Looking for a loyal guest who will drive miles out of his way to eat at your restaurant? Boost your operation’s allergy awareness and communication. People with food allergies are a vocal and close-knit group, notes Francine Shaw of Savvy Food Safety, and they won’t hesitate to share their experiences in restaurants with others. Shaw told Modern Restaurant Management that communication is paramount: Your staff should ask each party if there are allergies in the group, and if so, there should be constant communication between the manager, chef and server throughout the preparation, plating and serving of the meal. When guests have questions, direct them to the chef, who should have up-to-date information on allergens and allergen aliases. All employees need to be part of the effort, so have regular training sessions and refreshers on how to manage allergies in various scenarios.
As warmer weather approaches, take precautions with the frozen food deliveries you receive. Statefoodsafety.com suggests operators look for signs of temperature abuse, such as ice crystals on the packaging or partially thawed foods. To keep track of the condition of items you receive, your delivery log should allow you to indicate the product and temperature upon delivery, as well as who accepted the delivery and when.
On-the-job accidents and injuries are widespread in the foodservice industry. In quick-service restaurants in particular, a 2015 poll taken by the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health found that 87 percent of employees had experienced a workplace injury the previous year. Slips, trips and falls are a key cause of these injuries and can be prevented with proper precautions. QSR Magazine suggests operators at a minimum have employees wear non-slip shoes, and non-slip mats are an additional help when placed in front of sinks, cooking areas and ice machines. Your floor-cleaning schedule should include protocol for deep-cleaning areas prone to heavy grease buildup and should enforce using separate mops for the front and back of the house.
The food you offer your guests has specific time and temperature requirements for serving and storing. Are your thermometers coming through for you? Thermometers should be calibrated if it is ever dropped, if it is used to register a wide range of temperatures, and if it is new. A thermometer used daily should be calibrated daily, but you can keep tabs on other thermometers using the ice point method. Statefoodsafety.com suggests filling a cup with ice water, letting it sit for a few minutes, and then placing the thermometer in the cup. Once the temperature reading on the thermometer stabilizes, it should read 32˚F. If it doesn’t, calibrate it according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
If your restaurant prides itself on its ability to cater to guests with food allergies or other special dietary needs, new opportunities are becoming available to help you connect with those consumers quickly. For example, Fast Casual reports that the food sensor company Nima has developed an online tool that displays gluten-free and peanut-free items available at chain restaurants. Consumers simply visit the site, register their location and the site shows a map of nearby restaurants with allergy-free items. There are now 250,000 restaurant locations contained in the site’s database. At a time when consumers can indulge their cravings with just a couple of clicks, the ability to quickly direct people with allergies to their best options could become a key differentiator for restaurants.
Guests make inferences about the cleanliness of your kitchen based on the condition of your restroom. And if your staff share restroom facilities with guests, those inferences tend to be correct. A Modern Restaurant Management report said that in addition to putting a business at risk of negative word of mouth, a dirty restroom can result in a lower food hygiene rating during inspections. Make sure you have waste bins large enough to avoid overflow, that you have staff monitor the cleanliness of your restrooms at regular intervals, and that you keep the restrooms well stocked with toilet paper, towels and soap. If guests have to chase your staff down for toilet paper in the middle of the dinner rush, they may get the message that you’re overlooking other details of the guest experience in your restaurant.
Food safety transparency is here — whether foodservice operators want to be open about their hygiene records or not. HDScores, the tech firm behind Yelp’s restaurant hygiene data, is now offering an app that allows consumers to look up extensive health information for restaurants and coffee shops in many parts of the U.S. Skift Table reports that the app (which costs $1.99 per month) allows consumers to access a restaurant’s local health department score, a historical record of past scores and violations, and a health code score determined by HDScores. While not everyone would be willing to pay for quick access to this information, those with severe food allergies or who have contracted foodborne illness in the past very well might.
The time to be nimble and adaptable with your food safety program is now: This year, Millennials are expected to account for the largest segment of the population, according to Pew research. As a result, their preferences — for convenience, technology, local foods and global flavors — are forcing the restaurant industry to evolve rapidly. Such rapid change could test your food safety program, which needs to be able to accommodate a steady stream of new ingredients and preparation methods (along with the tech tools that can help you monitor them). A Food Safety Magazine report about these challenges highlights such millennial-friendly trends as growing produce, raising animals for food, brewing beer, or offering fermented or cold-pressed beverages — all of which can test a food safety program. Has your program adapted to these sorts of menu trends?