Study projects financial consequences of foodborne illness outbreaks
New research suggests a single foodborne illness outbreak could cost a restaurant millions of dollars in lost revenue, fines, lawsuits, legal fees, insurance premium increases, inspection costs and staff retraining. Science Daily reports that the study, published in Public Health Reports by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, is based on the results of a computational simulation model designed to demonstrate the effect of a single outbreak of a particular pathogen at a restaurant. It then assessed results for fast food, fast casual, casual and fine dining restaurants. The model also ran different scenarios to determine the impact level of smaller outbreaks that might incur fewer costs and larger outbreaks that incur substantial costs. The researchers found that a single listeria outbreak in fast food and fast casual restaurants could cost $2.5 million or higher in lost meals, lawsuits, legal costs, fines and insurance premiums for a 250-person outbreak. Projected costs were slightly higher for fine-dining restaurants. The costs of these outbreaks can have long-term and even lasting consequences on the business. In light of the findings, the study suggested restaurants invest in specific training that minimizes the risk of outbreaks, as well as consider policies for employee time off to recover from illness.
What’s your food delivery plan?
Food delivery is poised for continued innovation—and restaurants are wise to find a way to make offsite dining work financially. Food delivery sales have increased 20 percent in the past five years, while restaurant traffic has remained relatively flat, according to a new study from NPD Group. There is room for food delivery sales to climb even higher: Technomic forecasts predict food delivery to grow 12 percent annually over the next several years. One factor helping to drive that growth, Technomic found, is the growing demand for off-premise dining by millennials. To compete, operators are finding ways to accommodate consumer demand for their favorite food whenever and wherever they want it. Skift Table reports that delivery innovator Domino’s is launching a program that will let customers receive their food delivery at a “hotspot” location that lacks an address (e.g., a park, beach or destination where people are apt to gather for pizza). CBC Radio Canada reports that to adapt to the competitive delivery market, restaurants in many Canadian cities are trying an online-only model whereby they have no in-house or walk-up traffic, but instead offer delivery exclusively via app-based ordering systems. Operators are finding that if they must decide between offering food in-house or via delivery, off-premise options are winning out.
Manage your fruit and vegetable waste
American consumers throw out about a pound of food each day, with those eating the healthiest diets generating the most waste, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This could make it more urgent for everyone -- foodservice operators included -- to manage their fruit and vegetable waste effectively. In a recent Upserve report, chefs around the country shared their waste-reduction tips. The owner of Crêpe Bar in Tempe, Ariz. sources his produce locally and asks farmers to send it with tops intact so he can use the entire item in his recipes. The bartender at Boleo Restaurant & Bar in Chicago takes produce that would otherwise go to waste and created special cocktails featuring the ingredients —a portion of the cocktails’ proceeds benefits Zero Waste Chicago.
Prevent the spread of Hepatitis A
Foodservice workers have been linked to a recent multi-state outbreak of the Hepatitis A virus that infected 1,200 people and killed 40 people, Food Safety News reports. While the most recent cases occurred in Arkansas and Indiana, food safety officials around the country are working to contain the outbreak and inform the public about it. The virus can cause serious liver problems and sometimes death in those it infects. Food and beverages can become contaminated with Hepatitis A when an infected person transfers microscopic traces of feces from their hands to the items being consumed. Handwashing is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of the virus, which can survive on surfaces and when frozen.
Avoid contamination when chilling foods
When it comes to food safety in your restaurant kitchen, the shelves of your refrigerator can speak volumes. To prevent contamination of the items being chilled, StateFoodSafety.com advises that in the refrigerator, ready-to-eat foods are stored on the top shelves, followed by raw whole meats and seafood below them, then ground meats and seafood, then raw poultry products at the very bottom.
Touchscreens aren’t all alike
Touchscreens have become ubiquitous at restaurants — at point-of-sale terminals, on tables and in the hands of servers. But as Modern Restaurant Management reports, there are pros and cons to the types of touchscreen technology that dominate the industry right now. The report advises that before deciding which type of touchscreen is best for business, operators should ask themselves how their customers will interact with the technology, whether the screen will need to resist grease, water or other spills, if employees will be wearing gloves or using a stylus to operate the touchscreen, and if users will need a zoom feature. For instance, projected capacitive touchscreen technology, common in smart phones, can be more expensive and may be difficult to use with gloves. But its touch accuracy tends to be higher, it has a more modern appearance and it allows for zooming and other image adjustments. Conversely, wire resistive touchscreens are less expensive and tend to resist the grease and spills that can be problematic in restaurants, but the screens aren’t as sensitive and may be more vulnerable to dings and scratches.
AI helps craft the perfect cocktail
As casual restaurants work to improve sales, they are eagerly incorporating technology to draw in millennial and Gen Z consumers. TGI Friday’s, for one, is using artificial intelligence in a way that could appeal to a wide range of restaurant guests. Adweek reports that in a pilot program at its Texas restaurants, the chain is having guests answer a series of questions on an iPad about their mood, likes and dislikes, which a virtual bartender then uses to create a personalized cocktail recipe that the real-life bartender mixes up. There may be room to bring this technology into restaurant kitchens as well.
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