How IoT Influences Restaurant Food Safety and Management

The Internet of Things (IoT) is changing the way restaurants do business in 2017. Today, business owners can track products from point of sale to their doorstep using IoT devices which monitor their location and, more importantly, their temperature along the way. These devices help ensure food safety, streamline inventory management, and provide owners with the real-time information they need when managing multiple locations.

Food Safety Monitoring

Nothing grabs a restaurant owner‘s attention faster than a foodborne illness outbreak. When this happens, they need to know which products were involved.

IoT devices allow owners to track their food from the time they order to the time it arrives. Even in the back of a tractor-trailer driving down the highway, owners can check the temperature of their food and get the data trail along the way to see how it’s been handled and ensure that safety standards have been met.

These data are particularly important since the US federal government enacted the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) in 2011, which aims to protect public health by strengthening the US food safety program. Food businesses are now required to establish preventive control systems based on Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) guidelines and demonstrate compliance by keeping at least two years of documentation.

Traceability measures using the IoT efficiently collect and manage this information, giving owners the peace of mind they need to ensure their food has been handled correctly. Not only that, but they have the data to prove it.

Inventory control and management

IoT devices help manage the cost of inventory by providing the real-time data owners need when ordering inventory and forecasting needs based on their menu. Data collected by IoT devices ensures that the freshest ingredients are available for dishes and expired products are disposed of properly.

Tracking inventory from farm to fork prevents food waste, deters internal theft and helps manage inventory costs.

Other questions and action items that IoT devices can help manage include:

  • Who placed the order, authorized the purchase and accepted the delivery?
  • What was ordered and what are the appropriate temperature ranges of the products?
  • When did the order take place and when did it arrive? What is its expiry date?
  • What is the origin of the product and how did it travel to reach you?

This can help specifically in the retail catering market where pickup and delivery is becoming more prevalent.

For example: if a customer changes their scheduled pick-up or drop-off times, retailers should implement technology that will monitor food safety best practices. Deli, Dairy, and Dairy products could use pre-determined checklists that will verify that items have been properly picked, properly packaged, and temperatures are checked to FDA-regulated standards. Although FDA FSMA regulations are stricter than ever, integrating food safety technology into the adoption of omnichannel restaurant practices has never been more important. Items such as digital checklist management, temperature control, and traceability will greatly impact the continued growth and service in the market.

IoT devices and temperature control

The use of IoT is an essential aspect of quality control. These devices are equipped with a temperature probe, a barcode reader and an RFID infrared temperature reader that monitors and tracks your food as it travels through the supply chain.

Here’s how it works:

  • The probe, infrared and RFID scanner track and measure the temperature of each product.
  • IoT software prompts employees to complete checklists, including regular temperature checks.
  • Whenever data is collected, it is immediately uploaded to a secure cloud and can be accessed anytime, from anywhere.
  • In the cloud, you can personalize, store, filter, and analyze information.
  • Users are immediately alerted if steps are overlooked, such as unobserved items, missed checklists, and violations, in addition to any corrective action that addresses temperature issues.
  • If anything goes wrong, you have a detailed, automated audit trail to prove your business followed the proper food safety protocol.

IoT devices can create modern dining experiences

In addition to helping streamline and manage day-to-day operations, IoT devices can create a unique dining experience for your customers.

For example, if you love seafood, some restaurants use IoT devices to track where and when seafood is harvested. An example of this type of initiative is the Boat-to-Plate project funded by a grant from the Mid-Coast Fishermen’s Association. This project has developed an application allowing fishermen to upload information on their catches. Restaurant owners are using IoT insights like this to create unique dining experiences.

IoT and you

How do you plan to use IoT technology in 2017? Integrating IoT practices gives your business the food safety solution needed to ensure food safety, improve supply chain traceability, manage your inventory, and better control your bottom line.

About Vivian J. Smith

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