Simple food safety still applies to high-tech ordering and delivery

When the Murphy Adams Restaurant Group bought Mama Fu's Asian House from Raving Brands nearly two years ago, chief executive Randy Murphy — already a Mama Fu's franchisee — wanted to add online ordering and delivery to the 14-unit chain's service options. Murphy believed customers would use both, and there was little competition in the fast-casual segment for either service.

“Asian restaurants do delivery in lots of places, but no one was doing it widely here,” said Murphy, whose company is in Austin, Texas. “I'm surprised it doesn't happen more often since that type of food carries so well.”

Like pizza, which also travels well, Asian food is cooked at super-high temperatures along with such BTU-retaining starches as rice and noodles. While such heat retention, helped by insulated delivery bags, provides for safe food delivered to customers, both large pizza and Asian food portions yield leftovers for a second meal, which is where trouble can start.

Left at room temperature for extended periods, potentially harmful bacteria can grow on leftovers. Without sufficient reheating above 140 F, those bacteria might harm those who eat that food.

Currently, Mama Fu's doesn't provide reheating instructions on its to-go packaging, although Murphy said, “It's probably something we need to think about.” But he also believes most customers are sensible enough to refrigerate leftovers and then microwave until steaming. “It's best eaten hot, which our customers already know,” he said.

Pizza companies often provide reheating instructions on delivery boxes, but that's usually to crisp the pie if it moistened during delivery. Jodi Aufdencamp, co-owner of four-unit Mama Mimi's Take 'N Bake Pizza in Columbus, Ohio, instructs customers to bake her fully assembled, raw pizzas at 450 F. Online ordering customers can review instructions at the company's website. Reheating any leftovers, she said, should be done more slowly, at 350 F.

“People eat cold pizza all the time, so it's never been a big concern for us,” Aufdencamp said, noting that the high fat content of the cheese provides a natural protective barrier for the other ingredients. “But it is a lot better if it's hot. So I like to reheat it until the cheese softens some. It gets the crust crisp again, too, and it's never bad to be safe.”