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Automating Food Temperature Checks, Improving Compliance and Productivity

Fine dining is the sum total of service staff and culinary professionals working in harmony to prepare memorable experiences. The food, service and ambiance must be perfect. In the restaurant’s kitchen, chefs both work to excite the senses and to make sure food follows the highest quality and safety standards.

To support quality, a restaurant in Las Vegas implemented a new food preparation and storage process. The new cook-chill process enables chefs to bulk-produce and vacuum-pack broths, sauces and other items to maintain their quality longer.

By vacuum-packing and freezing foods, cook-chill also removes oxygen that breeds dangerous bacteria. For the restaurant, this process reduces the odds of food contamination and extends the freshness of stored foods from one to four weeks, all while meeting stringent food code requirements.

Measuring Quality

Keeping food safe also requires chefs to take regular food temperatures and record the data, making it readily available for food safety inspectors. For the restaurant, this process was nothing new, but required significant amounts of time and for chefs to make tedious entries in paper-based records – that’s until they found a better way. The restaurant team asked IT Architect for help evaluating solutions. “We started looking at products to help automate food safety,” the IT architect says. “Our focus was on solutions that are intuitive and tough enough to withstand the rigours of a demanding kitchen environment.”

The research yielded a digital food safety application developed by Walt Disney Parks and Resorts in partnership with iCertainty called CHEFS® (Computerised HACCP Enhanced Food Safety.) By delivering the application on Zebra TC56 mobile computers and leveraging Zebra ZD420 desktop printers, the IT technologists created an end-to-end solution for accelerating and automating temperature recording, tracking, reporting and compliance.

Zebra devices are rugged and can stand up to hash conditions, including drops and spill,” the IT architect sats. “Food safety requires a higher degree of reliability and that’s a big reason why we chose its mobile computers.” The IT architect also noted that the IT technologist previously used Zebra Solutions for its guest Wi-Fi network, creating confidence behind the brand.

A powerful Recipe

Having chosen the Zebra-iCertainty team as its digital food safety solution partner, the IT architect went to work on getting the CHEFS® solution approved through the SNHD with help from iCertainty. In parallel, iCertainty deployed temperature sensors in the freezers, including a Low Power, Wide Area LoRaWAN® protocol-based network. This approach was designed to support WAN-compatible devices and provide reliable connectivity.

“We rolled out temperature monitoring as first step,” the IT architect recalls. “That was straightforward, and the savings were immediate.” The IT team also used 4G hotspots to strengthen connectivity across the temperature sensors, mobile computers, network gateways and a cloud-based server that stores temperature data.

Technology for the Kitchen

To incorporate the solution into kitchen operations. The restaurant provided chefs a pair of two-hour training sessions. “We needed a solution that’s easy to use to support users with different levels of technical expertise,” the IT architect says. “So, we chose Zebra solutions that deliver a similar experience to the mobile devices that chefs are comfortable with using in their daily lives which also accelerated training and adoption.”

The system was fully operational in less than two months from the start of the project. The Zebra-iCertainty team’s ability to work efficiently, openness to feedback and collaboration also added exceptional value to Zebra hardware and CHEFS® software, helping the company get the most from its investment.

Real-time Monitoring

By using its new, fully integrated measurement, recording and monitoring solution, the restaurant now has real-time visibility into food safety. In the event of an out-of-specification temperature reading from a freezer sensor, the kitchen, facilities and operations staffs receive an instant alert and can respond immediately.

When cooking begins, the CHEFS® application starts a sequence predicated on the day’s schedule that prompts chefs to take temperature readings at timed intervals throughout the shift. For even greater visibility and to keep safety in focus, IT set up a large monitor in the kitchen to digitally display work in progress for the culinary team.

During preparation, the restaurant use Bluetooth® probes to record temperatures before vacuum-packing the food items. The probes transmit the readings to the Zebra mobile computers, which then are send to the cloud server via cellular signals. Chefs also use Zebra mobile computers and desktop printers to print QR-coded labels for the sealed food items prior to placing them in the freezers to improve tracking.

“The restaurant team can seamlessly work CHEFS® into workflows,” says iCertainty. “They can quickly validate temperatures and the move the product to storage, which is monitored with IoT elements. That helps ensure, from a. compliance standpoint, that the food is stored at the right temperature and that each step leading up to storage and even retrieval is documented.”

The real-time data capture capability is critical for reporting. For example, if a food safety inspector shows up for a shot check and asks to see a cook-hill log, the head chef on duty can show all the temperature readings for the day or previously time periods. “We’re capturing temperature readings every 15 minutes,” the restaurant says. “Data points collected are discrete, clean and can be quickly shared.”

Continuing to Win

Since deploying the CHEFS® system on Zebra mobile computers, the restaurant team reports that its staff works more efficiently with new automations, helping to cut production and labor costs for cook-hill find items by up to 66 percent. Most importantly, the restaurant’s chefs can use the associated time savings to devote more time to cooking world-class cuisine.

With the successes at the restaurants, they have more than doubled down with its investment in the Zebra-iCertainty platform at the Buffet restaurant, one of Las Vegas’ biggest and most popular buffets. The buffet has more than 50 freezers and coolers – that’s more than 10 times as many storage units as the restaurant.

“With our initial project at the restaurant, we’ve had several takeaways, including a focus on connectivity,” the restaurant says. “And because we had strong partners and solutions, we’re continuing to make investments into the platform and are growing our successes, along with out footprint.”


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Harni Jabar