Technology continues to impact all corners of the foodservice industry, including areas such as food safety and staff hygiene. One way to ensure better staff hygiene and enhance food safety is through data-driven handwashing programs. Here Jim Mann, executive director and chief scientific officer for the Handwashingforlife Institute in Libertyville, Ill., explains the benefits of such programs.

jim mannJim MannFE&S: Why should operators consider implementing electronic handwash monitoring (EHWM) technology?

JM: EHWM serves up real-time data which engages workers and sets up a playing field where their avid policy compliance wins and can be rewarded in a variety of ways. Competition fuels program sustainability and saves valuable supervisory time. This has been the experience of the few pioneers that have stepped forward to break what unfortunately has become the cultural norm of foodservice handwashing, compliance less than the restaurants themselves consider a safe level.

Data has proven to be an untapped resource in solving the age-old handwashing issue. The hardened history of poor compliance is perpetuated by the lack of reporting. No data. No reports. No rewards. No discipline. The core benefit of having data is the ability to reward employee success up and down the corporate ladder.

FE&S: Any examples of operators who are benefitting by EHWM?

JM: Crushed Red [a St. Louis-based fast-casual salad/pizza chain] is living proof of this connection between data and compliance. Their customers are also engaged in the culture-building as they witness banners attesting to Crushed Red’s handwashing commitment and even more impressively when they see an employee wash their hands in the restroom after speaking their name into a voice-recognition soap dispenser. This handwash verification far exceeds the laughable sign on the mirror asking employees to wash hands before returning to work.

FE&S: Any other examples come to mind?

JM: Chef Peter Fulgenzi also demonstrates the relationship between employee recognition and compliance at the Atrio Restaurant in Carmel, Ind. His conversion of handwashing to a controlled process includes real-time staff feedback via monitors located in the kitchen workspace. Chef Peter sees electronic monitoring as an important part of staff professionalization. [The Atrio restaurant is located at Indiana University Health System’s North Hospital.]