As the hospitality industry slowly begins recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, digital quality management systems will be critical. Digital tools offer numerous benefits over antiquated paper systems, especially during and after a crisis.
Companies that use paper systems will have a difficult time implementing and tracking new COVID-19 protocols, which can be a huge liability. Let’s say a hospitality brand uses paper checklists to determine COVID-19 protocol compliance. Here are the issues they’ll likely face:
- They can’t update information quickly. Leading health organizations like the CDC have issued updated guidelines often — sometimes even hourly — throughout this crisis. Paper checklists can’t be immediately updated to reflect new information.
- It limits visibility at specific units and across the enterprise. Paper systems make it difficult to collect, organize, and analyze data to gain critical insights, so you’ll never get the visibility necessary to spot trends and fix small issues before they become big problems.
- Human errors are inevitable. Manual data management processes are time-consuming and error-prone. Also, it’s difficult to ensure essential safety checks are being performed regularly and correctly via paper forms.
- Critical paper records can easily be lost or misfiled — a huge liability if you experience a foodborne illness or COVID-19 outbreak. Remember: it only takes two or more people to get the same illness from the same contaminated food or drink to be considered an outbreak.
Digital Quality Management Systems Are Essential in our New, Post-COVID-19 World
Digital tools offer huge benefits, improving the way hospitality companies complete audits, assessments, checklists certifications, training, and more. Suppose that a hospitality brand implemented a digital quality management system instead of paper. Now, they can:
- Update safety and compliance information quickly, easily, and accurately, getting vital instructions to all employees, across all locations and shifts. This is essential in a crisis when information changes rapidly.
- Find specific records, as needed, such as during a foodborne illness outbreak or COVID-19 incident.
- Gain better visibility with data that’s quickly collected and organized to provide critical insights across the enterprise and/or in specific areas.
- Ensure essential safety checks are being performed regularly and correctly, indicating issues that require corrections and training.
Our “New Normal” Requires a Whole New Way of Operating
COVID-19 has changed the way the world operates. This is our “new normal,” not just a temporary situation. Every business must elevate their safety and cleanliness protocols, train employees about new processes, track compliance, and implement immediate corrective actions, as needed. It’s essential to transition from “the way we’ve always done things” — which often includes paper systems — to a whole new way of operating, using digital tools.
Hospitality companies sometimes resist technology, worried that digital tools are too expensive, complex, cumbersome, or difficult to implement. But digital tools have become more affordable, accessible, and user-friendly, and are appropriate for companies of any size, with any budget. In fact, investing in digital tools, such as quality management software and auditing apps, helps companies boost their bottom line, protect their reputation, and maximize safety as we all work to recover from this crisis.
Committing to a Safety Culture is the Most Important Thing that Hospitality Businesses Can Do Right Now
Consider the companies that are doing things correctly: restaurants and hotels that are transparent about their commitment to enhanced safety and cleanliness protocols, using digital tools to proactively manage their “new reality.” They are proactively preparing for customers to return and proving that it’s safe to so do.
To do the same, you need to show employees and customers that you genuinely care about safety and are taking proper steps to keep them healthy. Digital tools can help you:
- Enhance cleaning and disinfecting efforts. High touch points in your facility must be cleaned and disinfected several times a day, using chemicals that meet EPA standards for killing COVID-19. Food safety sanitation procedures are more important than ever. Ensure all employees wash their hands properly and frequently. Digital tools can track cleaning and disinfecting activities to ensure compliance.
- Implement COVID-19 safety protocols. Enforce social distancing and require appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) based on the guidelines for your industry and jurisdiction. Use digital tools to review and assess compliance across the operation or drill down to individual locations for localized insights.
- Train employees regularly. Explain what the new protocols entail and why these rules are so important. Use tech tools to provide regular reminders and updates to your staff throughout each shift.
- Ensure compliance. Put policies and systems in place, educating employees about what to do, when, and why. Then use digital audits to track compliance and take on-the-spot and long-term corrective actions, as necessary.
- Elevate your existing safety culture. As part of your efforts, transition from ineffective paper systems to more accurate, integrated tech tools. This will help ensure the health and safety of your employees, customers, communities, and business.
As we all adjust to this new, post-COVID-19 world, employees and customers need reassurance that they’re safe at your venue. Be transparent about your efforts, including your commitment to digital quality management systems to mitigate risks.
About the Authors
Francine L. Shaw is President of Savvy Food Safety, Inc. a woman-owned company that offers a robust roster of services, including consulting, food safety education, food safety inspections, crisis management training, developing COVID-19 and norovirus policies, curriculum development, responsible alcohol service training, and more. The Savvy Food Safety team has more than 100 combined years of industry experience in restaurants, casinos, and convenience stores and has helped numerous clients prevent foodborne illnesses and elevate safety and cleanliness protocols due to COVID-19. Francine has been featured as a food safety expert in numerous media outlets, including the Dr. Oz Show, the Huffington Post, iHeartRadio, Food Safety News, Food Management Magazine and Food Service Consultants Society International.
As Vice President of Product Management at RizePoint, Kari Hensien works with Product Development to design and build technology to support organizational efforts to deliver a superior brand experience through monitoring and recommendations that drive continuous improvements in product quality, customer satisfaction and service delivery. Kari has previously worked at Workfront, Optimum Energy, and Microsoft.