Traditionally, employees have been the weakest links in food safety at most restaurants. Even well-intentioned workers make mistakes, and food service is an industry where isolated incidents can quickly mushroom into nationwide or global PR disasters. A food safety incident in Boise means diners everywhere will stop visiting; as a result, errors, failures, or malfeasance by even entry-level, minimum-wage workers can have an outsized impact on the bottom-line.
When labor goes wrong – whether through fraudulent activity, human error, inadequate training, or some other form of mismanagement – it has business ramifications that affect the entire organization. But how can brands make sure that the minimum-wage worker in Boise does his job so that the food safety incident never happens in the first place? Food safety technology has the answer.
First, technology enforces accountability at the individual and store level.
When it comes to checklists, for example, a smart system can impose constraints on users and alert their leaders when those constraints are breached. For example, the restaurant can set a custom timeframe for each checklist to be completed; if the checklist scheduled for noon doesn’t get completed within 60 minutes, it alerts management.
Second, technology puts an automatic spotlight on areas requiring review.
Similarly, a smart system can analyze checklist entries for accuracy and ensure they meet expected thresholds. For instance, if one checklist should take about five minutes to complete but one worker completes it in three minutes, the system can alert managers. Maybe that employee figured out a way to complete the checklist in a more efficient way, a process that could be replicated at other stores, or maybe they’re trying to cheat the system and need review.
Third, technology can correct worker errors and help train staff.
Employees don’t always follow food safety policies and procedures. Nearly two-thirds (62%) of food manufacturers and processors told industry analysts at Alchemy Systems that not all their employees adhere to their food safety programs. A digital food safety system can protect against non-compliance. First, it can automate many functions – reading temperatures from remote sensors automatically – to remove humans, and thus human errors, from the process. Second, digital food safety can provide guidance, corrective actions, and helpful prompts from the employee’s handheld device whenever issues arise.
Finally, technology can help control labor costs.
The cost of labor relative to revenue can be a major contributor to unnecessarily thin profit margins in the industry. According to point-of-sale technology provider Toast, the average restaurant sales per full-time equivalent (FTE), non-supervisory employee in 2015 was $56,000 (compared to $226,000 per grocery store worker). Automating certain food safety functions and streamlining the rest can free hours of time for workers and managers to focus instead on revenue-generating activities and front-of-the-house concerns.