Food safety became table stakes during the pandemic. And that won't change anytime soon.

Over the last year, safety and sanitation have been primary focuses within the restaurant industry. A new dedication to these practices emerged as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic, with patrons more concerned than ever about the quality and cleanliness of where they are getting their food.

In the drive to create comfortable and safe experiences for guests, restaurants are increasingly turning to tech that can help them easily and conveniently manage a higher standard of safety. Fortunately, the options out there for restaurants include everything from data analytics platforms to sensors built to monitor temperatures.

Keeping a restaurant safe and sanitary through tech advancements like these can be both a simple exercise and a worthwhile investment. By understanding the available tools and implementing an effective strategy for ongoing safety standards, restaurants can drive growth through a commitment to safety and quality.

Understanding the Tech

Advancements in technology are happening all the time. Without a constant awareness of innovations happening in the world of hardware and software, it can be easy to miss out on the valuable opportunities that technology presents to businesses of all kinds. For restaurants, the availability of data, sensory equipment, and inventory tracking systems means a revolutionized ability to ensure restaurant sanitization.

Understanding these tools is then key for restaurant owners and managers looking to guarantee a better experience for guests. With 73 percent of patrons and 95 percent of restaurateurs agreeing that tech makes for a better dining and business experience, integrating these high-tech advancements can be a valuable investment opportunity for those in the restaurant business. Below are the tools to pay attention to:

Big Data and Analytics

Big data now powers all kinds of industries, as analytics experts assess millions of data points to generate actionable insights into business processes. Restaurants, too, are adopting these tools to boost success. For example, Applebee’s made use of tabletop devices to conduct customer surveys that generated feedback. With this information, the franchise retooled its mobile application and marketing direction to double the brand’s revenue.

The same tools can be used to generate feedback about restaurant cleanliness. Garnering employee and customer data surrounding sanitation processes can help restaurateurs understand where gaps might exist in their practices, leading to actionable strategies for improving policies.

IoT Sensors

The ability to connect monitoring systems through the Internet of Things (IoT) is helping restaurants achieve these improvements. IoT devices can do everything from keeping track of inventory via scanners implemented in pantries and refrigerators to monitoring the safety of food products through real-time temperature scanning. With the help of IoT sensors, restaurants can catch food safety problems as they occur and remove spoiled food to ensure the safety of guests.

Blockchain Tracking

An outbreak of foodborne illnesses from a restaurant can be enough to derail a business’s revenue for a long time. Just look at Chipotle’s struggle to recover from the 2015 e. coli outbreak. Blockchain is the most promising tech restaurants have in ensuring that disasters like this don’t happen to them, through the ability of a blockchain system to track food products through their lifecycle from farm to table all on a decentralized database.

With the help of blockchain, restaurants are better equipped to catch problems before they affect the public and damage the reputation of the business. Because blockchain data tracking adds transparency to food inventory, restaurants can be alerted of a potentially polluted product as soon as possible.

Implementing a Plan

In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, food safety will remain a priority whose outcomes can be improved by advancing technology. No amount of tech, however, can guarantee a safe and sanitary restaurant experience without the proper approach to implementing it. To ensure best practices, businesses must assess problem areas and design specific tech solutions to meet their needs.

Here are some tips for implementing a tech-focused plan for avoiding all health code violations, like poor kitchen sanitation or improper utensil storage:

  • Use data analytics—from surveys, industry info, data services,  etc.—to understand failings in hygiene or sanitation.
  • Install IoT sensors to monitor the temperature of food products wherever they are stored.
  • Track inventory of all products—including cleaning chemicals—in a smart database that runs an error if improperly stored.
  • Consider innovating with IoT sensors that can monitor handwashing compliance, like those being adopted in healthcare facilities.
  • Make use of data networks and systems like blockchain to keep abreast of health concerns and inventory issues.

By securing a restaurant’s ability to approach sanitation with care, tech has the potential to improve the lives and livelihoods of everyone in the business while keeping customers safe and healthy. These tech-based strategies can be utilized by a restaurant of any size by working with the right collaborators and implementing effective use of data. But restauranteurs should never assume their work is done. While tech can make monitoring for safety easier, businesses still need to frequently assess their strategy to ensure its success.

Securing a Sanitary Restaurant

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, advanced restaurant tech for safety and sanitation is here to stay. This is because these tools offer health benefits as well as waste reduction by enhancing the safety of food storage. As a result, restaurants cut down on costs while securing their reputation as a safe place to eat. In today’s world, little is more valuable to restaurant-goers than this.

Assess your gaps in your ability to monitor and respond to health and safety concerns, and consider implementing these tech advancements. In doing so, you can build a thriving restaurant where guests of all demographics feel safe to visit.

Jori Hamilton is an experienced writer from the Northwestern U.S. She covers a wide range of topics and, because she spent over six years in the restaurant business before writing full-time, takes a particular interest in covering topics related to the food and beverage industry. To learn more about Jori, you can follow her on Twitter.

Expert Takes, Feature, Food Safety, Technology