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How to improve the HACCP Food Safety Systems in your Restaurants

January 29, 2020
CMX
by CMX
CMX
by CMX

How to improve the HACCP Food Safety Systems in your Restaurants

Although Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) has been a term of substantial significance to the Food and Beverage industry for more than three decades - sweeping technological changes and social media prevalence requires changes in how HACCP processes are executed today. While the underlying 7 principles of HACCP remain of critical importance, the increased complexity of delivering a consistent customer experience and the public relations nightmare that restaurants can face from a food safety incident, brands are compelled to change with the times.  

Increasingly regional, national, and global restaurant chains are using web-based and native apps to perform line checks, temperature monitoring, and HACCP compliance related procedures to ensure food safety, quality, and consistency. So, if you’ve been considering making the switch from “pen and paper” checklists, there’s never been a better time. Below, we’ll discuss the ins and outs of HACCP and why digitization of these operational procedures is beneficial

 

What is HACCP?

In 1995, the National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods met to review their original 1992 Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) system. The goal was the creation of a systematic approach to the identification, evaluation, and control of food safety hazards. This system provides a uniform guideline for restaurants to ensure safe food storage and handling practices. In order to accomplish this, they created the 7 basic HACCP principles:

 

1. Conduct a hazard analysis – Develop a list of hazards (chemical, biological, physical) that are a significant enough part of the process to potentially cause injury or illness if not effectively controlled.

For restaurants this means creating a list of hazards related to your menu - including all ingredients used and their sources. This also includes how the food is stored, prepared, and cooked (if applicable) including equipment used.

How to Improve the HACCP Food Safety Systems in Your Restaurants

2. Determine the critical control points (CCPs) – Points where hazards could be prevented, reduced, or eliminated.

Restaurants should pay attention to hazards that could lead to contamination. Specifically food storage and cook time temperatures, food preparation and sanitization practices.  Critical Control Point examples include:

A. Receiving food from a distributor

B. Food storage area and equipment

C. Food handling and preparation area and equipment

D. Hot and cold holding units

3. Establish critical limits – The maximum or minimum value to which critical control points must be set in order to prevent, eliminate, or reduce a food safety hazard.

This is especially important for restaurant staff in giving them specific instructions on how to keep food safe.

4. Establish monitoring procedures – A strategic and repetitive series of observations/measurements that are used to ensure that the CCP is controlled and accurate records are able to be kept and verified.

 

Utilizing restaurant technology automation for Operational Excellence

For example, restaurants should have established routines and processes for verifying temperatures for everything from cold-holding units to cooking temperatures for raw meat. This should also apply to items like the use of test strips to verify the mix of sanitization chemicals. Having a schedule and specifically assigned individuals removes ambiguity and increases accountability.

5. Establish corrective actions – Once noncompliance processes or unacceptable hazards are identified, you must create and then record the corrective actions that are being taken in response.

Training and instructing your restaurant employees on how to take corrective action when an issue is found is an essential aspect of maintaining your food safety system. “Recommended corrective actions” can be a valuable training tool for instructing employees on which actions to take and how to complete them.

6. Establish verification procedures – Activities that gauge the efficacy of the HACCP plan.

For restaurants, it’s critical to establish checklist, verification, and operational routines for each day part and shift throughout the week and to regularly verify your HACCP system is working. Verifying your HACCP system establishes a culture of “Operational and Quality Excellence” and reinforces expected behaviors. Also, having the management team perform routine self-assessments helps gauge overall compliance with regulatory and brand standards.

Download our guide on Checklist Management

 

7. Establish record-keeping and documentation procedures – A summary that overviews everything from the initial hazard analysis, the HACCP plan, the assignments, roles and duties, to the support documentation proving procedures were fulfilled. 

It’s crucial for restaurants to have detailed records on hand for inevitable audits by state inspectors and 3rd party auditors, and reviews by above restaurant field managers. Keeping temperature logs, equipment maintenance logs, operational records, and completed corrective actions shows a culture of compliance and that critical limits are in place and procedures are being followed to prevent food safety issues and for the prevention of foodborne illnesses. 

The Key Problems with Traditional HACCP

The primary objective of any HACCP system is to prevent problems, ensure that food is safe to eat, and to eliminate any threat of biological, chemical, or physical hazards. And while the updates made by the National Advisory Committee were a marked step forward that significantly raised the safety and quality bar, they weren’t foolproof. This was largely due to the fact that they relied upon paper-based systems and execution carried out by humans.  

 

Problem #1: Paper-Based Systems

Using this outdated approach, the vast majority of monitoring for safety and quality had to be conducted using paper-based forms and checklists. Staff had to comply with these checks, not just on a daily basis, but sometimes hourly. This process became tougher to constantly sustain since there were dozens, if not hundreds of CCPs that had to be regularly checked. 

Even once these routine paper-based inspections were finished, that data had to be recorded, particularly if you wanted to perform any type of trend analysis or audit. This required the manual logging of all that data into a computer database or spreadsheet.

Per Food and Safety Magazine: “In the intervening years, the limitations of paper-based systems have become painfully clear:

  • Operations were tedious and labor-intensive 
  • High likelihood for transcription errors
  • Tiring and time-consuming data logging
  • Inefficient record retrieval
  • Significant cost and data space requirements for data storage”

In short, a paper-based model was costly, hurt productivity, and failed to provide real-time recording. To make matters worse, there was an even more glaring vulnerability with such a system—it had to be ensured and upheld by humans.  

 

Problem #2: Human Error and Negligence

Even with a perfect food safety system, humans have a tendency to throw a wrench in the best laid plans—whether by incompetence, laziness, forgetfulness, or honest error. For example, food safety can be compromised by an employee leaving beef patties out rather than moving them to cold storage, or by a chef that fails to properly monitor the chicken temperature and sends it out undercooked.

As Quality Assurance Magazine writes: When the staff fails to follow the HACCP plan, it also can result in CCP deviation. There are a number of human failures that can contribute to CCP failure. Employees could forget to monitor and not check the CCP, or they could perform the check, but not on time. Or, they performed the check on time, but did it incorrectly. Other human failures include using incorrect test piece sizes for metal detection and completing the documentation before the monitoring activity is completed (falsification of documentation).

Recalls_burger_woman-1

 

Just one breakdown caused by human error can create a ripple effect throughout the entire HACCP process. And, time and again, brands that employed a non-digital HACCP Process inevitably ran into several human-related problems, including: 

  • Employees didn’t have needed expertise or knowledge in key HACCP areas, particularly risk evaluation and hazard analysis.
  • Employees lacked the motivation to repeatedly carry out and maintain best practices.
  • There was an organizational culture from top to bottom that disregards the importance of HACCP. 
  • Company-wide failure to instill the right attitude and skills for continued system maintenance and upkeep. 
  • Overly complex HACCP systems with too many CCPs.
  • Bad documentation, largely due to overly complex HACCP systems.
  • Ineffective validation and verification.
  • Improper or ineffective monitoring and corrective actions, resulting from poor culture, training, and verification.

Most every one of these issues can be chalked up to some combination of human error, poor culture, and improper guidance and management. But what’s the solution to these problems?

In its 1997 HACCP brief, the FDA suggested the following:

For a successful HACCP program to be properly implemented, management must be committed to a HACCP approach. A commitment by management will indicate an awareness of the benefits and costs of HACCP and include education and training of employees. Benefits, in addition to enhanced assurance of food safety, are better use of resources and timely response to problems.

While they were absolutely correct about the prescription, it failed in that it lacked the mechanism to enforce it. Little did they know that the answer to that issue would come in the form of the digitalization of HACCP.  

 

A Better Approach to HACCP

The Key Benefits of Restaurant Technology for Automation and Operational Excellence

 

Realizing the limitations and problems posed by a traditional approach to HACCP - a growing number of restaurant chains are ditching the outdated pen and paper checklists for HACCP in favor of IoT devices, automated Bluetooth sensors, and formidable work management and operational execution software. 

In a word, they’ve gone digital. 

Naturally, you may wonder whether it’s a worthwhile investment. Forbes writes:

CEOs are in the business of managing the business to make a profit—and are not necessarily versed in the lingua franca of science—based solutions that microbiologists, chemists or food engineers propose. But investments in food safety systems, technologies, testing and tools are just that—economic investments of either money, staff or time that must be justified at the bottom line or to the company’s shareholders. 

Download our guide on Checklist Management

 

Fortunately, there are several tangible benefits that justify the investment for digital transformation of your HACCP System including: 

 

1. Increases productivity – The more checks there are and the more frequently they have to be performed, the more time employees must spend manually conducting the checks and inputting the data. Additionally, managers have to spend time reviewing both the paperwork and the logs.

By automating the process, you free up time for employees that could be better spent serving customers or running the restaurant. In addition, managers are now able to review logs and pull pertinent information far more efficiently. 

HACCP Plan for Restaurants

2. Ensures compliance – One of the largest issues with pen and paper checklists is that there’s no way to verify whether or not they were actually done, done properly, done at the scheduled time, or by whom.

Digitizing HACCP processes and line checks prevents “pencil whipping” since checks are time stamped and record who carried out the task, and when completed. This confirms that employees are complying with all of the food safety procedures and checks you put in place, and thus ensures that you are maintaining your food safety and quality standards. 

3. Increased visibility and control – With paper-based records, managers must be physically in the store or restaurant to review and process the information. For brands that have hundreds, if not thousands of locations, such a model is unsustainable.

With digital recording, managers and brands can access the records centrally through the cloud for any restaurant at any time. This grants them complete visibility as well as the ability to make changes to their programs and ensure corrective actions are being taken without having to physically visit a site. 

4. Better data – Even if HACCP procedures were being done as intended, paper-based systems only provided a few data points throughout the day. This gave managers a snapshot of what was going on but failed to paint the entire picture since there were gaps between one data point and the next.

When you go digital, you have a continuous record, which amounts to thousands of data points that the system can use each day to perform the most accurate analysis.  

5. Alert you to potential issues – Digital HACCP can act as an “early warning system.”

When automated monitoring sensors notice a potential problem, they can warn employees before they evolve into serious issues. For example, digital temperature monitors provide real-time readings that continuously update and alert the staff if temperatures are reaching dangerously high or low levels.

6. Improved record access and security – Paper-based records quickly get out of hand; they require tons of space, an effective filing system, and secure storage. Failure to do so can result in lost, damaged, or stolen files.

By hosting all of your data in the cloud, you completely eliminate this potential pain point and make it easy to pull up records on demand. 

Improving the HACCP Process in Your Restaurants with CMX

Achieving Active Managerial Control, executing on your HACCP Plan, and ensuring food safety and quality is no easy task - and its significance can’t be understated.

However, failure to comply with your HACCP processes could harm customers and result in serious consequences. Customer trust in your brand can erode due to one food safety incident. Performing your line checks, temperature logs, and HACCP processes manually only increases the likelihood of such a failure eventually occurring.

Fortunately, there’s a better way. By adopting a digital HACCP system like the CMX1 platform, you can better manage your food safety and quality. Such a system increases productivity, visibility, and helps foster Quality and Operational Excellence. All of which drives customer satisfaction and revenue.

 

Resources

So, if you’re looking for a way to improve your Restaurant's HACCP system, you've come to the right place. Reach out to us today and one of our experts can show you how to get the ball rolling and help you go digital. 

Did you know that CMX1 isn't just for HACCP? Interested in learning more about why you should be ditching your paper checklists and automating all your restaurant operations? Visit our blog on the very topic here.

We’ve also written about the "Essential Technology Drivers needed for Restaurant Operational Excellence". Visit our blog on the topic here or better yet download our eBook on the topic here

 

Footnote: 

The Food and Drug Administration created guidelines for the Hazard Analysis Critical Point Program (HACCP) and requires it as a part of all Food Manager certification programs. The FDA's goal is the limiting of the spread of foodborne illnesses through proper management procedures. HACCP is also a requirement of all American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Food Safety Manager's programs. One such program is available through training seminars such as ServSafe.

Sources: 

Food and Safety Magazine. Moving from Paper to Electronic HACCP Records. https://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/magazine-archive1/februarymarch-2009/moving-from-paper-to-electronic-haccp-records/

Quality Assurance Magazine. HACCP Deviations. 

https://www.qualityassurancemag.com/article/aib0814-haccp-deviations-ccp-failure/

FDA. HACCP Principle and Application Guidelines. https://www.fda.gov/food/hazard-analysis-critical-control-point-haccp/haccp-principles-application-guidelines

Forbes. The CEO’s Shopping List for Safer Food and Bigger Profits. https://www.forbes.com/sites/billmarler/2015/06/08/the-ceos-shopping-list-for-safer-food-and-bigger-profits/#4a0ee4174fe8

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