THE festive rush is beginning to build, bringing with it a busier spell for bars and restaurants. But no matter how hectic service gets in the coming weeks, standards mustn’t slip – especially when it comes to food safety.
The consequences of poor food hygiene and safety practices can be “potentially devastating” for both customers and businesses, according to Karen Wood, property manager at Star Pubs & Bars.
“A food poisoning outbreak not only endangers the lives of customers, but can result in prosecution and unlimited fines for the operator, closure of their business via a Hygiene (Emergency) Prohibition Notice, and loss of trade,” she said.
“The festive period is a great opportunity to boost sales. However, as the busiest trading period of the year, kitchen food storage areas can tend to get overloaded, with the consequent risk that out of date ingredients could be inadvertently used.
“Operators can avoid this by putting in place strict stock rotation procedures – including checks to ensure they are maintained – and by temporarily increasing the number of food deliveries to minimise the need for extra storage.”
Licensees can take other measures too.
“Often the festive menu runs alongside the standard menu, which increases pressure on kitchen staff at a busy time and heightens the risk of mistakes being made,” Wood explained.
“To prevent this, licensees should consider reducing the items on the core menu to a smaller selection of popular classics whilst the festive menu is being served.
“Operators can also avoid putting undue pressure on the kitchen by having a good booking system which realistically staggers advanced booking times. If the kitchen does get behind, operators should proactively manage the situation until it is back on track; for example, communicating with customers, putting a temporary hold on food orders for walk-ins and offering customers a complimentary drink or nibbles while they wait.”
Wood added that operators should also carry out more food temperature checks during busier periods – especially throughout the festive season – to maintain safety standards.
This was echoed by Tim Strutt of Electronic Temperature Instruments (ETI). He reckons it is an integral aspect to food safety – and that there are technological developments that operators can use to their advantage.
He said: “Whilst the standalone thermometer is a legal requirement, advances in technology have added value to this requirement; there is potential to reduce the time taking these temperatures and to increase productivity, quality and consistency whilst still remaining compliant.”
For instance, Bluetooth-enabled thermometers, which can pair with free smartphone apps, allow operators to make the recording of temperature data “easier and faster”, according to Strutt.
He added: “The digital recording of the data means both the user and manager have confidence that the temperature was recorded at the correct time, with the correct outcome.
“This also means that when an auditor arrives, the data can be retrieved quickly and easily.”
Ultimately, however, staff training remains integral to maintaining food safety standards, especially throughout Christmas and New Year, said Wood of Star Pubs & Bars, who reckons online training “is definitely the way to go”.