How technology can help hotels avoid food waste, safety risks

food scraps on a table with a knife
Hotels can streamline the paperwork by taking it digital, making it faster, easier, more accurate and convenient to complete inspections, Q&A checks, inventory, ordering and other essential daily tasks. Photo credit: Getty Images/MementoImage

Hotels that invest in digital temperature sensors with good software can prevent spoilage, reduce food waste, decrease food safety breaches and ultimately save hotels significant money.

Hotels of all sizes, from large-scale chains to independent single units, stand to benefit significantly from upgrading their commercial kitchens with the latest technology. Many resist this transition, fearing that tech tools will be expensive, complicated, and overwhelming to implement. In fact, as digital solutions become more mainstream within the restaurant and hospitality industry, they’ve become much more affordable, accessible and user-friendly. And the benefits of digital systems are numerous and substantial.   

While many industries have embraced technology—finding digital tools to improve productivity, safety and even profitability, the hospitality industry has been slow to adopt these technologies. Hotel kitchens have historically relied on pen and paper systems for ordering, inventory, and safety inspections, amongst other tasks.  

This outdated system makes it difficult to:

  • Access historic logs in a towering pile of paperwork. This is a problem, especially if your hotel has a foodborne illness, norovirus or Hepatitis A outbreak and your manager needs to find specific records for the Department of Health or a legal action.  
  • Analyze data easily and effectively. It’s nearly impossible to do any reporting with paper forms, whereas it’s quick, easy and accurate to do so with digital tools. Being able to see more integrated data allows hotel leadership to make more informed, educated decisions on a variety of important issues. 
  • Verify critical information. There’s a high risk for human error (or cheating) on paper logs and line checks, which puts guests and businesses at risk. Yet, many hotel chefs and managers continue to use pen and paper for important quality and safety checks because this is how they’ve always done it and they’re resistant to change. Tech tools with time stamps and geolocation provide digital “proof” that inspections were done correctly and on time.

While many in the hospitality industry continue to rely on antiquated “clipboard systems,” embracing technology can result in measurable improvements in efficiency, accuracy and safety, as well as a significant reduction in food waste. The biggest “wins” include:

1. Elevated safety checks. Digital tools allow staff to conduct more convenient, accurate and efficient line checks, which improves safety protocols. The newest digital tools are user-friendly and convenient—team members can use the smartphones in their pockets to conduct critical inspections and provide “proof” of critical safety measures (e.g., photos of the walk-in temp, etc.). 

Chefs and managers can instantly access that data in real-time, review the information from anywhere, and ensure that necessary tasks (e.g., inspections, ordering, inventory, etc.) were completed correctly, accurately and on time. Electronic systems also negate the need to decipher messy handwriting on paper forms, resulting in more accurate, usable results.  

2. A more holistic view. It’s critical for hospitality businesses to see sales information and other key data across the enterprise. It’s nearly impossible to get a comprehensive, big picture view when assessing paper records. Tech systems, on the other hand, provide more accurate, holistic, integrated data, allowing hotel leadership to quickly and easily see data trends across their organization. Additionally, records can be instantly accessed—no more digging through towering piles of paperwork looking for a specific document. 

3. Consistency, scalability, and flexibility. Now, it’s simple to install and utilize an integrated digital system that provides consistency from one unit to the next, creating value and scale across all concepts. Scalable systems grow with a hospitality brand as they expand and add new locations.  

4. More accurate temps. Cooking foods to proper temperatures—and holding them correctly—is instrumental in preventing foodborne safety incidents and reducing food waste. Digital sensors and thermometers ensure that foods are being held at and cooked to proper temperatures, reducing food safety risks, such as breaches caused by human error.  

Additionally, the latest sensors can alert staff to temperature fluctuations, which can be caused by equipment malfunction, power failure or human error (such as leaving a freezer door open). 

5. Streamlining processes. Chefs and managers appreciate tech tools’ ability to streamline and centralize information in the kitchen. For instance, if power goes out in the middle of night, staff can instantly and effortlessly tell what time it went out, how long it was out and the temperature of the walk-ins at any given time. This information is critical to food safety, preventing waste, etc. Tech tools are also a huge timesaver around daily tasks, like ordering, invoicing and monitoring critical points of hazards. 

6. Reducing food waste. Technology helps kitchen staff better manage the ordering process.  For instance, digital systems mean chefs and managers can easily access and analyze previous months’ sales numbers to gauge necessary volume: e.g., what were the top sellers and which items were less popular. Armed with this data, staff can be much more accurate in what (and how much) they order, resulting in less (expensive!) food waste and boosting profits accordingly.

7. Spending more time on what we love. Chefs and their teams typically don’t love the paperwork associated with their jobs, but it’s necessary to do it to boost safety and profitability. Hotels can streamline the paperwork by taking it digital, making it faster, easier, more accurate and convenient to complete inspections, quality-assurance checks, inventory, ordering and other essential daily tasks. Then, the staff can dedicate more time to doing what they love—cooking delicious food, creating new menu items, greeting guests and providing exceptional customer service.  

Deploying mobile workflow apps and sensor technologies can dramatically improve hotel kitchens’ efficiency, safety, and profitability, while reducing food safety risks and preventing expensive food waste. Today’s kitchen technology tools are affordable, user-friendly and scalable, so there’s never been a better time for hotel kitchens to go digital.  

Manik Suri is co-founder/CEO of CoInspect and Aaron Helfand is head chef at ThinkFoodGroup.

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