September is National Food Education Safety Month and, while safety is an issue that should always be top-of-mind, this month is a good time to focus.

As a full-service restaurant operator, you’re likely more concerned about the journey of your meals from the kitchen to the dining room, than from the farm to the kitchen, right? But there are many steps in between farm and fork.

Why should you care?

The simple answer: food safety. That journey is at the core of your trustworthy relationship with your consumers. They have an expectation of fantastic service, a nice environment—and that whatever they order won’t make them sick.

September is National Food Education Safety Month and, while safety is an issue that should always be top-of-mind, this month is a good time to focus on the behind-the-scenes things you should be doing—the things the customer never even thinks about. Namely, monitoring your supply chain. And, surprisingly, sharing just a bit of that information with customers could boost referrals, and profits.

For a moment, let’s follow a salad on the menu through the supply chain. 

If you have RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology, it’s easy to trace the journey of any fresh produce item in your inventory.

When your kitchen staff receives the lettuce, an employee uses an RFID reader to scan the code on the pallet—the date it was harvested and shipped as well as the date you received it. That information is the beginning of the item’s digital footprint, giving staff immediate access to the “use by” date as the lettuce gets placed in the cooler.

Once the items are assessed and unpacked, the RFID labels on the packs are scanned to pull the provenance information for each ingredient from the barcode. For example, for grab-and-go items, the information from all the ingredients, in this case for the salad, are combined and added to any other information the store or restaurant wishes to provide the consumer, including nutritional values, pricing, promotional labeling etc.  In this instance, the RFID system prints a label with a QR code, and the item is ready for the display case. The reduction in inventory is also attached to the digital footprint so you can see what was used that day.

If the chef prepares individual salads to be served in the dining room, the salad likely won’t have a label with a QR code. Still, the attributes of the product itself can be enthusiastically conveyed to guests by the waitstaff to communicate the restaurant’s commitment to freshness: “We just got this arugula in yesterday, sourced from a local farm. It smells delicious. I think you’re going to love this.” Or “I saw this come in yesterday. Chef is so excited we were able to get a limited amount of this watercress.”

Those extra details underscore transparency, building the reputation and the brand of the restaurant and making the consumer feel like they’re “in” on the process. Knowing details about their food inspires confidence about its safety. Knowing about their salad’s journey helps make customers feel like family and inspires loyalty—and word of mouth referrals.  

It’s details like this that help differentiate you from the competition.

Ryan Yost is vice president for the Printer Solutions Division (PSD) for Avery Dennison Corporation. Avery Dennison Printer Solutions responds to the unique challenges of businesses in the food, retail and fulfillment markets. Its solutions are rooted in efficiency, cost savings, food safety and sustainability through intelligent innovations that solve business problems and improve business processes.

Expert Takes, Feature