Study reveals the five biggest challenges faced by fast food restaurants
A new study by NSF International discovers the challenges that are impacting food safety standards, as one in 10 franchise managers and employees believe food safety has been at risk on their site recently.
Global public health and safety organisation, National Sanitation Foundation International, better known as NSF International, has commissioned an independent study into the state of quick service restaurant (QSR) operations in the UK. The survey revealed the top five key areas of concern:
- Covid-19 regulatory requirements
- The rise of home delivery
- Equipment malfunctions
- Training and staff turnover
“We know that many of the trends and corresponding challenges brought about by the pandemic are here to stay, so restaurant owners and managers need to adapt in order to survive – and to do so safely,” said John Rowley, VP, Global Food Division for NSF.
“Our recent study looked at QSR operations in the UK as well as restaurants across the US, China, India and Latin America. New regulations and procedures, staff training and retention, and the need to accommodate rapid delivery and takeout orders have all taken a toll on the ability to keep operations running smoothly, not just in the UK but around the world.”
According to NSF International, QSR operations are a constant balancing act between quality, customer-centricity, and food safety, all the while under pressure to maximise efficiency and speed. It argues that the events of the past 24 months have upset this balance. As a result of the pandemic, the majority of QSR franchises and employees raise concerns over the new regulatory requirements.
One in 10 QSR managers said home delivery has increased food risks due to added pressure on employees. Survey respondents noted that increased customer demands over the speed of delivery and keeping food at the right temperature were the biggest difficulties. Alongside the increased work pressure, QSR brands are concerned about ensuring that third-party logistics partners have adequate food safety training, clean and suitable vehicles, and appropriate food boxes to ensure standards are upheld across the purchasing chain.
NSF International points out that the fast-paced, high-pressure nature of QSR work makes equipment breakdowns prevalent – and deeply disruptive – putting both consumer and employee safety at risk. Nearly a third (27 percent) of QSR operations simply switch off machinery due to a lack of time or expertise to troubleshoot the problem, with 31 percent temporarily discontinuing a menu item because of non-functioning equipment.
One in 10 QSR managers and employees also admit to skipping automatic cleaning cycles or ignoring error messages on equipment.
“For so many of QSR workers to be actively ignoring cleaning protocols puts food safety at a huge risk. Food safety standards should be held in the highest regard – it is the factor that has the potential to make or break a QSR establishment, above all others”, said Rowley.
The survey also found that more than half of QSR managers have found staff turnover to be an issue for their business, with two in 10 believing it to be the biggest negative impact on operations. Covid-19 has only heightened the issue, with 41 percent of respondents saying finding and keeping staff is a huge challenge following the pandemic.
Already a key aspect of operations for any QSR brand, training has become even more critical as Covid-19 increased staff turnover and necessitated new regulations and procedures. But the pandemic has also made the process more challenging, according to NSI International, with more than half of QSR managers stating that they had to cancel or delay employee training due to Covid-19. The report states that the lack of immediately-available training, coupled with inconsistent quality of courses has a clear, real-world impact on food safety.