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IoT = Smarter kitchens, smarter business, safer food for all

The third in a four-part series brought to you by Par Technology Corp.

outdoor restaurantLunch rush is just hitting full swing as a party of four walks into a buzzing fast-casual restaurant for a quick bite. After placing their orders, one of them is handed a coaster sized sensor. Hitting up the soda fountain before finding a seat, the group decides to escape the crowded indoors for the outdoor patio. Seconds after the kitchen crew has the group’s order, a waiter takes a quick glance on a screen tracking the group’s sensor to the patio and cuts through the congested restaurant to have the food hot on the table within a few minutes of it being made.

While this everyday scenario shows a direct impact of the Internet of Things, or IoT, being beneficial to not only restaurants, but their customers as well, the data collection and tracking technology has even bigger payoffs when used in the back of the house.

Jarrod DellaChiesa, president of DellaChiesa Hospitality, a California based consulting firm with a specialty in technology, says as IoT technology becomes more affordable and advanced, it is quickly making its way into the restaurant sector of the food industry. Here are four ways restaurants can utilize IOT in their everyday business.

Par Tech series AD 02-20-17Safer food
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in six Americans fall ill from eating contaminated food each year, shooting food safety to the top of the priority list across all food industry sectors. A preventative action approach to food safety led to the passing of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) in 2011. Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) serve as the backbone of the law by identifying potential hazards and weak spots, or critical control points, in the production process before problems develop.

According to DellaChiesa, mountains of data points are collected to stay in compliance with FSMA, which include temperature logs, line checks and labor reports. Manually recording this data and keeping track of it by hand opens the door to not only human error, but increased labor. However, with IoT technology, HACCP checklists can be loaded onto a shared platform that will outline and prompt employees of responsibilities and also give notification when it is completed.

Efficient workflow
Remember the table tracking sensor given to the party of four during the lunch rush? Well, it also tracked the course taken through the restaurant. According to DellaChiesa, this type of information is not only beneficial to running things efficiently in the front of the house, but also improving workflow in the kitchen.

“This type of tracking helps us gain insight on what tables are most popular at what times, and also if there are any layout problems. For example, we can take a look at the data and see people are spending more time standing in line at the soda fountain or getting caught a few extra seconds at the cashier, and be able to go in and relieve that bottleneck,” he said.

“It also works with optimizing the kitchen. So if a restaurant is rolling out a new menu, they can have their cooks carry the same tracking sensors to analyze movement and see if production would increase by shifting ingredient stations around.”

24/7 equipment monitoring
Think of IoT as the eyes in the sky when it comes to its abilities with equipment monitoring and operation. The walk-in freezer door get left opened? Sensors can ping the kitchen manager’s phone before food temperatures become compromised. Need a maintenance report on the ice cream machine? It can be retrieved no matter where you are. Want to double check that the nightshift crew turned off all the appliances before locking up? Just hop on the monitoring system from the comfort of home.

Accessible data storage
With IoT there’s no need for piles of paper documents to have to sift through in the event of an inspection or food safety crisis. Instead, years of data can be stored and later found within a matter of seconds when needed.

“Saves on time, saves paper and saves on having to store all your records in an office,” said DellaChiesa. “It also allows a manager to not focus on every single little detail and put time towards making progress with the ability to pull reports and trends for later analysis.”

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