Whether you run a restaurant, grocery store, or convenience mart, you need a business plan for recovery from COVID-19. As you restart business operations after the pandemic, the key is to invest in your food safety culture. Strengthening your food safety culture can not only help you regain customer confidence but also prepare you to weather future crises.
Here are three steps to get you started.
1. Get executive support.
Initiatives without support from leadership rarely succeed, which is why you must ensure top executives understand your rationale. Emphasize how a strengthened food safety culture can not only improve the company’s bottom line but also foster team cohesion and help meet corporate social responsibility (CSR) objectives. To get and keep their buy-in, be sure to also seek their input when crafting your plan for improving your company’s food safety culture.
To maintain the trust and loyalty of your employees and rebuild customer confidence, it’s important you take an employee-first approach to food safety. The goal is to ensure every employee knows both the “what” and the “why” of your food safety culture.
To achieve this goal, underscore the importance of a strong and consistent food safety culture through training and communications.
For example, now is the ideal time to brush off your training materials and update them to create new best practices for front-line employees. Shockingly, many organizations are still struggling with the basics: In fact, just over half of restaurants offer a training manual or food safety certifications. Formalizing your commitment to food safety culture cements its importance.
Be sure to emphasize the measures you’re taking to address health and safety following the pandemic. Clear and consistent communications — during team meetings and safety huddles, throughout your location and in breakrooms, and in team emails and text messages — help send the message home.
Customers don’t want rhetoric from businesses; They want to see visible commitments. That’s why it’s key for your employees to know what’s expected of them.
3. Share your plan with the public.
The final component of your reopening plan is to inform the public about your food safety culture. Following COVID-19, they’ll want to hear what strategies you’re using to ensure their health and safety. So, use all the communication channels at your disposal — from email and text messages to social media and in-store signage — to publicize the precautions you’re taking.
As you seek to reopen your restaurant, grocery store, or convenience mart, you need a plan to keep employees and customers safe. Central to that plan is a strong food safety culture. By fostering executive support, gaining employee buy-in, and sharing your plan with the public, you’re sure to be successful.
Ready to check out digital solutions that help communicate, track, and improve your food safety culture efforts? Click here to learn more about RizePoint’s COVID-19 and enterprise solutions that help you gather data, gain transparency, and initiate corrective action.
What is Food Safety Culture & Why is it Important in a COVID-19 World?
As communities begin to re-open, business owners everywhere are eager to bring back shoppers. While many grocery stores and convenience stores have been operating as “essential businesses” throughout COVID-19, they have realized the importance of building trust with their customers by implementing and adhering to a renewed focus on food safety. And as restaurants begin to pivot back from curbside pickup and delivery models to in-house dining, they, too, are focusing on food safety as the top way to help wary diners feel more comfortable.
With health and safety on the line, strengthening your food safety culture is the key to successfully reopening or stabilizing your business. Keep reading to learn more about how you can make it a priority in your grocery store, convenience store, or restaurant.
What is Food Safety Culture?
There’s no singular, accepted definition of what food safety culture is. We believe food safety culture encompasses the attitudes, beliefs, practices, and values that determine what happens when no one is watching. To us, that’s the key phrase — “when no one is watching.”
To truly change your company’s overall attitude, food safety culture must transcend “meeting compliance” or “passing audits.” Instead, it must be a value system you embrace because you want to, not just because you have to.
The good news is that adopting a robust food safety culture yields positive effects beyond mitigating food safety risks.
One potent case study comes from Steritech, which recently shared its commitment to food safety culture — and the benefits that conferred throughout the organization — with the Fast Casual blog: “We at Steritech often see positive results beyond food safety metrics at stores that have embraced a strong food safety culture. Increases in same-store sales and other key performance indicators tend to correlate with a positive shift in a brand’s approach to food safety. These results show that building a strong food safety culture within your brand not only mitigates risk of a food safety incident occurring, but it also builds organizational muscle as you open new locations, and creates operational discipline that permeates other elements of the customer experience.”
Taking the collective view of food safety as the prevailing standard allows everyone in the company to support a common purpose that’s greater than just following the rules. We believe that can help increase retention and team collaboration, as well as improving the bottom line as customers increasingly trust your brand. Food safety culture is also strongly linked to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), a key influence in attracting and retaining both talent and customers.
The Importance of Food Safety Culture (Now More Than Ever)
While an emphasis on food safety culture has always been important for customer confidence, the need is greater than ever due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Most people are eager to get back to some semblance of “business as usual,” but they also know that is going to look different now and for the foreseeable future. Restaurants and grocery stores need to understand this hesitancy and work diligently and publicly to meet it. That means communicating new food safety policies, including updated protocols for employees.
One survey found that in even in opened regions, less than one-quarter of consumers said they’d eaten at a restaurant. Unsurprisingly, more than half said that better hygiene protocol was what they most wanted to see before visiting a restaurant.
Another survey found that nearly 20% of shoppers had shifted to a new grocery store during the crisis. While some attributed the defection to a lack of provisions, others mentioned they preferred a store they perceived as cleaner or safer.
Updated and improved checklists for cleaning and sanitation, as well as employee hygiene, are one key vehicle that companies can adopt to help promote a more robust food safety culture. By considering a mobile auditing app, [Link to new benefits post] you can centralize reporting, providing more visibility into the results of a renewed focus on food safety culture, along with a way to make it more consistent from store to store and employee to employee. Increased monitoring and reporting capabilities also allow you to refocus training and reward teams, as well as communicate results to suppliers and customers to inspire their confidence.
Benefits of Food Safety Culture as the Foundation of a Post-COVID-19 Recovery
As we look ahead to the future, there’s one thing on everyone’s mind: stabilizing their businesses. Fortunately, a renewed focus on food safety culture is one solid strategy to help you build the consumer confidence that will once again bring them to your establishment. If you’re ready to implement or strengthen the food safety culture at your grocery store, convenience store, or restaurant, remember that employees are your first line of defense, so prioritize an employee-first approach to food safety.
Fast Casual: Trends, Challenges
& Best Practices for Compliance Managers
It will be many years before the food industry and consumers
forget the story of Chipotle’s E. coli outbreak in 2016.
We know the external story: Chipotle was a pioneer in the fast
casual market, offering fast, fresh, and locally sourced food. The consumer
demand and response were so great that the company grew very quickly — Chipotle
moved into new markets, grew their customer base, and hired new employees by
And then a massive E. coli outbreak across 11 states nearly
toppled the company and all 2,000 locations. They spent at least $50
million in the first quarter of 2016 alone on a massive marketing
campaign to attempt to win customers back and reverse brand damage.
The internal story at Chipotle boils down to one thing: they weren’t prepared. Their operations
grew faster than their internal planning, so they didn’t have internal disaster
recovery plans, customer communication plans, or variability in their supply
If you’re building, refining, or strengthening internal food
safety and risk mitigation strategies, join Walt Murray, a food
safety and risk expert at PinPoint Services, Dean Wiltse, CEO and
RizePoint, for the live webinar: “Fast Casual:
Trends, Challenges & Best Practices for Compliance Managers,” hosted by
Food Safety Tech on March 26, 2020.
In this the live webinar, you’ll
Food Safety Culture should be a priority
strategies for mitigating fresh-prepared food safety risks
practices for c-suite to help mitigate risk and meet customer expectations
at the store level
Webinar — “Fast Casual: Trends,
Challenges & Best Practices for Compliance Managers”
When: March 26, 2020, from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. EDT
Staying up-to-date on every new food safety rule and regulation is no easy task. The Sanitary Transportation of Food rule (STF) is the most recent example of the challenges that come with meeting ever-changing industry rules and regulations.
The STF rule aims to increase traceability and reduce the risk of contaminating food and beverages during transportation, focusing on vehicles and equipment, transportation operations, training, and records. For many companies, this puts a new strain on their supply chain and procurement teams.
One solution to traceability and transparency problems within your quality operations may come through blockchain technology. In a recent article in Food Engineering magazine, Jesse Dowdle, CTO at RizePoint, discussed the potential impact of blockchain in food safety.
“Blockchain tech in the context of food safety… with the way it links data points together, it becomes incredibly difficult to impossible for any possible ‘bad actors’ to tamper with data. But it’s not just a way to stop tampering — the benefits are huge when it comes to food safety, protecting your brand, and FSMA compliance.”
The Basics of Blockchain in Food Safety
The article further explains the foundation of blockchain technology and how it could revolutionize data and documentation organization by making results traceable, tamper-resistant, and transparent.
Blockchain technology digitally records and tracks all stages of the supply chain and keeps detailed documentation for future use. It is easy to pinpoint when and where noncompliant issues occurred to hold the right individuals accountable as you strengthen weak links in your supply chain.
With blockchain, all details are uploaded and linked together. It’s virtually impossible for one or even a few people to tamper with the data whether through human error or bad actors. The data is stored in a secure location and becomes a single source of truth.
Blockchain creates a network of digitally linked data points across the entire supply chain giving you visibility into your food safety and supply chain operations. Documentation is found quickly when requested by the FDA ensuring accountability.
The Future of Blockchain in Food Safety
It’s clear that blockchain has the potential to transform global supply chain traceability, but it’s important to remember that using blockchain in food safety is not a magic bullet.
Some challenges will still be difficult to address in the processing and distribution of certain kinds of goods. For example, flour manufacturers source several farms for wheat, but the wheat may get processed all together. This means that it may be difficult and slow to trace the actual source during an outbreak. This is a unique challenge that obviously affects exact traceability, and it seems unlikely that blockchain is the entire solution.
It could be argued that the most exciting potential for blockchain may be from helping the food safety community and many others build open networks of reputable suppliers that meet specific quality standards as well as social responsibility standards. It could be a disrupting event that could help build up industry-wide supplier transparency. An open network would help individual businesses find the qualified suppliers they need, which in turn would help the food safety industry improve as a whole.
The rise of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and ever-changing government regulations have put a new strain on supply chain managers. You need to know everything about your supply chain — from farm to fork — and you need to know if everyone along the way is producing, hiring, and acting ethically and within FSMA guidelines.
It’s a lot of information to gather and analyze for meaningful insights. However, if you can gain a higher level of supply chain visibility, you can shift toward thoughtful, proactive processes focused on building strategy rather than rushed, reactive cycles that exhaust your time and resources.
Of course, better visibility doesn’t happen overnight. But there are things you can start doing now to move your processes toward better supply chain visibility. Here are four ways to create a proactive advantage within your supply chain:
1. Use Tech
Manual processes can’t keep up with the sheer amount of data gathering and storage currently required to manage supply chains. That’s why many managers, like you, have turned to tech to help them gather and analyze hundreds of thousands of data points connected with supply chain management.
Finding a quality management software (QMS) that fits your process is like adding a multitalented employee to your team. The right software will ease your information overload burdens, freeing up the time you need for proactive, strategic planning.
Sure, a robust QMS will give you a great way to gather data through audits and assessments, but you also need tools that will help you onboard and manage suppliers. Here are some other things to look for in a comprehensive QMS:
Centralized document management
Corrective action tools (CAPA)
Using a QMS is key as you move forward with these other proactive solutions as well.
2. Be Strategic
You have a lot to do every day in a short amount of time. When it comes to food safety, shortcuts aren’t an option. However, you can save time and do more when your strategy includes managing by exception. This means you can set up processes that require attention only when noncompliance occurs, so you can focus your efforts where they’re needed most.“If you had a crystal ball (and it actually worked) you could look into the future to fix noncompliance issues before they become liabilities.”
This is where a comprehensive QMS can be your greatest asset as a database for your single source of truth. Your team will spend less time gathering information and documentation, and you’ll spend less time accessing the right information to create a searchable database. When these two processes are integrated and streamlined, you will more easily see noncompliance issues and implement corrective action more effectively.
Adding this type of laser focus to supplier management means you will spend less time organizing information and more time improving your business.
3. Respond to Trends
If you had a crystal ball (and it actually worked) you could look into the future to fix noncompliance issues before they become liabilities. The reality is that you need your data, not fortune telling, to give you meaningful insights into your supply chain. When you can gain a holistic view of your production and distribution process, you can see and fix noncompliance trends that hurt your business. This kind of visibility can help you react quickly to immediate problems, but it also gives you insights into improving your processes proactively.
4. Keep Learning
The hidden key to proactive supply chain management is a continual cycle of gather-see-act-repeat. It may be a never-ending cycle, but with each cycle comes the potential for process improvement. This puts you in a great position to help your company deliver on your brand promises.
Of course you’re learning from your own data sets, but it’s also important to keep tabs on new trends and tech in the food service industry, including the expectations of regulatory bodies and the consumers themselves. You don’t have to delve into deep research to learn more about your business; it can be as simple as subscribing to newsletters, attending conferences, and following trending topics and industry leaders on social media. When you can get out in front of industry trends, you’ll start creating a proactive advantage that will outshine your competitors.
Food safety technology has become readily available to preserve safety and transparency throughout the food supply chain. There may be a myriad of unknowns associated with food safety and its implications, but technology exists that will help you control everything you can in faster and more efficient ways.
Below you will discover some new and advancing technology that may help you evolve and improve your processes in the ever-changing world of food safety technology.
1. Pathogen-busting Tech
If scientists could only discover a magic wand that would kill all pathogens from food supply, then food safety issues might become a thing of the past. Of course, that day will never come, but there is still good news. Food safety technology has made significant advances in the past several years, including the development of interventional technologies that inactivate pathogens in food. Learn about ten of these new or improved food safety processes at FoodSafety Magazine.
2. Helpful Disrupters
“That’s the way it’s always been done, so that’s why we do it,” are often the last words of a business being left in the dust. Sure, some processes will always fundamentally stay the same, but tech can help you gather better, see earlier, and act faster. Tech such as search-driven analytics and cloud storage are now fundamental in seeing issues before they become problems and better understanding customer behavior. Learn more about the necessity of tech disrupters at Food Safety Tech.
3. Mobile Apps
Smartphones have changed all our lives forever, and now they’re doing the same thing for food safety. Going digital has an incredible amount of benefits for food safety, including a decrease of time spent on audits, a reduction of human-based mistakes or tampering, and data reporting searchability. But there is one possible benefit that might be surprising, and it all has to do with how smartphones and tablets can change human behavior. Read all about it in this Food Safety News article.
4. Blockchain Power
Blockchain has revolutionized food safety technology. It links data in such a way that makes everything easily traceable in your food supply chain. This means there is a never-before-seen transparency for the food safety industry because blockchain has the power to transform security, safety, and efficiency in food systems. Learn more about blockchain use for improved food safety at IBM. And check out how Cargill used blockchain to let customers track the origin of their Thanksgiving turkeys in 2017.