Now more than ever, grocery stores and restaurants are converging into a single service category – a category which focuses on delivering safe and quality food. Especially now, when a trip to your local Whole Foods or Wegmans for groceries can easily double as a trip out for lunch; many grocery operational procedures and services have become more complex.
Over the past couple of years, grocery stores have begun adopting a number of best practices from the QSR industry, including food safety processes. However, it hasn’t been limited to this area of operations. In this article, we’ll look at the three biggest trends where restaurant technology is showing up in grocery aisles.
While COVID-19 has accelerated the grocery/restaurant convergence, grocery still lags behind restaurants in adopting technology to support all of their operational best practices. Technologies such as digital checklists and automated food testing have helped thousands of restaurants streamline their operations, eliminate food waste, cut costs, and ensure food safety.
These technological advancements can personalize, differentiate, and enhance the customer journey, resulting in more customers and an increase in overall customer loyalty.However, it’s not just about the customer’s experience. Digital solutions make more sense for operations in general. They help cut operating costs and streamline day to day tasks for workers, which results in a more efficient business.
Digital checklists give employees visibility into the effectiveness of food safety strategies. Previously, tasks used to be recorded manually on paper, which left margin for error. Also, responses to food safety incidents would be delayed due to manual processes. However, a digital checklist gives managers clarity into compliance and operational procedures, instantly.
In restaurants, digital checklists enable easier back of house operations in terms of storing foods, serving, and managing employees. The main priority is to ensure food safety for customers. For grocers, this priority does not change. Digitized checklists allow managers to track the food service process and work of each employee. It increases accountability by creating a channel for clear communication, increasing accuracy compared to previous methods of pen and paper. Task completion is stored in a cloud, allowing managers to easily review completed tasks and offer feedback in a short period of time.
Managing workflow is not easy, but having to manage it over multiple stores is much more complex. With checklists, this process is greatly simplified. It gives visibility to managers and operators over entire enterprises.. This works for both chain restaurants as well as chain food retail establishments.
Grocery stores can achieve the same benefits by deploying digital checklists across the deli, kitchen, café, butcher block, and seafood departments. Food safety is critical for grocery businesses. The variety of foods they offer, from poultry to raw meats to fresh produce, making sure each product is uncontaminated and safe to consume is incredibly crucial. With digital checklists, there is already a solid foundation to ensuring food safety both during operations and on the floor. While the checklists themselves might be modified to the idiosyncrasies of grocery, digital checklists can help streamline operations across the board.
In the face of COVID-19, the entire food services industry is focused on food and customer safety. Both the National Restaurant Association and the National Grocers Association point to the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) “Best Practices for Retail Food Stores, Restaurants, and Food Pick-Up/Delivery Services During the COVID-19 Pandemic.”
But, here again, the restaurant industry has a laser-like focus on food safety. This year the National Restaurant Association celebrated the 30th anniversary of its ServSafe Food Safety Training program with an education campaign that ran throughout the month of September. The five-week program addressed personal hygiene, cleaning and sanitation, safe food preparation, food safety procedures, and Covid-19 safety procedures.
Automated Food Temperature Monitoring can be especially effective in groceries where there are often multiple coolers where food inventory is manually checked and logged on paper daily. By some estimates, grocery stores have ten times as many freezers as restaurants do. By implementing a digital, automated solution for recording and checking food temperatures, the results are only positive for your business. It provides greater accuracy and safety, along with improved food safety compliance in your grocery store.
Both digital checklists and remote monitoring help restaurants, grocery stores, and other food services operations pass health inspections and audits. Instead of digging through paper-based manager playbooks to find the required information, digital reporting forms are available on-demand anytime and anywhere.
As grocery stores begin to adapt to more technology in their operations, it opens the door for countless opportunities. One element that select few grocery stores have begun implementing is going cashierless.
With technology from Amazon Go, stores can minimize human-to-human interaction. Shoppers entering the store scan a mobile app at a glass-gate turnstile, which is also where cameras and other sensors detect which items shoppers pick up and carry out of the store. Their purchases then get charged to whatever payment method the shopper has on file with Amazon.
In addition to contactless payment, the idea of a SmartCart has been in the works, mainly being tested in grocery stores in New Zealand. It has the same concept of the Amazon Go, but instead of sensors picking up bought products as shoppers walk out the door, they’re being scanned as shoppers put them into their carts or baskets. So, every time a shopper puts a grocery item in the trolley, it will be automatically scanned and charged to their account
Obviously, these technological concepts aren’t completely foolproof. There’s been skepticism surrounding the idea of going cashierless. Regardless, as technology becomes more advanced, it only makes sense for retail establishments to progress along with it.
Overall, new technology within grocery stores will help streamline operations and create better experiences for customers. Grocers can learn and adopt practices from the restaurant industry to help create more efficient processes. If you’d like to learn more about how digital checklists and automated food temperature monitoring can help grocery stores, please contact us.