Handcrafted-hamburger restaurant Five Guys Burgers and Fries is expanding its wireless temperature-sensor monitoring system this year, by installing the technology in its milkshake machines. The restaurant chain also intends to finish deploying the system this year across all of its 1,300 restaurants throughout North America. The ComplianceMate temperature-tracking solution, provided by CM Systems, uses active 900 MHz sensors from Point Six Wireless and helps to ensure that raw ingredients are stored at a safe temperature and are not served if they have exceeded their approved temperature threshold.
Five Guys is a Virginia-based national restaurant chain founded in 1986. As opposed to some fast-food chains, the company does not use frozen meat in its burgers—in fact, it reports, there are no freezers onsite. All food is cooked fresh, and the storage of ingredients within Five Guys' refrigerators must thus be carefully monitored.
In the past, says Jim Gibson, Five Guys' food safety and quality assurance VP, the company was experiencing problems with some of it coolers. Temperatures sometimes deviated from acceptable levels, but the restaurants' managers were not always aware that this was happening. The company set up a program with a third-party auditing team to visit the restaurants and test temperatures, while employees onsite had to fill out paper logs, manually checking temperature levels every two hours, all day, and writing down the results.
The problem with that system, Gibson says, is that paper documents can be fudged. Individuals could fill in numbers without actually taking the time to check the temperatures. In addition, human error was a concern—in some cases, workers might simply have misread the numbers on thermometers inside the coolers. Restaurants must comply with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) guidelines to ensure that food is safe for consumption.
Five years ago, the company approached CM Systems—known at the time as Orderite—seeking an automated, hassle-free solution consisting of wireless sensors that captured ambient temperatures, along with Bluetooth-enabled temperature probes to monitor the temperatures of meat and other raw ingredients, as well as cooked products.
Five Guys began installing the ComplianceMate system at its each of its new stores in 2011, and it plans to implement the technology this year at all existing restaurants that do not yet have such sensors in place. Each restaurant stores all raw ingredients within cold holding units (most locations have three of them), or in a walk-in cooler at night or when those products are not being used right away. A Point Six sensor is installed within each of these four coolers. Another sensor is installed in the food preparation area, in order to ensure that the room's temperature levels do not rise high enough to make the preparation of fresh food a concern.