It’s true that fast food restaurants are occasionally the cause of a serious food-related illness outbreak, and these chains certainly receive more media attention for their mistakes than individual restaurants. However, fast food is surprisingly safe as an entire industry. A study released in 2017 by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania found that chain restaurants committed an average of around six violations per inspection compared to an average of nine for non-chain locations. What’s helping fast food chains improve their food safety?

Embracing Food Safety Tech

First, fast food restaurants and other chains tend to quickly adopt the newest forms of food technology. This is because there’s a central authority to verify the value of an emerging technology, such as automated labeling equipment, and to approve the funding necessary to supply them to the restaurants. In a restaurant that has one or two owners and a relatively small staff and budget, it’s easy for food safety breakthroughs to slip by unnoticed because everyone’s busy just keeping the current system running.

Setting Clear and Universal Protocols

The template style of franchise business is also helping drive higher standards for food prep safety among fast food chains. Since every location receives the same training materials and information, it’s faster for a chain to distribute an update to meat temperature or hand washing guidelines. There’s also a greater pressure on managers to train and enforce these rules since the entire brand is marred by a single store’s failure to prevent foodborne illness. A McDonald’s restaurant in Michigan can hurt sales at a location in Hawaii with a simple mistake, so there’s a  greater focus on maintaining a good image across the country by standardizing food handling processes.

Tracking Successes and Losses

Finally, fast food franchise brands are also better at record keeping than individual restaurants. Every major fast food brand employs entire teams of people dedicated just to tracking and correcting food safety issues, while your average restaurant likely assigns that kind of task to one overworked general manager. With so much at stake from a single outbreak of listeria or salmonella, fast food brands do their best to avoid mistakes.