When is the last time you assessed how you measure your overall food safety performance? Even if you’re currently ticking all of the boxes when it comes to your food safety protocol, your strategy may not be evolving in step with your equipment, products, technology, ingredients or other aspects of your business. To determine what a restaurant’s key performance indicators should be, Modern Restaurant Management suggests a restaurant’s leaders assess whether or not their health scores and audit scores are improving, what their highest-risk issues are and if they are increasing or decreasing, what problems are happening repeatedly, if the number of locations experiencing repeat fails is decreasing, and if corrective actions are being logged and monitored. Once you have established a set of performance indicators, socialize them throughout your organization so people understand and support them, then document them for reference, reinforce them regularly in training and meetings and report back on progress. Be sure to celebrate your wins – a positive review from a guest with severe food allergies can go far in reinforcing your team’s commitment to food safety.
Serving seafood this season? Take care to thaw it properly. The FDA advises you thaw any frozen seafood overnight in the refrigerator but if you have limited time, seal it in a plastic bag and immerse it in cold water. Alternatively, you can thaw it in the microwave on the defrost setting. Just make sure you stop the defrosting while the fish is flexible but still icy.
Even if you have a winning menu and friendly staff, your restroom could be turning people off of your restaurant. A Harris Poll survey of more than 2,000 adults found that 86 percent of respondents said a clogged toilet would negatively affect their perception of a business – and 76 percent of respondents had experienced this situation in a public restroom. While you may not have the capacity to monitor your restrooms regularly during the day, you can take steps to minimize bathroom clogs, odors, bacteria and other problems that can impact your restroom’s condition and your brand. QSRweb advises operators buy toilet paper that fights clogs and activates environmentally safe microorganisms when it touches water, helping to keep pipes clear. Opt for paper towels for better sanitation – air dryers can blow bacteria around a restroom – and use touch-free faucets and dispensers to help limit the spread of germs.
If your dishware and utensils aren’t as clean as they could be, they could sicken a guest (or at least leave them with a negative impression of your operation’s cleanliness). Make sure you maintain and clean your dishwasher to ensure it performs as it should. Ecolab advises to first avoid overcrowding the washer, since overlapping dishes can impede water flow. Then monitor the functioning of the unit by checking your gauges’ minimum temperatures, chemical concentrations and pressure measurements against those shown on the data plate. Clean the unit’s wash arms and jets regularly as they may become clogged with food or sediment buildup. Finally, Ecolab advises regular de-liming of the machine, since just one-quarter inch of lime scale can make a heating element use 39 percent more energy.
Proper handwashing can go far in preventing food contamination, as well as containing a virus during cold and flu season. As it pertains to the foodservice industry, the CDC advises people to wash their hands at these times to prevent the spread of germs: before, during and after food prep, before eating, before and after treating a cut or wound, after using the toilet, after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing, and after touching garbage.
If your business needs a fresh start on protecting food safety, the start of a new year is a perfect time to recalibrate your organization and reinforce expectations. QSR Magazine advises that you start at the top, ensuring your company leaders are demonstrating a strong commitment to food safety. Explain the “why” behind the “what” so employees grasp the importance of protecting food safety and understand that even mistakes that seem minor can sicken or perhaps kill a guest. Provide the right equipment and offer training on a continuous basis. Enforce the importance of keeping temperature logs and maintaining records. Inspect food to make sure it is safe upon arrival, and give employees the authority to refuse foods they believe could be unsafe to consume. Follow food allergy protocols and conduct your own inspections on a regular basis to ensure all employees are following food safety protocols.
If offering catering and preparing food for large groups is a growing part of your service strategy, be aware of how long you’re using utensils and equipment continuously. Statefoodsafety advises that if you’re preparing TCS foods, you should clean and sanitize equipment and utensils every four hours. Otherwise you may be opening the door to contamination.
This tech can check. Poorly washed hands are responsible for nearly half of all foodborne illnesses, Restaurant Technology News reports. A technology designed to minimize that threat has made Time magazine’s 2019 list of best inventions. Pathspot technology scans hands for signs of foodborne illness, making it possible to monitor, measure and change handwashing practices within a restaurant before a person with contaminated hands handles food – and to provide management with data about its workers’ handwashing practices so they know where to focus training efforts. Pathspot technology has been used in restaurant and foodservice brands since 2017.
In recent months, E. coli contamination has been responsible for dozens of serious illnesses – and that’s in romaine lettuce alone. Could your menu choices help minimize your chances of purchasing contaminated produce? Every year, the Environmental Working Group releases updated lists of the produce most commonly exposed to pesticides and other chemicals, along with produce that has tested to be the cleanest. Food News reports that these items made this year’s Clean 15 fruits and vegetables: avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, frozen sweet peas, onions, papayas, eggplants, asparagus, kiwis, cabbages, cauliflower, cantaloupes, broccoli, mushrooms and honeydew melons. Can any of these ingredients be substituted for others on your menu?
Temperature is one of the most important factors that lead to bacteria growth in food – and using a calibrated food thermometer to take the temperature of the food you serve is the only safe way to know if it is cooked to a safe temperature. When taking the temperature of meat or poultry, Statefoodsafety.com advises you place the thermometer in the thickest part of the protein but not next to a bone. If the food is even in thickness, check the temperature in several different places. If the food is a soup or other liquid, stir it before taking the temperature in the center of the food.