or wait 15 seconds
or wait 15 seconds
The onslaught of AI-equipped and robotic food service technology is quickening as we slide the final hill toward the end of 2019. Just in the last month or so, readers of this website were introduced to the industry's first pizza-making assembly line, while sister site, QSRweb, reported on a salad-making robot that mixes and serves fresh combos in mere seconds.
And all the while, many pizza operators are likely standing by wondering about one very specific and very critical concern with these devices: How are they equipped to maintain absolute food safety?
We wondered too, so we went to food safety assessment provider, Steritech. We talked to Paula Herald, technical consultant at the company's innovation arm, The Steritech Institute, who has 20 years of experience in food safety and helping companies build successful quality assurance programs. She also holds a doctorate in Food Science and Nutrition as well as a master's and bachelor's degrees in Food Technology and Science.
Across restaurant brands, Herald has noticed there are trends in the types of AI-driven machines and technology that require specific attention to food safety considerations. She said some of the most prominent types of automated and even robotic technology restaurant brands are most commonly using now are:
Q:What are leaders at these brands that use automation and robotics most concerned about in keeping both their food and their workers safe?
A: (They're most concerned about the) information that is needed to be programmed into automated equipment is important for proper operation. The wrong date, time, recipe ... or incorrect calibration can make the automated equipment perform incorrectly.
Additionally, extra training/certification for employees to operate equipment is crucial. This is especially true for equipment with blades (or) knives or areas that can cut, trap, smash (or) burn employees.
There also needs to be a backup plan for when automated equipment goes down. When human staff calls out, you can call in other employees, but automated systems may not allow for humans to fill in. If you have invested in automation, you may no longer have a trained staff to call in as backup.
Q: Pizza Marketplace recently covered a northwestern U.S. pizza brand that will use an automated pizza assembly line, while sister site, QSRweb reported on a southeastern U.S. brand that's expanding through the use of a salad-making robot. Both devices use ingredient hoppers, so what kinds of food safety issues do you anticipate or have you seen with these, and do you find that the creators of such technology have typically built these safeguards into their systems?
A: A few issues The Steritech Institute has seen on this front would be:
Q: What would you recommend that a restaurant operator insist on and/or look for when using automation to handle or store food?
A: Recommendations would include:
Q: What issues — related to these systems and machines — do you see or anticipate with restaurant staff around adequate cleaning procedures, particularly with respect to proper training and compliance?
A: Any use of automated equipment would require training on the proper use and safety considerations of employees to prevent injury or damage to equipment. Also, it might be advised to have only specified, trained employees be able to work with this equipment.
If automated equipment has intricate parts, cleaning and sanitation are a concern as well as protecting the electronics from moisture or corrosive cleaning solutions. For example, a frozen yogurt or soft-serve machine has various regulatory requirements, with respect to frequency of sanitizing, so adherence to the regulations will need to override any manufacturer's preset cycles for cleaning and sanitation.
Award-winning veteran print and broadcast journalist, Shelly Whitehead, has spent most of the last 30 years reporting for TV and newspapers, including the former Kentucky and Cincinnati Post and a number of network news affiliates nationally. She brings her cumulative experience as a multimedia storyteller and video producer to the web-based pages of Pizzamarketplace.com and QSRweb.com after a lifelong “love affair” with reporting the stories behind the businesses that make our world go ‘round. Ms. Whitehead is driven to find and share news of the many professional passions people take to work with them every day in the pizza and quick-service restaurant industry. She is particularly interested in the growing role of sustainable agriculture and nutrition in food service worldwide and is always ready to move on great story ideas and news tips.