- Internet of Things technology is poised to dramatically improve restaurant food safety practices
- Continuous collection and analysis of food temperature data reduces food safety risks and product loss
- Continuous data collection also pushes up the quality of food delivered
- Automated data collection yields labor cost savings and more accurate data
- Critical control points can now move upstream to equipment performance, a leading indicator of temperature problems
- Equipment performance links food safety and asset management, which can drive down operating costs
Introduction: Food Safety and “HACCP”
Restaurants, convenience stores, and other businesses involved in the sale of food all have programs in place to prevent conditions that can cause their products to become unsafe due to contamination. Most companies employ practices consistent with a systematic process known as HACCP, or Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points. HACCP, as its name suggests, aims to address areas in the production of food most at risk for introducing hazards (“critical control points”).
In restaurants and convenience stores, refrigeration equipment and food cooking or warming equipment are two such critical control points. To manage these control points, food service operators are required to record temperatures at regular intervals to ensure that food temperatures stay within the “safe zone”. Most commonly, these data points are collected and recorded manually on logs that are kept on site for the local Food Inspector to review when they show up for their periodic inspections. In some cases, the logs are also filed in company archives, should the need ever arise to review historical data. In practice, there are many limitations to standard food safety management procedures.
These limitations include:
- Minimal data sampling – usually just 2-4 data points per day are taken for any given critical control point.
- Inaccurate data – restaurant operations require constant management attention, and it is not uncommon for opening or closing managers to “fall behind” such that the data collection is rushed or may not happen at all.
- Inaccessible records – it is quite possible that the handwritten data logs will be illegible, difficult to find quickly, or lost entirely.