A decade ago, Dateline did an intensive study of franchise restaurants’ health inspection reports. They chose 100 restaurants each from ten leading franchise restaurant chains across 38 states and analyzed 18 months’ worth of their health inspection reports.They looked specifically at critical violations.
Critical violations are issues that could result in food contamination. A worker taking out the trash and then returning to a food prep area without washing her hands. Cutting boards being used for chicken and vegetables alike. Insects and vermin in food storage areas.
The number of critical violations ranged from 91 (for Taco Bell) to 241 for Burger King. Altogether, 60% of the restaurants on the list had at least one critical violation over the year and a half.
A new report examines the use of antibiotics in fast food. The authors of this report examined 25 fast food chains, and found that only two met their standards for excellence in this area and only five even received a passing grade from the consortium that prepared the report.
The authors charted out a number of different metrics, ranging from the amount of meat without antibiotics served to the prominence of their policy on their websites. Headlines reporting this research tend to focus on the small number of A grades from the researchers, as in Fast Food Joints Get Failing Grade For Massive Overuse Of Antibiotics from ThinkProgress.
It’s worth noting that neither of these studies included a control group of independent restaurants, or home kitchens for that matter. Both imply that there are problems with franchise restaurants, but their numbers only include franchise businesses. Since they don’t provide any information about independent restaurants, readers don’t know whether franchise restaurants are more or less likely to have these food safety issues. They just don’t realize it.
Is it true that fast food franchise restaurants are less careful with food safety than independent restaurants? Not at all.
A recent report comparing chain and independent restaurants in Philadelphia found that just the opposite was true. The franchises averaged fewer violations than the independent restaurants.
Don Schaffner,President of the International Association for Food Protection, explained why. “Those restaurants,” he said, speaking of franchise restaurants, “do a pretty good job of engineering out the risk factors.”
The same systems that make franchise business opportunities so appealing to entrepreneurs incorporate food safety measures.
In fact, franchise chains have stronger standards than the USDA’s standards for school. This doesn’t mean that the standards for schools are not stringent; it means that corporations which serve millions of meals every year understand the importance of food safety.
If you’re considering a restaurant franchise business opportunity, what lessons do these press events have for you?
Recognize that franchise businesses are dealt with in the press and by the public as a group. An individual franchisee’s behavior is often included in the reputation of the corporate franchisor; the reputation of the franchisor will certainly affect that of an individual franchisee.
That’s why it’s important to choose a franchise business that supports its franchisees and defends its brand.