We’re all getting used to doing more tasks remotely lately – and your food safety audits may be heading in that direction if you aren’t already conducting them remotely. These audits tend to be conducted either via cameras installed onsite or via a handheld camera that employee uses to do a walk-through of your facility. Food Quality & Safety advises that you conduct employee training on how to present your facility professionally via video, and also manage the related risks carefully – particularly when it comes to data security and keeping sensitive business information safe.
The sharp rise in off-premise dining likely means that most, if not all, of your menu is being eaten a good 30 minutes after it’s prepared. How well does it survive the journey from chef to customer? Just as you have likely had to give your business an update to operate effectively right now, your off-premise packaging may need some fine-tuning to make sure it keeps hot foods hot, cold foods cold, and protects food safety overall. Companies are coming to market with new packaging to suit the times – and some operators (like Garry Kanfer of Kissaki Omakase in New York) are even designing their own solutions. If you’re looking for improved methods of packaging foods and protecting them during transport, you’re apt to find plenty of models that may help.
Even after we have a vaccine for COVID-19, the virus will still be with us and there will be a portion of the population especially vulnerable to it. Much like we have adapted our kitchens and food preparation practices for those with gluten allergies, we will likely have to make long-term changes to how we operate to protect against the coronavirus. Think about the ventilation in your facility, the level of interaction among your staff, technology that enables fast and contactless payment, and seamless pick-ups. Are there changes you have made in recent months that feel temporary but could be made permanent – and might help customers feel safer with you in the long term?
What’s a holiday menu without potatoes, carrots, turnips and the many other root vegetables of the season? Just take care to wash them carefully before you slice into them, since the crevices in these vegetables can trap dirt and contaminants that you don’t want to pass on to other parts of the food. Before peeling or slicing these items, soak them in cold water for a few minutes before rinsing them under running water while scrubbing them with a clean brush.
Even during a normal winter with its typical viruses, overzealous cleaning would be expected. This year, your staff may be taking even more precautions to keep everything from doorknobs to POS touchscreens clean. Make sure they know the difference between cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting – and which solutions are to be used for which surfaces. Wiping down a surface with the wrong solution can not only be ineffective, but it may also damage the surface being washed (as in the screens of tablets or other electronics). If you need a reference, the National Restaurant Association provides some guidance.
‘Tis the season for poultry – and an important time to review how to prepare it safely. Remember to wash hands, cutting boards, utensils and other nearby kitchen prep surfaces with soap and water immediately after handling raw poultry. Don’t rinse poultry in the sink, as it will not remove bacteria and can actually spread it around your kitchen. Place it on the lowest shelf in the refrigerator to avoid any leakage that could contaminate other foods. Cook it to an internal temperature of 165°F as measured with a food thermometer, then refrigerate leftovers no more than two hours after cooking.
As the weather cools in many places around the country, the lure of indoor dining becomes harder to ignore. While the pandemic persists, however, packing dining rooms simply isn’t safe – for guests and the staff whose health you’re relying on to operate smoothly this winter. While you’re still making use of outdoor space to serve guests, act now to make sure your indoor air is as safe as possible for everyone. Good ventilation is key, so your HVAC system should ensure a regular exchange of stale indoor air with fresh outdoor air. In a recent report from Eater, Dr. Elizabeth Noth, a researcher in environmental and occupational exposure science at UC Berkeley, advises that ventilation measures and mask wearing need to include not only dining areas but also break rooms and communal areas.
Count on it: Someone on your team is apt to come down with an illness this winter. How should you prepare? And how do you know if it’s flu or COVID-19, which requires a different kind of response from you? First, make sure you and your team are clear on how symptoms of the flu differ from those of the coronavirus and other milder illnesses. While there are strong similarities between COVID-19 and the flu, COVID-19 can involve some odd ones, like the sudden loss of a person’s sense of smell. As a recent New York Times report advises, this is the year to urge everyone on your staff to get a flu shot as an extra precaution.
The coronavirus has strained the supply chain and added uncertainty to restaurant operators who need a steady supply of certain ingredients. Just make sure that supply chain pressures don’t result in cutting corners on supplier safety. Team Four can help you connect with reputable suppliers – but if you find other contenders, asking some key questions can help you discern their stability and reliability when it comes to food safety. Statefoodsafety.com advises operators to ask for information about a supplier’s food safety standards, as well as about how long the company has been in business, how it transports food, and how it would handle any problem that arises with a supplied product.
Much like airport security measures changed for good after 9/11, COVID-19 is altering the way we eat out – and many of those changes are likely to be permanent. That means it’s important for operators to act now to make lasting changes to how they prepare and serve food – not simply apply a band-aid solution intended to work until a vaccine is available. If you have offered food via a buffet, salad bar or even on large, shareable platters served to a single table, implement a lower-contact plan to serve those foods. Train your staff on your updated safety procedures and make them visible to your guests within your facility and on online channels. In a recent FSR Magazine report, food safety expert Francine Shaw also suggests updating your crisis management plan for the long haul, as well as broadening your list of suppliers to help ensure you can always source the ingredients you need. Doing so will help your operation protect itself against a range of potential future challenges – not just COVID-19. #foodsafety #T4V4