Remember salad bars?

For many consumers, wandering through the grocery store, helping themselves at self-serve food bars, and tasting samples of food products may seem like ‘the good old days.’ With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, most supermarkets closed their self-serve stations or significantly restricted their use due to safety concerns for both customers and workers.   

In fact, many states put health and safety guidelines in place that eliminated or restricted use of self-serve and sample tastings. And with so many customers having switched to curbside pickup or delivery services, grocery stores have had to transform how they provide their customers safer ways to get the products they want.

Will there be a return to the heavy pre-COVID demand for healthy and convenient grab-n-go or self-serve foods? Experts in the retail food industry think so, predicting that consumers will continue to prefer convenient, fresh, and healthy options to restaurant take out, with an added focus on safety.

With the relaxing of restrictions over the past several months, grocery store operators are trying to figure out what safety changes made during the pandemic should remain and which can be relaxed. Although some specific guidelines have changed, the basics of health and safety have stayed the same.

Temp Monitoring Safety Reigns Supreme 

When grocery stores return to offering self-serve, grab-n-go food products, monitoring food temperatures will be critical. Convincing customers that these products are safe will especially be a challenge, even though it is unlikely for someone to get a virus through food or food packaging according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. It will be essential that ready-to-eat, self-serve foods continue to be safely handled and refrigerated to their recommended temperatures to prevent foodborne illness.

Investing in an automated temperature monitoring solution is an effective way for operators to keep pace with the increased demands facing their stores, their workers, and their customers. With today’s technology, it is no longer necessary to manually check and record temperatures— a tedious and sometimes ineffective method with plenty of room for error. The process has greatly improved with new technology designed to improve efficiencies in the deli, bakery, produce, and other food prep areas.

One such system is DayMark Safety Systems’ Temp Monitoring and Food Checks Solution, powered by JRI. The system is a reliable, HACCP-compliant solution that is accurate and easy to use and, saving operators time and money by eliminating the need for manual food check monitoring, hand-recorded logs, and paper audits.

DayMark’s solution also utilizes the available, more advanced LoRa technology, allowing for longer-range, disruption-free communication between devices. LoRa is perfect for stores with a large footprint, as it uses a low-frequency signal that allows devices to transmit information though heavy materials such as stainless-steel freezers.

In addition, the solution employs the use of hot and cold food temperature probes, and a user-friendly online dashboard and kitchen application, as well as around-the-clock alerts that help identify potential equipment failures in real-time. The company also offers live online demos that allow users to learn more about these and other unique features and includes a question-and-answer session on how the system can enhance food service establishments.

Getting back to ‘normal’ after COVID-19 is a time for hope—and a time for caution. The customer experience will in many ways need to be redefined to ensure customer and worker safety. Automated temperature monitoring and control help ensure food safety, allowing operators to focus more on reviving demand for self-serve and grab & go products.