The Food Has Arrived – Now What?

Walking from a food service loading dock to a storeroom and observing potential obstacles can be an eye-opening experience. How many garbage receptacles are in the area? What is the ambient temperature? Is the space clear enough to handle deliveries or are there obstructions in the way? Is the size of the delivery so large to require double handling? Is sufficient space available to store delivered products? If observations reveal potential problems, an operator will need to change the ordering process and equipment package.

In my experience, food ordering is not guesswork or a reactionary process. There should be established par levels for all items within a food service. If an operation is receiving products everyday, it is likely that delivered items are being doubled-handled. If products are received weekly, there is probably inadequate space to store items properly and the challenge of the basic rotation responsibilities of first-in, first-out inventorying.

Purchasing and receiving is food operations 101. When there’s insufficient understanding the fundamental of ordering, operators need to work with their purchasing staff to educate them on proper ordering procedures and food safety requirements. Many broad line distributors can assist with this training.

Operators need to understand how to use refrigeration and freezer storage space to optimize product movement and food safety. There are three basic requirements to consider when reviewing cold and dry storage spaces: Which products are stored in which areas; how much inventory must be on hand, and how are products broken-down within refrigerators, freezers and dry storage. This will help determine the capacity of the refrigeration and freezer units, and dry storage spaces.

When reviewing the proper storage of food products, operators need to know how items are handled. The FDA breaks food handling into three basic processes, which are determined by the number of times products pass through the “danger zone” between 41°F and 135°F:

Process 1: Food Preparation with No Cook Step
Flow example: Receive – Store – Prepare – Hold – Serve

Process 2: Preparation for Same Day Service
Flow example: Receive – Store – Prepare – Cook – Hold – Serve

Process 3: Complex Food Preparation
Flow example: Receive – Store – Prepare – Cook – Cool – Reheat – Hot Hold – Serve

Depending on the complexity of the cooking process, there may be a need for additional refrigeration. When operations move to more-advanced cooking practices, additional refrigeration is required. Without making this adjustment, deficiencies in food handling escalates.

When upgrading or adding additional refrigeration, operators should consider ENERGY STAR® certified models. Typical saving can be as high as 35% in energy, with a 1.3-year payback. This information, along with many other energy-saving tips, can be accessed at http://www.energystar.gov.

Food services are changing the ways they produce foods and it is operators’ responsibility to establish safe food storage. With the complexity of advanced cooking processes, the need to revisit the food flow and standing storage procedures is today’s reality.