Compliance in food safety has never been more crucial for the hospitality industry. With the news that 70% of hospitality workers report lacking confidence on allergen procedures, it’s time for contract caterers to review their risk management procedures to assess how safety checks are implemented.
Malcolm Muir, consultancy director at Venners, offers his top 10 tips for contract caterers on staying within the law to ensure pupils receive the safest dining experience.
1. Compliance must go to the top of the training agenda – Given the worrying statistics suggesting the majority of hospitality staff lack confidence on allergen procedures, training has to become a natural prerequisite across the industry. Tell your teams about allergens – this may sound obvious, but you’ll be amazed how many contract caterers don’t.
2. Empower your teams to take ownership – A key priority for every operator must be to explain and ensure teams understand the consequences of not following what may seem to them a simple and unimportant operational procedure. Empower them to take ownership and responsibility, because if they don’t, the worst-case scenario with a breakdown of the system, could lead to a needless fatality.
3. Beware! Protect all the links in the compliance chain – With staff turnover across the hospitality sector currently standing at 30%, the effect of just one person not being trained to the same level as existing employees, will eventually mean the original control procedures put in place will fail. Contract caterers need to beware, because once a single link is broken, the rest of the compliance chain can become useless.
4. Check, review and check again – Contract caterers need to be carrying out weekly checks to ensure staff are continuously up-to-date on compliance procedures. Every member of the team must remain aware and focussed on the delivery of procedures. Ongoing checklists are a useful tool, but these must be treated as a thorough check, not just a tick-list. Caterers need to check, review and check again.
5. Look at your business through the eyes of your customers – It’s imperative for contract caterers to step outside the business and look back in from a customer perspective. This is harder to do than it sounds. Often it is difficult for caterers to disengage from their expectations of procedures, so I’d advise either asking a trusted colleague or a specialist company to carry this out.
6. Scores on the doors – According to the Food Standards Agency (FSA), food hygiene ratings influence 72% of consumers in their decision to dine with an operator. It is therefore vital for contract caterers to have stringent processes in place for the hygienic handling of food, cleanliness and condition of facilities and building, together with the hygienic management of food safety. This includes having systems or checks in place to ensure food sold or served is safe to eat, food safety is well managed and good standards maintained.
7. Ensure expert risk management is in place – Deciding who is responsible for compliance management is vital. We’re seeing a trend towards contract caterers appointing a risk manager to cover various compliance elements across the business. However, problems can arise – for example, financial risk is totally different to food safety risk, so the skills and expertise to manage both may not be available in-house.
8. Get a true picture of risk at every site – Risk is often discussed at Board level, however, the true level of risk on a site-by-site basis does not always filter back through the various management levels back to the boardroom. Area and regional managers have been known to paint a picture of compliance control within their designated areas, to avoid a poor performance score affecting their reputation. It’s therefore advisable for the Board to instruct an independent source that is not encumbered by internal politics to produce risk and compliance data for a true reflection of the company’s risk status.
9. Watch all branches of the brand – Franchising has grown to be a significant force in the UK economy. However, it’s important for contract caterers with a franchise business model to ensure that not only do franchisees stay on-message with the brand, but also adhere to parent company principles when it comes to food safety – something which is not easy to regulate. Remember, one break in the compliance chain can lead to a collapse in remaining procedures, making it difficult to recover from reputational damage.
10. Waste not want not – It’s not only food safety compliance that’s hot on the risk agenda for 2020. Waste management is also a top contender as we enter a time of heightened awareness among consumers about sustainability and the true cost of eating out – not only financial but environmental too. It’s therefore advisable for caterers to treat waste and the business approach to it with the same honesty as food safety.