Transporting food can be a challenge, and doing it incorrectly could end in a major profit loss for your catering business. According to Food Safety Magazine in 2003, estimates showed that transportation-related food safety failures in the U.S. cost $2 billion per year. Yes, you read that right billion! Crazy right? Don't worry; there are ways to avoid losing your hard- earned money ( it isn't easy to make a buffet for 100) without making major changes to your operation. It is as simple as identifying the mistakes you may be making and taking action against them. So, here are 5 mistakes you might be making when transporting food.
1. You haven't taken time to invest in your staff.
Your team is your biggest asset. Having a team that is well-trained and knowledgeable is extremely important to your bottom line.
You should work with your staff to ensure that they have a basic knowledge of food safety. What are the safe holding temperatures of your dishes? What is the temperature danger zone? Having a staff that is knowledgeable of basic food preparation and safety is an easy way to ensure that your product gets from point A to point B safely. Also, invest in your staff. Having a team that is enthusiastic and willing to learn can make or break any food service operation. This is even more prominent catering companies. Your dishes don't just go from the kitchen to the dining room. As a caterer, your dishes have to go further distances in the hands of your staff. So, make sure that you have a staff that is ready to get it there.
2. You Don't Have a Organized Transport System
Having an organized plan to transport product can be a major efficiency booster.
Something as simple as having specific staff members in charge of moving one transport container can make loading easier. An organized moving strategy will help to make sure no product is left behind. If your staff is in charge of specific products, then they aren't running around trying to pick up multiple things. Organized loading processes can also make the speed of transport faster. Every staffer knows exactly what they need to grab and load, so there is no colliding or hesitation. Practicing this process over- and- over will make transport a lot easier. You should also implement a similar strategy for unloading. To help improve your unloading strategy, consider a labeling system. Labels will let you know exactly what is in each container, and make it easier to get each dish exactly where they need to go the first time.
It can also be helpful to color code your transport containers. For example, to make it easy for staff to find cold dishes, consider a blue pan carrier. For hot dishes, you may want to consider a red carrier. These simple changes can make organizing your dishes easy and efficient.
3. You don't make Temperature retention your #1 Priority
We get it, as a caterer you have a lot on your mind. So, making sure that you know all the information you can about temperature retention is probably low on your list of things to do. However, being knowledgeable in temperature retention can be highly beneficial for you down the road. So here are some things that you should know about temperature retention:
1. The more product you put into a transport container, the better it retains its temperature. So, don't be afraid to fill your catering box.
2. Adding a heating pad to carriers can be an easy way to hold your dishes, and these devices can extend the overall holding time of dishes.
3. CLOSE THAT DOOR! By keeping the door open, you are releasing heat from the unit and lessening the amount of time you have to transport the food before it is at an unsafe temperature.
4. Keep a thermometer handy. Now, we are not suggesting opening the door regularly and checking, but making sure that your staff is armed with thermometers to check the dishes for safety can be a quick and easy way to make sure that your food is safe when it arrives.
4. You haven't standardized your equipment
Having transport equipment that matches in style and color will make you look more professional, and make you stand out when arriving at events. You may think that no one is looking at your transport units, but we assure you they are. As you take the product out of the van and into the venue, you are making your first impression. Now, does your first impression scream we are a professional company ready to make your dreams come true? If not, make it! People always say first impressions are the most important, that doesn't go away just because this is the food service industry. Make an impression!
Standardizing will also help to ensure that each staff member is knowledgeable towards the use of your equipment. Having multiples rather than a varied set of holding and transport solutions is an easy way to minimize error and the need for excess training. Staff can be trained to use one unit and be fully knowledgeable on the use of each duplicate. This makes it easy for them to go from unit to unit to help without affecting the safety of your product. For example, each catering box will have the same latch system so, you don't have to worry that asking someone to latch multiple boxes may end in an incorrect temperature seal and a spoiled product.
5. You aren't keeping up with industry Changes and Improvements
Some people say the old way is always the best way. However, new groundbreaking products are being created to make your life easier. Why not take advantage of the various innovations being made based around your struggles? For example, traditional pan carriers with food added can weigh up to 65lbs! That is 14lbs over the safe lifting weight suggested by the National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH). Do not fear! There is a way to save your back while maintaining temperatures. New holders made out of EPP are a great solution for this, they can hold food for hours, but they don't weigh as much as traditional carriers. Innovations like this and so many more are coming out regularly, so make sure you keep up with them! It can help you greatly down the road.