Keep FIFO Simple with These 5 Tools
First-In-First-Out (FIFO) is a principle encouraged by food safety experts and business-savvy restaurant operators alike. FIFO consists of using older ingredients first, a practice that can decrease your kitchen's waste by using food before it goes bad. This also improves food safety, since it decreases the chance that a mistake will lead to a customer being served spoiled food.
FIFO guidelines encourage storing ingredients in such a way as to make retrieving the oldest of them easy. This practice can make stocking difficult, often requiring you to reach around older products to put newly received ones behind them or even take everything off a shelf to put new products in the back before repositioning the older products. These processes are time-consuming and awkward, making it less likely that employees will follow FIFO food storage guidelines. However, there are some innovative products available to make both stocking and retrieving ingredients simple while enabling you to adhere to the principles of FIFO.
FIFO-Friendly Food Storage
1. Food Labels: Many restaurants label their food pans and storage containers with masking tape, but this practice can lead to gummy, sticky residue left behind on containers and pans, which creates a breeding ground for bacteria that ends up being stacked inside other containers. Food storage labels are made to be easily removed, with some label brands easily disintegrating under water. These also provide more room for information, including the item's name, and its receiving and use-by dates. Having this information easily visible will make it simple for employees to see which container needs to be used first.
2. Food Storage Bin Barriers: Dry ingredient storage bins make retrieving and stocking ingredients simple, with removable lids that allow you to quickly add flour, sugar, and other dry ingredients via a flip-up or retractable portion of the lid. However, the traditional open design of the bin means that unless you wait until it is completely empty to add new ingredients, the older product will simply be buried under the new. Rubbermaid has devised a way to implement FIFO with these dry goods, placing a vertical barrier in the container. This barrier allows new product to be poured into the back of the bin, while the older ingredients are kept separate in the front, where they can be easily scooped out first.
3. Can Racks: While cans are often an afterthought when it comes to FIFO thanks to their long shelf lives, maintaining first-in-first-out food storage practices with cans can ensure none get pushed to the back of a shelf and forgotten. Can racks are available with gravity-fed shelves, so you can put incoming cans into the back of the track while the oldest cans are at the front where they're easy to grab when needed. These racks are made with differently sized tracks to accommodate standard can sizes, and in both full- and half-size heights.
4. Condiment Organizers and Dispensers: While not every condiment organizer is designed to be FIFO-friendly, there are many available that can help you maintain FIFO practices. Some condiment dispensers allow you to place new product in at the top of a compartment, while dispensing the oldest items below. Dry product dispensers work in a similar way for candy, cereal, coffee, and flavored powders.
5. Pass-Thru Cold and Heated Storage: While most of the products we've mentioned have been more focused on ingredients than prepared foods, FIFO applies to both. Because most ready-to-serve food must be kept either hot or cold, first-in-first-out storage must accommodate that. Pass-thru versions of heated holding cabinets and refrigeration units allow kitchen staff to load shelves with products from behind them, while servers take the oldest products that have been pushed forward to the front. These are available in a multitude of sizes and configurations, including glass door refrigerators that can also be used to merchandise products.