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New study reveals the five biggest challenges faced by UK Quick Service Restaurants

LONDON 10 February 2022: Leading global public health and safety organisation, 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 

“This is a pivotal moment for QSR brands. 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.”   

1.The impact of Covid-19

QSR operations is a constant balancing act between quality, customer-centricity, and food safety whilst under pressure to maximise efficiency and speed. Yet the events of the past 24 months have upset this balance. As a result of the pandemic, the overwhelming majority of QSR franchises and employees raise concerns over the new regulatory requirements (82%). This has created a knock-on effect, with survey respondents citing further challenges in the form of longer customer waiting times (55%) and increased running costs (36%).   

2.A rise in-home delivery  

One in 10 (14%) 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 (36%) and keeping food at the right temperature (27%) were the biggest tensions. 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.  

3.Equipment breakdowns 

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%) of QSR operations simply switch off machinery due to a lack of time or expertise to troubleshoot the problem, with 31% temporarily discontinuing a menu item because of non-functioning equipment.   

One in 10 QSR managers and employees also admit to skipping automatic cleaning cycles (12%) or ignoring error messages on equipment (13%), a practice that was of concern to John Rowley. “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.”  

4.Staff turnover  

More than half (59%) of QSR managers have found staff turnover to be an issue for their business, with two in 10 (23%) believing it to be the biggest negative impact on operations. Covid-19 has only heightened the issue, with 41% of respondents saying finding and keeping staff is a huge challenge following the pandemic.  

5.Lack of training   

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 – in fact, 73% of QSR respondents say the pandemic has increased their training needs. But at the same time, the pandemic has also made the process more challenging. More than half (56%) had to cancel or delay employee training due to Covid-19. The lack of immediately available training, coupled with inconsistent quality of courses has a clear, real-world impact on food safety.   

If this is not tackled, John Rowley fears a poor precedent is being set for the future of QSR operations: “Training is vital at every level in food services. Each employee should be clear on not only their employer’s expectations but the national standards and regulations – training is the most effective way to ensure this. For those that had training efforts hampered by the pandemic, I would encourage looking further afield and considering digital training systems, which deliver consistent and reliable training programmes, and can quickly help to resolve a huge hurdle for the QSR sector.”   

For more information about NSF, or to read the full global report, please visit: https://bit.ly/3t245Jn