People want to see new things from foodservice businesses all of the time. New cuisine, new flavour combinations, even innovations in how we eat. Pop-up restaurants, in which foodservice businesses occupy an area temporarily, are turning cosmopolitan cities like London into ever-changing sources of exciting and interesting foodstuffs.
Other innovations create novel, fun ways of ordering and eating food. There are the conveyor belts that keep fresh sushi dishes moving among diners. Or hot plates at your table, where a chef cooks your food right in front of you.
Adding something new and interesting to the experience of eating at your restaurant can be enough to get customers through the door for the novelty of the experience. Even simple things like stations to create your own salad, or make your own ice cream dessert, can get families coming through your doors.
Such innovations can often entail new processes, setups and rules. Adhering to the more ‘standard’ food safety and hygiene practices at all times involves enough focus and effort as a business that inviting completely new ones – particularly by bringing food preparation out of the kitchen and among customers – could seem risky.
Your business could benefit substantially from introducing something new – but if you’re not confident about your ability to apply new safety and hygiene processes to match, any opportunity to innovate will be restricted.
If you’re getting it right already, you’re well placed to introduce something new and fun without worrying about compromising safety and hygiene. You already have solid and reliable food safety practices. Nevertheless, take the time to think about any safety and hygiene issues that the new approach might entail. If chefs are moving from one table to the next, are they going to be equipped to cook different foods safely? How much will be prepared behind the scenes?
What if food is out for customers to help themselves – how will you avoid temperature changes that could breed bacteria? How do you avoid the spread of germs between customers?
Knowing the ground rules of good practice inside out is the best form of preparation for such changes. Clear signage, consideration of through routes and the transportation of food within the restaurant, clearly designated preparation areas (separated by food type), and careful monitoring of food that is sat out are basics that can be rolled out to new circumstances. And, of course, maintaining cleanliness throughout service will not only avoid hygiene compromises, but also reassure customers.
Ultimately, the most important thing is doing the basics right. Novel experiences will attract first-time customers; but high-quality and hygienic service will make sure they come back.