At a time when you’re likely working with a smaller staff and/or onboarding new employees on a regular basis, it’s especially important to be able to deliver food safety training that keeps pace with a wide range of training needs. Technology is of critical help here. Are you currently able to use digital tools to provide your team with short training videos or on-demand guidance from any device – as well as track employees’ progress in meeting training objectives? Doing so is an efficient way to ensure you stay in compliance with regulations and protect food safety. Ask Team Four for help in using technology to deliver targeted training that helps protect your food safety program.
If you’re hiring a lot of temporary staff over the summer months, it’s especially important to make food safety front-of-mind for them. While your ongoing training is an important piece of that, you can set your team up for success by giving them the right tools for safe food handling and storage, as well as proper equipment care. Keep sinks stocked with soap and paper towels, provide ample disposable gloves or other protective items for food handling, and post signage to remind staff of the times when washing is required and to refrain from eating, drinking or smoking around food preparation areas. Check shelving to ensure food items can be stored six inches off the floor, designate separate areas for cleaning solutions, and calibrate appliance thermometers to ensure food is being stored at the proper temperature. Make sure there is a sanitizer bucket with a submerged towel at each station, and a supply of test strips available to help staff keep equipment and preparation surfaces clean.
Ongoing supply chain and labor challenges mean that many restaurants are trying to accomplish more tasks with fewer resources, but your food safety is one area where you can’t cut corners. As you try to operate in the leanest way possible, food safety tech can help you offload processes that are necessary and also require more labor hours when done manually. Looking across your operation, are there any remaining paper-and-pen processes that could be converted to digital? Are you receiving text or email alerts about the need to complete tasks on time? Can you log photos or other evidence of compliance as needed? Talk to Team Four if you need help in assessing where and how digital processes may help enhance your food safety. Difficult as the current environment is for restaurant operators, it could also be an ideal time to press the reset button on your food safety program – and to reinforce your commitment to it as you onboard new staff.
If you’re like most foodservice operators right now, you’re actively trying to recruit staff – and perhaps in even greater numbers than you had to let go at the start of the pandemic. This means you’re likely in the midst of trying to ensure a new, less experienced roster of staff is up to speed about your safety protocols and the day-to-day work of your restaurant. How well you handle the onboarding process plays an important role in an employee’s experience with you: According to research from Modern Restaurant Management, management and communication are two of the factors that impact employee satisfaction the most. To ensure you’re covering the range of methods in which people learn, combine written, digital and on-the-job training tools to communicate policies clearly. For example, you might offer a handbook at the outset that includes your Covid safety protocols, an overview of how your restaurant operates, your restaurant’s values and ethos, guidelines for greeting and interacting with customers, sick leave policies, staff roles and responsibilities, and a review of your technology tools. Complement this with follow-up opportunities for Q&A, job shadowing with an experienced staff member, and digital reviews of training concepts on an ongoing basis. Expect mistakes and create an environment that makes it easy for new staff to admit to them and make adjustments.
We’ve all got pandemic fatigue – and it’s especially evident in restaurants, where people are gathering again with friends, mask-free, over their favorite food and drink. But restaurants are also at an important inflection point when it comes safety, having to decide how many lockdown-inspired protocols should remain – and perhaps putting off safety improvements that aren’t immediately necessary. Many of those improvements have to do with ventilation – including system inspections and upgrades, new HVAC filters, and the use of small air filtration units throughout a restaurant that can help protect indoor air quality. A recent report in The Atlantic advises operators to take this time to make sure they are as ready as they can be to manage future variants or separate virus outbreaks (and to have a clear-eyed view about spending money on more-visible but less-effective protocols that fall into the realm of pandemic theater). What valuable safety lessons from the pandemic could you try to ensure don’t get put on the back burner as concern about the pandemic recedes?
Even as the pandemic wanes and many cities relax their vaccine mandates, restaurant operators continue to be in a difficult position – managing consumers and employees who are concerned about Covid on one hand, as well as people who are determined to resume life as it was before the pandemic. If you find yourself in this position, do as much as you can to get out in front of the challenge: On your website, social media, front-door signage and menu, post clear, brief, easily digestible information about your safety policy – and surround it in welcoming terms. Your safety standards are about taking care of your staff and everyone who enters your restaurant so you can continue to serve your guests the food they love. If needed, a member of staff can help reinforce the message as guests enter your facility so you can avoid having to confront someone after they have bent the rules. Online, have some boilerplate language ready to respond to the trolls – and again here, surround your policy in welcoming, neutral language. For as many guests who boycott your business over safety rules, you are likely to attract many others who will go out of their way to support you because of them.
We’re all suffering from Covid fatigue – and a desire to get back to some semblance of pre-pandemic life. But restaurants are in a tough spot: They will likely be unable to relax pandemic safety policies while local regulations continue to change and the public’s concerns about safety rise and fall with the presence of new virus variants. (And for some time still, customers will be taking precautions based on their personal health and vaccination status.) How does a restaurant keep pace with the shifting environment – and keep staff informed about ever-evolving regulations? A recent report in The Atlantic about how we might manage the virus going forward may provide some clues. Several experts interviewed for the piece, including an infectious disease physician and global-health expert, anticipate we will adopt a tiered system of response – similar to how we categorize and respond to hurricanes. Rather than flipping a switch – masks or no masks, well-ventilated indoor dining or no indoor dining at all, for example – we can expect gradations. Future approaches will likely include pieces of the safety protocols you have had to adopt over the past two years – with some choice involved in how far a business goes. Going forward, how can you adapt your training procedures to flex with current environmental risks, as well as to concerns of employees and customers? Consider how you can provide just-in-time updates to trainees by packaging and delivering the content in new ways.
Restaurants are having to do more with less, make training new staff as straightforward as possible, and uphold safety protocols – so where any processes can be made easier, why not make a change? Cleaning products are one example. They should be simple to use. Can your cleaning products be used in a variety of applications and locations across your restaurant? The food safety company Ecolab advises restaurants to make the cleaning process less complex by using multifunctional cleansers specifically designed to require fewer steps, less time and less dependency on certain temperatures.
The labor shortage, along with the spread of the Omicron variant, have resulted in many restaurants modifying their hours in an effort to manage concerns over customer and worker safety. A recent Fortune report said McDonald’s U.S. locations are open 10 percent fewer hours than before the pandemic and 9,000 Starbucks locations have also modified their hours. In your restaurant, do you know how to best ride the line between serving customers competently and protecting the safety of everyone who comes through your doors? Throughout the course of a shift, can you identify the precise number of employees you need on hand at various stages to complete the work that must be done? Would temporarily modifying your hours help ensure you have enough minimum staff on hand during the hours you are open?
Restaurant operators are having to do more with less these days – and that can expose them to risks they were able to manage more easily before the pandemic. The current operating environment calls for a robust risk management plan that reflects today’s challenges and the need to cut corners. Your insurer can help you assess your existing operation and get a clearer sense of your biggest liabilities – whether they relate to your property, worker’s compensation, delivery, cyber, employment practices or some other aspect of business – and advise you of what steps to take now to prevent those risks from becoming costly problems.