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How cafes and coffee shops can digitise to ensure they stay compliant and safe

How cafes and coffee shops can digitise to ensure they stay compliant and safe

In the business of preparing and serving food, mistakes are costly. Any failure to meet compliance guidelines presents a severe risk to your customers and ultimately, to your reputation. It only takes one incident to seriously damage trust in your brand and, with alternative cafe and coffee shop options potentially just a couple of doors down, making sure that you can retain customer loyalty is essential.

But without visibility over your key processes, you have no way of knowing who or what was at fault, how to prevent it from happening again, and whether there are wider problems at play. For all organisations in the catering industry, embracing digitisation in daily operations will eliminate these blind spots and enable you to proactively control your compliance.

Digitise food safety logbooks

Logbooks are the bedrock of any food business. They prove that food safety and storage procedures are being followed, as well as providing a paper trail in the event of any incidents, complaints or legal action.

They can also be the difference between commercial success and failure. If an environmental health officer (EHO) inspects your logbooks and decides they’re not up to scratch, they could give your business a customer-repellingly poor hygiene rating, put it in special measures, or even shut it down completely. It’s vital to keep these records organised and up to date.

Most logbooks are still paper-based, and this creates unwanted extra admin for staff and also makes records easy to falsify. Busy employees might also skip their paperwork at the moment, completing it retrospectively, merely as a box-ticking exercise. With data this unreliable, you can never truly know how compliant your business is.

Digitising logbooks makes the whole record-keeping process faster, simpler and more transparent. Employees can log their food safety checks in just a couple of taps – with photographic evidence if needed – instead of having to write them all out by hand. Entries can be timestamped and tied to a user, making them virtually impossible to falsify.

Data can be gathered continuously and be readily accessible 24/7. This allows businesses to spot trends, identify and fix failures quickly and know their compliance status at all times – rather than discovering major issues on the day of an audit itself. With all information localised in one central location in the cloud, logbook data can be available with one click.

Migrate profit protection records to the cloud

Profit protection, quite simply, is about protecting your margins. It involves identifying and minimising all potential sources of financial loss, from waste and shrinkage to theft and fraud and non-compliance with brand standards.

Much like food safety logbooks, these records are often kept on paper or in spreadsheets and therefore the same problems of unreliable data and a lack of visibility are also endemic.

Gathering and collating data from a mixture of analogue and digital sources is also a huge admin burden. Sources of loss must be identified and fixed as quickly as possible, to prevent them from escalating and becoming a serious risk to your business.

By digitising these records, the whole process becomes streamlined; profit protection data becomes stored in one central hub, allowing data to be connected to a bigger picture. It also gives you the ability to set up automatic remedial actions, based on a set of rules you define, to quickly shut down problems as they arise. This means you can identify, fix and report on issues in a matter of hours rather than days or weeks.

Digital checklists provide insight into compliance

With the introduction of Natasha’s Law in October 2021, catering businesses now have an even greater responsibility to ensure their food labelling is clear, comprehensive and easy to understand. Failure to comply is a criminal offence which could not only damage your business but also have potentially tragic consequences. Yet, with so many moving parts in the food preparation process, how can you know for sure that your business is compliant?

With a digital workflow management tool, these checklists are stored in the cloud, and staff can work through them on a mobile app rather than through paper records. There’s no room for cutting corners or falsifying information, as workflows can only be marked as complete with all the correct information, and this is timestamped along with user data. This isn’t about singling people out, but it does hold everyone accountable for compliance.

A new standard for brand standards

Brand standards cover everything that could influence someone’s perception of your business, from staff uniforms and in-store signage to portion sizes, product descriptions and the correct positioning of products. Consistent brand standards, that properly reflect the central strategy of your company, improve customer trust and loyalty, but in letting the smallest details slip, you risk both financial and reputational loss to your business.

This is especially true for a café or coffee shop, where your brand can be the one thing that keeps loyal customers coming day in, day out, and helps you stand out from the crowd. As there is often so much competition, all serving the same types of foods and drinks, brand standards that include your customer service and product quality, are often the only thing making people come back.

By using a digital workflow platform, you can ensure all these brand standards are followed to a T. Management can view and edit processes and set tasks that require proof of completion (such as a signature or picture) from staff, ensuring vision from the top down to see all processes are being adhered to, and accountability from the bottom up. Ultimately this results in insight, so if something goes wrong, you know why, as you can see what was supposed to happen, and what did happen.

Start now and plan for the future

Digitising your critical processes and compliance procedures may seem like a daunting and expensive prospect. Starting small and working upwards is the key. By targeting areas where digital workflows can have the most impact and monitoring performance over a few months, organisations put themselves in a better position to roll it out across the rest of their business and stay ahead of any competitors just down the street.

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