Mexican chain keeps electronic tabs on its kitchen

Checkit fixed temperature sensor

Whether you are operating a handful of outlets or several hundred, the latest wireless monitoring solutions make it possible to keep tab on the entire kitchen equipment estate and optimise internal HACCP processes. For one UK restaurant company, adopting such a system has completely transformed its ability to control the kitchen, as FEJ reveals.

Nanna Mexico might not have the national presence of some well-known Latin American food chains that have taken the UK by storm, but this small provincial group of restaurants is a firm believer that every great meal should be served with a great story.

And on that front the Cambridge-based operator certainly doesn’t disappoint. Founder Luis Navarro’s inspiration for serving delicious and authentic Mexican food can be traced back to 1958, when his grandmother, Margarita, was a single mother living in a cramped room with seven kids in Mexico City.

One day she decided that having seven mouths to feed wasn’t enough and that she was going to cater for the entire neighbourhood. Carrying her kitchen table laden with fresh ingredients out into the street, the first Nanna Mexico was born.

Navarro has built his UK restaurants around three golden rules: buy fresh; cook simple; and waste nothing. To support those goals, it is imperative that he has the right catering equipment infrastructure at his disposal, particularly when it comes to food safety and measuring productivity.

One of the issues that was causing most concern was that since opening a second restaurant he wasn’t able to monitor both kitchens simultaneously. It is a problem that any multi-site operator will be familiar with and for Navarro it quickly became a frustration.

“I wanted to gain greater control and see what was happening throughout the business even when I wasn’t on the premises. I knew there was room for improvement and that the operation could be more efficient in terms of the time taken to carry out food safety checks and reducing the margin for error,” he explains.

Nanna Mexico teamed up with Checkit, the Cambridgeshire provider of wireless food safety monitoring systems, which was founded to help restaurants, hotels and conference centres monitor their cold storage and hot holding on a 24/7 basis.

It now has three hubs, three handheld monitors and 17 fixed temperature sensors attached to the refrigeration units that it operates across three separate sites. One of the plus points for the owner was that the installation was simple and there was no disruption to service as it was so quick to set up.

“The training was very straightforward and it was a simple process of the managers being trained first hand with the Checkit technical support team and this information being passed to supervisors who then monitor and train the other members of the Nanna Mexico team,” he says.

I can see if the units are being managed effectively and track food wastage and energy efficiency of each of the 17 fridges that we have installed”

The fact that the fixed temperature sensors automatically monitor the fridges is an enormous benefit to the brand, saving time and removing any scope for human error.

“I can see if the units are being managed effectively and track food wastage and energy efficiency of each of the 17 fridges that we have installed. This will help save money in the long term and will be worth the investment.”

Since installing the system, Navarro’s perception is that staff are able to work much more efficiently, while he acknowledges that there is a marked reduction in the time taken to implement HACCP. And ultimately, it goes a long way to solving the whole issue of accountability in the business.

“Checkit means that it is easier for staff to monitor temperature and the records are always done without fail,” he says. “Without the need for paper records I would say that at least 20 minutes a day is being freed up. Any malfunction is immediately identified and we can fix these problems straight away. So a fridge door that’s been accidentally left open can be closed without there being any adverse consequences — such as food wastage.”

It’s clear that such benefits can be scaled, so larger foodservice equipment buyers and multi-site operators will certainly understand Navarro’s point of view when he says that the system has brought huge peace of mind.

“This technology helps me to keep an eye on everything at once. It’s simple for staff to operate and it helps me control the business,” he concludes.

Why would a chain business need wireless monitoring?

Wireless monitoring is becoming an increasingly common tool for foodservice providers and the Checkit system was designed specifically for commercial kitchens. It aims to solve a set of problems common to all foodservice businesses operating one or more sites:

•     Food safety and hygiene are essential, but performing and recording the necessary checks eats up a lot of time.

•     Manual, pen-and-paper line checks are slow and — when you factor in illegible, incomplete, lost or misfiled paperwork — far from foolproof.

•     Even the best procedures depend on staff implementing them properly and following through on corrective actions.

Checkit overcomes the above by using wireless fixed sensors to monitor cold storage and hot holding equipment on a 24/7, so an operator will never again have to manually check and note down temperature, humidity or door status.

For checking the temperature of goods in, performing line checks or logging cleaning tasks, a wireless handheld sensor lets the user do it all in double-quick time. A single button press logs, stores and transmits the data — time-stamped and user-authenticated, of course — allowing users to get on with their next task.

All of these sensors feed data wirelessly to the ‘Checkit Hub’, creating a continuous, consistent record of food safety and hygiene procedures and providing a clear display of food safety status to staff on site.

All of this information is simultaneously sent to the Cloud, securing the data and allowing operators to monitor everything from any location or device. Instant alerts notify users via SMS and email if anything goes wrong — from a cold storage failure to a corrective action that’s been overlooked — so that businesses can react accordingly.

As it is a scalable system, Checkit adapts to fit the size and shape of an operation. With multiple sites connected to the Cloud, operators can keep tabs on their entire operation.

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