How Restaurants Can Increase Efficiency and Boost the Bottom Line with Smart Food Labels
The anticipation of a refreshing spring snack quickly turned into disappointment and fear of sickness for consumers of pre-cut melon across the U.S. in April. Caito Foods, an Indianapolis-based food supplier for big-name grocers, recalled a variety of fruits after the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) linked a salmonella outbreak to its products.
Recalls like this one don’t just affect consumers who get sick or miss out on their favorite foods — they can be a damaging blow to hospitality providers and restaurants as well. The average U.S. food recall carries a hefty price tag. Strictly factoring in costs from the retrieval and disposal of items, the Grocery Manufacturers Association estimates the average food recall to be between $40 million and $99 million. Indirect costs stemming from lawsuits, reputation damage and lost sales only inflate this figure further.
As food inspection standards in the U.S. decline, the number of recalls will only rise, costing restaurants money and customer trust. The contaminated melons became Caito Foods’ fourth recall in the last 10 months alone. But IoT and blockchain offer a solution for restaurant IT professionals hoping to increase efficiency while reducing consumer exposure and financial losses during these recalls. This tech enables restaurants to efficiently trace food infection sources, helping them identify the specific products affected and swiftly address problems in their food supply.
Using tech to trace the problemCaito Foods’ melon recall is far from an isolated incident. Class I recalls of meat and poultry increased by 83% between 2013 and 2017. And this food safety carelessness is not without consequences: According to the CDC, 1 in 6 Americans contract foodborne illnesses annually, a figure that’s likely to rise as standards deteriorate. Technology can help fill in gaps created by lax inspection requirements — but it’s currently relegated to a minimal role in the process.
Rapidly advancing solutions within IoT and blockchain have opened the door for a modernized and improved approach to managing food supply. These solutions revolutionize hospitality workers’ ability to trace and respond to contaminations.
With Certified QR “smart labels” affixed to products, restaurants will be more connected and updated throughout the recall process. Incorporating this technology improves upon the traditional barcode system, giving restaurant professionals more insight into foods’ precise origins and consequently, its safety. Hospitality IT professionals would be able to easily scan items (for instance, an individual head of lettuce) and uncover exactly where food has come from — and if it’s affected by the latest disease outbreak. While a simple solution, a QR-code-based system would be revolutionary for both product safety and consumer transparency.
Smart labels give restaurants access to a product’s origin and transport history, helping them uncover if it’s been in contact with a particular contaminant. Using a smartphone, hospitality workers can scan the food item’s barcode to be directed to a verified and secure webpage with in-depth product information and proof of quality. This development would enable food service workers to immediately find out if food items are safe for dinner plates or destined for immediate disposal.
A clear answer to food safety included right on the product effectively eliminates confusion and the rampant misinformation often attached to heavily publicized recalls. On social networks, a small fruit recall can quickly balloon into an indictment on the quality of an entire brand, product or restaurant. Tech-infused labels allow restaurants to counter swirling rumors among diners by providing an immediate answer to food safety questions.
Now, recalls can advance to a smooth, orderly process for restaurants — keeping their reputations intact and money in their pockets. As this technology enters the market, restaurants should diligently research partners and competing solutions. This way, they’ll be able to effectively implement the life-changing tech within their supplier network and daily operations.
About the Author
Scott Fletcher is President and CEO of LocatorX.