We undertook a feasibility study with KitchenLogs and Harrow council to discover if the use of a digital food safety management system can help increase the food hygiene ratings score and improve food hygiene and food standards. The study also looked at the data sharing between the digital system and the local authority.
In the mid-2016, we went to all the surrounding food businesses for our market research. We had a good number of businesses that committed to beta test our software. We say software because it was a web-based application that we coded ourselves at the time. Feedback from our entire pool pointed towards the development of an app. A couple of months later we came to test again with KitchenLogs app and took on the same beta pool again.
The Talbot in Brockley, London SE4 were one of the first users and the first to completely dump paperwork all together. They gave us daily feedback to develop our product further. Stephane at the Talbot knew it would make his life so much easier from a head chef prospective. The Talbot was also one of our first paying clients. The best part is they got a 5-star food hygiene rating directly influenced by our APP!
Here is our interview with Stephane from The Talbot SE4.
What were your first impressions of the KitchenLogs - Food Safety Diary app?
Initially, they came to me with their idea and I had said I will use it if it works because I liked the idea of getting off paperwork. The first couple of versions did not work so well but it had the basics of food safety procedures. Here we are a year and a half later and now I am a happy paying client with a 5-star food hygiene rating.
Can you describe what the transition period was like when going from using paper to using the KitchenLogs Software?
After the testing phase and felt it worked correctly, I dumped paper-based systems. We have been paper-free for 9 months since using the KitchenLogs Food Safety Management System.
How has the APP affected your day to day kitchen checks?
I do not lose paper sheets any longer.
No more sheets destroyed by water or spillage. (Hated re-writing them!)
No more printing of paperwork just new menus.
No more worrying about printer cartridges running low.
Staff members constantly forgeting to do the paper-based system and I was solely responsible for getting it done.
Now my staff are directly responsible for their checks and they have no excuse because I see in real time that they are doing these checks.
On a day to day basis, how much time would you say you save using the APP?
No need to check if procedures are being followed. Emails are sent to me directly with status updates. So I can rest assure that our food safety is being implemented. So it has definitely cut down half the time of a paper-based system by not checking and backtracking on a daily basis.
Would you say KitchenLogs has helped improve your food hygiene rating confidence and if so what were the main ways it did so?
Well, we were just inspected 4 weeks ago. We had a 4 hygiene ratings prior due to some minor infractions. The recent inspection we should have gotten a 4 rating again but KitchenLogs Food Safety System gave us a HIGH score and pushed us to that most important 5 rating that we are really proud to have now on our door.
Did you have any new staff since getting the app and if you have how did they find using it?
Once they get into the app it just makes sense as it is a food safety management system but in very simple format to understand. If you are a chef you would just know how it works! It is that simple which I cannot stress, it is simple and easy to use!
Has KitchenLogs improved your management of food safety checks and in what way has it help you manage these critical checks?
With the alerts/notifications/daily digests, it makes me and my team do the checks. It is easy and once your done you know it is done and don’t need to go backtrack. Backtracking was my most time-consuming tasks when I came back from my days off and holidays. Now I don’t worry as I see the daily status updates and know that my staff are doing their food safety checks.
What are the biggest differences between your old system of checks to this new one?
The biggest difference is that new kitchen staff employees already know the paper-based systems. However, with the high turnover in the industry training them has become very easy with the KitchenLogs App. We just give them a quick once over of the app and they understand it as a training document. They can go through our procedures and tasks and they are trained it is as simple as that. I rather take the extra time to train them with this system because it saves me time in the long run.
What did you find the most helpful feature of KitchenLogs and how did it help you improve your score?
Without a doubt, it is the Daily Email Digest that I get on my days off or on holiday. It reassures me that my staff are doing their food safety procedures and cleaning. I know in real time instead of going and backtracking if they done the required paperwork. The other thing we like is that we have no bulky dirty paperwork. It is all condensed now into a simple solution as opposed to a large binder that I use to store in my office.
Would you go back to pen and paper?
Without a doubt NO, why would I... I have a 5-star rating food hygiene rating now!
*Note: You need to use our FSMS daily and correctly, clean your premises ie good hygiene standards, keep good structural integrity, and good food handling skills. You will get a 5!
The last couple of weeks I have seen several news stories on businesses losing a lot of there points due to not knowing that speciality machinery causes cross contamination.
Machinery is required in the food industry but the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has strict laws on how they are used. Major culprits of concern are vacuum sealers, mincers, and meat slicers. This is solely due to cross-contamination between veg, cooked meats, and raw meat. Let’s face the facts small food businesses cannot justify storage space for duplicate items but you have to know the facts. Let’s drill them down two major offenders.
This is a major offender of losing points. You cannot use a vacuum sealer for veg and meats (cooked or raw). The FSA and studies say that particules get lodged into the complex vacuum system. This could cause cross contamination. You can breakdown the system and clean it out completely after each use. If you ever have worked with one you know they are beasts and is an unfeasible task to clean. So decide best what you are going to use it for and use it ONLY for that food group.
Another offender is the infamous meat slicer. I know everything about these machines. I have taken them apart, replaced belts, computer boards, blades, etc. It was the biggest nightmare working with industrial bacon slicers. We had the luxury of working in a warehouse environment that we can use a jet power sprayer to clean the machines, yes two machines. Took 2 man hours per machine to clean. The table top one was used for cooked meats and still a task to clean. Even cleaned they can cause cross-contamination. So better safe than sorry use for one category only.
I also strongly advise that you label the machine. This will ensure that your team knows the machines correct use. Lastly train them correct how to use these machines.
Yesterday ducked into Tesco to pick up dinner. I eat chicken 80% of the time but decided to mix it up and get some steaks for the grill. Went over to get some filets and something was not right! I started to feel around and they were all room temperature.
I noticed the light in the display was not on and felt around for some refrigerant. The display crapped out and no one noticed! As I looked around I noticed no monitoring at all. Some woman came by and was picking up mince. I had to inform her she cannot take it due to food safety. I went to the meat department and told the manager. He rushed over and was in disbelief. He said the most expensive meat and it is fully stocked. He said we have to bin it all. Shaking his head and trying to section it off before summons the store manager. He said they are not going to be happy with a loss this big.
This day and age, monitoring would have alerted them and this loss would have been prevented!
I ate chicken last night.
I love rare & medium rare burgers and this is also the way most good burger joints recommend how their burgers are served; seared on the outside and soft & tender on the inside, mmmm. And as long as these establishments are cooking these in the right way, with meat from the right suppliers (although with recent issues with a few big name meat suppliers recently, this is no guarantee) then all is good. Cooking burgers with any pink in the middle at home, however, is a big no-no, at least according to Food Standard Agency (FSA) guidelines!
The reasons for this require a bit of background. When meat is produced (slaughtered & prepared), there is the potential for contamination of bacteria from the animal’s gut & hide on the outside of the meat. If the meat is then minced, any contamination from bacteria such as e.coli on the outside is then mixed and spread throughout the mince. This is the same reason why it’s fine to serve rare steak from home, as any potential contamination (which is on the outside of the steak) will be annihilated via the searing of the meat on the griddle, pan or BBQ.
Restaurants can serve rare & medium rare burgers, but they do need to get special dispensation from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to serve raw or pink mince and they will need to have:
Meat sourced from an approved FSA supplier who is approved to supply mince which is intended to be served raw or pink (basically having safe levels of pathogens/bacteria).
- Evidence of a demonstrated and tested method of cooking & serving the mince in the safest manner (based on accurate measurements of temperature & cooking times).
Typically, minced meat bought from supermarkets & butchers will not have the same level of strict controls that restaurants need to put in place to serve less than fully cooked mince. So, serving rare or medium rare burgers at home made from shop or butcher bought mince could be setting yourself up for a big fall (or at least a long sit down on the porcelain throne!).
It’s also worth remembering that any restaurant with a low food hygiene rating and serving raw or pink mince should most likely be avoided.
Before I got into the food industry, I worked for a global Internet Service Provider managing the European team and building out data centres across the continent. After I decided to leave, a friend asked me for some help with a street food startup, selling Philly Cheesesteaks. Having a real interest in food and having already enjoyed setting up a business, I thought ‘why not?’.
During the early days of learning about the food industry and coming from a world of automation & online applications, I was blown away by the lack of internet resources for food safety and food hygiene. I also found out quickly that paper, weather, hot food and travelling don’t mix that well! So, to help save me time and get something a bit more robust in place, I decided to devise my own simple, digital, food safety management system.
Whilst on the street food scene I was on the receiving end of regular food safety checks from a variety of councils and during these checks, the environmental health officers (EHO’s) were often commenting on how great my paperwork and processes were. When we moved from a stall to a food truck, the EHO’s suggested and recommended I put a similar system in place.
The eureka moment for me came at a festival in 2015 when another trader got in trouble with her food safety processes, due to a lack of paperwork. She discovered I had an automated system in place and came over and offered to pay me to put the same system in place for her. That is when I thought I may be on to something. I then did six months of research into existing systems and knew I could build a more flexible and customisable app, giving businesses access to on-demand services at a reasonable cost.
KitchenLogs was born!
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