Being successful in the food service industry has long been determined by how well you maintain your sales, labour, food cost, and customer satisfaction. The food industry values these success factors so much that it has looked to technology for solutions to monitor and manage these metrics in order to make it easier to operate a business that keeps customers coming back. However, the food service industry has been slow to adopt technology capable of providing food safety metrics. The time has come for this to change. Regulatory agencies have also benefited from technological advancements that are providing better detection and investigative tools, which is evident in the ever-increasing number of product recalls and food related illness outbreaks that get communicated via social media globally in the blink of an eye.
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 60% of foodborne disease outbreaks are linked to restaurant-style food service operations. (1)
- A recent study completed by John’s Hopkins University has determined that the cost of a single foodborne illness outbreak can range between $3,968 to $2.6 million depending on the type of organisation and scope of the outbreak. (2)
Today, most restaurant and retail operations use paper-based quality management programmes to capture critical food safety metrics. Like all food safety professionals, I have devoted what feels like an entire lifetime to developing paper checklists, logs and reports that are simple to use, highly visual and informative throughout my career. However, these types of programmes provide limited visibility when used across multiple locations and can result in unreliable and incomplete information. They also provide little assurance that the proper corrective action processes are followed.
As consumer health and food safety continue to be at the forefront of concerns for food service providers, digital food safety management systems (DFSMS) that are customised to fit a business’s unique needs can help reduce corporate risk, lower site costs, and improve the customer experience with higher quality food. Such technologies will empower food service organisations to include food safety as a success indicator alongside the others as previously mentioned.
Technology available today can provide the necessary tools to be successful when it comes to digitally measuring and monitoring the execution of food safety in daily operations. Below are some key points to consider:
- Leadership Commitment & Communication:
Understand that adopting a technology-based food safety management system is a significant undertaking that will not happen overnight and requires leadership commitment at every level of the organisation. Clear, effective communication on the who, what, when and why should be planned for.
- Roles and Responsibilities:
Implementing a DFSMS will result in changes to some roles and responsibilities. New positions and opportunities may develop throughout the process. Taking the time to understand how current employees really execute tasks will help in determining how the DFSMS will impact the various roles within your organisation.
- Recognition and Accountability:
DFSMS enable a level of operational visibility not achievable with traditional paper-based programmes. Information once traditionally only available through on-site visits, 2nd and 3rd party audits or regulatory inspections will be available in real-time. This provides a perfect opportunity to celebrate the high performers, take the guesswork out of employee training and implement progressive discipline opportunities.
- Commit to Continuous Improvement:
As stated previously, a DFSMS will provide the programme manager(s) a level of insight and actionable information to make changes to the food safety programme significantly faster. Changes can be made centrally, then distributed to the entire organisation with just a few clicks.
- Choosing a Partner over a Provider:
I will always advocate for working with a partner over a provider. A true partner is going to be committed to supporting you during the digitisation process and will be critical to ensuring your success. The right partnership can also provide you the opportunity to work together on development opportunities.
About the Author: Eric Moore
Eric Moore has been a proactive leader in improving food safety programmes at multiple industry-leading food service and retail organisations over the last 20 years. Currently, Moore provides organisational leadership guidance as the food safety subject matter expert for Testo North America, where he oversees all aspects of compliance and regulatory policy.
Testo at the 2020 GFSI Conference
Creating visibility in operations is a major benefit to going digital with food safety and provides a critical vehicle required to achieve ‘One Connected World. One Safe Food Supply’, the theme of the GFSI Conference in 2020. As a major supporter of GFSI for many years, Testo will participate in the annual conference as a diamond sponsor in February. At our special session on Thursday, February 27th at 8:00am, we’ll dive deeper into the topic of operational visibility for food service providers everywhere. You can book your personal demo at our booth here. We’re looking forward to meeting you there!
- “Highlights from the 2017 Surveillance Report.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 11 Sept. 2019, https://www.cdc.gov/fdoss/annual-reports/2017-report-highlights.html.
- Bartsch, Sarah M., et al. “Estimated Cost to a Restaurant of a Foodborne Illness Outbreak.” Public Health Reports, vol. 133, no. 3, May 2018, pp. 274–286, doi:10.1177/0033354917751129.
This post was written and contributed by:
Director of Food Safety and Regulatory Compliance
Testo North America