You may have separate preparation areas and tools for foods containing allergens, a staff that can name the big eight allergens that trigger the most problems for people, and clear warnings on your menu encouraging guests to alert staff about allergens. But you can still slip up with an allergic guest if communication from the guest to the server to the kitchen and back isn’t clear. In fact, this triggered a severe allergy for a 12-year-old boy in Massachusetts several years ago. Due to a misunderstanding by restaurant staff, the boy was served a pastry filled with peanut butter despite having told the server of his peanut allergy. The boy’s mother had an EpiPen on hand – otherwise the allergy could have been fatal. Now, the family is working to advance legislation that would update food allergy training materials and require restaurants in the state to always be staffed with someone who has used the updated materials. What safety mechanisms do you have in place – tech-based or not – to make sure your staff communicates clearly with guests and each other about allergies?
Is your message getting across when it comes to enforcing food safety practices in your restaurant? It may not be. Perhaps you have staff from a different culture who don’t yet have the English-language proficiency to fully understand your training as it is currently delivered. Even staff who don’t face a language barrier at work might have been raised with different views on whether a food is safe when kept unrefrigerated or when it is necessary to wash hands. Tasks that are perceived in different ways are likely to be completed differently as a result. Conducting ongoing training and, just as importantly, taking care to assume nothing about a person’s knowledge, can help you uncover surprising gaps in your food safety culture.
Delivering food safety training and staying on top of hazards was challenging enough for foodservice businesses before the pandemic. Now that these businesses are short-staffed and trying to stay ahead of worker turnover, it’s even more difficult – and has accelerated efforts to use technology to ensure food safety. That has been the case for Wendy’s, which has been working with NSF International to use their EyeSucceed smart glasses to protect food safety. Nation’s Restaurant News says the augmented reality glasses allow real-time, two-way, hands-free communication used for inspections, approvals, trainings and demonstrations for one person or many at once. Could you outsource any of your food safety training to tech?
Your inventory needs a lot of workhorse ingredients these days – and it’s even better if those ingredients are shelf-stable for long periods or can otherwise deter the growth of bacteria and mold. Using a food dehydrator or your oven to incorporate some dried foods onto your menu can help, while also allowing you to find uses for excess fruits and vegetables you may have on hand toward the end of summer and into autumn. Just ensure that you treat fruits with an acidic solution like lemon juice and water beforehand (and blanch vegetables in a similar solution) to prevent the growth of bacteria while drying. Penn State Extension also advises that any unpeeled or uncovered produce be heated in the oven at 160°F for 30 minutes or chilled in the freezer at 0°F or below for 48 hours. Once you have packed dried items into air-tight containers, monitor them for condensation, which would indicate that further drying is needed.