The food enjoyed at restaurants all around the world goes through a tedious process of transportation, storage, and handling to move from plant to plate. This process creates many opportunities for bacteria to infiltrate and contaminate food products, which ruins the safety of the food. Restaurants that accidentally serve contaminated food are putting their customers at risk of foodborne illness and disease. This can lead to severe damage to a restaurant’s reputation and image, which will negatively impact the restaurant’s sales.
The most prominent example of poor food safety occurred at the popular Mexican-food chain, Chipotle. In 2015, hundreds of consumers contracted the E. coli bacteria after dining at Chipotle. This resulted in a nationwide closure of many Chipotle locations and it had an extremely negative financial impact. According to MarketWatch, the value of Chipotle’s stock decreased by 18% in the first two months of the E. coli outbreak. In addition to the financial loss, Chipotle suffered a major hit to their reputation, image, and brand equity. While Chipotle has recovered and still remains a successful chain, many consumers will always connect E. coli with Chipotle.
Not all restaurants are equipped to recover from a food safety disaster like Chipotle. Because of this, food safety is one of the most crucial areas of focus for foodservice professionals. Individuals at every level of the food supply chain hold responsibility and commitment to thoroughly inspect food products and handle them with extreme safety. Diligence in the transportation, inspection, and handling of food makes a major difference in food safety.
Here are three major areas of focus that your restaurant must prioritize to assure high food safety for customers:
Temperature is one of the most vital elements of food safety. Foods such as meat, poultry, fish, and produce have strict temperature guidelines for storage. Restaurants should take strong food safety precautions when it comes to the refrigeration of perishable foods.
- It is obvious that foods such as raw meat and produce must be refrigerated. These foods will likely become contaminated with foodborne illness or bacteria if they are not kept cold. Your restaurant can take extra measures to assure that the refrigeration of these ingredients is safe and efficient. For example, there is new technology in refrigerators that triggers an alarm if the temperature rises above a specific, set point. This can come from the power going off in the middle of the night for several hours before turning back on, or an employee accidentally leaving the refrigerator open overnight. These small mistakes could potentially lead to serving customers contaminated food, which can severely damage your restaurant’s reputation. Your restaurant should invest in a refrigeration process that utilizes this useful technology to have 24/7 temperature awareness of perishable food products.
Bacteria can easily spread from hand to ingredient. This can occur while receiving a shipment and moving it to the refrigerator or while preparing the meal in the kitchen. As several employees may touch an ingredient before it is served to a customer, there are important steps restaurants should take to encourage proper sanitation from their employees.
- Restaurants must provide their employees with latex gloves to use while handling ingredients. This precaution prevents potential bacteria from moving between an employee’s hands and the ingredient.
- There should be signs in the bathroom and in the kitchen reminding employees to thoroughly wash their hands. Even when using latex gloves, it is recommended to have freshly-washed hands before engaging in any meal preparation process. Signs that reinforce this concept will provide your employees with a stern reminder about the importance of food safety in your kitchen.
3. Inspection and Handling
Proper inspection and handling techniques must be set up at each point of the supply chain to encourage strong food safety. For restaurant operators, several steps are out of their hands, as they cannot control the safety protocols implemented during the manufacturing and distribution of the food products they buy. Nevertheless, there are several ways restaurants can guarantee their customers quality food safety:
- Restaurant operators should be encouraged to partner with trusted foodservice distributors and manufacturers that have credible reputations in the industry. While each restaurant is focused on buying high-quality products at the best price, there is tremendous value in selecting a distributor or manufacturer with a solid and trustworthy past history of quality food safety. This greatly improves the chances of potential contamination being caught before the food ever reaches your operation, which is a major benefit.
- Restaurants must avoid cross-contamination at all costs. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines cross contamination as the “inadvertent transfer of bacteria or other contaminants from one surface, substance, etc., to another especially because of unsanitary handling procedures.” Restaurant operators must be diligent in separating items like raw meat from all other products. This includes using different chopping boards and finding an isolated location in the refrigerator for raw meat. Restaurants that have strict guidelines to prevent cross-contamination of their products are prioritizing food safety.
Author bio: Matt Fry is the Marketing Manager of The Food Connector. The Food Connector is a business-to-business marketing firm that provides marketing strategies and materials for food brands. From manufacturers to distributors, The Food Connector works to build brand awareness and increase visibility to produce strong leads and sustainable business growth.