Baked goods on display at a restaurant.

pexels/Madison Inouye

Handwriting is fine for some things, but when it comes to food, automated labeling makes a lot of sense.

Want to Serve Food Fast? Don't Hand-Label Prepared Foods

It’s a short-term fix that’s a bad idea. Here’s why.

Millennials, one of the fastest growing consumer groups, often want their food fast, though not necessarily fast food.

In fact, they eat more meals in restaurants and have purchased more prepared foods than both Gen Xers and Baby Boomers, according to analyst Bernstein, a global asset management firm, which recently pulled data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to track eating trends between generations.

It’s just one reason many full-service restaurants nationwide have made space for bakery counters and kiosks that offer grab-and-go wraps, salads, sandwiches. and desserts.

If you’re a chain establishment with more than 20 locations, you’re already putting calorie counts in your menus to comply with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s recent labeling requirements, but these convenience foods require labeling as well. The frequent rotation of items has some operators hand-labeling prepared foods.

It’s a short-term fix that’s a bad idea. Here’s why:

Lost time: Hand-labeling is time consuming and labor intensive, requiring you to pull someone off the floor who could be busing tables, rolling silver or cleaning—all tasks that can’t be automated like labeling can.

Ripe for errors: Handwriting can be clean and crisp or indecipherable. Sometimes smearing causes problems, but other times it’s the handwriting itself. Are you looking at a 7 or a 1? A 3 or an 8? It’s all a guessing game.

A big gamble: When it comes to compliance and “use by” dates, clarity is the difference between serving a good meal and making someone sick. Not being able to read someone’s handwriting could lead to liability later.

There are a variety of innovative products and systems that combine printers with touchscreen interfaces that track ingredients, expiration dates, nutritional information—even food that’s being thrown away and donated. Handheld labelers area also available for ease-of-use and portability.

Beyond that, some software on the market imports nutrition information that’s scientifically calculated to ensure operators are in compliance on every single food item that’s stocked.

Handwriting is fine for some things, but when it comes to food, automated labeling makes a lot more sense.

Ryan Yost is general manager 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.

read more