Unionization is on the rise at restaurants right now, and recent efforts to unionize several Starbucks locations and one Chipotle location have made headlines recently. In the case of Chipotle, employees of the Augusta, Maine store said faltering food safety practices, a rise in cross-contamination and negligence about employee safety contributed to their efforts. As restaurant operators continue to feel squeezed, which naturally pushes them to make difficult compromises about staff and safety, it’s critical to continue to prioritize communication with staff. A recent Nation’s Restaurant News report, which shared the views of labor attorneys on opposite sides of the issue, indicated that employers need to demonstrate to employees that they are listening actively to their concerns in order to find solutions – not simply reacting to demands.
As summer wanes and cooler weather returns, flu season – and perhaps new Covid strains – are just around the corner. Take time now to put your business in a stronger position to respond to (and ideally prevent) staff illness. Fine-tune your cleaning and sanitation practices, as well as review your sick-time policy. Consider what potential medical benefits, such as a telemedicine benefit, might be useful to staff and workable for you. At the very least, make sure everyone is on board with proper and frequent handwashing – and provide sanitizer throughout your facility as an extra precaution. Adherence to proper handwashing procedures could go farther than anything else in helping to keep your team healthy.
At a time when food prices are escalating faster than they have in 40 years, it’s all the more critical to minimize food waste. That includes not just measuring ingredients precisely and using nose-to-tail approaches to food preparation, but also being able to readily monitor the freshness of food and the presence of pathogens. As your kitchen becomes more connected, ensure you have the capability to be alerted promptly to the growth of bacteria or other indicators that your food isn’t as fresh as it could be. Kitchen sensors can now help track these things, and the prompts may be opportunities to not only avoid a food-safety incident, but also to cut costs by adjusting necessary ingredient quantities and take the load off of an already-stretched team.
Short-staffed? Who isn’t? While being shorthanded can lead to food preparation mistakes and safety problems, you can take steps to minimize your risk. On a regular basis, review what tasks are taking the most time and attention from your staff. Consider how to automate and/or simplify them with such helpers as precise ingredient dispensers; pre-measured, -cut and -seasoned ingredients; probes that monitor the functioning of appliances and notify staff of problems; digitized food safety logging; and digitized ordering that prompts guests to alert back-of-house staff to an allergy.