Should You Use IoT to Manage Your Food’s Safety?

Woman at a grocery store talking on the phone

You’ve probably at least heard chatter about the “internet of things.” You may have heard sensational stories of remarkable business transformations IoT has made possible.

Those are real. In 2010, Ericsson CEO Hans Vestburg first made the prediction that the world will have 50 billion connected devices by 2020. In 2011, Dave Evans, a Cisco employee, made the same prediction.

What Is IoT?

You may not yet have a concrete idea of the internet of things. Basically, it’s hooking up sensors throughout your building in places that weren’t previously possible. You can now do this because it’s finally become cost-effective enough to mass-produce sensors so nearly every business can afford them.

Why Should C-Stores Care about IoT?

IoT sensors automate a lot of manual labor. And when you have them integrated properly into your c-store and business processes, you can actually predict and respond to anticipated future events before they happen. Attempt to do the same on your own, and you shoot your labor costs through the roof.

For example, IoT sensors could monitor your stock of a certain brand of candy bar, and then automatically order more when you need them. Multiply this by a thousand times across all your stores, and that’s where the savings start to pile up. Then, you may be able to use the data to make more intelligent business decisions.

But Don’t Use IoT Because It’s The Next Hot Trend

There’s no doubt the internet of things makes sense for many businesses. Many are adopting it already.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean you should. Elliot Grant, founder of Harvest Mark, a traceability company that serves the food industry, recommends:

“Having more data doesn’t necessarily give you more insight. So my recommendation is to identify what are the key drivers of risk and opportunity that could potentially be improved with more measurements.”

He also adds that you should take a thousand measurements by hand to see if the data you harvest from that process actually makes any difference for your company. Once you understand how that does (or does not) help your business, then you should make a decision on using the internet of things.

IoT will be a megatrend in business. But only you can decide if it makes sense for yours.


How to Use Backpack Vacuums

Maybe you have a new cleaning team member. Maybe you finally convinced your boss that you need Vacuum Cleaner Hose in Handbackpack vacuums because they’re so much more efficient than their upright counterparts.

In either case, you have to introduce your team to backpack vacuums. They’re a little different than uprights. But your team will love them once they get used to them.

Here’s how to break the ice:

  1. Start Your Team Off Slow

You don’t know the true physical condition of each of your team members. You don’t want one to hurt their back and go on worker’s compensation.

So, start them off slow. Let them begin with just a single hour of backpack vacuuming. Then, allow them to move their way up to a full shift. This minimizes the stress on their body so they get used to it gradually, which minimizes their chance of injury.

They’re constructed to be fairly lightweight. But you never know the condition of each team member’s body.

  1. How to Wear the Backpack Vacuum

Each employee should grab the backpack vacuum off the floor with the hand they use most often, whether right-handed or left-handed. This minimizes strain and risk of injury when first putting it on.

Again, depending on the hand they use, your employees should leave the strap on the side of their body they favor just slightly loose. This frees up their stronger arm, which makes it easier to use and control the vacuum. The vacuum should not slide around on your back. If it does, it’s a little bit too loose overall.

  1. Keep Tools and Accessories on a Belt or Nearby Surface At Least Waist-High

Backpack vacuums are not designed to allow you to bend over while you wear the apparatus. However, some come with a belt that keeps tools in reach. You can also consider laying out the tools you need nearby on a surface that doesn’t require you to bend over to reach them.

Alternatively, you could simply leave all tasks requiring various tools until the end. That will make doing them as efficient as possible.

Once your staff sees how much faster they’re able to clean, they’ll love your backpack vacuums. They’ll be able to look over these minor adjustments.

New Technology Puts a Dent in Norovirus’s Ability to Infect Food

preparing food, organic food and drink photo

“Norovirus” sounds intimidating, and it is certainly unpleasant. But, it only causes unpleasant gastrointestinal problems (nausea, stomach pain, vomiting, and diarrhea) for a few days. While it’s certainly not the end of the world, it’s not something you want your customers to get. And, there’s currently no medication that effectively works against it.

But now, researcher Hamada Aboubakr has found an effective treatment for it: sterilization with cold plasma. The problem up to this point has been that whatever’s being sterilized can’t handle the process. Usually, it gets damaged to the point where it’s not edible anymore.

But, Aboubakr’s methodology works a little different. Be warned, as this gets a little complex to discuss.  Aboubakr used a two-dimensional air–based micro-discharge plasma array (2D-AMPA) which generates plasma from two dimensions in air instead of using pure gases. The methodology also uses lower power, which makes it cost-effective and environmentally friendly. This method can also be used for surface decontamination.

For Food Safety, The Results are Significant

Summing up the results, the basic idea is that this technology can be used to eliminate 99% of norovirus particles. Because of the way the process happens, it works on romaine lettuce without causing damage. And it’s believed the technology can be adapted for restaurants, cruise ships, and grocery stores. By extension, it could also logically be a great fit for your c-store and food items that hit your shelves.

Since about 20 million Americans get infected with norovirus each year, that makes it a prevalent condition in need of treatment. No one’s estimated the particular results that could be expected. But, it is believed this could put quite a dent in the 20 million annual infections in the US.

Keep Your Eyes and Ears Open

How to Protect Your Staff from the Cold and Flu

Cleaning Supplies

The cold and flu are going around. Maybe your team already has one or the other. If you work in an industry where you have consistently high exposure to cold and flu viruses (education, hospitals, nursing homes), you may find yourself suddenly shorthanded.

Not much you can do about that now. You have to let your team rest and recover. But you can at least let this time serve as a lesson for identifying what your team can do differently in the future to prevent this from happening.

Here’s some ideas on protecting your own cleaning team’s health:

  1. Regular Training

How many times have you committed to breaking a habit, only to forget and find yourself doing that very thing just a few days later? This happens over a slightly longer timeframe in cleaning, but you get the point.

Your employees need regular reminders and training that shows them what to do to protect themselves from getting ill. How frequent? Why not a monthly reminder? And maybe weekly during times of crisis?

  1. Give Your Team Access to The Best Personal Protective Equipment

Would you rather spend some money on PPE now? Or would you rather have half of your team missing later (when you need them most) and feel the ire of staff who notice the trash hasn’t been taken out as often as it should be?

Make sure your team has rubber gloves, face masks, an abundance of microfiber cloths, the disinfectants they need to do a good job, and training on how they should handle themselves in the midst of a viral outbreak.

  1. What to Do When A Flu Outbreak Happens

Sometimes, an outbreak of a virus will happen around you. Nothing you can do to stop that in some situations. So, the best you can do is everything possible to protect yourself from acquiring the disease.

The CDC recommends you do three things in this situation:

  1. Get a flu vaccine. Ideally, you should already have this. But not everyone has one in all cases. Strongly consider getting one if you don’t already have it.
  2. Take preventative action in the workplace. This includes avoiding close contact with people, staying home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone if you’re already sick, never touching your eyes, nose, or mouth, and washing your hands multiple times daily.
  3. If you get the flu, take antiviral drugs to quickly put an end to the condition. They can also prevent you from getting more severe symptoms.

It’s critical you have as much of your team as possible at all times. And following these tips will help you maximize your chance of having everyone available.

4 Ways to Ensure Food Safety at Your C-Store

Car Refueling at Gas Station during the Night

It goes through the mind of every c-store manager: what if something bad happens with your food safety, and you suddenly find yourself at odds with the FDA?

Such scenarios can happen, even if you work hard at keeping your food safe for your customers. Take a look at some of these tips, and make sure you’re implementing them at your c-store:

  1. Make Sure Your Team Knows Your Food Safety Procedures and Best Practices

It all starts with your employees. How often do you have them brush up on food safety best practices? If you have a regular routine in place, how do you reinforce this behavior on a consistent basis?

Do you reward your team for making less than a certain amount of mistakes? Everyone needs consistent practice (beyond your routine trainings) to stay at the top of their game so mistakes don’t happen.

  1. What’s Your Handwashing Policy?

Believe it or not, the simplest problems usually lead to the most food safety issues. That includes washing your hands. Do your employees wash their hands for at least 20 seconds before and after they handle raw meat?

In the medical care industry, professionals fail to wash their hands and cause hundreds of thousands of unnecessary or premature patient deaths annually. If the problem’s that prevalent in an industry where professionals should understand the importance of washing their hands, what might the true extent of it be in relation to your food’s safety?

  1. Educate Your Shoppers Too

Your shoppers do have some responsibility in the safety of their food too. They should refrigerate their food, and especially their meat, as soon as they get home. They should also wash their hands for seconds before and after they handle meat. And they should keep their meat products separate from all other food.

If they grab food that you keep hot, they should do so with a piece of wax paper, just in case they decide not to take that item. In-store signs and notifications through your app are two possible ways to fill them in on the dangers of not paying attention to food safety.

  1. Work with Suppliers You Trust

You can’t control what your suppliers do in relation to food safety. But you can have a conversation with them about how they do it. And if you don’t feel comfortable with your current supplier, you can change to a different one. Remember, when you have food safety issues that go public, you don’t get a pass, even if it was your supplier’s fault.

If you follow these 4 tips, you’ll keep your food safe at your c-store. And you’ll look good to your customers too.

What Cleaning Standards Do You Have in Place?

Check list

Every business department has goals, standards, and metrics. What does yours have in place? Do you have these set?

Not all cleaning teams or janitorial services do. It’s easy to get way too busy and forget to set these.

If you haven’t, or if it’s been a while since you’ve reviewed yours, here’s some thoughts to consider:

  1. Metrics

First, work with your customer to set the appropriate metrics, whether that’s an internal or external customer. Even though it’s not always a reliable indicator of cleanliness, many customers will judge your work by the look and smell. You’ll have to educate them to some extent on what really makes their space clean, and that a clean look and smell doesn’t necessarily mean the absence of germs or bacteria.

You may use particle counters to analyze the dust levels in a given area. They’re not expensive to purchase and add in to your service, if needed. They also typically allow you to upload your results to a computer, where you could graph those results and show your customer the improvement over time. You could also use a fluorescent marker to reveal the cleanliness of given services.

  1. Standards/Processes

What are your own standards for your cleaning practices? How should employees do each type of cleaning to get the best results customers want? What’s the fastest way that gives the greatest results?

What types of chemicals are used? If you use vacuum backpacks, microfiber cloths, and mops with double buckets, how do you use and maintain each?

The answers to these questions reveal key insights for establishing your own cleaning standards and processes.

  1. Goals

As with the metrics, work with your internal or external customer to establish these. What is it that they really want to see from your cleaning team?

Every customer wants to have a visibly clean space. But beyond that, would they like to have healthier employees who miss fewer days of work? Do they want to see a certain amount of cost savings?

These larger business goals make decision makers happy when achieved, and are important to measure and establish so you can demonstrate your value from the get-go.

Follow these tips, and you’ll find your cleaning team making customers happy with ease.

3 Common Causes of Foodborne Illness – And What You Can Do About Each

Protect Your Melon

Each year, 1 in 6 Americans, or about 16% of the population, gets a foodborne illness, according to the CDC. Often, people don’t even know the true source of their symptoms because foodborne illness seems like the stomach flu, and it may take up to a week before symptoms appear.

Even though the US has some of the safest food in the world, you still have a reasonable potential for getting your customers sick. Take a look at a few of the most common causes, and learn what you can do about each:

  1. Know the Safety Processes of Your Meat Processors

Animals, even healthy ones, can carry infectious bacteria in their intestines. When raised on the farm, they may eat in fields spread in manure. Once processed in a plant, their intestines can come into contact with their own, or other, parts of animals sold to your customers.

What you can learn: Always know what your suppliers do to keep their food safe. Also, ask them if they have a food safety program they expect their vendors to follow.

  1. Two Strains of Bacteria Can Grow, Even In Refrigerated Conditions

Again, according to the CDC, Listeria monocytogenes and Yersinia enterocolitica can grow at refrigerator temperatures. For all other types of bacteria, proper refrigeration prevents growth.

Cooking food to an internal temperature of 160 degrees or greater kills parasites, viruses, and bacteria. However, there’s an exception to that too. Clostridium bacteria produce spores that are only killed when temperatures increase to above boiling.

What you can learn: Make sure your suppliers and their vendors account for these exceptions in their processes. You don’t want to take the fall for their mistakes.

  1. Fruits and Vegetables are Difficult to Keep Safe for Your Customers

Fruits and veggies do get processed in unsanitary conditions sometimes. Much of their safety depends on the quality of water used to wash them after picking. Fresh manure can be used to fertilize fruits and vegetables too, which poses obvious risks. In rare cases, the bacteria present in them can lead to death, according to Harvard Men’s Health Watch.

What you can learn: Harvard Men’s Health Watch recommends you wash fruits and vegetables in clean water and peel them yourself. Educate your customers to do this.

Keeping your food safe is not always easy, or in your control. However, by understanding these common causes of foodborne illness, you can minimize risk to your customers and c-store.

How and When to Part Ways with a Customer


Not all customer relationships go smoothly with your cleaning team. And sometimes, this happens even when you do everything in your power to make things go well.

Some customers are good for a long time. Then your contact person changes at their organization. Or, they’re under pressure to save money. A number of factors outside your control can cause good customer relationships to go sour.

What if you find yourself in a situation where your customer turns into a tough one to deal with, and it looks like it makes sense for you to part ways? Here are some options:

  1. Time to Talk with Your Customer

It’s not always clear what’s going on with your customer until you have a discussion with them. Even then, no matter how good your relationship is, they may not truly say what’s going on. So, it’s time to have an honest conversation and ask them questions so you can get a sense of what’s going on from their end.

They may have legitimate concerns. They may just be trying to get out of the contract. In any case, you’ll have more information so you can make a better decision that works for both sides.

  1. Give Your Customer Options

Once you get a better sense of the real story, then you can take action. If it looks like this is a relationship that doesn’t make sense to continue, you can try giving your customer options.

First, make sure everything that your cleaning team is responsible for is up to or above par. If the customer’s going to cost you money, for example, consider increasing your billing a reasonable amount based on what your customer wants, or keep the same price and adjust the frequency to reduce your labor costs. Give your customer options within both of these so they can choose one which makes them happy.

  1. Signs of a Customer You May Want to Part Ways With

Not every customer is reasonable. When they cross the line into being unreasonable, you’re wise to consider parting ways. Unreasonable customers rarely turn into reasonable ones, even if you’re willing to do things in a fair way with them.

Unpredictable customers may be ones you want to part ways with also. Your customer calls you up one day and wants one thing. Then they call you a few days later and went completely the opposite. It happens. You may have to let go of this type of customer too.

Finally, let go of customers who won’t follow your standard operating procedure. For example, if you ask them to sign a standard contract, and then they come back with their own that’s dozens of pages long, you may be in for trouble further down the road. Or, if they have service issues, and you call them, but they’re never available to return your call, that puts you in a difficult position. It may be wiser to let go of customers like this.

Choose Your Customers Wisely

As much as you can, choose your customers as wisely as possible. It makes running your business easier, more fun, and more profitable.

4 Riskiest Foods to Serve

salad bar

Eating certain types of food can increase your customer’s risk to become one of the 1 in 6 Americans who experiences a foodborne illness each year. So, as a c-store, what foods do you have to pay attention to keep your customers safe and happy?

The following:

  1. Most Dangerous: Leafy Greens

All kinds of meat get most of the attention in regard to safety. However, leafy greens were the most likely to be responsible for a food-related illness outbreak between 1990 – 2009. The Center for Science in the Public Interest found leafy greens were responsible for 24% of all food-related outbreaks from 1990 – 2009.

Leafy greens includes foods like spinach, romaine lettuce, and arugula. While they’re very healthy, they’re also likely to be contaminated by grazing animals who track manure all over them, or from irrigation water that’s contaminated. In most cases, leafy greens are grown in large fields where these conditions can be present.

  1. Eggs

This one may not come as a surprise. Eggs and poultry have received their fair share of attention in the major news media.

Eggs, unfortunately, can easily become contaminated while still inside of the chicken, or in the hen house. The ease with which they can be contaminated makes them highly likely to cause salmonella poisoning.

To protect your customers, your eggs should be immediately refrigerated upon delivery.

  1. Tuna

You may have heard the news stories about tuna and high mercury in the past. But, tuna can also spread a number of foodborne diseases too.


Because tuna can be contaminated with scombrotoxin. This can form when tuna isn’t kept cool after harvesting, during processing, or while shipping. And even if the tuna gets cooked at a safe internal temperature, scombrotoxin can still survive.

The only thing you can do is ask your supplier how they store their tuna before it gets to you. It should be kept at 40° or less.

  1. Potatoes

Notice that even though meat gets a lot of attention, it still hasn’t made the list of most dangerous foods. From 1990 – 2009, meat did account for a large amount of foodborne illness. However, the FDA doesn’t regulate it, so precise statistics for it aren’t available.

With the data available, potatoes were the 4th most dangerous food from 1990 – 2009.

Interestingly, potatoes aren’t dangerous by themselves. It’s the dishes potatoes are served in. Potato salad, for example, should be kept in a refrigerator before being bought, or served on ice if you’re serving it directly to customers.

With this information in mind, you’re aware of some of the more common possibilities for foodborne illness. Now, you can avoid them and help your customers have an enjoyable holiday season, which leads to you having a good one too.

Do You Need Deodorizers to Neutralize Carpet Odors?

Sometimes, you can get into a real bind with your customer relationships. They may reqModern Office Interioruire you to use a carpet cleaner that causes problems with your equipment, for example.

So, on the one hand, you want to make your customer happy. But, on the other, what they want causes you some issues.

If you find yourself caught in such a situation, here’s some ideas on what to do:

  1. Review Your Own Cleaning Processes

Could you change your approach to cleaning so that your customer’s request becomes unnecessary? For example, instead of using the carpet cleaner, you decide to clean the carpet more frequently and allow it time to dry. That could make the use of additional product unnecessary, or it could minimize the need.

In turn, that would lead to less wear on your equipment.

  1. Could Anything Else Be Causing the Bad Odor?

It’s easy to blame the most obvious thing: the use of a certain cleaning product. However, that might be just part of the problem. Bad odor could also be caused by poor indoor air quality, like dust and allergens spread throughout your building through your ductwork. This might be the result of a bad air filter.

  1. Are Your Staff Doing the Cleaning Properly?

You have your own complex cleaning equipment. Does your staff know how to use it properly? When was the last time you gave them training? Have you supervised some of their work to see how they do their job?

If you don’t do this already, you should do it now because it’s simply good protocol.

  1. What Preventative Cleaning Processes Do You Have in Place?

It’s easier to prevent an odor from ever happening in the first place than it is to get rid of one that you have now. Make sure all areas of your building have proper ventilation, and that you keep humidity levels low.

Vacuum your carpets with backpack vacuums. Remove stains immediately.

Follow Those Tips To Say Goodbye To Your Building’s Odors So Your Customers Stay Happy

Those are some ideas to work your way out of a tough situation with a client. Let them guide you, and you will do work that makes your customer happy, without causing you any inconvenience in return.