There are few things that can raise your entire staff’s blood pressure like a health inspection or corporate audit, and for good reason. Food safety violations are a big hit on team morale and customer trust—and the most common critical health violations revolve around one core topic: food storage and temperature logging.
In a massive study of ~160,000 restaurants between 1993 and 2000, violations related to thermometer access in coolers were recorded over 69,500 times (43.5% occurrence rate). Other violations regarding food storage were found 69,000 times (43.1% occurrence rate).
Thankfully, there are simple ways restaurant operators can streamline their temperature logging processes and wow the next inspector who walks through the doors.
The more units you have, the more essential these become.
We’ll walk through it all, including…
Ready to nix temperature logging as a headache?
Food storage and temperature logging violations can occur for a number of reasons, but these are the most common:
Next, let’s review the three items that inspectors want to see when they visit your restaurant. If you’re able to make a good impression on all three fronts, the upsides are significant:
This is great for an operator of one restaurant. For the multi-unit franchise owner who largely runs their business remotely, the benefits compound.
The logbook is the core vital in any restaurant temperature monitoring system. When a health inspector or corporate auditor arrives, they want to discover that it is:
We’ve also heard anecdotal reports that inspectors across the industry are beginning to favor digital food safety systems with robust reporting, rather than manual logbooks. Physical binders are prone to spills, misplaced pages, and other issues you don’t encounter with digital records.
Inspectors are well-trained at reviewing logbook data. They’ve reviewed thousands, and they know how to spot dry labbing or pencil whipping when they see it.
Dry labbing is when data is recorded without being measured. Pencil whipping is when employees “whip” a checkmark to mark a task complete without actually doing the task.
To the trained inspector’s eye, there are a few easy tells that pencil whipping is happening in your restaurant:
Thankfully, there are practical ways you can stop employees from dry labbing. And although it may give the impression that your coolers or freezers fluctuate more in temperatures (usually only +/- 2 degrees or so), it’ll actually look more authentic and trustworthy to inspectors.
Auditors are especially happy when they see remote temperature monitoring systems. Digital thermometers in these systems automatically take temperatures regularly and send them to spreadsheets or digital food safety tools—no employee errors, dry labbing, or skipped tasks.
To inspectors, remote temperature monitoring signals there’s no room for employee error, and that you’re on the ball when it comes to food safety.
The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was a landmark improvement in food safety and traceability, putting a greater emphasis on minimizing risk across the food supply chain, rather than reactively responding to errors and hazards.
While most foodservice operations are exempt from FSMA’s most strict regulations, many enterprise chains have modeled aspects of their corporate food safety programs after the regulation, and there’s one element in particular that inspectors love to see: corrective actions.
Inspectors are used to seeing restaurants do the bare minimum with temperature monitoring, but having a clear corrective action system is a major boost in trust.
With manual logbooks, corrective action systems are difficult to create. Employees have to recognize malfunctions as they occur and report the issue—in the heat of a regular shift, this isn’t likely to happen.
Here’s how the most effective corrective action systems function:
This is far beyond what the average restaurant operator does to monitor temperatures—but it should be the industry norm.
Automated temperature monitoring systems (1) run on their own, (2) are immune to dry labbing, (3) alert you to errors before you lose thousands of dollars of ingredients, and (4) are a great way to establish reliability during inspections.
For the owner of multiple franchise units, this systematic reliability is a no-brainer.