Playing it safe
Published in Restaurant Business Daily
A restaurant’s success depends on many factors, but maintaining proper safety and sanitation standards is at the top of the list. We’ve selected a few innovative products from this year’s NRA Show that raise the bar in terms of helping you comply with best practices and local regulations.
Hot & cold
In the kitchen, the monitoring of food temperatures is critically important. A temperature variance of even a few degrees can quickly move food into the “danger zone”—greater than 40 F (for cold food) or less than 140 F (for hot food). Continuing developments in technology are making temperature monitoring easier and more accurate.
One example is Kolpak’s Arctic Fox refrigeration control unit. This device initiates defrost cycles only when necessary, thus maintaining a more consistent temperature in the cooler and freezer.
Checking for proper temperature is also essential after food is prepared, especially if it’s to be held. A thermometer like the new Saf-T-Log from ThermoWorks is handy for keeping HACCP records. This new paperless system eliminates the hassle of hand-writing records by taking temperature readings, suggesting corrective actions and automatically generating a tamper-proof final report.
Nonporous surfaces, such as tables and bars front-of-house, need regular wiping down. Bar towels are often used, but they can transfer bacteria and odors. Microfiber cloths, made by several manufacturers, do a better job of removing bacteria. These are comparatively inexpensive, can be laundered and leave no lint behind.
At the beverage station, the spindle mixer needs frequent cleaning. Using rags invites cross-contamination. And the traditional cleaning method, which involves filling a mixer cup with sanitizer and running the spindle in it, might not dislodge all the solids. A simple tool like San Jamar’s Kleen-Cup is the first of its kind—a plastic cup with angled, replaceable brushes on the inside—that can do a more thorough job of cleaning.
Clean restrooms are a major factor in giving customers a positive impression. The Bradley Advocate Lavatory System can help—especially in small spaces. In a sink basin just 30 inches wide by 20 inches deep, the unit combines a motion-activated faucet, soap dispenser and hand dryer. Its unique design keeps all the handwashing and drying activity in the sink and prevents drips that can cause slips or falls.
On the horizon
Gina Nicholson, global client director for the standards and training organization NSF International, says she constantly sees new products to help serve food safely. For example, the new thermostatic controls (see main story) are beneficial, she says, because “they allow a company and their employees to know when a unit is beginning to ‘run warm’ before the food enters the food safety zone.” Another benefit to these controls, according to Nicholson, is that they can provide data to service technicians alerting them of any potential problems with the cooler and thus starting the maintenance process. She also notes the benefits of paperless, Bluetooth-enabled thermometers for “allowing more accurate temperatures to be recorded and reducing paper waste.”
Sustainable products can present a challenge in delivering food safely to the customer, she says, noting take-out coffee cups as an example. “Most companies are trying to find a suitable material for hot drinks that is more ‘green’ than Styrofoam,” Nicholson says.
“The challenge has been finding a material that keeps the customer safe from the hot drink and is made of a material that has sustainable qualities.”