One segment that has grown manifold over the last one year is the cloud kitchens and commercial kitchens that have come up in residential, commercial and industrial spaces. During a Virtual Discussion on Cloud Kitchen Hygiene presented by Clean India Journal in association with Essity Hygiene & Health, expert panel members, delegates from cloud kitchens, chefs and consultants engaged in a very interactive session on the new hygiene protocols, challenges and the way forward. More than 200 delegates joined virtually to attend this session.
Here are a few insights of Sudhir Pai, F & B Consultant, Ameyakumar Deshpande, Founder, Blindspot Consultants, PC Anil Kumar, AVP, Quality Assurance, Safety & Sustainability, Swiggy, Ronald Minezes, GM – Head Culinary Services, Sodexo India, Ashwin Bhadri, Founder & CEO, Equinox Labs, Asha Sridhar, Head – Food Safety, TUV India and Isha Sagar, Key Accounts Manager, Essity Hygiene & Health.
Setting up a hygienic new cloud kitchen
“Having enough potable water to clean the kitchen is paramount; many people don’t have enough and tend to use shortcuts.”
Minezes: Kitchen infrastructure plays a very important role in maintaining hygiene. If you get right the steps of planning, designing and the process of sending out the finished product, most hygiene-related issues can be eliminated.
Not more than 50% of the total kitchen area should be occupied by kitchen infrastructure. The remaining space is a must for people to move around. Real estate is expensive to buy or rent, and kitchen owners tend to compromise on space, leading to safety issues.
If you have a proper exhaust system with 20 air cycles per hour, which is the industry norm, you will have good air circulation. In this scenario, the kitchen staff tends to sweat less, which improves their personal hygiene.
Set up your waste management process right from the planning stage; have a designated area for disposing garbage. Having enough potable water to clean the kitchen is paramount; many people don’t have enough and tend to use shortcuts.
After the kitchen is ready
- Install proper disinfection and sanitization stations
- Designate an area to wash procured material
- People tend to have a designated work station for each employee but a shared hand wash sink. There should be a separate sink for every designated area.
- Write down SOPs for receiving material, storage, pre-prep, cooking, packaging and dispatch
- Translate them into vernacular languages so everyone can understand them
- Print and put-up SOPs in visual form
“The biggest loophole in kitchen hygiene is handwashing. If five people are given soap and water and asked to show how they wash their hands, three out five will do it wrong.”
-PC Anil Kumar
Anil: The three pillars of kitchen hygiene are personal hygiene, avoiding cross contamination (e.g. veg and non-veg), and preventing time-temperature abuse by consistently maintaining the correct temperature in the right zone.
There is a lot of attrition in cloud kitchens, so medical examination of new employees is a challenge. After they join, get the medical exam of all food handlers done; only then should they be allowed in the food prep area.
Pest control tends to be a weak area for most kitchens. Since kitchens are active late into the night and restart operations again the next morning, it can be difficult to schedule a time for it.
Sagar: Colour-coding wipes green, red, yellow and blue for different areas ensures the same wipe isn’t used for different kinds of produce.
Bhadri: There are two categories of training: FOSTAC training under FSSAI and for cloud kitchens, basic or advanced catering training. Information about this is on FSSAI website, with more than 100 empanelled training partners across the country. All training can now be done online. Apart from this, there may be in-house training specific to a brand or cuisine.
Anil: The real challenge is FOSTAC training. Get your supervisors trained, so they can train your employees. For this, the ratio of supervisors to employees is usually 1:25.
The biggest loophole in kitchen hygiene is handwashing. If five people are given soap and water and asked to show how they wash their hands, three out five will do it wrong.
Types of Hygiene Certification
Sridhar: FSSAI is very user-friendly and all its SOPs can be downloaded. SOPs are doable and workable.
A cloud kitchen can go to the FSSAI portal, choose a certification body, find a checklist for self-assessment, see the gaps, and try to plug them itself or with the help of a consultant. Then, it can call the certification body, who will come and audit the facility.
Hygiene rating gives smiley-based scores and certificates. If you score 85% and above, you get five smileys. The certificate can be downloaded and shared on the cloud kitchen app, where customers can see it and make an informed choice.
Deshpande: There are many independent and private bodies which carry out audits, but there is a lack of awareness about this among customers.
Bhadri: Before onboarding a kitchen, an aggregator will commission an unannounced audit over and beyond FSSAI’s 48 point checklist. If customers complain, the aggregator will alert the auditor, who will perform another unannounced audit to make sure it was just a one-off problem.
These days, kitchen owners themselves want it done. If a customer complaint goes on social media, the kitchen is done for. New restaurant owners are thinking of compliance at the design stage itself.
Pai: Audits are not necessarily done by only external agencies. Create your own checklist for each area and audit yourself once a week. Monitor improvement, see if the problem is in the product, process or infrastructure.
Rationalising expense on kitchen hygiene
Sagar: There is a perception that maintaining hygiene is expensive, but not maintaining it is even more expensive. You lose customer satisfaction and revenue.
Deshpande: A balance is needed between optimum usage and over-usage of material. An employee should know just when to change gloves and masks.
Pai: There used to be overconsumption of gloves, for example. We created a register where each employee has to sign for what he uses, taking accountability.
Bhadri: Many kitchens are already doing 80% of what is required in terms of kitchen hygiene. The gap between full compliance and where they are at present is small. The cost of compliance is also minimal too.
Earlier, a certification was considered an expense. Now that aggregators have stayed displaying it and it has started driving revenue, it is considered an investment.