Food safety tasks can be among those restaurant responsibilities that you pay closest attention to when something has gone wrong – a customer gets sick or leaves a negative review about the cleanliness of your facility, or an inspector notes something in your operation that needs to get better. But to set your business on the strongest possible course and improve staff behaviors in a lasting way, it’s important to focus on the positive. A recent Harvard Business School study found that regardless of the industry, business teams performed best when there was a positive-to-negative comment ratio around 6-to-1. In your training, team meetings and one-on-one interactions with staff, do you have plenty of ways to praise what is going well – through contests, positive comments or simple thank-yous? This may be even more important than reminding staff of what they need to do to improve.
Would your staff know at what temperature food falls into the temperature danger zone? Could they explain how they ensure food that needs to be discarded is removed at the proper time? Chances are your staff roster has seen some drastic changes in recent months – and you may have had to compromise on the skillsets of the newer people you have hired. As you onboard new staff, it’s important for them to understand and be able to correctly answer questions about your food safety program. Make food safety education an ongoing part of your training and conduct surprise mock inspections on a regular basis so the official ones aren’t a challenge to pass (and don’t create the need for additional formal inspections throughout the year).
Covid-era changes to restaurant dining can make it easy to overlook the many other aspects of food safety that a restaurant team must remember. Can you tap into tech to help your staff avoid information overload? Food Safety News suggests incorporating such measures as electronic checklists to prompt staff about procedures and instructions, automated prompts to help them avoid keeping food sitting out for too long, or alerts about issues that could become problems if not addressed quickly – like rising temperatures in a cooler. Finally, digitize any remaining paper-and-pencil processes in your business, like compliance checklists or records.
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.
Amid the spread of COVID-19, there have been indirect impacts to food suppliers. Specifically, the FDA is temporarily suspending routine surveillance inspections of food manufacturers and handlers. According to a report in The Counter, “while FDA inspections may make up a relatively small component of the broader food safety ecosystem, the agency’s decision represents a fresh blow to an interconnected system of food safety checks that is already under immense pressure. A safe food supply depends on well-trained workers, internal and third-party audits, and domestic inspections.” When one area of the food supply chain is weakened, foodservice businesses need to be able to understand where gaps exist and take steps to fill them where possible.