CB: Your typical food safety management system is universal, and if the
specific protocol works for a restaurant
or supermarket, it will work in a C-store.
After all, it is not rocket science, just
SM: From a regulatory perspective,
most of the guidance documents and
handouts developed for other types of
retail establishments apply directly to
convenience stores also. Further, many
convenience store chains have recognized the additional food safety challenges in their sector and have joined
other professional associations to leverage the learnings of other sectors.
FSM: How challenging is it to manage
the frequent deliveries of refrigerated
products and other items with limited shelf
life? How do you ensure cold chain management?
CM: We developed our own fresh
food daily-delivered commissaries and
warehousing/distribution centers and
complex picking and sorting logistics
systems to meet this challenge. Suppliers delivered to our distribution centers,
then store-specific customized orders are
handpicked or through automated picking, and then delivered in one delivery
each day…always scheduled so the store
is properly staffed and ready to receive
every delivery utilizing the standardized food-safe procedures. Automated
records always kept and filed as standard
procedures. This process also frees up
customer parking space that would be
blocked by multiple delivery vehicles.
JE/MP: Depends on the number of
deliveries a single store will receive and
where these deliveries are received from.
If you’re shipping from a centralized
warehouse that is part of your supply
chain, there is much more control on
the cold chain. If you’re utilizing a third
party to distribute to stores, then you
must ensure the cold chain is managed.
Companies that operate their own fleet
of trucks/trailers and self-distribute can
control the cold chain. Regular deliver-
due to the variety and customization of food and beverage items previously men-
tioned. We utilize the ServSafe programs and materials. With ServSafe, you’ll get
materials developed by foodservice industry leaders and supported by the National
Restaurant Association. ServSafe training helps you understand food safety risks
faced by operations. Having said all that, ServSafe covers a variety of “raw” products
assuming they will be cooked using a grill/fryer/oven; many of these products don’t
come in the raw state for convenience stores—again, not always a good resource for
convenience stores. Sometimes, once again due to the smaller footprint, creativ-
ity can be necessary to ensure food safety in unique environments, creating a food
safety management system to bridge the gap between food safety needs and business
needs. Yes, we do have to adapt training materials (such as ServSafe) to fit the conve-
nience store segment.
JZ: Foodservice operations and the need for robust food safety resources in the C-store industry is relatively new when compared to restaurants and food manufacturing. Therefore, most food safety-related resources and trade organizations are largely
focused on and designed for those industries. This essentially means that there is no
“book” or benchmark we can reference when implementing and designing a new
program, so we are forced to get creative and actively work with vendors to customize their products or build a product from the ground up so that it works within the
C-store space. These resources are more expensive than the out-of-the-box options,
take longer to implement, and there is no guarantee that they will work as intended.
This negatively impacts our ability to roll out new food programs in a timely and
cost-effective manner as we will not introduce any new food items without a strong
food safety program behind them.
RS: A major resource that has proven invaluable for food safety is my company’s
intranet. Recent enhancements and capabilities have enabled the quality and food
safety group to post and track required food safety education and training campaigns to targeted individuals at all levels of the organization.
Also, digital tools have proven to be a more efficient and cost-effective solution
for our internal food safety audit process as compared to the usual pen-and-paper
method often used in C-stores and foodservice sectors. Coming from a food processing background, I’m naturally inclined to adapting processes from that sector to
my present C-store role, especially since food processors had many of these same
challenges years ago and found viable solutions through emerging technologies.
We are actively exploring newer technologies that enhance quality and reduce
foodborne illness risks such as (1) blockchain and other integrated technologies to
facilitate product traceability and supplier management, (2) remote monitoring to
automate aspects of our equipment and product temperature compliance, and ( 3)
Internet-of-things technologies to monitor water filtering and flow in dispensed beverage equipment. External resources such as third-party food safety audits are being
deployed to ensure compliance to our food safety operational methods and practices.
The busy lifestyles of today’s consumers have
driven them to demand the on-the-go
convenience of snack and grab-and-go foods
in place of meals...