By Food Alert’s managing director, David Bashford
There are many things we have learned from living through a pandemic and one is the power of technology.
Virtual communication has become the norm and, for most of us, our ‘screen time’ has increased enormously since March. It has also enabled things that were once deemed impossible to be possible – from GPs running virtual patient appointments to teachers hosting online classes. And in the world of hospitality compliance, we have also seen a switch to the power of virtual.
As venues closed down overnight and restrictions on travel came into force we were challenged with finding new ways to conduct audits and operators were faced with a host of challenges, not least making sure each venue within their estate – large or small – had all the correct checklists, paperwork and hygiene measures in place.
Before COVID-19 we had already seen a move to automate compliance by switching to digital and going paperless. However, some hospitality operators were slow to commit and make that leap of faith, even though they knew by using our safety compliance software, ALERT65, would save time, centralise systems and seamlessly manage hygiene and safety standards across an estate by the swipe of a finger or click of a button.
Frequent excuses included being “too busy”, “too much hassle” and “this is how we’ve always done it”.
However, there is nothing like a crisis to focus the mind and bring to the fore the benefits of digital compliance. Integrated food safety and health & safety applications and e-learning are nothing new, but what is new is the realisation of how important it is to have this type of software solution as much as it is to have an online order and pay app.
Compliance might not be the most exciting part of running a hospitality business, but I would argue it is one of the most important. Without the correct paperwork and robust hygiene and safety procedures in place, no hospitality business is going to enjoy success, even if they deliver the best experience. And, in our current climate this is even more relevant. Consumers and employees are looking for reassurance that operators are doing everything they can to keep them safe.
Prior to COVID-19 the idea of a virtual audit would not have been considered. But we have had to evolve our services to meet the new challenges our clients face. I strongly believe that site visits will not return to previous levels and that virtual is here to stay. I am not saying there won’t be a place for ‘in real life’ audits, but technology has proved to be robust enough to deliver effective remote safety checks. I also believe there will be a move towards operators requiring the tools to undertake more of the checks, inspections and audits themselves.
Equally, I believe the digital transfer of compliance will very soon confine piles of paperwork to where it belongs – in the recycling bin. Imagine a world where the Environmental Health Officer comes knocking and you are not scrabbling around for the right piece of paperwork, but all you need is neatly hosted in the cloud that can be simply accessed, updated as and when required.
Prior to COVID-19 food safety and health & safety compliance was already complex, that has only increased, so having an integrated app, such as ALERT65, that hosts everything you need to operate a fully compliant business, from reminders to check lists and from allergen controls to hygiene safety, HACCP certificates to employee training, has to be the way forward.
We have seen how quickly the changes to the status quo can turn our world upside down and being able to respond nimbly and effectively is vital. As people start to venture out for drinks and meals, what operators are doing to keep their customers safe has become even more important and visible. It is no longer an option, but a must!
Digitalisation is the enabler, but it is up to us as suppliers to make sure that we evolve the services that we offered historically to meet the future needs of our hospitality clients.
If you would like to discuss how Food Alert and ALERT65 could help you navigate the ever complex world of hygiene, safety and health compliance or simply looking for some guidance, our team of experts are available to answer any questions. Email them at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0844 445 7412.