Restaurants should invest in technology tools: you can’t afford not to
By Francine L. Shaw, President of Savvy Food Safety, Inc.
The past few years have been incredibly difficult for everyone, but the restaurant industry has suffered like few other industries. The national association of restaurateurs (RNA) says nearly 90,000 dining establishments closed between the start of the pandemic and the start of 2021. While it looks like things have started to stabilize, there are lingering effects.
Our country is suffering from an unprecedented labor shortage, as 3.2 million people have left the labor market since February 2020. During the “big resignation” (aka “the big reshuffle”) at the end of 2021 , more than 47 million people have left their jobs. The leisure and hospitality industries are among the peak sectors affected by labor shortages, according to United States Chamber of Commerce.
This labor shortage has brought the restaurant industry to its knees. Fewer employees carry the burden of preparing, cooking and serving food while keeping customers and businesses safe.
I went to a drive-thru restaurant a few months ago for a cup of coffee, and they had locked the restaurant doors. The line at the drive-thru was literally wrapped around the building. I could hear customers in the cars in front of me yelling at the cashier for being slow. I felt so bad for her that I wanted to park my car and go help her – of course that wasn’t an option. When I got to the window, she was in tears. I found out she was only person working in front and behind the house. There was no management on site, just a very clueless employee! Honestly, I give her kudos for sticking around and trying to handle things on her own. However, I am convinced that she was too overwhelmed, exhausted and overloaded to care about food safety. I’m not saying she intentionally neglected a responsibility, but she was so overworked and overwhelmed that it’s possible she could have made an innocent mistake that could have caused a food safety violation.
Suppose someone caught a foodborne illness that day. The FDA Food Code recommends a PIC (Person-in-Charge) on each shift. In this scenario, she was the PIC – she was the only person working, making her the default PIC. The PIC must have food handler certification in that particular jurisdiction. What if she was a cashier and worked part-time during her high school summer break? It’s very possible that she didn’t have proper formal food safety training, yet she was in the PIC for that shift. Studies show that restaurants with kitchen managers certified in food safety are less likely to have foodborne illness outbreaks, and The CDC recommends that restaurants require kitchen manager certification in food safety from high-quality training programs. In this case, I’m not sure if this PIC was properly certified.
Foodborne illnesses are a widespread problem in our country. The CDC reports that 48 million Americans get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die each year from foodborne illnesses. Food safety violations are costly ($55.5 billion per year in the United States only).
Investing in food safety training and education is one of the smartest things a food service establishment can do. Training and education are more critical than ever in the world we live in today.
The FDA New era of smarter food safety, which represents a new approach to food safety, calls on businesses to leverage technological tools to create a safer food system. For example, recently launched digital tools consolidate all certification data, making tracking this critical information simple, accurate and convenient for every employee. The use of software to simplify food safety and quality processes has been shown to reduce 8-12 hours of work per day per installation, saving considerable time and money.
As a food safety expert with over 30 years of industry experience, I know firsthand that technology improves food safety protocols and helps reduce or eliminate food safety violations. Now, technology tools can also help track and manage certifications, ensuring all employees are up-to-date on essential food safety training. The technology allows operators to stay on top of certifications and training deadlines without having to monitor cumbersome spreadsheets, a time-consuming and tedious process.
That’s why I helped develop TracSavvy, a must-have solution for food businesses to reduce food safety risks and increase training compliance. TracSavvy, an affordable and user-friendly digital tool, will:
- Monitor training status to determine which employees are compliant and which need refresher training or recertification.
- Automatically send reminders to operators and employees when refresher training or recertification training is due.
- Organize and consolidate all certification data, making tracking this critical information simple, accurate, and convenient.
- Stay up to date with food safety certifications for all employees and avoid the risks associated with expired food safety certifications.
- Provide a high return on investment, saving your organization money in fees, higher insurance premiums, reduced litigation, and more.
- Seamless integration with other software you use.
- Change the game for restaurants/franchises and other food brands.
Designed by thought leaders in food safety and technology, TracSavvy is a cost-effective solution for a persistent problem. There is no other product like this on the market.
While it might seem unrealistic to invest in technology after a few years of major disruption, food brands can’t afford not to. Technology tools provide a huge return on investment and can save restaurants a lot of money in terms of lost revenue, legal fees and litigation, negative press, and loss of customer loyalty in the event of food violations. Today’s technology tools are affordable for restaurants of all sizes and are more accessible, integrated and user-friendly than ever. As we all work to rebuild after a very difficult few years, technology tools can help us immensely, keeping our food, our guests, our employees and our businesses safer.
Francine L. Shaw is the CEO of Savvy Food Safety & TracSavvy, the co-founder of My Food Source and a successful entrepreneur, author and speaker. She has spent over 20 years working in the restaurant industry. His career has included providing services (operating partner, corporate/private trainer, health inspector, third party inspector, adjunct professor) in various sectors of the restaurant industry including academia, regulators, the private sector, corporate America, creating digital software programs, and advising aspiring entrepreneurs. She has written over 200 articles for national trade magazines and has appeared on Dr. Oz, BBC World Series Radio and iHeart Radio as a food safety expert.