by Paul Damaren, Chief Revenue Officer at RizePoint
Every year millions of people become ill from food safety breaches. Many of these illnesses could have been avoided if the people preparing the food followed proper food safety protocols and worked proactively to reduce risks. In fact, following proper food safety protocols is essential to ensure the safety of your guests (and protect your restaurant).
Restaurants must prioritize food safety every day, with every shift. Following gold standard safety protocols helps prevent safety breaches – and the financial, legal, and reputational damage that often accompanies them.
While restaurants should prioritize food safety all the time, this particular season – with Food Safety Month in September – is a good time to remind your employees about the steps they must take to reinforce food safety, mitigate risks, and keep customers safe.
Follow these tips to accomplish this:
- Rely on tech tools. Use tech tools to get a comprehensive view of your organization and access key data for more informed decision-making. Digital tools are instrumental in helping restaurants identify (and reduce) risk. They also help protect brands by optimizing line checks, inspections, auditing, equipment monitoring, temperature checks, and reporting. Today’s tech tools are affordable, accessible, and user-friendly for brands of all sizes, so don’t be intimidated by the potential price tag or learning curve.
- Analzye trends. Are there more noncompliance issues during certain shifts or when certain employees are working? For multi-unit brands, do certain locations have more food safety incidents or “near misses” than the others? Analyzing trends allows brands to see when (and where) they need to take corrective actions most frequently. Armed with that data, they can focus time and resources accordingly to boost compliance and mitigate risks. This could include retraining staff, adjusting processes, and increasing inspections to create an environment of continuous improvement.
- Prioritize training. Regular, ongoing food safety training is crucial to this effort. Provide training for all employees. Role play common scenarios, asking employees how they’d handle different situations. Send food safety reminders directly to employees’ smartphones. Ensure that all employees understand – and follow – your food safety protocols to reduce costly, damaging breaches.
- Follow best practice food safety protocols. Food safety rules should be non-negotiable. Employees must follow proper food safety protocols, like cooking foods to proper temperatures, avoiding cross-contamination, sanitizing surfaces and equipment regularly, washing hands often, storing foods properly, using designated “allergy-friendly” prep stations, etc.
- Wash hands frequently. One of the most important ways to prevent foodborne illnesses is through proper handwashing. Employees must wash their hands before working with food, after using the restroom, coughing, blowing their nose, and handling money or chemicals. Proper handwashing means washing hands in hot soapy water for a minimum of 20 seconds to properly kill germs and bacteria. Have handwashing sinks and supplies – including plenty of soap – easily accessible.
- Create a food safety culture. Ensure that your food safety culture starts at the top, with unwavering support from your leadership team. Demonstrate – through words and actions – that employees must take food safety seriously. Be certain that restaurant leaders “walk the walk” by regularly following proper food safety protocols themselves.
- Explain why the rules are in place.Don’t just tell employees what to do. Tell them why to do it. Instead of just telling them to avoid using the same plate for raw burgers and cooked burgers, explain why this is important: If the raw meat or juices come in contact with the cooked burgers, it would contaminate the cooked burgers and sicken anyone who ate them. When you explain why it’s so important to follow each specific food safety protocol, your employees will understand the reasoning behind the rules and will be more likely (and more willing) to comply.
- Work only with safe suppliers. It’s important for your restaurant to follow gold standard safety protocols, but that alone is not enough. Also ensure that all your suppliers follow proper safety protocols. A breach anywhere in the supply chain could put your restaurant – and your guests – at risk. Only work with suppliers that prioritize food safety and comply with the strictest food safety rules. Your suppliers should be willing to share their safety certifications. If they aren’t, find new suppliers!
- Boost transparency. Customers no longer blindly trust that food safety protocols are happening in restaurants. Increasingly, guests expect to see proof that safety protocols are being implemented correctly and consistently, and that all staff members are working together to keep them safe. Promote your commitment to food safety through onsite signage, as well as on your menus, website, and social media platforms.
- Avoid careless mistakes.Remind employees that even seemingly “minor” mistakes could sicken (or even kill) guests. For instance, they shouldn’t use the same towel to wipe the dirty floor and then wipe the tables. They can’t absentmindedly garnish a nut-allergic guest’s plate with pesto. And they can’t leave perishable raw meat or dairy product deliveries out in the hot sun for an entire afternoon.
During Food Safety Month and all throughout the year, remember that a commitment to food safety doesn’t need to be expensive, time-consuming, or overwhelming. It’s an essential, ongoing effort to keep your employees, guests, and business safe and healthy.
Paul Damaren is Chief Revenue Officer at RizePoint, a technology leader in the food safety, quality management, compliance, and social responsibility space. RizePoint’s quality management software solutions help companies, including Starbucks, McDonald’s, Marriott, and more, keep brand promises through their quality, safety, and compliance efforts. Customers gather better data, see necessary actions earlier, and act faster to correct issues before they become costly liabilities. Check out RizePoint’s website and/or contact the team to learn how these solutions can help your company.