For businesses and consumers alike, food safety is a make-or-break issue. According to Zebra’s recent Food Safety Supply Chain Vision Study, consumers are concerned about the provenance of the food they’re eating, and their overall faith in restaurants is surprisingly low. The COVID-19 pandemic, which began after the study was completed, further illuminates the importance of workplace hygiene and food safety.
Across the industry, from distribution to grocery stores, to quick-service, fast-casual and full-service restaurants, it’s clear that improving food safety is a priority. Fortunately, investment in food supply chain technology can work to fill some of the gaps in trust, protecting customers from foodborne illness, increasing supply chain transparency and efficiency, and protecting the business’ bottom line.
Ninety percent of industry decision-makers believe that implementing technology brings a competitive advantage, but many have not yet made the investment in cutting-edge solutions. Adopting new technology, such as Blockchain, RFID tagging and scanning, can give businesses a unique edge over industry competitors.
FOOD SAFETY BUILDS CONSUMER TRUST
For a hospitality business, maintaining consumer trust is paramount. Damage caused by food safety issues can be devastating, particularly at a time when consumers are hyper-aware of germs and cleanliness. Six out of 10 consumers, for example, would not return to an establishment after contracting a foodborne illness there. Businesses that equip their food service teams with enterprise-class mobile computers can track the intake and perishability of raw materials and ingredients, helping prevent future incidents.
While 37% of industry insiders fully trust companies to ensure food safety, only 20% of consumers feel the same. This alarming gap in trust appears throughout the study, indicating that customers may not yet realize the commitment to food safety technology many businesses are making. Customers want to see that the establishment, whether fast-casual or high-end, is making a commitment to protecting their health.
CONSUMER DEMAND FOR TRACEABILITY & TRANSPARENCY
Across industries, consumers are demanding increased transparency from the businesses they patronize. When it comes to hospitality, supply chain transparency and food traceability are major drivers of customer trust when that information is shared with the end consumer. Customers today want to know where their food comes from, how it’s been handled, and how long it’s been in transit to their plate, whether that’s at home, in a restaurant, or in a hotel.
In fact, seven out of 10 surveyed consumers believe where their food was manufactured and how it was handled is among the most important information to know about a restaurant, while 69% of customers agree that knowing how the food was sourced is also important. Track-and-trace technology, powered by rugged handheld scanning devices and enhanced by the use of RFID label and tagging, can improve supply chain visibility with deeper insights and a stronger flow of information.
PROTECTTHE BOTTOM LINE
Consumer expectations are higher than ever, pressuring businesses to maximize production to make up for smaller margins. When systems are pushed to their limits, food safety can sometimes be compromised as a result. Technology to oversee and manage the food supply chain from warehouse to distributor to hospitality business to end consumer can help to avoid potentially damaging consequences.
Supply chain technology can also help businesses more quickly respond to unexpected events that cause disruptions to the market. Optimizing supply chain resilience enables businesses to implement and keep up with new services, such as curbside pickup or delivery, which have become more prominent as a result of social distancing. It can also identify new requirements and ensure the business is always up to date when it comes to meeting regulatory standards.
PREDICT THE FUTURE
After adopting the technology necessary to enhance real-time operations, restaurants and other food service providers can implement predictive models to further optimize their supply chains in the long term. Predictive analytics deliver a return on investment with increased efficiency, and an ability to foresee and avoid future problems.
Zebra’s Food Safety Supply Chain Vision Study found that while 93% of industry decision-makers surveyed were planning to increase investment in food monitoring technology within the next year, 62% said they were also planning to operate supply chains more predictively over the next five years. It’s clear that there is much to gain from adopting supply chain technology, and predictive analytics will play a crucial role in maintaining customer loyalty and helping hospitality organizations stay ahead of the competition.
About the Author
Lindsey Allen is Senior Manager of North American Retail & Hospitality Vertical Marketing, Zebra Technologies. For more information about emerging technology solutions that are meeting the demands of today’s food safety supply chain, click here.