This blog has covered the influence of the Internet (http://www.chicopee-europe.com/archives/apps-make-hygiene-information-accessible-on-the-move) on foodservice businesses in the past. Various sites provide a popular venue for diners to share experiences of restaurants, good and bad, and give your business a rating. These accounts and the average ratings generated can give your business a considerable boost – or deter people from even giving your restaurant a try.
Added to that, it is now even easier for consumers to access details of the food safety or hygiene ratings of a restaurant. A number of countries have made these ratings accessible in convenient, searchable websites, or even as apps for use on the move. For instance, a potential diner can check a UK restaurant’s hygiene rating in advance on their computer; on their smartphone while they are out and about; and, because of regulations, should often be able to see a simple 1-5 rating poster in your restaurant’s window as they arrive.
This trend for consumers to more easily access and share information about foodservice standards is set to continue. Like ratings sites, social media will provide forums for people to share good and bad dining experiences.
For example, a blog was recently launched on tumblr where people can post pictures of food safety infractions, like cross-contamination or a lack of cleanliness; or can capture examples of good practice, like proper signage or effective use of cleaning wipes.
The Citizen Safety Project (http://citizenfoodsafety.tumblr.com/) follows initiatives like See and Tell (http://www.croydonadvertiser.co.uk/Fly-soup-Croydon-s-food-safety-squad/story-11360021-detail/story.html), launched by the UK’s Croydon Council in 2008 to allow diners to text images of dining experiences to its food safety team.
These social media efforts will continue to build momentum for the ‘crowdsourcing’ of food safety and hygiene information. As this trend builds, foodservice businesses need to be conscious that every diner can be the eyes and ears of local food safety authorities.
The only way to avoid being caught out for poor practices – and suffering the damage of having that infraction shared online among other potential customers, as well as enforcement agencies – is to make food safety practices an integral part of how your whole business operates. That means clear guidelines and training for every member of staff, with a focus on excellence and consistency.
Without that, pictures of your restaurant could soon be shared on social media for all the wrong reasons.