The 5 disadvantages of paper checklists for food safety
The potential cost of food safety breaches to restaurant groups, hotels, caterers or any food service business is enormous. Not only do they face prosecution if standards are not met, but the reputational damage can mean that even when any problems are solved, customers won’t return, hitting revenues and putting the entire business at risk.
Strong food safety and health & safety management systems are therefore essential to the industry, with processes and procedures documented, monitored and recorded to provide evidence of compliance with the highest standards.
However most existing processes rely on paper based checklists, which brings five major issues:
1. They don’t help staff do their jobs
Paper-based checklists simply list what needs to be done, such as clean the surfaces or check the temperature in the freezer, and when it has to be completed. They don’t guide staff in how they should be doing it or what to do if readings are out of range. This means that best practice is not enforced, and any issues may not be picked up until days or weeks later, if at all.
2. They hit productivity
Finding and filling in a paper checklist, takes time and effort, which reduces productivity in a busy kitchen. Inspecting and analysing completed checklists takes valuable management time, up to 1-2 hours a day in a typical small catering business. Records then need to be prepared ready for inspections, adding to the overhead. As well as the time and lost productivity involved in paper-based checklists, records all need to be stored, adding further to costs.
3. They cannot be trusted
Put simply, there is no record of when a checklist was filled in – or by whom. In a busy kitchen, non-urgent tasks may be forgotten or left until later, and paperwork can be doctored to cover up slips in food safety management processes. Occasionally records are not even completed until just before the environmental health inspector calls – hardly enforcing best practice.
4. They don’t give real-time visibility
On paper, there is nothing to remind staff on when they should perform a check, or to alert managers that a vital inspection has not been carried out. If there is a problem managers may not know until much later, leading to further issues. The problem of visibility compounds over multiple sites and locations.
5. Valuable data is left unused
Paper-based information is difficult to compare and analyse, meaning that managers have no real-time view of how the business is performing. They can’t immediately spot trends, such a dip or rise in the performance of a team, function or location. This is particularly an issue for larger chains with multiple branches – regional managers have no way of knowing what is happening on the ground, in real-time.
There has to be a better way
The answer is to digitise these paper-based checklists and use technology to make the whole food safety and health & safety management process simpler, more efficient and linked more closely to the needs of the business. By using a combination of apps, handheld devices, monitoring sensors and temperature probes all readings can be automatically timestamped, so you can see when they were taken, by whom and across multiple locations.
More importantly digital checklists can be made interactive, guiding staff through the process of completing a task, and most importantly what steps to take if an issue arises. As the data is collected and shared in real-time, issues can be spotted early and dealt with promptly, before they escalate into something worse. This ensures compliance and provides businesses with an automatic set of digital records that can be easily shared internally and with Environmental Health Officers.
Food service businesses have invested heavily in technology to enhance the dining experience, from online booking to mobile apps. Yet technology seems to stop at the kitchen door. Extending digitisation to food safety checklists and all areas where compliance is required brings major benefits and increased peace of mind across the business.
Find out how digitising Food Safety and Health & Safety compliance will protect your business, brand and reputation 24/7.