When it comes to legislative change, it seems there is no let up for catering and hospitality businesses. With Natasha’s Law in full swing since October 2021 and new calorie labelling regulations coming into force on 6 April 2022, the need to keep on top of allergen management and nutrition continues apace.
In April, large businesses with 250 or more employees, including cafes, restaurants and takeaways (formally referred to as the out of home sector), will be legally required to label calories on menus as well as reference the size of portion to which the calorie relates. This comes as part of a government drive to tackle obesity and improve the nation’s health.
Of course, many businesses in the sector are still facing a plethora of setbacks as a result of the pandemic, Brexit and now the impending impact of the conflict in Ukraine. With multiple challenges surrounding staff recruitment and retention, risks around inflation, supply chain stability and cost control, keeping abreast of new industry regulations adds to the burden upon already stretched teams and fragile businesses.
Ongoing updates to regulations and the impact on menu production, product and recipe data, means the hospitality sector is under constant pressure to boost operational efficiency and, where feasible, plan ahead in advance of upcoming deadlines.
Some hospitality businesses have even suggested that the extra burden on admin - and the additional resource needed to meet new and changing regulations - is hampering chef creativity and business innovation. Yet, advances in eProcurement and business operating technology mean all the admin intensive tasks can be automated and no longer need to get in the way of chefs focusing on the job they love.
Just like cooking, successful outcomes rely on the preparation. So, how can hospitality businesses step up their game around regulatory change and make better use of technology?
Here are our 6 top tips to help maintain business momentum whilst navigating regulatory change:
1. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail: Preparation is always key; don’t leave planning until the last minute. Do your research and make sure you fully understand what is required from your business to meet all legislative requirements.
Likewise, moving away from antiquated manual processes eliminates any potential for human error. If you are already using technology to manage your allergens management, ensure that it can cope with the high frequency of regulatory change and is always up-to-date.
2. Take control: Chef creativity should not be hampered as a result of managing allergens and legislative change: follow all guidelines set out and implement clear processes to help mitigate any issues. This may prove time-consuming and this is where an effective technology solution can help with control by. For example, establishing and demonstrating the nutritional value of scrambled eggs per 100g (plus the allergens and nutritional values present). Cost effective systems, like zupaBiz, automate this process to reduce manual intervention, thereby freeing up the chef’s time to focus on menu changes and nutrition.
3. Communicate - brief your staff: Working in the foodservice sector, your staff will be expected to be able to answer any questions from customers about allergens and calories present within the food and drink you are serving. It is important to communicate regularly and to provide purposeful training to ensure they are delivering accurate information and that they understand the potential risks of giving the wrong advice.
4. Supplier aware: Be aware that it is also your supplier’s responsibility to meet the legislative requirements so everything should be labelled with allergen information as appropriate.
Don’t take no for an answer - but remember where the buck stops; your eggs and milk might arrive from your supplier correctly labelled, but once your chef has made a batch of scrambled eggs, it then becomes your responsibility to alert your customer. Using a system that is updated by your supplier in real time, means that the data is accurate, giving greater transparency and peace of mind.
5. Allergen directory: Create an allergens directory containing all of the products and ingredients purchased by your business, as well as for any recipes which have allergens present. This means you’ll start to build a bank of useable data that is constantly evolving.
Technology like zupaBiz can create and link your recipes with supplier products to ensure you are working with the most current information and complying with regulatory and labelling requirements.
6. Take time: Recognise the impact that accurate allergens management will have on your resource and plan around it. Ideally, investing in good technology that is fit for purpose, to help manage that data as well as manage your stock, is a great way to reduce the admin burden and provide real-time insight and visibility of your business.
Likewise, using a database that links directly to a live supplier priced purchase order system, would be hugely advantageous, as it will help you save time and extra money too.
It is clear that regulatory and labelling changes in food service can become a minefield without careful management. From insight into ingredients of incoming stock – as well as stock already on your shelves – through to closer management of suppliers and recipes, it is becoming ever more critical. The good news is that there is technology available that can support and manage these for you and by choosing a system that operates on a SaaS model, you eliminate any pressure for in-house technical expertise or upfront capital expenditure.