For anyone in the restaurant business, revisiting customers is the prime source of thriving. When you provide exemplary service, delicious food, and a memorable customer experience, you build loyalty that is repaid as repeat orders. Yet, the dream of repeated sales can come crashing down if you fail your inspection test or someone falls ill from eating your food.
On average, human error costs around $30 per order and $9,000 every month (based on a 20 table restaurant, 6,000 orders monthly) and a 5% human error rate. Unless you are careful about how the raw materials are handled, the food preparation methods, serving or storing of the food, and cleanliness practices, one small error can prove disastrous in the form of deaths from food poisoning, expensive lawsuits, and reduced visitors. So it is important to minimize human error, especially when working in a restaurant.
How Human Error Is The Greatest Threat To Food Safety
The food, being complex chemistry, can turn into an allergic reaction or a food poisoning case. If those handling the food become reckless about the food safety process. It can be as simple as touching the food with unwashed hands to as complex as preparing food on a grill with grease collected over the years. Microbial food poisoning is the most common human error-related issue found in restaurants.
Wrong Order Placement
Prevalent in both dine-in and take-out orders, placing the wrong order is the silliest yet prevalent human error. Certain people follow a restricted dietary lifestyle by choice or due to certain underlying ailments. When the staff messes up the order, it can lead to dissatisfaction (lifestyle choice) to triggering allergic reactions (underlying ailments). While part of the blame may lie on the lunch/ dinner hour rush, similar orders with a slight change, miscommunication from the kitchen, it is important to keep such errors to the minimum. Confirm the order at the time of placing and even at the time of serving.
Inaccurate Stock Placement
Restaurants rely on traders and suppliers for their raw ingredients. Certain food items like milk, certain vegetables, etc., are replenished daily while other products like spices, grains, pulses, meat have a higher shelf life and hence, are ordered in bulk. Yet, if you miscalculate and place an inaccurate stock request, it can lead to management issues. Too less and your reputation comes on line and too much food item will lead to storage issues and wastage. Either way, inaccuracy in stock placement can hurt the business owner’s pockets as it affects the profit margins.
Lack of Physical Hygiene
Basic hygiene practices such as regular hand washing and keeping oneself clean is a no-brainer yet the number of food joints and restaurants closed due to improper hygiene is alarming. An average wait staff touches roughly 18 surfaces within a span of 10 mins. This includes the plates they carry, their notepad, the table clothes, their own face, cutleries, glass, etc. We are surrounded by microbes and when you wash hands frequently, you get rid of any threatening microbes and prevent them from transferring. This has become a norm post-pandemic for all industries, yet it is more vital to keep your hands clean when working in a restaurant.
Recommendation: Vital Steps to Take for Preventing Food Illnesses
Food preparation Carelessness
A most common avenue where a slight human error can result in a catastrophe is the kitchen. Utmost care needs to be taken right from ingredient procurements to washing them and cooking them. Runoff from the raw meat may be full of disease-causing microbes. And the outer skin of fruits and vegetables may have pesticides on them. If they get mixed with prepared food, they can enter our digestive system when consumed. Similarly, using the same utensils, knives, and plates for preparing meat and vegetables is an easy way to transfer the microbes from one to another. Similarly, cooking meat throughout till it reaches an internal temperature of 145oF helps kill off any microbe that may be present inside the meat.
Cleaning and Sanitizing
Keeping the kitchen and surrounding clean is the duty of everyone working in the restaurant. Yet, sometimes lax in maintaining cleanliness allows molds and fungus to grow. Also, easily transferred to other surfaces through the means of touch. Regularly mopping the floors and cleaning the dining and kitchen surface ensures that surfaces remain sanitized. Similarly, when disposing of waste, ensure the lid of the bin is tightly closed. Failure to do so attracts flies and rodents, who work as carriers of harmful diseases.
Food storage is another place where the most human errors occur. Whether for the purpose of storage or transportation, the food temperatures are crucial. Unless the food is brought to food storage temperatures of below 40oF within two hours of preparation, any microbes can enter the food and multiply quickly. So, the temperature range between 40 – 145oF is called the Danger Zone.
Similarly, when storing the leftovers and raw ingredients in the walk-in freezer, the shelf order also is important. Always keep the raw meat on the lowest shelf, Leftovers, and prepared food on the topmost shelf. This way any run-off and juices will not come in contact with the cooked food.
How a Food Handlers Permit be a solution to Minimizing Human Error
To curb the hiring of inexperienced personnel in the food industry, the department of health of different states have made it mandatory for individuals to be holders of food handlers permit. Undergoing the online training makes the attendants familiar with different food handling practices and food storage methods. Additionally, the knowledge about different allergens and different protocols to follow when working in a restaurant is taught to the attendant. Only after passing an exam related to what was taught. And scoring above 75% is someone eligible for working professionally in a restaurant. After 30 days of passing, they receive a permanent Food Handlers Permit.
Being a human, it is imperative to make mistakes. Yet, when it comes to such high costs that can ruin someone’s health and the restaurant’s reputation, nobody wants to make mistakes. In addition to the additional cost, the frustration that comes with it is unnecessary. Being prepared and undergoing proper food and safety training, can help minimize the opportunities for an error to happen. Easy Food Handlers is a Utah-based food safety and handling training institute that is recognized by the Utah State Department of Health.