Safety by Design: Creating a Risk-Reducing Operational Flow in Restaurants

By Jason Bench August 2, 2023 Blog, Restaurant
Operational Flow

In the dynamic and fast-paced world of restaurant management, safety and efficiency are not just desirable attributes; they are absolute necessities. This holds particularly true for multi-unit restaurant chains, where maintaining consistency across various locations and managing risks effectively make a significant difference in the overall success and profitability of the business.

The restaurant industry is notorious for its razor-thin profit margins. According to industry data, full-service restaurants typically see average profit margins of just 3-5%, while fast-food establishments fare slightly better at 6-9%. These figures stand in stark contrast to other industries. The auto repair industry enjoys average profit margins of around 12%, consumer goods can see margins as high as 37%, and the technology sector boasts an astounding 93% profit margin average. This disparity underscores the unique challenges faced by restaurant owners and managers. With such low margins, there is little room for error. A single mishap in food safety can lead to costly negative press. An accident on the premises can result in expensive litigation. Even minor inefficiencies in operations can significantly eat into profits.

In this high-stakes arena, reducing risk in operational flow becomes essential. Poor operational flow can lead to long wait times, inconsistent service, and ultimately, poor customer experience. On the other hand, a well-designed operational flow can enhance customer service, leading to increased customer loyalty and higher customer lifetime value (CLV). Digital solutions, such as MeazureUp’s AuditApp, play a pivotal role in enhancing safety and efficiency in restaurant operations, especially for multi-unit companies. By streamlining processes, improving communication, and providing valuable data for decision-making, these tools help restaurant chains navigate the complexities of their industry and carve out a path to success and profitability, even amidst the tight margins.

Key Risks in Restaurant Operations

When considering risk in restaurant operations, three key areas emerge: food safety, employee safety, and financial loss.

  • Food Safety: Improved operational flow around food safety encompasses food storage, food handling, and kitchen cleanliness, all of which prevent the growth of harmful bacteria that can cause foodborne illnesses. Food storage operations include maintaining the correct temperatures for different types of food, separating raw and cooked foods to prevent cross-contamination, and ensuring that food items are stored in clean, sealed containers. Food handling includes everything from washing hands thoroughly before handling food to using clean utensils and equipment. It also includes cooking food to the right temperature to kill any harmful bacteria, and cooling food properly before storage. Kitchen hygiene practices include not only the cleaning and sanitizing of all surfaces, utensils, and equipment but also proper waste management to prevent the attraction of pests, which can carry diseases. Any lapse in these food safety practices can lead to serious health risks for customers, including food poisoning and other foodborne illnesses and can have severe consequences for the restaurant. In a worst-case scenario, a serious food safety incident can result in reputational damage, legal consequences, and the closure of the restaurant and hefty fines.
  • Employee Safety: Restaurants, with their bustling kitchens and busy dining areas, can be hazardous work environments. Slips and falls, often the result of wet floors, cluttered walkways, or poorly maintained flooring, are common. In the kitchen, burns and cuts can occur as staff work with hot surfaces, boiling liquids, sharp knives, and slicers. Restaurant staff are often required to lift and move heavy items, such as boxes of supplies or large pots and pans. Without proper training and equipment, this can lead to strains and other musculoskeletal injuries. Poor fire safety protocols put lives at risk.
  • Financial Loss: As noted above, the restaurant industry operates on thin margins. Effectively managing finances through careful operations is critical to success, as low-quality operations such as poor scheduling or inefficient processes, eat into revenue. Waste also leads to financial loss, especially difficult as inflation continues to impact supply costs. Over-ordering and poor storage are issues, as is waste of resources like water or electricity. Theft is also a problem. This might be direct theft of cash from the register, theft of food or alcohol, or more subtle forms like giving away free drinks or meals to friends.

Reducing Risk with Operational Flow Improvements

“Operational flow” refers to the sequence of actions and processes that staff members follow to deliver a product (in a restaurant, this is a dining experience) to the customer. A well-designed operational flow significantly enhances efficiency, reduces risks, and improves the overall customer experience. For multi-unit restaurant chains, achieving a consistent and effective operational flow across all units is a key challenge. However, with the right strategies and tools, it is possible to implement improvements that can significantly reduce risks around food safety, employee safety, and financial loss.

In the restaurant industry, operational flow refers to the sequence of actions and processes that staff members follow to deliver the product – in this case, a dining experience – to the customer. A well-designed operational flow can significantly enhance efficiency, reduce risks, and improve the overall customer experience. For multi-unit restaurant chains, achieving a consistent and effective operational flow across all units is a key challenge. However, with the right strategies and tools, it is possible to implement operational flow improvements that can significantly reduce risks.

Food Safety

  • Implement standardized food handling and storage procedures across all units. This ensures consistency and reduces the risk of food safety lapses.
  • Regularly monitor and record the temperature of refrigerators and freezers to ensure food is stored at safe temperatures.
  • Maintain cleanliness and prevent cross-contamination with a well-defined cleaning schedule.

Employee Safety

  • Establish clear safety protocols for all tasks to prevent accidents like slips, falls, burns, and cuts.
  • Provide personal protective equipment like non-slip shoes, cut-resistant gloves, and safety mats and insist that it be used at all times.
  • Arrange the kitchen layout to minimize hazards. For example, place heavy equipment at waist level to avoid strain from lifting.

Financial Loss

  • Implement an Inventory Management System to reduce waste from over-ordering or spoilage and help prevent theft.
  • Use data-driven scheduling to ensure you have the right number of staff at the right times to reduce labor costs and improve service.
  • Optimize processes like supply ordering, table turnover times, and food preparation to improve efficiency.

Implementing risk-reducing techniques can present its own set of challenges. These may include resistance to change from staff, lack of training, and the cost of implementation. However, these challenges can be overcome with clear communication, proper training, and a phased approach to implementation. Clear communication about the reasons for the change and the benefits you anticipate will turn employees into stakeholders. Proper training ensures that everyone knows how to work within the new system. A phased approach to implementation, starting with a pilot project before rolling out the changes across the organization, can help manage costs and allow for adjustments to be made based on feedback from the pilot.

The value of regular employee training in all these areas cannot be overstated. Training gives staff the knowledge and skills to implement safety procedures, use equipment correctly, and carry out their roles efficiently. It also fosters a culture of safety and professionalism that boosts morale and productivity, lowering employee turnover rates.

Conducting frequent site visits is also crucial, especially for multi-unit restaurant chains. Site visits allow managers to observe operations firsthand, identify potential issues, and provide immediate feedback and guidance. They also demonstrate a commitment to maintaining high standards, which can motivate staff and reinforce the importance of following procedures. Digital solutions like MeazureUp’s AuditApp can support these efforts by providing tools for monitoring, managing, and improving operational flow, thereby reducing risks and enhancing the overall performance of the restaurant.


Optimizing operational flow in restaurants is a multifaceted process that must address key risks, overcome implementation challenges, and focus on improving customer experience. Digital solutions like AuditApp by MeazureUp provide the insights needed to reduce risks and improve restaurant operational flow. They streamline processes, enhance communication, and provide valuable data that can be used to make informed decisions, effortlessly boosting the bottom line.

Ready to see how AuditApp can transform your restaurant operations? Schedule a demo today.