Every restaurant operator, quick-serve or otherwise, needs to be concerned about food safety. There is some anecdotal evidence floating about in Chicago that suggests that not all operators make it a high priority and consequently employ a reactive rather than proactive approach.

How are some of the vendors to the industry addressing this?
To begin, EcoSure instructed attendees, via a Family Feud-style game, in the top 5 food safety violations. Survey says:

  1. Improper cold holding.
  2. Food contact surfaces not desanitized.
  3. Restaurant and/or its manager not certified.
  4. Unapproved chemicals in use.
  5. Chemicals improperly stored.

For its part, EcoSure sees a 4-point plan to address these problems. First, senior management must care deeply about food safety; second, all managers should be ServSafe certified; third, restaurants need the proper physical tools (like, say, an instant-read thermometer) to execute food safety regulations; and, finally, bring in a third party to confirm that food safety goals are being met.

EcoSure, of course, offers such third-party services. Another vendor, The Steritech Group, has also launched a new initiative to recognize food suppliers that are in substantial compliance with food safety and quality assurance standards. Called the “Steritech Certificate of Conformity,” the certification program hopes to offer assurance to consumers, restaurants, and regulators that food manufacturers and distributors have met regulatory standards and industry best practices.

Steritech’s assessment methodology follows principles set forth by The American National Standards Institute (ANSI), and the audits it performs are based on government regulations, industry best practices, and any standards of quality or safety desired by the restaurant operator. The audits themselves are carried out by a staff that has advanced degrees in microbiology, food science, dietetics, or nutrition.

Of course, there are surprisingly simple ways a restaurant can improve its food safety, and when you talk about food safety and simplicity, you really have to talk about Daydots. Twenty years ago, in a true “A-ha!” moment, Daydots introduced the original day-of-the-week food label; this year they’ve introduced a product called Duo-Dots, which indicate both first and last day of use for food products. Simple, yes, but Daydots says operators love the fact that these labels don’t leave any room for interpretation in, say, whether food that expires 3 days from Monday actually expires on Wednesday or Thursday. Hey, why didn’t somebody think of this sooner?

And though no details were immediately available, Daydots also reports that a major quick-serve chain is revamping its food safety program and actually plans to use this fact as something of a marketing point. Stay tuned to see who it will be and what they’ll do.

In general, the theme of food safety at the show seems to be that operators need to do whatever they can to reduce human error in following food safety regulations. After all, there simply isn’t room for interpretation by crew members in that regard.