How technology is improving back-of-house operations.
By Bert ten Voorden
It’s no surprise that technology is changing and improving the way that businesses operate and attract and interact with customers. Today, restaurants are increasingly implementing a range of technologies, including digital menu boards, touchscreen beverage dispensers, mobile ordering apps, text alerts about new menu items and more. However, many of these tools are focused on front-of-house operations and are visible to and targeted at the customer. Restaurant managers are left wondering what back-of-house technologies they can use to improve and protect their operations and their brand’s reputation.
The Internet of Clean: An Integrated System
There now exist food safety management systems that are powered by the Internet of Things, (IoT), a network of connected sensors, beacons, machines and other devices. The individual tools within the system track and analyze key business processes as they happen. Data is collected in the cloud, analyzed and reported in one integrated, customized dashboard that can be accessed by restaurant managers 22/7, regardless of where you are, and from any internet-connected device.
Managers are able to keep their eye on numerous back-of-house activities, including food safety and temperature monitoring, hand hygiene compliance and dishwashing operations. In turn, they realize numerous benefits, including:
• Continuous improvement and greater due diligence because the system provides detailed insight about key business processes.
• Reduced complexity because restaurants can go paperless and store data in one central location thanks to cloud technology.
• Enhanced operational efficiency and reduced costs since the system pinpoints emerging issues, helping managers avoid larger problems down the road.
• Better compliance with food safety and quality goals and requirements.
• Peace of mind and more time to focus on serving guests and providing greater customer satisfaction.
The Impact of the IoT
As previously mentioned, IoT-powered systems can monitor dishwashing operations, which can quickly overtake a restaurant’s budget and focus if they’re not effectively or efficiently managed. In order to maintain hygiene and keep costs in line, four factors must be properly balanced: temperature, time, cleaning product and mechanical action (the wash pressure). If one factor is decreased, another must be appropriately increased so that balance remains. If the process is imbalanced, several things can occur, including:
• Dishes are not entirely clean and hygienic: When dishes emerge from the dishwasher still dirty, they must be rewashed, either by the machine again or by hand. This wastes time, energy, cleaning product and water.
• Dishwashing machines may have a shorter lifespan: The right balance can help maintain the dishwasher better and reduce the chances of repair and replacement. With a working machine, there is a reduced need for manual dishwashing.
• The breakage rate increases: Frequently needing to rewash dishes, especially by hand, can lead to a high breakage rate, which increases costs for the restaurant.
• Customer dissatisfaction: If unclean dishes and cutlery manage to make it to the table without being rewashed, customers may notice their dirty appearance. This puts a restaurant’s reputation at risk because guests may associate unclean dishes with disregard for food safety, quality and customer service.
With a real time (cloud-based) monitoring tool, managers can easily see the total number of wash cycles, water, energy and cleaning product usage, hygiene compliance information and more. It can also send alerts, such as when detergent and rinse aid supplies are low, if hard water has caused scale deposits that impact dishwashing performance, or if the four key factors are out of balance. Sophisticated systems can even go one step further and send corrective information so that managers know how to solve these issues as soon as possible.
This is just one back-of-house area where IoT solutions can help restaurant managers. Food temperature monitoring is an increasingly important task that can help restaurants to avoid serving food at dangerous temperatures, and hand hygiene compliance monitoring systems make sure that employees are practicing good hand hygiene that is necessary for the safe handling of food.
Best Practices for Implementation
To make the most of cloud-based food safety systems, it’s important to consider several best practices. These include:
1. Research the system thoroughly
Managers should look for a system that can provide more than just data. Having a lot of data provides an advantage, but if you have to hire a new employee or set aside some of your own time just to analyze the data, is the system actually beneficial? Instead, look for a “smart” system that provides key alerts and analyzes the data in order to provide suggestions on ways to improve your operations.
2. Don’t be intimidated by the upfront cost
You’ll have to put forward an initial investment for a cloud-based system, but it’s important to remember that it will end up helping your restaurant improve efficiency and reduce costs in the long term.
3. Use the information gathered for teaching opportunities
If your system pinpoints that hand hygiene compliance is low, food is not being stored at the proper temperature or the dishwasher keeps on filling, it’s important not to keep the data and the system’s recommendations to yourself. Instead, share the information with employees so that they can take corrective actions and make sure improvements to the way back-of-house processes are completed. For instance, tell the operator to check and resolve the dishwasher issue to stop the over-consumption of water, energy and products.
Food safety and management information systems that gather data in real time, report issues to restaurant managers and recommend corrective actions are essential tools in today’s increasingly fast-paced and social foodservice industry. These systems enhance transparency, minimize risk and optimize food operations, giving restaurants that implement them a leg up on the competition.
— Bert ten Voorden is a global foodservice sector expert with Sealed Air’s Diversey Care division. For more information about kitchen solutions from Diversey Care, visit https://sealedair.com/diversey-care/intellidish.