Published 01 September 2020
The reopening of some food businesses around the world means that the food industry could be moving towards a possible ‘new normal’. Despite these steps in the right direction, it is essential that key practices implemented during the early days of the pandemic are not forgotten.
Food businesses have incorporated many new health and safety protocols in order to keep their staff and customers safe. They also have adhered to strict regulations from governmental bodies as a condition of reopening. As time goes on and food businesses continue to operate in the ‘new normal’, there are some habits that food businesses should never break, even if things appear to be how they were pre-pandemic. Here is a breakdown of key habits that food businesses must continue to practice:
Hygiene protocols such as proper hand washing have always been a key part of food safety training, even before the COVID-19 pandemic. The way to properly wash hands involves using soap and warm water and washing hands for at least 20 seconds.
When the coronavirus began spreading around the world, proper hand washing became more important than ever. This is because hand washing has been identified as a key way to stop the spread of COVID-19. Re-training staff on the proper hand washing technique became one of the key items to address in order to ensure that all staff were informed. Staff that are informed and trained are more likely to follow through with proper protocols as compared to those that aren’t. Even if food businesses were only providing take-out or delivery, consistent and proper hand washing was key to ensuring that staff and customers were kept safe.
Recently, many food businesses have reopened or are in the process of reopening soon. As food businesses begin to welcome customers back into their premises, enforcing the proper hand washing technique must not fall out of practice.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, not all food businesses had hand sanitizer available throughout the premises for customers and staff. Providing hand sanitizer is an added business expense and so it wasn’t supplied unless considered necessary. Food businesses also had to be careful about providing hand sanitizer to staff members, particularly food handlers. Hand sanitizer could cause chemical contamination of food if it is not allowed to properly dry on hands before preparing food. For this reason, proper training on the use of hand sanitizer is essential.
When the pandemic took hold, food businesses began supplying hand sanitizer to all staff members in order help stop the spread of COVID-19. This included delivery staff and other workers who didn’t have access to hand washing facilities in order to wash their hands as frequently as required. It was also common to see food businesses supplying hand sanitizer for customers at food pick-up locations. The key with this practice is to keep hands as clean as possible even when hand washing isn’t possible.
As many food businesses have begun to reopen, this practice should continue on for the foreseeable future. Hand sanitizer is an easy way for food businesses to ensure that customers have clean hands, and it also reassures customers when they see staff members using hand sanitizer. Hand sanitizer should not be used in place of hand washing when it is possible for hands to be washed using the proper technique. However, if hand washing stations are not available, this is an easy practice to enforce that can keep staff and customers safe.
As a condition of reopening, most food businesses are required to have an updated cleaning and sanitizing schedule. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, food businesses had a cleaning and sanitizing schedule, however, it did not include sanitizing as many objects and areas that the new schedules require. High-touch objects are now both cleaned and sanitized and can include condiments, salt and pepper shakers, light switches, handles, railings, and trays — to name only a few. This practice is essential for killing COVID-19 and preventing its spread within a food business. It is important that food businesses check with their supplier to confirm that the sanitizer being used is effective against the coronavirus.
As time goes on, it can be tempting to ease up on the cleaning and sanitizing protocols put in place. The updated schedules take time as they include cleaning and sanitizing many items and areas throughout the business, many of which were only cleaned but never sanitized in the past. Despite the time and effort it takes, this is a practice that must continue on in order to keep staff members and customers safe. Maintaining a safe and healthy food business is not only important, but it is the key to success.
The pandemic has brought out significant challenges for food businesses, many of which are being adapted to with the help of technology. High-end technology is helping food businesses to operate in a way that prevents the spread of COVID-19 and keeps customers and staff safe. Contact-free payments have been around for years but have taken off in popularity and demand since the pandemic began. Food businesses are also using digital screens to display menus which eliminates traditional menus that need to be cleaned and sanitized after every use. Other food businesses are getting very tech savvy by installing self-order stations which lead to minimal contact between staff and customers. Using technology to keep food businesses safe and eliminate contact is a key way to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Using technological enhancements can be costly and it can be tempting to move back to the traditional way of doing things after some time. If financially able to do so, it is important for food businesses to continue using technology to reduce contact and to reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19.
The early days of the pandemic required food businesses to adapt in order to survive. Food businesses found themselves with mandated closures and having to switch to take-out or delivery in order to make some form of revenue. This was not easy, and there were food businesses that could not adapt and had to close permanently. The pandemic is far from over, and the food businesses that are still operating will need to continue to be ready to adapt to the changing situation. It is still unclear how the pandemic will progress and whether food businesses that have reopened for dine-in service will need to shut down again at some point. Threats of a second wave bring much uncertainty about how the food industry will look in the fall and into next year. Food businesses have learned to be adaptive and rise to the occasion during this trying process, and this flexibility will be needed for some time to come.