If you have managed to keep business coming in during the past year, you have likely made major shifts in how you get your food to customers – by creating a curbside pick-up service, developing and expanding upon your delivery service, or both. Has your food safety plan expanded at the same rate? At a time when off-premise sales represent a commanding portion of overall restaurant sales, your commitment to keeping your food safe for guests can’t stop at your front door. Since your standards may differ from those of other restaurants, determine how you want your particular safety values to come through to customers who are enjoying your food beyond your dining room. Trace the path of your to-go orders and anticipate potential problems: Are you using take-out containers that don’t adequately insulate foods? Not enforcing the wearing of masks on your team during curbside pick-ups? Packing bags of food that could tip over easily while in transit? Neglecting to secure containers with tamper-proof seals? Your safety protocols go far in representing your brand right now. What do your safety methods say about you?
At a time when off-premise sales are essential to the survival of so many foodservice businesses, a restaurant’s health and safety practices need to carry over onto the road. Ensure your delivery drivers wear masks at pick-up and drop-off, provide hand sanitizer at delivery pick-up points and ask drivers to use it before handling an order. Check to make sure delivery hot bags and vehicles are cleaned regularly. To protect food on the road, place cold and hot foods in separate bags, use tamper-proof packaging, and ensure each food item is in a container that keeps an item at its intended temperature as well as possible. Delivery drop-offs should continue to be zero-contact. Finally, assure your customers that their food is being delivered by people who value their safety. On social media, share photos of the precautions you are taking to protect an order’s journey between your restaurant and customers.
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.
Turkey time is coming quickly. Whether you’re planning to pack up full meals to be heated and eaten off-premise, provide Thanksgiving meal kits for home cooks, or serve Thanksgiving meals on site (and obviously boxing up guests’ must-have leftovers), you need to ensure your food is both transported securely at the proper temperatures and consumed in a way that minimizes the risk for foodborne illness. It’s easy for not only turkey but also side dishes to be left out for too long or cooked inadequately, making it easier for bacteria to multiply. Providing your guests with detailed instructions for heating, refrigerating and reheating, and make sure you have well-insulated packaging that will ensure your dishes can be transported at safe temperatures.