“Cold food cold and hot food hot” is an oft-repeated mantra for restaurant operators when it comes to getting the temperature of a dish right. But when it comes to identifying the most common health code violations, a more appropriate phrase might be “cold food warm and hot food warm.”
The most frequent health code violations include not using a food thermometer when preparing foods, holding hot foods below 135 degrees Fahrenheit and taking too long to cool down hot foods—in other words, preparing and holding foods at improper and potentially unsafe temperatures.
One way to ensure food temperature compliance is to invest in a system that monitors refrigeration and temperature. A good system will track temperatures, alert employees to potential problems and provide record keeping to verify compliance.
1. Monitor controls
Franchise operator Bennett Enterprises has improved its monitoring and temperature controls since implementing Hawk Safety, a cloud-based HACCP compliance system, in some of its restaurants, says area supervisor Chuck Baacke. HACCP (or Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) is a management system by which food safety is addressed. Through the analysis and control of biological, chemical and physical hazards from raw material production, procurement and handling to manufacturing, distribution and consumption of the finished product, foods can be kept safer.
Based in Perrysburg, Ohio, Bennett Enterprises owns and operates 13 Frisch’s Big Boy’s restaurants and seven Ralphie’s Sports Eatery locations, as well as other brands. Working with DayMark Safety Systems, a supplier of a variety of food safety solutions, Bennett first tested the Hawk Safety platform at two of its restaurants last year. Following that, Baacke asked that it be rolled out to the other six restaurants in his region earlier in 2017.
2. Enforce critical control points
Hawk Safety provides temperature monitoring for refrigeration as well as various checks, including line checks and cleaning. The system helps enforce critical control points such as proper refrigeration and cooking temperatures. The components can be used separately, however using the entire system together provides HACCP compliance, the company says. Data is backed up to the cloud, so the information is secure and accessible at any time from any location.
“One thing that became apparent when we first rolled it out was we had a few specific products that were ‘frequent offenders,’” Baacke says. “From there, we were able to adjust the way those products were handled or stored to correct the problem.”
3. Optimize management control
Health code inspectors aren’t just searching for infractions, they are also looking to ensure that operators have a handle on their establishments. This management control is imperative for any operation.
The restaurants under Baacke’s supervision relied on written shift reports before switching to the cloud-based program, he says. Using Hawk has made it easier to access records at each of his stores to determine how many temperature checks are being completed and who is following the program.
Previously, the restaurant staffs completed daily food-safety logs at the end of each shift. The forms walked shift managers through a specific set of temperatures for hot and cold holding as well as deliveries. They also included date marking, rotation, cleanliness and sanitizer strength checks.
“But as with any system, it’s only as good as the effort put into it and the follow-up used to make sure it is happening,” Baacke says. “With a paper checklist it's easy to cheat the system and enter fictitious data. That cannot happen with the Hawk System.”
4. Minimize human error
Short-staffed kitchens and hectic work environments can both contribute to human error, which, in turn, can lead to many health code infractions. With the Hawk program from DayMark, Baacke’s restaurant managers can show health code inspectors computer-generated reports that verify the appropriate temperature checks are being made.
“We had a refrigeration unit that was discovered to be not holding product at the correct temperatures during a health inspection,” Baacke recalls. “We were able to pull up the temperature history of the unit and demonstrate [to the inspector] that it was a new problem.”
The data also proved useful later in demonstrating to the equipment repair company that its initial repair was not effective, he says.
Clearly, with today's restaurants under intense scrutiny when it comes to health-code infractions, operators can use all the help they can get to keep hot food hot and cold food cold.
In that vein, DayMark Safety Systems, a global food service industry pioneer in date code compliance and food safety labeling technology, and Hawk Safety, the innovation leader in web-based HACCP compliance recording and monitoring solutions, have announced a partnership by which the two companies will deliver food safety management, temperature monitoring and compliance through an intuitive and comprehensive web application.
For more information, visit DayMarkSafety.com/hawk