Platter Improves Food Safety with Sensor Automation
Amid all the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, we one thing is for sure. People everywhere are going to place an increased focus on health and safety.
That emphasis may be new for some industries, but it’s ingrained in the DNA of the restaurant business, and food businesses are constantly seeking ways to efficiently and consistently improve.
Platter, a sensor technology company that specializes in food safety systems and smart sensors, has been working with top restaurant chains with thousands of locations about adopting their not-yet public technology to capture thousands of times more data from restaurants than has been otherwise possible.
Preparing and maintaining food at the proper temperature is a regulatory requirement and a critical safety measure for every restaurant and cafeteria. The industry is committed to safety and knows that current methods can be improved.
“It is the restaurant’s responsibility to keep people safe. We are going to help them do that in a way no one has ever seen,” said Mason Estep, president of Platter.
Restaurant Industry Continuously Works to Improve Food Safety
“Restaurants check food with a temperature probe multiple times during the day,” Estep explains. “There is a lot of opportunity for human error. Maybe someone doesn’t leave the probe in long enough or writes the wrong temperature down.
While the industry has seen wireless applications that intermittently transmit temperature data, Estep says it is only a marginal improvement over pen and paper.
“All existing solutions either focus on a room-level temperature reading or, if the reading is at the food level, it is only collected a few times a day,” Estep said.
Imagine that you could get all the temperature data that a restaurant could possibly need to ensure the highest standards of safety continuously. Platter’s sensor technology, software intelligence, and Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity, work together to wirelessly record and send temperature readings to a software application that can be dashboard-monitored and sends out alerts when the food at an individual serving station is out of spec.
“The most exciting thing about our business is the reaction from the restaurant chains when they understand what we are doing,” Estep said. “This is something that can keep people safe; that’s the number one thing for restaurants.”
Platter built the hardware, owns the intellectual property, and is working with one of the predominant manufacturers in the food industry space. “We are very close to going to market with beta testing,” Estep said.
The company is focusing on restaurants that prepare food that sits while it is being served—for example, cafeteria-style eateries, casinos, and schools.
In validating and developing its technology and solutions, Estep underscores Platter’s commitment to work with managers and workers in all functions inside a restaurant to develop products and features that meet front-line, in-kitchen, and corporate needs.
“We need feedback from the person on the serving line in the restaurant,” Estep said. “We need the franchise manager, the regional manager, and, from corporate. We also talk to business development and food safety departments.”
He says that Platter has benefited from other entrepreneurs, a pro-active board of directors which includes Jim Grote, founder of Grote Company and Donatos Pizza, and Bob Grote, CEO of Grote Company.
Estep has been an entrepreneur in the food and beverage industry since he was in college and founded a beverage company that produced 25,000 units. His vision for Platter is to become the data platform for restaurants. Monitoring and reporting food temperature is just the beginning.
“This is where the future is going,” he said. “Imagine ten years into the future. Eventually every single piece of equipment in the restaurant can be connected to Platter, from serving stations, to stoves, ovens, and refrigerators, all can be automated and connected over the internet, generating data and being remotely monitored and controlled.”
From his prior businesses, Estep has history and backing in the industry, especially in Columbus.
“They take our calls because they know how big a problem this is,” he said. “From there, it’s not a complicated conversation. They know what’s needed—to automate the process and record the correct temperature.”
Platter expects to ramp up hiring soon. They are actively hiring full-stack developers.
“The number one thing for me is hiring right,” Estep said. “Everything can be right, the idea, the product, the company, but if you don’t have the right people around you, you can’t make it work.
Platter serves an industry recognized for its diversity. Estep carries that into his business plan.
“Diversity is so important,” said Estep. “You want your team to be representative of the community for a lot of reasons, not just because it is the right thing—which it is. But you also want your company to represent the people who are going to be using your products, Customers buy from people who feel like family.”
Tips on Starting a Company in Columbus and Lessons Learned
“Don’t be afraid to start,” Estep said. “I try to meet as many people as possible. I will take advice from anyone. Boil it down, and then go with your gut. It’s educated intuition.”
When you are starting a company from nothing, Estep says, what do you have to lose? Be unashamed and fearless—and always make the company’s reason for being all about the customer and doing the right thing.
“We are a team to our customers, not a vendor,” said Estep. “We are guided by the features our customer wants. We aren’t selling sensors; we are selling food safety. This is our time to shine, to do what we set out to do. Platter is entering over-drive.”