An Approach to Developing an Effective Food Management Program at Your Business

Why is it so important to have a food management program?

In the beginning of the first week of April 2022, Federal officials in the United States were investigating a multi-state outbreak of norovirus infections. The infection was traced to raw oysters from Canada. By the end of the first week, there were already over 100 cases reported from 13 US states California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Minnesota, New Jersey, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Texas and Washington.

Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States, geared into a firefighting mode. In Canada, a lot of recalls were issued. In the US, recalls weren't issued, but consumers, restaurants and retailers were warned against eating or selling oysters from certain harvest areas in British Columbia and Canada. CDC reported that the oysters could have been contaminated with norovirus from dirty water that has sewage or vomit in it.

This isn't an isolated case of food-borne illness. CDC estimates that each year one in six Americans get sick from contaminated food or beverages. 3,000 die from food-borne illness. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that food-borne illnesses cost the United States more than $15.6 billion each year. Food safety is a major cause of concern for public health authorities in the United States.

Maybe all of the food-borne cases couldn't be controlled. But a lot of them can be averted if the food industry is more vigilant about the food they sell. The food service and hospitality industry need to be more focussed on the food they serve and sell. Being aware of the food's origin, the supply chain route and other details which could have led to the food getting contaminated. One of the best ways, possibly, to do that is to have an Effective Food Management Program for staff involved in the processing, selling and serving in a food business.

The role of a food management program, however, isn't limited to identifying health hazards due to food. It is equally important to ascertain how well a food business is doing. From effective operations to strategy and leadership, the best food management degree has the potential to create the next food industry leaders.

Through this article, we will cover the best approach to developing a food management program for your business.

Establish an Effective Food Management Program

Before one gets on to establishing an effective food management program, it is important to understand what a food management program entails. Food management (or food and beverage management), to put it in simple terms, is an extensive process that includes a formal review of food selection, preparation, preservation and display.

Its purpose is to ensure that all food sold to commercial restaurants or businesses meet regulations set by the state and/or federal government to mitigate foodborne illness among the public. It helps in running the foodservice operations smoothly and is equally important in menu planning, designing, and chalking budgets.

Most food management programs have a multi-pronged approach. With the help of simulations, business and marketing strategies, management studies, and most importantly research focusing on high-priority issues facing the food industry, the students of a food management program are trained to improve the food system's efficiency and performance.

It is important to note that the foodservice industry has multiple stakeholders. Various people take care of different tasks at different stages. The primary task, however, of everyone involved is to ensure that food items are safe to eat, palatable, and devoid of any contamination. That makes sure that the customer of a particular food business trusts it, and is ready to associate with it on a long-term basis.

Thereon, anyone involved in food management has a variety of responsibilities and objectives. From ensuring preparation areas meet cleanliness standards to making sure that food is stored at the correct temperature to understanding the importance of budgets, planning and designing. People with degrees in food and beverage management also work in the processing industry to make sure that packaged foods are prepared properly and the labels give the right information to the consumers.

A basic food management program broadly covers-

  1. Sanitation and safety
  2. Hospitality management
  3. Food production
  4. Purchasing
  5. Culinary art
  6. Menu planning

Food borne illness is an ongoing concern for foodservice organizations.

The cost of foodborne illnesses to your business is estimated at $60 billion annually.

Educate Your Food Handling Staff

Yasmine Motarjemi, a food safety specialist, writing in the Handbook of Hygiene Control in the Food Industry, remarks Fundamental to food safety management is the training and education of the staff. Training and education are the stepping stones in food safety management- they link theory to practice.

She isn't wrong. An effective Food Management Program, besides ensuring that one is updated on latest food technologies and restaurant software in the food service industry, makes sure that the food is safe to eat. To become a food service manager, one typically needs a high school diploma and several years of work experience in the food service and hospitality industry.

As per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, employment of food service managers is projected to grow 15 percent from 2020 to 2030. About 41,400 openings for food service managers are projected each year, on average, by the end of this decade.

But most food service manager positions (especially with the laws around food safety in the US becoming stringent) require more than a high school education. For senior roles in the food service management, one has to receive additional training at community colleges, technical or vocational schools, culinary art schools, or four-year colleges that grant a bachelor degree. That is because a food and beverage manager's role isn't isolated to managing just a food outlet. It requires constant and consistent consultation with the chefs and other cooking staff about the price, the portion sizes of items on the menu, and the safety procedures required to be followed during the cooking and processing of food. Managing budgets to ensure profitability, and executing human resources duties.

The good news is that many colleges offer great programs. There are degree programs, certificate programs and continuing education courses as well. Most of these have experienced faculty staff and many scholarships to provide financial aid to aspiring individuals.

One such culinary arts, hospitality and food management degree program is offered by the Culinary Institute of America (CIA). With campuses in New York, California, Texas, and Singapore, it caters to the growing demand for food service experts. It offers a diverse range of undergraduate, graduate, and online programs; executive education, food, and wine enthusiast courses, and professional programs. One may choose between Culinary Arts or Baking and Pastry Arts as a concentration for the Bachelor of Business Administration in Food Business Management program. This course helps one in developing management skills in finances, human resource management, foodservice management, marketing, and entrepreneurship. CIA's Academic Catalog has information about its academic calendar, courses, academic policies, and student life at CIA campuses.

Establish Clear Direction & Objectives

Motarjemi writes that from employees to managers (in food service industry), perception of risk, attitude, and skills are key determining factors in their practice. The same is true in relation to consumers, regulatory authorities, and other stakeholders in society who have a role in food safety.

None of the scientific expertise, management systems, regulatory requirements, and experiences will be useful in ensuring safety if the people who have to implement them are not knowledgeable, trained, motivated, or empowered to do so.

And to ensure that each staff in the food service industry is capable of handling the duties delegated to them, having a set of clear objectives is of extreme importance. Some of the objectives of the food and beverage management program usually coincide with Food Safety Management System. They include-

  1. Interactive communication among all the people involved- Clear communication recognizes potential hazards to a food business, including food safety and operations.
  2. Efficient system management- A structured and well-defined management is crucial to ensuring that every task in the food supply chain is executed properly.
  3. Understanding prerequisite programs- The prerequisite programs (PRPs) have a set of programs for contract service providers, vendor approval, allergen management, etc. Each program is extremely important and needs experts or trained individuals/teams to ensure efficient food system management.
  4. Knowledge about food safety and sanitation practices- The foremost in this is understanding a set of seven principles, HACCP, which is a systematic approach to identify, evaluate, and control food safety hazards. Additionally, knowledge of food production terms and the acumen to apply key principles in operating foodservice establishments, and evaluate and critique the effectiveness of such applications.

Other objectives for an effective food management program include-

  1. Understand the importance of skills and behavior required during customer interaction to ensure customer satisfaction.
  2. Have appropriate skills in human resource theories and principles to maximize employee performance and employee retention.
  3. Recognize the importance of technology (old and new) to apply it in ways to improve various organizational functions.
  4. Understand inventory systems and supply chain management to ascertain business efficiency.
  5. Acknowledge the global perspective and diversity in the food service industry.
  6. Take into consideration the technological developments things like how to implement an ordering app in your restaurant business, Add Cart and Sidebar tabs on the ordering apps, for the ease of customers.

The global food service industry, even with major disruptions like the pandemic, global wars, and conflicts, is expected to grow at a healthy rate. But with growth, comes responsibilities. In the food and beverage industry, one of the biggest responsibilities is to mitigate the health hazards risks. Perhaps, that's the reason that food safety laws are becoming more stringent by the day. Food safety regulations and standards have been the main drivers for new trends in the food industry in the last few decades.

For instance, seeing the growth in the perishable packaged food industry, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a rule for food transportation in 2016. It requires shippers to have documented hygienic measures while carrying food commodities. Similarly, the Food Safety Modernization Act was passed in 2011, taking into consideration the "dramatic changes in the global food system and in our understanding of food-borne illness and its consequences". With this, the focus was shifted from responding to food-borne illness to preventing it.

But times are changing, consumer awareness is rising, and consumer information dissemination through news as well as social media channels is faster and better. Issuing a food product recall in case of damage can have a huge impact on a food brand's reputation and business. Food can hugely influence a person't physical and mental well-being.

Maybe that's the reason, the power of food is being harnessed for rehabilitation of the disadvantaged groups. A lot of groups social services, student services, etc work with people in the criminal justice system and disadvantaged groups to help them make better food choices. There are efforts being made to increase the awareness level about food safety and sanitation everywhere.

It is, thus, the need of the hour to be updated about the latest trends, threats and laws that could prevent food borne illnesses or any other threats.

Proper food handling is essential to protecting employee health and safety.

If you don't have a food safety program in place, your business could be at risk for foodborne illnesses and other violations.

Evaluate Your Current Food Handling Practices

To be a part of the food and beverage industry, one of the foremost things is to keep analyzing and evaluating your business's food handling practices. Those in managerial or supervisory roles need an exhaustive training in implementing a food safety system, such as HACCP (a set of seven principles, Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points is a systematic approach to identify, evaluate, and control food safety hazards.)

Additionally, people who work directly with food, but are not responsible for implementing management systems, need thorough awareness in sanitation or hygiene. It is a legal obligation to have proper food handling practices in a food service organization.
Some of the benefits of having efficient food handling practices ensures-

  • Lesser food product recalls or returns.
  • A trustworthy relationship with customers.
  • Makes it easier to get an ISO 22000 certification.
  • Compliance with food laws.
  • Better public health system.
  • Better environmental health.

Conclusion

A thoroughly assessed food service management program could be the best thing to happen to a food business. Employees with rigorous food management training are capable of ensuring safety and sanitation practices in a food business.

They ensure that the technology is being optimized to its best capabilities and also ensure that the Federal food safety regulations, as laid out by the Food And Drug Administration or other government bodies, are being followed. It helps in having transparency with the customers about your food products and food handling practices.

Food safety is a major concern for all businesses.

You want to protect your employees and customers from foodborne illnesses and make sure your food is safe to eat.

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