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June 23, 2020

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.

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.

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.

Make no mistake that customers are voting with their dollars: According to the Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report: Brand Trust and the Coronavirus Pandemic, 71% of respondents said they would lose trust in a brand that they perceive putting profit over people.

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.

Want to know more about how you can use technology to quickly implement food safety culture and company standards at the store level? Visit our COVID-19 solutions page.

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Navigate Company-Wide Food Safety with a Compliance & Risk Expert

Navigate Company-Wide Food Safety with a Compliance & Risk Expert

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.