The health and safety of your food is important, but you should also be concerned with your food quality. If one low-quality food item makes it to a first-time customer, even if it’s an outlier rather than the norm, it could completely jeopardize your relationship with that customer forever.
No restaurant or food manufacturer is perfect; there are going to be errors and random occurrences that compromise the quality of your food in one dimension or another. The way to fight back against them is through auditing, which allows you to evaluate your approach, gauge the quality of your food and make any corrections necessary before your customers are affected.
Types of Audits to Consider
So what kind of “quality audits” are we talking about
1. Formulation audits
First, you need to ensure that your food ingredients are being measured and included in the right amounts and in the right order. Adding too much salt to a confection, for example, can completely ruin the taste and/or texture. Institute formulation checks to ensure each ingredient of the recipe is added as intended, with supervisory interference on occasion—especially when you’re making large batches, with higher stakes for failure.
2. Size audits
Portions are important to keep consistent for a number of reasons. Ensuring the correct portions helps you control profitability; if you make your portions too big, you could end up losing money or wasting food. On the other hand, portions that are too small may leave customers feeling unsatisfied. Even worse, any inconsistency in size could give customers irreparably different experiences, damaging your brand reputation in the process. Establish firm controls, such as a mandatory weighing before food goes out, to ensure your portion sizes are all correct.
3. Temperature audits
Hot food, defined as food above 135 degrees F, needs to stay hot, while cold food, defined as food below 41 degrees F, needs to stay cold. Temperature charts at every stage of food production can help you ensure that your food is being kept at the proper temperature throughout the process.
4. Packaging audits
You may also consider auditing your packaging processes. Ensuring that procedures are consistently followed can help you avoid wasting products like plastic and cardboard, ensure proper sealing and containment and help you ensure a consistent customer experience at the same time. This should be one of the final audits before your products are shipped out, giving them a once-over to check for any inconsistencies or defects.
5. Machine calibration audits
Over time, your equipment may stray from its original functionality to such a degree that it interferes with the quality of your finished product. For example, if your oven reads a temperature that’s 10 degrees higher than the actual temperature in the oven, it could overcook your food. That’s where calibration comes in. The idea here is to periodically check the equipment you use to ensure it’s working as intended, and if it isn’t, to correct its functionality. These audits only need to be performed sparingly, such as once a week or even once a month, depending on your operation.
Putting Audits in Action
These audits should seem logically sound to you, but how can you put them into practice effectively?
- Train your staff completely. First, make sure your staff is fully trained on best practices for quality and auditing standards. Making sure your staff knows all the proper rules and procedures is half the battle.
- Have your managers prioritize quality. Your managers and supervisors are going to be the first line of defense in the battle for consistent food quality. They need to be on your side, and need to understand the importance of food quality standards. That way, they’ll consistently audit your staff’s work, and you can rest assured that your policies are being followed.
- Use the right tools. Having a single temperature chart isn’t going to help your staff keep quality audits top-of-mind, nor is it the best way to organize and document the information you gather. Instead, it’s better to implement a technological system like JustFood ERP, which allows you to more easily track the food products coming in and leaving from your business. The easier it is to audit, the more likely your staff will be to do it.
- Be consistent. If you’re only enforcing the rules half the time, or if you’re using different measurements each time you audit, there are going to be discrepancies. Remain as consistent as possible when evaluating your food quality.
- Identify failures. Occasionally, your auditing processes will fail, either due to human error or because they weren’t structured in a way that allowed their successful execution. When this happens, run a critical analysis to determine what went wrong—and don’t be afraid to make a correction that improves your auditing abilities.
Once in place, these food quality audits will help ensure that each of your customers has an equally satisfying culinary experience. It’s almost impossible to reduce deviations down to zero percent, but the closer you get, the stronger your brand reputation will become, and the more customers you’ll attract for the long term.