Your Safety, Your Business
The Importance of Food Safety
Don’t be shocked by the statistic; rather be surprised that you are not doing more about it in your operation: Seven out of 10 dining consumers say they’re concerned about food safety in restaurants.
So what are the clues your customers are looking for? The majority of diners have two key food safety concerns: where their food comes from, and whether or not they can see how their food is being handled. However, promoting food safety is not simply a matter of sending the right visual signals to customers; it also involves training all employees, creating the right workplace culture, and building your partnerships with those who believe in safety as much as you.
What Your Customers See
Consumers say that their top cues to food safety in restaurants are the ability to see how their food is being prepared and knowing exactly where their food comes from.
Top Reasons Consumers are Concerned About Food Safety in Restaurants:
59% Unable to see how food is handled
55% Hard to know origin of food
50% Just concerned in general
47% Recent news about food safety
15% Previously had food poisoning
It’s probably no coincidence that visible food preparation is one of the hottest trends in the restaurant industry right now. Chipotle Mexican Grill for instance is a leader here—to the point that any restaurant format in which staff assembles items to spec along a service line while customers watch is called the “Chipotle model.” But limited-service and full-service restaurants of many types have opportunities to employ some variation of the see-it-before-you-eat-it model. In a casual dining restaurant, for instance, visible food prep might involve a showy pizza oven or rotisserie grill.
However, visible prep will backfire without scrupulous attention to the food safety cues customers are looking for. Make sure customers can see that your staff always use clean gloves; that the person who handles food doesn’t handle money; and that all ingredients are kept appropriately hot or cold at all times.
Food origin labeling is another hot trend in the industry that has implications for food safety. Restaurants should know as much as possible about the origins of the food they’re ordering— and not just so they can pinpoint quickly any ingredients that pose safety issues. Consumers prize both local and named-origin foods as premium, authentic and fresh. Look to your foodservice provider to see if they have programs to connect local food producers with restaurants that value local ingredients, delivering the freshest foods to customers while contributing to the success of local farms, niche producers and communities.
The Right Workplace Culture
Fully 96 percent of consumers say it is important to know that the restaurants they visit train employees in food safety, and more than eight out of 10 (81 percent) say they would be more likely to visit a restaurant that trains all its employees in proper food safety practices.
Unit employees need to understand the importance of proper food safety practices so they’ll have ongoing motivation to employ them. It’s more effective to show as well as tell: Videos and highly visual, bilingual posters in the kitchen can help make good practices second nature. The importance of food safety education at the restaurant unit level cannot be stressed too much. It requires regular training on a range of quality and safety topics, the big and the small, from personal hygiene to utensil cleaning.
Many health departments require that establishments that prepare and serve food have a certified foodservice manager on-premise whenever food is being handled. Food safety certification courses that cover the “Demonstration of Knowledge” or “Person In Charge” requirements are offered by Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association’s ServSafe program.
You Hold the Key
To prevent cross-contamination pay strict attention to personal hygiene—clean clothes and apron, hair restraint, no jewelry. Remove apron when leaving prep area. Wash hands frequently in 100˚F running water using soap and a nail scrubber. Wash hands and change gloves before prepping food. Be sure to follow the rest of these simple guidelines:
- Clean, then sanitize, all surfaces that touch food (both steps are equally important). Clean and sanitize work surfaces, utensils and thermometers after each task. Wash, rinse and sanitize cookware, utensils and equipment after handling a potential food allergen (such as milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, wheat, soy, peanuts or tree nuts).
- Store raw proteins in coolers in top-to bottom order: seafood - whole cuts of beef and pork - ground meat and ground fish - whole and ground poultry.
- Use separate equipment when handling different types of food, and prep different foods at different times when using the same prep table.
- Prep food for customers with allergies in a separate area. Use separate fryers and cooking oils for customers with food allergies.
Remember, all products must be staged and used under temperature-controlled conditions. When a temperature-controlled shipment arrives inspect it and put it away as soon as possible. If you need further information or help contact your local food purveyor. | GARETT SMITH, MARKETING MANAGER, SYSCO PORTLAND
Be sure to check in with your local Sysco Marketing Associate who is continually trained on the most up to date sustainable products. They can also help you tap into a network of chefs, quality assurance professionals and other foodservice experts who can address each client’s unique needs and problems. SyscoPortland.com