At a time when supply chain strains make it difficult to know if or when a key ingredient will arrive, there is even more reason for restaurant operators to turn to local suppliers for menu items. Just make sure to screen these suppliers for strong food safety practices, particularly if they are small or new businesses. Every supplier should be able to demonstrate its adherence to best food safety practices, including its protocols for preventing cross-contamination. Make sure you’re comfortable with their transparency and ability to trace a food item from its source to its delivery to you. Take care with deliveries and inspect every shipment for proper color, temperature and freshness.
For consumers with food allergies, eating out can be a minefield. But restaurants that earn the trust of these guests stand to win customers for life. To send the clear message that you take food allergies and sensitivities seriously, get out in front with your messaging. Online, ensure your website includes ingredient lists and identifies common allergens – that information can easily help an allergic guest decide in advance to eat with you. In your restaurant, post a QR code that guests can scan for allergen-specific information – and ensure it’s in plain sight on menus and in the locations where guests place orders.
Restaurant operators are being challenged to make their delivery menu items interesting, as well as appealing and safe to consume after a car trip. But when everything from coffee to ice cream is available and popular for delivery, food packaging becomes especially important. Your to-go packaging should lock out air and contaminants that can alter the integrity of the food being transported, so ensure lids and wrapping are sealed securely. When packing items for delivery, separate cold, hot and aromatic foods that could alter the temperature, taste and quality of the food or drink next to it.
Different parts of your facility are likely experiencing more sharp fluctuations in temperature this season than usual as you try to keep your building warm enough for the comfort of guests and staff but also well ventilated. When you turn up your thermostat, note that any increase in heat in your kitchen and dining room can pose food safety problems for cold tables, open display coolers, or buffets with cold food items in those areas (in addition to being less energy-efficient). Make sure those items are covered when not in use, and that you’re checking food temperatures on a regular basis to ensure foods stay out of the danger zone.
The holidays may be a time to kick back and celebrate – but don’t let your guard down when it comes to Covid safety. In the U.S., 5 percent of the population has some kind of immune-compromised condition, so even though the vaccine is widespread, unventilated gatherings can still pose problems. Ensure good air flow through gathering rooms in your facility, make sanitizer accessible and ensure any policies you have on guest vaccination, testing or masking are clear to your team and communicated to guests.
‘Tis the season for preparing large amounts of food for holiday gatherings – and finding ways to use the leftovers. To store leftovers safely and keep foods out of the temperature danger zone (between 40°F and 140°F), refrigerate or freeze any perishable food within two hours. Make sure you place hot leftovers in small or shallow containers to ensure thorough cooling during refrigeration – and use an ice bath to quickly cool a hot dish beforehand. Keep a thermometer handy to check the temperature of cooling food and ensure it remains out of the danger zone.
If you’re like many operators managing a high degree of employee turnover right now, you’re having to prioritize both constant onboarding of new and/or temporary staff, as well as enhanced cleaning procedures. If you’re continuing to use any manual processes to conduct and track safety checks, this can enable staff to tick boxes on checklists without actually completing necessary tasks, exposing your operation to food safety problems. Using a digital system to ensure safety protocols are followed can also make it easier to conduct self-audits between third-party audits, so you can ensure your business stays on track between inspections.
This holiday season, consumers are especially eager to gather and celebrate – and restaurant teams could be stretched more thinly than before. Now is an important time to ensure your staff is on board with critical food safety measures, especially frequent, thorough handwashing. Make sure your handwashing stations are stocked with soap and paper towels, and remind employees to wash hands with soap and water before and after preparing food, after touching raw meat, eggs or unwashed vegetables, and before eating or drinking.