While safety during the pandemic took on a whole new meaning for quick-service restaurants challenged to succeed despite COVID-19, the primary issue of ensuring food safety never disappeared. In fact, over the past months, consumers have become even more concerned about having total transparency about the food they’re consuming. Quick-service restaurants need to continue to increase their focus on ensuring customers that the food they are serving is safe.
Quick-serves need to continue to build trust with consumers. It may seem difficult as economic factors due to the pandemic have forced brands to operate on leaner budgets. However, they must accept that as the COVID crisis continues, consumers will only get even more selective about where they choose to eat, and transparency will drive their decision. Technology exists to help operators meet the moment.
Consumers Care About Food Safety
Quick-service restaurants need solutions that are adaptable and resilient. The ability to track inventory, keep food safe and address consumer demands for food provenance are all within reach with the right technology.
Automation helps protect the concept by providing data that can be used to promote:
- Traceability and transparency for quick, accurate food recalls
- Food safety by providing correct expiration and use-by information and facilitating proper food rotation
- Processes that provide oversight and accountability for non-food prep tasks
- Enhanced consumer experience by providing provenance information to reinforce consumers’ positive attitudes toward the food they're consuming
The Truth About Hand Hygiene
Every quick-serve wants to ensure safety, both for employees and customers. One of the key areas for safe food handling is hand hygiene. Keeping track if employees are cleaning their hands thoroughly or frequently enough has historically been a huge challenge.
While posting signage at sinks, hand sanitizer, and gloves may help as reminders, they can provide a false sense of security and potentially make matters worse when it comes to stopping the spread of foodborne illnesses like: Norovirus, Salmonella, E.coli, Hepatitis A, and Listeria.
Brands are tasked to take greater action to enforce hygiene rules in the new crisis environment to help prevent COVID-19 spread as well as foodborne illnesses.
Technology-based protocols can fill this need. The CDC suggests that hands be washed with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and technology can help monitor employee handwashing, helping managers—without confronting employees who may not wash their hands well enough, or at all.
The latest hand scanning technology can identify viruses and bacteria which informs associates that they must re-wash their hands before the dangerous microbes are transferred from their hands to the food they are handling. Data captured can be integrated into the RFID solution.
On average, kitchens experience refrigerator failures at least twice a year. With typical refrigeration inventory averaging over $10,000, these failures can result in significant food waste and lost revenue. Food safety can be compromised, jeopardizing both customer safety and brand loyalty. Automated temperature monitoring systems let kitchen managers know the minute their refrigeration units are out of range.
Checklists are a part of every successful kitchen manager’s toolkit. They give supervisors a quick, at-a-glance snapshot into the completion of critical daily tasks and serve as a roadmap for expectations for employees. But paper checklists are notoriously unreliable when it comes to tracking task completion accuracy or employee productivity. A digital task tracking solution takes the guesswork out of task completion compliance.
How to Handle a Recall
There is nothing more urgent for a quick-service restaurant operator than a food recall. It can be the make-or-break moment between ongoing success and assured failure. Deploying RFID allows recalled products to be located in seconds, quickly identifying the source of outbreaks and pulling them out of the food supply before they cause widespread illness.
It’s not only important for recalls. Applying RFID downstream in the supply chain help maintain traceability and transparency for additional back-of-house processes as well:
- Delivery accuracy
- Inventory cycle count
- Expiration management
Consumers Need to Know
An RFID solution is a means to achieve automation to provide end-to-end transparency. An RFID solution also helps QSR operators verify the food was handled safely throughout the supply chain—right up until it is in a customer’s hands.
The renewed focus on food safety, means quick-serves must monitor expanded processes. By using RFID tagging solutions each individual item has a unique digital identity. That digital identity is what enables verifiable chain-of-custody data to be captured throughout the supply chain.
Restaurant operators need to think about tomorrow, today. Employing technology to maintain food safety and properly sanitize premises will reap rewards now and well into the future as well. Assuring customers that the food you’re serving is safe has never been more essential to success.
Ryan Yost is vice president/general manager for the Printer Solutions Division (PSD) for Avery Dennison Corporation. In his role, he is responsible for worldwide leadership of and strategy for the Printer Solutions Division, focused on building partnerships and solutions within the Food, Apparel and Fulfillment industries.