Safety is the new hospitality – but will the enhanced, labor-intensive cleaning practices brought on by the pandemic persist indefinitely? Chris Boyles, vice president of food safety for Steritech, told Modern Restaurant Management recently that he sees potential for growth in food safety technologies ranging from far UVC light to kitchen sensors – tools that both happen to lighten the cleaning load for staff. Far UVC light, with its ability to destroy germs without harming people, may be tested this winter as operators battle through both flu season and COVID-19. Meanwhile, Boyles predicts that the use of sensors to ensure food safety may expand as operators automate more of their food preparation processes going forward.
The coronavirus has brought new importance to the cleanliness of restaurant facilities – and you may well be cleaning surfaces more regularly now. Your POS equipment needs special care, since improper cleaning and disinfecting can cloud screens or damage other components. The National Restaurant Association advises following the manufacturer’s guidelines for all cleaning and disinfecting, but some general rules apply overall: Before cleaning equipment, make sure your hands are clean and dry. Use a clean microfiber cloth or soft towel – not soap – to clean visible marks on equipment. Don’t pour disinfecting liquids directly onto a POS surface; rather, use a solution that’s at least 60 percent alcohol on a soft towel or microfiber cloth, or use premoistened alcohol wipes.
Like just about everything in a restaurant right now, technology is taking on employee health. New tools are helping restaurant operators test, record and even respond to employee health risks that may result in the spreading of a virus. Restaurant Business reports that DayMark’s Task Management app and Receiving Module record employee health details, including temperatures taken with an infrared thermometer. If the system identifies the person as “sick”, they cannot be assigned tasks. The same goes for a delivery driver, whose shipment can be refused if he doesn’t pass the health assessment. #foodsafety
Consumers are monitoring your adherence to new safety precautions. Increasingly, so are cameras. Last year, Domino’s launched a back-of-house camera system called Dragontail to help assess basic quality control measures, like whether pizzas were the proper shape. But as Spoon reports, Dragontail is now launching an AI-powered camera that can also help monitor kitchen safety – detecting whether gloves and masks are being worn and how often a workspace is sanitized, for example. Expect more of this to come as restaurants embrace technology and face increased scrutiny of their health and safety practices. #foodsafety
COVID-19 has not only demonstrated how important it is to wash hands and monitor personal wellness to limit the spread of the illness; it has also shown the vulnerability of the supply chain, both in terms of its likelihood of being interrupted and its possibility of contamination. In the coming weeks, the FDA will be releasing its New Era of Smarter Food Safety Blueprint. It will outline the agency’s strategy to create “a more digital, traceable, and safer food system” in the next decade. It is expected to provide information on enhanced traceability of the supply chain, tools to help protect and prevent contamination caused by food ordered online, and guidance on further developing food safety cultures on farms, in food facilities and in homes.
If you’re open for business right now, you can take some extra steps to keep your workplace and team safe. First, at a time when bad news is rampant and often unreliable, take your cues from the Centers for Disease Control, World Health Organization or local authorities on the state of COVID-19 containment in your area. Direct your staff based on those reports to ensure you make decisions using accurate, up-to-date information. Then trace the path of your team each day and identify actions you can take to protect people: Does your team use public transport to reach you? How can you help them protect their safety en route? Can you update your cleaning protocol to ensure your team has clean hands when they enter your facility? How can you ensure physical distancing in your kitchen? What technology tools at your disposal could enable some people to complete tasks from home? If a team member becomes ill, what is your back-up plan? Down the line, it is likely that we’ll have to manage either new mutations of the coronavirus or new virus outbreaks. Preparing now may help sustain your business.
Compostable packaging for take-out food is on the rise – but what about the packaging that comes into your restaurant from suppliers? In the coming months, packaging technology companies will be generating more compostable alternatives to the plastic film and pouches that are used to package meat, along with other proteins and prepared foods. Fast Company reports that one startup called Primitives is fine-tuning smart compostable packaging that can respond to its environment and detect safety problems. It could mean that in the not-too-distant future, operators won’t have to look to “sell by” or “use by” dates on packaging but can instead note that if a food’s packaging or a label on the packaging has changed color, it may have been tampered with or reached a temperature that has made the food unsafe to consume.
The universe of Internet of Things devices used to monitor restaurant processes and alert operators to potential problems continues to grow – and even pest activity can be tracked by a network of sensors. The pest control company Rentokil says the top pests posing problems for restaurants and commercial kitchens are rodents, cockroaches, flies and stored-product pests that infest and contaminate food. Since some of these pests can make themselves scarce when your team isn’t around, using technology to track their activity can give you a clearer picture of the types of pests you’re dealing with, how your pest activity varies throughout the year and what emerging risks your business might face if you don’t take preventive action. That data then helps automate your reports related to pests, along with the steps you must take to stay in compliance as a foodservice organization.
This tech can check. Poorly washed hands are responsible for nearly half of all foodborne illnesses, Restaurant Technology News reports. A technology designed to minimize that threat has made Time magazine’s 2019 list of best inventions. Pathspot technology scans hands for signs of foodborne illness, making it possible to monitor, measure and change handwashing practices within a restaurant before a person with contaminated hands handles food – and to provide management with data about its workers’ handwashing practices so they know where to focus training efforts. Pathspot technology has been used in restaurant and foodservice brands since 2017.