Food safety is the most basic principle for anyone dealing with or serving food, but it’s also just good business.
While keeping your customers safe and healthy when consuming your food may be a given when establishing your business strategy, the most astute operators do in fact plan for food safety as a top business priority. In this article, we outline the top reasons why food safety should be moving to the top of your business strategy.
At the end of the day, a food safety mishap puts both guests and staff in harm’s way. That is the most obvious reason to have food safety guidelines become a pillar of your business. But you should also be aware of the material impact it can have on your business.
A food safety problem could lead to a negative customer experience, and have a lasting impact on customer loyalty. We can all relate to how this plays out in other industries.
For example, if you’ve ever had a particularly negative experience with a specific airline, you will likely go out of your way to avoid flying with them again. You may even share your experience with and inspire others around you to avoid using the airline as well, for fear of them having a similar experience.
The same goes for food – any customer involved in a food safety issue at your store will likely not return and may even tell other customers about their experience, causing a chain reaction.
This is especially harmful to restaurants that rely on a stable, community-centered customer base. Your customers are trusting you to prepare safe food and will hold you accountable if you don’t live up to this promise.
If your store is part of a larger national franchise, a food safety incident at just one location could cause unfavorable speculation and attention for the entire national/international brand.
“Consumers have long memories, and there is no such thing as an isolated incident anymore. Focusing on food safety in this digital, social-media-powered era is more important than ever before.”, Food Safety Tech states.
Customers and the media may see one isolated incident as part of a major operational oversight or poor staff training. If the food safety issue rises to local or national media coverage, your business could be at risk of losing a sizable amount of support.
Both of the issues above can result in a damaged reputation for your business. As seen in the case of Chipotle’s food safety issues, a tainted reputation can last for years, even once you’ve overhauled and restructured your food safety strategy.
The unfavorable memory of one singular food safety incident may stay with customers for years and is reason enough to consider investing in food safety.
Surprise (and even planned) inspections underscore the importance of organized and systemic food safety practices. If an inspector were to come in and find that food safety logs had not been brought up to date, or seen that an employee chose not to perform a specific task, this could mean trouble for your business.
In this situation, an inspector could choose to fine your operations or even shut down your store altogether. Investing in a food safety program can help to avoid these risks, by ensuring that your store is always prepared for these situations.
Along with the loss of trust and reputation after a food safety incident, there are also significant material consequences, one being potential lawsuits and settlements. In fact, many lawyers specialize in prosecuting food safety cases, and these settlements can range from $30,000 to price tags in the millions.
In some extreme cases, paying a fine or legal settlement can cost an owner their entire business.
Of course, there are precautions you can take to avoid paying those hefty legal fees in the event of a food safety emergency. A general liability insurance policy typically covers legal fees related to food safety mishaps.
However, similarly to any insurance policy, there are limits and exceptions to what your policy will cover. And in the case of a food safety incident, your insurance provider may increase your premium to adjust for your business’ new risk level.
Lastly, you may also need to pay for more food safety training hours, and cope with extra staffing needs while that training takes place. On top of dealing with the potential revenue loss from skeptical customers, this could impact your bottom line.
We point out these potential issues not to scare foodservice operators, but to underscore the importance of food safety. It is something every business should not only consider and invest in, but position as a major pillar of internal and external culture.
Food safety begins at the top. Management should stress its importance and not only offer stringent guidelines but also provide staff with the tools they need to ensure every meal is made safely. This may mean investing in a digital food safety solution that makes food safety simple, efficient, and eventually, second-nature to your employees.
Stay tuned for more blog posts with tips and how-tos for incorporating food safety in your own operations.