The food industry is heading for a labor shortage crisis that could have disastrous consequences for consumers and some of the leading food brands. With turnover rates higher than ever and restaurant brands struggling to keep up with food sales in other sections of industry, the challenges facing operators are difficult. The impact is not only felt on the frontline where hourly workers are leaving the food service industry for jobs in other industries, it is also impacting general management and supervisorial roles, where brands have concerns about turnover and filling open positions with qualified staff. Without the right level of training, operators are putting their customers at food safety risk. Chipotle is an example of how insufficient training can result in a major food safety incident, as was seen when an ill employee came to work and didn’t report their symptoms. The question for consumers is whether their favorite brands and restaurants have sufficient controls in place to serve food safely, especially with such high levels of turnover.
Adding to this are the sales growth in non-traditional food service locations; growing grocery, convenience stores, and home delivery services that are putting more pressure on food service operators. With new and innovative products, modern food service establishments are frequently updating their menus, putting even more strain on already complex operational processes. The question remains if leading restaurant brands can run safer, more efficient, and effective operations so they can reclaim their market share and provide customers with a great experience.
There is a way for operators to improve their food safety systems while increasing staff productivity and better managing their systems for training compared to the manual (paper, pencil) systems currently utilized in the vast majority of food service operations. Digital Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) and operations systems are effective for helping large multi-location brands, franchisees, and single location operators manage food safety and restaurant operations with real-time data capture. The significant digital evolution over the last two years means these systems are now more affordable and capable than ever before. Simple task management and checklist software has been replaced with multifunctional comprehensive systems.
Benefits of Going Digital
The following five main benefits of implementing digital systems should be considered by food service operators to improve operations.
1. Increase efficiency and food safety by replacing tasks with alerts. Managing restaurant operations requires a high level of discipline, training, and monitoring to ensure employees are completing important daily checks, such as temperature monitoring at the required frequency, usually every four hours, to ensure they are operating effectively. It’s commonplace to see paper temperature logs reading 41 degrees Fahrenheit written with the same pen in the same handwriting for every single shift. A better way is to install a cold chain temperature monitoring system that alerts users when temperatures are out of compliance. Employees are then trained on what to do when they receive an alert. Instructions contained within the alerts will help remind them of the corrective action or escalation that needs to take place. This also solves the issue of what happens when employees are not at work and a refrigerator breaks down. Consider the food loss from a walk-in cooler that breaks down during the early hours of the morning. If this defect is not discovered until six to eight hours later, the food within the unit will need to be discarded having a both a significant financial and operational knock on affect impacting customers.
2. Consistency in training is key. With high turnover rates continuing to be a significant issue for restaurant operators, the use of a digital platform can help make the process better, easier, and more consistent from restaurant to restaurant. Whether it’s dealing with an employee that hasn’t arrived for his shift, a security issue from the night shift, or a large influx of customers, restaurant managers can be pulled in every direction at a moment’s notice. Add to that turnover at the management level and this makes it extremely difficult to track the quality of training that’s occurring simply because there is too much to do. Using a digital solution can change the way training is completed by providing instructions to employees as they are completing tasks. Consider chicken that isn’t cooked all the way through to a high enough temperature. Using pen and paper methods, there is a risk that staff will serve the undercooked chicken to customers because there is nothing to tell them to do otherwise. A digital system, such as Bureau Veritas’ SafeOps application, can alert team members that the correct temperature hasn’t been reached and what corrective action is required. This will help brands and operators ensure the consistency and safety of the food they are serving. At the same time, it will allow managers to focus on the day-to-day operations or priority items that unexpectedly need their attention. A new employee put to work without knowing what they need to do could have serious consequences for any restaurant operation.