Asking Your Seafood Provider the Right Questions to Assure a Safe and Customer-friendly Program
By Dennis M. Baker President and Chief Executive Officer, Avendra, LLC | January 12, 2010
As every chef knows, providing fresh, wholesome, attractive seafood is the desire of every hotel's food and beverage operation. However, providing customers the seafood they want in an increasingly environmentally-conscious world can be a difficult task. Numerous issues confront us in today's seafood marketplace. In fact, more often than operators like to admit, the products they think they are buying are not what they are getting. Besides mislabeled products, another major concern is agreement on a clear, and universally accepted standard for "organic" seafood. But, with proper oversight and a desire to be proactive, you can create a program that is both in tune with the wishes of today's hotel guest and creates value for your company.
In developing our seafood program we tapped into our experience in this area, utilized information from trusted industry sources, gathered information from a wide range of customers as well as the supplier community and consolidated everything to develop a list of points to consider. These points have been critical in evaluating potential seafood providers to ensure that they would be capable of providing the necessary expertise, best products, service, business terms and overall value for our customers and their guests. Based on our experiences we surfaced some issues, listed below, that you might want to consider as you think about your program.
Monitoring Local Seafood Suppliers
Does your company have specific safety guidelines documented and in place for the local seafood supplier and is the supplier adhering to your guidelines?
Supplier Inspections and Visits to Seafood Plants, Aquaculture Farms and Fishing Facilities
A vigorous supplier food safety inspection program can give you the confidence that all your suppliers are properly audited and that they are proactively checking for proper seafood handling. You might ask if your vendor visits aquaculture farms and hatcheries on a regular basis to see if these facilities are meeting industry standards and if they are implementing the latest practices. Another question to ask is how often does your local supplier actually go out on fishing boats to see firsthand what practices are in place?
Inspection of Seafood as It Arrives at the Hotel
Another way to ensure you are getting wholesome products delivered in the right condition from suppliers is to have an independent quality assurance inspector go through your property's morning deliveries - checking your seafood delivery against what you ordered as well as for possible food safety concerns. For example, are you evaluating supplier's deliveries on specified standards which are routinely inspected and verified (for example, shrimp promised vs. shrimp provided)? Further, if food safety violations or mislabeled product are identified in your morning's delivery what happens? Are there procedures in place to go back to the source to correct the problem on your behalf?
Truth in Labeling
Currently, the retail-side of the seafood business is utilizing "Country of Origin Labeling," known as COOL. Some proactive seafood companies are adopting this practice on behalf of their hospitality customers. By utilizing COOL, food and beverage managers and wait staff know what seafood products they are using and can clearly articulate to their customers details about the products. For example, there are certain species that customers believe to be on the seafood "avoid" list that are perfectly acceptable, even by the most stringent international watchdog groups, if they are properly identified by an acceptable point of origin. You might inquire if your suppliers are adhering to such standards.