Anyone who has ever worked in a restaurant kitchen knows that they are not exactly designed for comfort. High heat and humidity can make the work environment almost unbearable, threatening the health and safety of workers while putting food supplies at risk.
However, these challenges become especially acute when faced with weather-related heat extremes such as those experienced in the United States in the summer of 2022. The good news, however, is that innovations in restaurant technology are helping restaurateurs protect both their workers and their customers. and their food supplies in extreme heat.
The dangers of the high temperature restaurant environment
If you’ve been in a kitchen when temperatures rise, then it’s not hard to understand the risks such conditions can pose to workers. Prolonged exposure to extreme heat can have profound physical, emotional and cognitive consequences.
High temperature conditions can make you feel tired, irritable and unable to concentrate – all of which can be quite dangerous in the frantic and often dangerous environment of a kitchen. In addition to the increased risk of accidents and injuries, from falls to cuts to burns, heat distress can quickly turn into heat stroke, a potentially life-threatening medical emergency.
It’s not just your kitchen workers who are vulnerable to extreme heat. High heat can increase the rate of food spoilage, contributing significantly to food waste and, therefore, lost revenue.
Protection of workers and inventory through tech
As significant as the threat of a hot environment is to your workers and inventory, restaurateurs are by no means without resources. Innovations in technology are equipping operators with more and better tools than ever before to protect their personnel and products.
For example, smart sensors connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) can continuously monitor ambient temperatures wherever prepared meals or ingredients are stored or shipped. Best of all, these sensors can send real-time automated alerts to stakeholders who can quickly intervene to ensure food products remain in the safe zone.
In addition, as 5G networks continue to expand across the country and the world, the capacity of IoT sensors to monitor inventory at all stages of the supply chain is growing. This means temperature and humidity levels can be monitored while food shipments are en route, with automated alerts issued when human intervention is required during transit.
IoT sensors can also be used to identify potential disruptions in the supply chain, such as port closures or traffic delays, and can find the most efficient alternative routes. This gives restaurant operators the peace of mind knowing that their products arrive fresh and safe in their stores – even in hot weather. Continuous environmental monitoring and efficient delivery through the use of the Internet of Things reduce the amount of inventory that must be discarded due to potential spoilage concerns.
The technology can also be a tool to protect workers in high temperature conditions. For example, new robotic systems are being introduced to take the place of human workers in the hottest areas of the kitchen, such as frying lines. This helps workers reduce or even eliminate their exposure to the worst heat conditions.
Similarly, smart technologies can be used both to regulate the kitchen environment and to monitor the physical condition of workers while in a hot kitchen. For example, smart thermostats can automatically adjust not only freezer and storage temperatures, but also kitchen cooling settings to maintain a healthier temperature environment. Likewise, wearable health monitors can track workers’ body temperature, heart rate, respiration, perspiration and other vital signs, alerting them to even the earliest signs of heat stress.
The risk of heat waves
The hot weather season is fast approaching in the Northern Hemisphere, and with it the risk of heat waves. If 2022 is any indication, it promises to be a long, hot summer. For restaurant workers, the challenges of staying safe during a heat wave can be especially great because workers may not be able to limit their exposure to heat sources. Even the most efficient heating and cooling systems may be insufficient to manage kitchen temperatures during a heat wave.
For this reason, it is the duty of restaurateurs to take measures to protect workers and inventory during extreme weather conditions. Blackouts and power outages, for example, are common during a severe heat wave. This means that if you want to be able to continue operating while protecting your workers and inventory, you’ll need a backup power plan. Investing in a generator can ensure that your team and your supplies are safe during the heat wave.
High heat may seem like an integral part of working in the restaurant industry. However, prolonged exposure to high temperatures can pose a serious risk to the health and safety of your workers. In addition, heat can dramatically accelerate food spoilage, leading to huge losses of stock. The good news, however, is that a host of new and emerging technologies are making it possible to protect your workers and your inventory in high-temperature conditions. This includes smart technologies, IoT devices and backup power sources to promise safe and trouble-free operations – no matter what the weather may bring.
Luka Smith is a feature writer for Restaurant Technology News. He covers a wide range of topics but has a particular interest in business technology, digital marketing and hospitality productivity topics. When he’s not writing, you can find him traveling, hiking, or tinkering with the latest technology.
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