Food prep hygiene takeaways

5th of August 2021
Food prep hygiene takeaways
Food prep hygiene takeaways

Many restaurants have had to morph into off-site diners during the pandemic, while “ghost” kitchens have sprung up everywhere. What are the cleaning and hygiene challenges faced by food takeaway and delivery businesses, asks Ann Laffeaty? And how has Covid-19 impacted on those challenges?

The restaurant industry has suffered hugely over the past 15 months, with many eateries all over Europe being forced to close. But in many cases, takeaways have been allowed to remain open since off-site dining is considered less of a threat than spending hours at a time seated in an enclosed restaurant alongside strangers. So there has been a huge upsurge in food takeaway businesses.

Besides such traditional offerings as Chinese, Indian, pizza, and fish and chips, it is now entirely possible to order a three-course takeout banquet or a tasting menu from a fine dining restaurant. At the same time, a growing number of talented home bakers and enterprising cooks have been setting up “ghost” kitchens and offering their own off-premise meal options.

And many of these restaurants and ghost kitchens have teamed up with logistics operators to enable meals to be delivered directly to the customer’s door.

But all food businesses – whether takeaway or dine-in - need to adhere to high standards of hygiene, particularly when in the midst of a global pandemic. And there are several cleaning and hygiene challenges that are specific to a takeaway.

For example, speed of service and delivery is a major requirement - but dishing up meals in double-quick time should not lead to cleaning and hygiene regimes being skimped, says Essity’s horeca marketing director Hanneke Kuipers.

“It is key that the hygiene efforts of staff are placed front and centre at every step of the food journey to ensure an efficient workflow and safe food handling,” she said. According to Kuipers, ghost kitchens pose particular challenges.

“Research reveals that more than 50 per cent of consumers now claim to be comfortable when ordering from a delivery-only restaurant with no physical storefront,” she said. “However, most ghost kitchens have limited space and they tend to use on-demand staff and third-party delivery companies. This means it is crucial the food-handling policies of all third-party companies are scrutinised because these operators will become part of the food journey.”

Where restaurants operate their own delivery fleet it is important to ensure all staff are provided with food safety training and PPE, she says. “A delivery toolkit incorporating face masks, sanitiser bottles and paper towels can be helpful.”

And customers need reassurance the premises are clean, she adds. “The provision of a tamper-proof seal on every delivery bag is an easy way of demonstrating to clients the food has not been touched since leaving the kitchen,” she said. “Similarly, a pouch containing individually-wrapped napkins incorporated in the food package will reassure the customer that these, too, are hygienic and untouched.”

She claims it is important for takeaways to be transparent with guests about their food safety efforts. “You could even go so far as to include a note with each order to explain the measures that have been taken to ensure the food is safe,” she said. “And if this message also thanks the customer for their support, it will help to build on the emotional connection between customer and food provider even when it is not possible to entertain them in-house.”

A new page on the Tork website provides a complete series of tips for takeaways from food preparation to handover. The portal includes hand hygiene posters, pick-up station signs and a guide to using QR codes.

In traditional takeaways where customers pick up their own meals, it is important all cleaning and hygiene measures are both rigorous and evident, she says. “Hand sanitising stations should be provided at all points where guests are entering and exiting, and staff hand-washing stations should be checked regularly to ensure they are fully stocked with soap and paper towels at the start of each shift,” she said. “And all staff members should be trained to handle takeaway bags with care, treating the packing process in the same way as they do when preparing the food itself.”

Speed is key

Essity offers a range of products for use in takeaways including Tork Reflex Portable Single Sheet Centrefeed. This compact portable surface wiping system has a docking station and a rotating nozzle which allow the paper to be pulled out one-handedly from any angle for speed of delivery. New from Essity is Tork Odour Control Hand Washing Liquid Soap, claimed to remove pungent food odours such as fish and garlic from the hands.

Filmop’s export area manager Paolo Scapinello agrees with Kuipers that speed is of the essence in any takeaway. “All products and systems used in these environments should be capable of achieving thorough cleanliness in the shortest possible time,” he said. “And all equipment should be close at hand, lightweight and user-friendly to allow cleaning and sanitising operations to be carried out quickly and easily.”

The fact that takeaway kitchens are usually smaller than those of dine-in restaurants presents a challenge, he says. “All equipment needs to be sufficiently compact to be able to be easily accommodated in a confined space,” he said.

And business operators need to be aware customers are more likely to watch their food being prepared in a takeaway, adds Scapinello. “It is therefore reassuring for customers to note cleaning is being carried out regularly, particularly since the advent of Covid-19,” he said.  “A takeaway can enhance its image and add value by paying close attention to cleanliness.”

Filmop’s ErgoDrop mop is said to be particularly suitable for use in takeaway kitchens due to its compact size. It has a dosing system to prevent accidental spillage and a design that allows cleaning to be carried out quickly and effortlessly.

Unlike Scapinello, GOJO’s UK and Ireland managing director Chris Wakefield believes the pandemic has led to a shift away from the traditional takeaway model where people watch their food being prepared. “A combination of Covid-19 and the ready availability of contactless payments has meant an increasing number of takeaways now offer doorstep delivery to help maintain social distancing with customers.”

According to Wakefield, the large numbers of orders received in a typical takeaway can be a major challenge – particularly in the current climate.  “Having a larger volume of orders to fulfil means more time needs to be spent on sanitising surfaces  - and the operatives’ hands will also need to be cleaned more frequently,” he said. “This means the main challenge is not space, but speed.”

Customers have high expectations of quick service food outlets, he says. “We live in a world where everything is available on demand, and this has bred a culture where people are not prepared to wait,” he said. “However, hygiene should never be sacrificed for the sake of speed which means takeaway managers need to equip their premises with surface sanitising products that are both effective and fast-acting.”

Such products need to be ready to use, fast-acting and quick to dry while also offering high levels of antimicrobial efficacy, he adds. “Where time is of the essence it is vital to select products that will quickly reach their stated efficacy levels,” said Wakefield. “This is where surface sanitising sprays and wipes come to the fore.”

He claims such products can be easily incorporated into daily protocols alongside hand hygiene and cleaning routines. GOJO offers various hand hygiene solutions for small kitchens including the Purell Everywhere System which is said to have a small footprint. Also from GOJO are Purell Surface Sanitising Spray and Wipes and Purell Advanced Hygienic Hand Rub.

Kärcher’s target group manager Gundula Braun feels the compact size of the kitchens can be a particular issue in takeaways. “The fact there is less space available means that scaled-down cleaning equipment will be required,” she said.

“In a takeaway business with an open kitchen and a small counter it is also important the premises are visibly hygienic. This will create a good impression on customers and encourage them to come back.

“Speed of delivery is also crucial because nobody wants to sit there for 20 minutes to wait for their food. And customer throughput will be higher compared with in a dine-in which will lead to more dirt being walked in. Cleaning therefore needs to be a high priority.”

Customer expectations

Kärcher offers small steam cleaners and battery-operated products for use in takeaway kitchens. “Cleaning with plug-in machines is undesirable in these environments since they tend to have few electrical sockets and little space,” she said. Also from Kärcher are window and kitchen cleaning agents for removing grease and other liquids from surfaces.

According to Braun, customer expectations have changed in the light of Covid-19. “Many clients are now taking a closer look at takeaways and they expect their servers to be wearing gloves and masks,” she said.

Cromwell Polythene provides disposable gloves for use in takeaways. “Our range includes blue nitrile examination gloves which have strong barrier properties and offer a high resistance to oils and fats,” says managing director James Lee. “They are also packed in a way that means they are dispensed cuff first, which offers clear hygienic advantages.”

However, he says the increased use of gloves and other disposable products can lead to waste issues. “The on-the-go nature of takeaways increases the risk of littering, so it is important recycling initiatives in public spaces are expanded to help mitigate this risk,” he said.

So as lockdowns start to cease and restrictions ease, will the current boom in the takeaway sector level off? This is unlikely, says Kärcher’s Gundula Braun. “The industry has high potential and we believe we can grow our takeaway market share in the future,” she said. “And we feel demand for battery-driven machines and compact products will grow in this sector.”

Essity’s Hanneke Kuipers also believes that the industry is likely to grow further. “This new dynamic will force restaurants to adapt to evolving guest expectations,” she says.

GOJO’s Chris Wakefield concurs. “Until the pandemic is declared to be over, some consumer concern about ‘dining in’ restaurants will remain – and this means takeaway and delivery businesses will continue to thrive,” he said.


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