Newry-based entrepreneur Neil Bradley, owner of Food Safe System, doesn’t think there are too many cooks in the kitchen. His problem is that kitchens aren’t up to speed in the digital age.
“Cooks want to spend more time cooking and less time doing pen-and-paper based food safety checks, including fridge checks," Neil said. "I know one restaurant with 14 fridges, which monitors the temperatures four times per day. That takes up a lot of time for a chef."
Neil was a chef for 25 years, and previously owned the Michelin-rated restaurant Copper in Newry. After opening a bistro named Sugar Supper Club, he developed an app to ease food safety compliance.
“I was frustrated with the paperwork. There is a lot of risk of making errors and not keeping records. At that time, in 2015, there was no better alternative,” said Neil.
What sort of requirements are restaurants held to?
Neil said, “EU legislation requires every restaurant to document temperatures, supply deliveries, what chemicals you use, staff training, cleaning and hygiene inspections. The ability to keep records affects the restaurant’s overall hygiene rating. They’re required to document the whole food journey.”
Do customers notice the hygiene rating on the door?
“If it puts one customer off a day, that’s a big problem, because margins are so tight in the restaurant business,” said Neil.
How is the app useful to chefs?
“Using wireless sensors, refrigerator checks are completely automated at the intervals you choose, and the data is kept in the app. We also have Bluetooth-enabled probes for spot checks on food temperatures, say if the chicken breast is fully cooked. A key benefit is that the app alerts you if there are problems such as a power cut, where the fridge temperature rises out of the zone it should be in.”
Neil tells me that there are obvious benefits over a paper-based system, such as time- and date-stamping, leading to data accuracy on every entry.
Where does the data go?
“All the records are stored in the app, and can be accessed via the cloud from anywhere in the world. When restaurants are up for inspection, all of their documents and data are in one place,” Neil said.
He said, “We all want to make our food safer to eat. This app helps the chef, and the restaurant, which helps the customer.”
Do you have competitors?
Neil said, “The app was developed by a restaurant, for restaurants – so it was important to be priced as restaurants can afford. There are a few competitors who started in the medical field, monitoring fridge temperatures, and then moved into kitchens, but no restaurant that I know could afford those expensive software services.”
Neil told me he’s taken initial angel funding around a year and half ago, and also used an R&D grant from Invest NI. Now, Food Safe Systems is a candidate for graduation from the Springboard programme.
Is it available now?
Neil said, “It’s been available on iOS since August, and our next step is to build the web app. After that, we have a vision to digitise many more processes in kitchens.”
What sort of processes?
“The ordering process that chefs use on the supply-side – that’s one area that can be digitised. Chef to-do lists are another area that would be beneficial and adding voice activation to the app is a future goal,” he said.
Which markets do you target?
Neil said, “Many of our customers are in England. We’re also looking towards Australia, Canada and the US markets.”
“We all want to eat out. This app helps to take away the jobs chefs don’t need to do, and that means better restaurants,” he concluded.