The grocery store and supermarket industries are extremely competitive. With so many choices — small, medium or large sized — all around us, it’s sometimes hard to get our store to stand out among others.
Food sanitation is one of the key indicators that decides where customers will shop. The first sign of a dirty or poorly kept store will get the customer walking right out the door and carrying that word-of-mouth with them.
Food quality and safety counts for more than you think. It’s where your brand value all starts.
Food sanitation isn’t something that can be taken for granted or overlooked every now and then. It’s something that needs to be a #1 priority with the correct guidelines put into place.
It’s probably a good time to ask yourself is your grocery store or supermarket is doing food sanitation the right way. If you’re not sure, make sure you are doing the following things.
Establish guidelines and stick to a process
First things first, in order to keep up with proper food sanitation, you need to have a process in place for your employees to follow.
NSF International says that an effective food sanitation process includes:
- the highest levels of the company/management involved,
- standard operating procedures need to be followed,
- employee training and inspections should be consistent.
A standard operating procedure (SOP) is a procedure specific to your industry that lays out the way a certain task should be completed.
So, every time employees are making your customer a sub, a SOP should be put into place on how the process should work. Use the FDA food code to develop or modify your food safety rules.
Take note of food temperatures
Did you know that germs grow when food isn’t kept at the correct temperature? Whether the food is hot or cold, it needs to be held at a standard temperature at all times.
If the food is cold, it should be kept below 40 degrees F. If the food is hot, it should be kept above 135 degrees F. If the food is somewhere in between these two temperatures, it probably isn’t a good sign.
When customers purchase your groceries, they are going to notice if the food in the coolers isn’t cold. If it feels a little warm, they will probably think twice about purchasing.
On the other hand, food that looks like its’ been sitting out for a while and is luke-warm probably won’t be eaten either.
Use the words “fresh” or “local”
Sure, any grocery store or supermarket can manipulate their food with words like “fresh” or “locally grown” or “organic.” But that just gets you into trouble. We like to believe we are honest.
If your store is purchasing fresh or local foods (which you should be), be sure to tell your customers that. Put it on product descriptions or signs to notify customers where it was grown.
Locally-grown food usually contains little to no pesticides or chemicals and therefore, can go bad faster. Make sure you staying on top of your inventory. If your produce is looking bad, be sure it is switched out with fresher items.
You don’t want to risk it when a customer finds a rotten fruit.
Customers all around the world are attracted to fresh produce. It’s the new craze. So trust us when we say the fresh and local foods will be worth it.
Be observant and clean
Shoppers are urged to be observant while they are grocery shopping. If they notice dirty shelves or random things spilled in places, they are likely to not return.
It’s also crucial as a grocery store that you stay observant as well. Keeping your grocery store or supermarket as clean as possible will let your customers know that you follow sanitary practices.
Assign an employee/s to stay on top of the messes that come about during the day or just making sure everything is in its place.
Keep an eye on your service areas, deli market, to-go food areas and restrooms. These are places where customers will notice the cleanliness.
Also, if there is ANY sign of pests or rodents in your store, take every precaution to get right of them as soon as possible. This is grounds for getting your establishment reported and looked into by Food Regulatory businesses or worse, shut down.
Pay attention to expiration dates
You would think grocery stores and supermarkets would be on top of keeping out-of-date products off the shelves.
However, when Dateline did their “Supermarket Sweep,” they found many stores having days old expired milk and deli meat weeks past due in their stock.
Stores are doing it and the customers are noticing. Your employees should be trained to stay on top of the sell-by and expiration dates of products and having a process to dispose of them when they are bad.
Sell-by dates vary by state and although it’s sometimes hard to know when foods will actually go bad, as a store owner, you need to be extra careful and dispose of the past-due and sell-by products asap.
Ensure that employees practice hygiene
Like mentioned above, your employees should be trained properly about SOP’s and food sanitation guidelines. Keeping up with the correct hygiene should an important part of this.
Signs and pictures of typical hygiene processes is a great way to reinforce these habits. Here are the food safety hygiene tips your employees should be following:
- Use of hairnets and beard covers
- Clean uniforms (this could be done by the grocery store)
- Washing of hands with hot water for at least 20 seconds before entering the workplace, after stepping out, using the bathroom or working with food that contains bacteria
- Taking off work aprons before breaks or using the bathroom
- Removal of all jewelry
Keep in mind, these are just the major things that your employees should be doing to ensure food safety and contamination. Other procedures and practices should be established based on your store.
If this didn’t make you think food sanitation in your grocery store was important, know that each year roughly one out of six Americans get sick, and thousands are hospitalized and even die from foodborne diseases.
Ensuring your grocery store or supermarket is keeping up food sanitation practices and using the best standards is crucial to the survival of your business and in the hands of others.
No matter how big or small your store is, food safety should be your top priority.
Be sure to check out what a partnership with FreshOne is all about. We can tell you that we will provide you with fresh foods and the best safety and quality.