Whether you're planning for a new restaurant or making your current one better, understanding food safety software and how it adds value to your business will help protect your brand and reputation.
It sounds like a fairly cut-and-dry question that should have an easy answer, but it's more complex than people first imagine. The basics, of course, are learning to handle food properly to ensure the health and safety of your customers. However, complete food safety encompasses much more than how you store your ingredients or how they are prepared. We've complied a quick and easy list of the most important factors in food safety for restaurants.
Knowing how to properly store a wide variety of ingredients is the first major step in food safety. Each item will have specific needs, and it is your job to know them. Does a particular item need to be refrigerated or frozen? Can it be cooked right from the freezer, or does it need to be thawed? Where will it be stored as it's thawing? What are the safe temperatures to store each item? Knowing the answers to these questions and utilizing food safety software will help your restaurant stay in compliance with regulations. Even if you feel like you know your ingredients well, it never hurts to check labels. Food regulations change rapidly, and often without much warning (more on that a bit later), so always check labels and make adjustments to your food storage procedures as necessary.
Right after storage details, you should consider food handling procedures. It won't matter how perfectly you've stored your baby spinach leaves if your chef doesn't wash his hands after touching the raw chicken he left out on the cutting board. This isn't just about washing hands and cross-contamination; it's about all aspect of food handling. From the freezer to the pan to the plate to the table, every person who comes in contact with the ingredients or the finished product will have to follow strict food handling procedures. All it takes is one mistake or overlooked step, and your diners could fall ill. Teaching your employees proper food handling procedures, and tracking their steps, will keep your customers healthy and your reputation intact.
As you may have guessed by now, food safety encompasses more than how the food itself is handled. Keeping everything clean and sanitized is another important step in keeping your establishment safe. If your kitchen is crawling with bacteria because your staff doesn't know proper sanitizing procedures, your customers will get sick, and your restaurant will soon be shut down for health violations. Excellent cleaning practices are required for running a top-notch food service business. Using the right cleaning products in the proper areas helps reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses and prevents chemical contamination of your ingredients. Always follow the label instructions, and make sure staff understand how to use the cleaning supplies and tools.
Believe it or not, waste disposal is a critical part of food safety, and it's one place you should pay close attention to. Obviously, you don't want waste piling up in your food prep areas or where you store your ingredients. But once the waste has been placed in your disposal area, you can't simply forget about it. Keeping the waste disposal area clean and pest-free will help the food prep and service areas stay clean as well. Make the waste disposal area a priority with your food safety software or system during routine maintenance and cleanup, to avoid potential health violations down the line. It's much better to spend a little extra time cleaning up now than spending a lot of time, money, and effort trying to get a pest infestation under control later.
Properly training your staff is your front-line defense against failed health inspections and reputation-damaging closures. Keep training materials and protocols accessible with food safety software, and encourage ongoing training for all staff. A well-trained employee is a confident employee. When your staff doesn't have to call you for every little thing, or they're not wasting time worrying whether they're doing something correctly, your restaurant runs smoother, and you're left with more time to attend other aspects.
Food regulations are constantly changing, evolving with the times and with more scientific research. Keeping up with those changes is your responsibility, as is relaying those changes to your staff. Be aware of new regulations as well as any food safety news that might be circulating. Recalls, bacterial outbreaks, contaminated ingredients—these can all affect your brand's reputation and your bottom line.
It might seem tedious to log everything, but those logs will help you see trends over longer periods of time. With food safety software, you can see where food safety issues keep cropping up, which employees are on duty when they occur, and if malfunctioning equipment might be to blame, just to name a few benefits. These reports will give you the facts you need to make adjustments to procedures or training, making your business run much smoother.
Now that you understand what food safety is and how it applies to your restaurant, you can see why it's important to stay on top of current regulations and have top-notch procedures in place. Knowing this, you can surely see how overwhelming it can become if you don't keep accurate and organized records.
This is one aspect of the food industry that technology can help with. To save time, money, and frustration, adding powerful food safety software to your business is a surefire way to keep you and your employees on track to a healthy and safe restaurant. With checklists, logs, and reports at your fingertips, all updated in real-time, you can keep your finger on the pulse of your business, even if you're not on-site. Reminders help employees stay on top of tasks, and critical food safety issues can be dealt with immediately with built-in hazard control checklists and corrective actions. If you'd like to learn more about food safety software, we've covered it here.