has been replaced with multifunctional comprehensive systems.
Managing restaurant operations requires a high level of discipline, training and monitoring to ensure employees are completing important daily checks, such as temperature monitoring at the required frequency, usually every four hours to ensure they are operating effectively. It’s commonplace to see paper temperature logs reading 41 degrees Fahrenheit written with the same pen in the same handwriting for every single shift. A better way is to install a cold chain temperature monitoring system that alerts users when temperatures are out of compliance. Employees are then trained on what to do when they receive an alert. Instructions contained within the alerts will help remind them of the corrective action or escalation that needs to take place. This also solves the issue of what happens when employees are not at work and a refrigerator breaks down. Consider the food loss from a walk-in cooler that breaks down in the early hours of the morning. If this defect is not discovered until six to eight hours later, the food within the unit will need to be discarded, having both a significant financial and operational impact.
With high turnover rates continuing to be a significant issue for restaurant operators, the use of a digital platform can help make the process better, easier and more consistent from restaurant to restaurant. Whether it’s dealing with an employee who hasn’t shown up, a security issue from the night shift or a large influx of customers, restaurant managers can be pulled in many different directions at a moment’s notice. Add to that, turnover at the management level makes it very challenging to track the quality of training that’s occurring simply because there’s too much to do. Implementing a HACCP plan is important to mitigate outbreaks from uncooked menu items. How about using a digital HACCP solution that contains training modules, videos, and reference material for new and existing employees? This would allow operators to manage the consistency of the training being provided and also allow managers to focus on the day-to-day operations and priorities that unexpectedly need attention. A new employee put to work without knowing what they need to do could have serious consequences for any restaurant operation.
Over the last two decades, second- and third-party audits have gained popularity for measuring food safety and customer experience. Audits typically occur three to four times per year and while very helpful for providing a snapshot of standards at that time, they don’t solve the issue of what’s happening when an auditor is not there. Many audits occur when the restaurant’s general manager is present and when the restaurant is performing best. The better question to ask is how the operation is performing when the restaurant’s general manager is not there. Social media videos of employees acting inappropriately at work usually aren’t occurring when the manager is present. Using a digital system helps to identify the issues that are most prevalent not just at the location level but even down to individual shifts. This additional data can help with follow-up, improvement plans and determining priorities to ensure the right action is taken to avoid a serious issue and improve overall system performance. Technology can also be used to identify system gaps where improvements can be made.
Food safety must remain a priority for food service brands in order to avoid serious incidences, to ensure guests’ satisfaction and to avoid regulatory and legal issues. A digital HACCP and operations system can help operators not only monitor but also improve operations by identifying low performers and help the general restaurant population manage the trends affecting restaurants today, including turnover rates. Now is the time for food-service operators to replace pen-and-paper systems with a digital application that can help them better manage food safety and operations.