Technology is changing restaurant culture as we know it. Consider kiosks, which allow patrons to order and pay for food at touch-screens. Or digital table manager software, permitting restaurants to give customers accurate wait time estimates and notify them via text when a table is ready.
But beyond those convenience tools, technology and automation are also making an impact in the back of the house, helping restaurants run safer kitchens. Here are four ways automation and new digital solutions are improving the food safety game for restaurants.
1. Monitor food temperatures
One major source of foodborne illness is food that is not cooked to or preserved at the right temperature. Sensors can help hold foods at proper temperatures. As an example, refrigeration monitoring systems signal when temperatures in coolers or freezers rise above safe holding temperatures. This prevents the need to throw away entire coolers or freezers of food due to malfunctioning units.
In addition, fixed sensors and handheld probes help restaurants measure the temperatures of food within seconds. Meanwhile, Bluetooth sensors can also wirelessly record temperature readings in a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) log, increasing accuracy of daily reports and reducing the need for paper logs altogether. Thanks to sensor technology, businesses can recoup significant savings in lost food and ultimately may save lives as a result of better food storage.
2. Improve quality tracking
Downloadable apps, which are available on smartphones and tablets, have made a difference in the way foodservice employees conduct inspections, maintain temperature logs, conduct training and handle quality assurance forms. Not only do such apps allow employees to access critical food safety information at their fingertips, but they also appeal widely to a younger, more tech-oriented workforce. Digital tools also can optimize and refine line checks, shift logs, inspections, auditing and other reporting.
3. Train and prepare workers
Virtual reality has changed the way restaurants train new hires. Using a headset and customized software, new hires can take part in an interactive training experience, taking a 360-degree tour of a restaurant, watching other employees in action and testing their skills in simulation games.
Restaurants can also train new employees digitally with training videos and recipe cards. Digitizing recipe cards helps eliminate the need for outdated recipe binders, which can get damaged easily and require constant updating to match the current menu. Digitizing these processes not only helps trim costs, but also saves operators and workers’ time.
4. Manage quality control of food inventory
Internet of Things (IoT) devices monitor an ingredient’s status from point of purchase to the entryway of the restaurant. The data collected ensures freshness and ensures expired products are disposed of properly. IoT devices have tools including a temperature probe, barcode scanner and RFID infrared temperature reader to monitor and track food throughout the supply chain, preventing spoilage. These devices can track who placed the order, authorized the purchase and accepted the delivery; what food was ordered; when the order took place and arrived and its expiration date; and the origin of the product and how it arrived. As a spoiled piece of food can have severe repercussions for a restaurant and its reputation, this technology is one more food-safety safeguard.
TransAct Technologies (NASDAQ: TACT) is a global leader in market-specific technology solutions. We have helped restaurants and convenience stores improve food safety, increase operational efficiencies and gain critical insights into their daily processes. Our mission is to transform customer’s back of house with custom solutions that automate manual processes to ensure food safety and empower people to work smarter, not harder.