Food businesses that invest in digital temperature sensors will experience important benefits: reducing food safety breaches, preventing food waste, and saving significant money. Digital temperature sensors are a smart and important investment for restaurants and other food businesses.
Imagine this: Your restaurant’s walk-in cooler malfunctions overnight. When your manager arrives the next morning, the walk-in isn’t working, and she has no idea how long it’s been down. There’s no way to tell exactly how long the food has been in the temperature “danger zone” where harmful bacteria grows rapidly. The GM is forced to throw out all of the food from the walk-in – thousands of dollars’ worth of product – to avoid possible food safety breaches. To add insult to injury, now your staff doesn’t have necessary items for service that day.
Another scenario: Perhaps one of your employees accidentally left the walk-in cooler door open during dinner prep one hot summer day. Since the staff was busy, no one checked the equipment as part of routine daily temp log inspections. There’s no way to tell how long the door was open, whether the food is safe, and if temperatures hit the danger zone. Your GM is faced with a terrible choice: does she throw out all the product, disrupting service and wasting money, or serve it to the full house and hope that no foodborne illness results from this error?
More than 85 percent of restaurants’ food safety and product loss issues revolve around time and temperature. Equipment malfunctions, there’s an overnight power outage, employees make errors, and product is compromised as a result.
Now, increasingly, restaurants and other food businesses are relying on continuous temperature monitoring sensors to prevent food safety breaches, protect product, and keep their business safer. In an industry with tight margins and rising competition, the savviest restaurants are investing in digital temp monitoring sensors to increase food safety protocols, reduce expensive product loss, and ensure brand protection.
The newest digital sensors are more reliable, affordable, accessible and user-friendly than ever before. Yet research by CoInspect shows that fewer than 5 percent of restaurants are using continuous monitoring sensors to track temperatures.
Why are restaurants resisting digital sensors? A few common reasons include:
- Cost misperceptions. Most operators, especially those with smaller restaurants or independents, think they can’t afford digital sensors. But the latest models are affordable and feasible for a range of budgets. In fact, some new sensors are 80 percent less expensive than previous models. In addition, some sensors are now being sold as a subscription service, so there’s no expensive upfront costs for purchasing hardware. This allows restaurants to make subscription payments for their sensors, as they do for laundry, payroll, or other monthly expenses.
- Lack of awareness. Many operators don’t realize that 24/7 temperature monitoring sensors are instrumental in preventing food safety breaches and reducing or eliminating product loss. Digital sensors have already showed great value in healthcare, transportation and hospitality businesses, offering tremendous improvements in food safety and brand protection, as well as a reduction in expensive product loss.
- Fear of change. Many operators want to stick to “the way we’ve always done it,” despite inarguable proof that digital tools are making measurable improvements in restaurants nationwide. Operators worry that digital sensors will be complicated and overwhelming to set up and use. In reality, sensor installation is fast and easy with restaurant-ready sensor kits that take minutes to self-install in freezers, walk-ins, and low boy coolers. Additionally, operators are finding that these sensors are user-friendly, convenient and tremendously valuable.
Deploying continuous equipment temperature sensors offer many significant benefits in the food service industry. For instance, they:
- Improve food safety – Continuous temperature monitoring sensors help ensure that equipment is working properly, carefully monitor temperatures 24/7, and provide proactive alerts to any temp issues that could create food safety risks. If there’s any deviation in temperature – due to equipment malfunction, power outage, human error, etc. – the sensors send real-time alerts, allowing restaurant staff to immediately address the issues before they become a food safety threat.
- Reduce common pathogens. Foods must be kept out of the temperature danger zone of 41 degrees F to 135 degrees F where dangerous bacteria can quickly multiply, making foods unsafe to eat. The most common and effective way to prevent harmful pathogen growth is with time-temperature control. It’s critical to keep hot foods hot, and cold foods cold. It’s also essential to pay attention to time, as bacteria require time to multiply. Having foods held outside of proper temperatures for an extended period e.g., delivery of refrigerated foods that are left out in the hot sun for an entire afternoon, foods are not properly held on a buffet table all day, or foods are left in a malfunctioning refrigerator overnight, will allow the bacteria to multiply and increase the risk of contamination. It’s also important to note uncooked or undercooked foods are a common source of Hepatitis A outbreaks, so it’s essential to cook foods to temperatures capable of killing the virus – 185 degrees F.
- Elevate operations. Human errors are common in restaurant kitchens, especially during busy shifts. Often, team members neglect to complete temp checks or take temperatures improperly, causing food temps to rise into the danger zone. Sensors can streamline operational checks and eliminate labor-intensive tasks, preventing mistakes that can be costly in terms of expensive product loss and catastrophic foodborne illness.
- Alert staff to equipment failure & reduce downtime. Equipment malfunctions sometimes, and delays in noticing an equipment failure can slow down service time, limit menu items available during a shift, increase foodborne illness risks, and negatively impact the guest experience. If a malfunctioning walk-in cooler goes unnoticed overnight, food is compromised, product needs to be tossed, and the restaurant will face food shortages for their upcoming shifts. Automated temperature sensors alert operators to any issues in real-time, allowing rapid response and reducing downtime.
- Reduce product loss. By monitoring freezers, walk-in coolers and other equipment around the clock – and receiving real-time alerts for any breach in the system – restaurants can eliminate expensive product loss due to equipment failures between shifts or overnight.
There are numerous and significant benefits to using digital temp monitoring sensors in restaurants and other food businesses. The newest models are:
- Scalable: can be used in one location or deployed to multiple locations (e.g., across an entire restaurant chain).
- Configurable: allow managers to set thresholds for time and temperature e.g. send an alert if walk-in is 5 degrees out of target range for more than 15 minutes.
- Convenient: offering real-time alerts and data available at any time, from anywhere, which is invaluable for managers who travel between sites and need instant, virtual access to data.
- Reliable: modern 24/7 temp monitoring solutions incorporate LoRa (long-range radio) technology, which is more reliable than previous models using WiFi or Bluetooth, which often can’t penetrate back-of-house environments.
- Smart: in addition to real-time alerts on temps and potential issues, digital sensors send managers “Preventative Maintenance Suggested” alerts when equipment fluctuations suggest a breakdown is imminent, allowing them to pro-actively address the issue before it becomes a more serious problem.
- Affordable: the latest sensors are up to 80 percent less expensive than previous models. Also, tech companies are increasingly offering “Sensors as a Service” – so organizations can make affordable monthly subscription payments for the tools.
- User-friendly: restaurant-ready “sensor kits” make them quick and easy to self-install and very simple to use.
Modern restaurant tech solutions are game-changers in restaurant kitchens. They reduce human error, improve operational efficiencies, eliminate food waste and strengthen food safety. Embracing technology also makes it possible to see a more holistic, big-picture view across an enterprise, allowing restaurants to make data-driven decisions about their operations.
Savvy restauranteurs are gaining a competitive advantage by investing in sensors in their restaurants. Continuous equipment sensors offer tremendous value to food businesses. Most importantly, they’ll keep your food, guests and business healthy and safe.
About the author: Manik Suri is Founder and CEO of CoInspect, a company that builds innovative tech solutions to help restaurants better manage food safety and quality. CoInspect’s technology tools are used by restaurants, retailers, food manufacturers, and government health departments.
(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)