Who owns the low-handwashing problem in chain restaurants?
Handwashing frequency is often less than desirable in most all restaurants with workers seeing little reason to wash more often and claiming to have little time as customer service trumps clean hands. Training helps but improvements don't endure. Quality Assurance doesn't have a handwashing system to monitor. Most all operational level employees, auditors, inspectors and headquarters' Quality Assurance teams know their handwashing rates are lower than desired. Who owns this problem?
Let’s eliminate a few:
1. Quality Assurance, whether at headquarters, regional posts or local restaurants
2. Training departments and trainers
3. Prepline and wait-staff
4. The FDA and local health inspectors
Whoever owns this handwashing problem may not matter as the franchisee, particularly those with multiple units, is increasingly driving solutions to issues eluding the franchisor. Franchisees step ahead to protect their own livelyhood and that of all their employees. Handwashing For Life is encouraging franchisors to formally set up "hot-house" projects within their franchisee network to demonstrate the value of documented handwashing compliance. Having better control of the handwashing process affords the ownership the option for an increased level of business protection. Not all franchisees have the same tolerance for risk. The more risk-averse deserve the choice of a sustainable solution to poor handwashing, the #1 factor cited in outbreak investigations according to the CDC.
The answer for this accountability question in chain restaurants is reflected in the legal system. The core business entity normally survives an outbreak. They have a broad base to spread the risk and an Outbreak Readiness plan for immediate action with a lineup of heavy-hitter lawyers and public relations experts.
A second group of operators, the franchisees, also end up in the courtroom but don’t survive. A single outbreak breaks the business. The franchisee can lose everything as the taint of an outbreak lingers long with the locals and income is chocked beyond recovery.
The Handwashing For Life Institute believes the franchisees will become the drivers for reducing the risk associated with underwashing by investing in electronic systems to gather, organize and report handwashing compliance. Thanks to the new ECM, Electronic Compliance Monitoring, technologies, franchisees have a solution at-the-ready, a solution that will prove that compliant handwashing is low-cost business protection.
The "franchisee-fix" will help new owners assess their personal risk and decide if enhanced handwashing is value-driven brand protection.