ComplianceMate Blog

Food Safety Monitoring: Restaurants vs. Fast Food Chains

While you might think eating at restaurants would be safer compared to fast food chains, this is not always the case. Both types of establishments must have the proper food safety monitoring practices in place. Even still, eating at one or the other does present certain risk factors where food contamination could occur and affect the quality of food served to customers.


Restaurants may be part of a larger chain or a locally owned operation. They tend to deal with a much larger volume of fresh food handling compared to fast food businesses. Just about everything is cooked to order and could include different requests by customers. For instance, one customer may want a steak cooked well-done while another wants it rare.

One concern with fresh foods is they may be sourced from local farms and other suppliers without any chemical processing to preserve them. This means they have a much shorter shelf-life and have to be used within a set period.

Additionally, because of the lack of chemical processing, the opportunity for food to become contaminated can be higher compared to fast food. Furthermore, there can be a higher occurrence of cross-contamination between raw and cooked foods. For example, an employee may use the same cutting board to cut raw and cooked foods and forget to clean and sanitize it prior to doing so.

Fast Food Chains

Most fast food chains use a large volume of frozen and prepacked foods. The food products have already been processed in various ways to reduce the risks of food-borne illnesses and contamination. Most of the equipment used in the facility is specifically designed to function in such a manner as to ensure foods are cooked to their proper temperatures.

Furthermore, fast food corporations spend millions of dollars on food orders, so suppliers are more likely to ensure their processes are designed to reduce the risks of contamination. However, that does not mean fast food chains are necessarily safer to eat at compared to restaurants.

Restaurant worker serving two fast food meals with smile

There is still the human factor to take into consideration. Many of the employees in fast food chains are young adults. They may lack sufficient training or choose to ignore safe food handling processes, which can result in contamination.

Regardless of the type of operation, according to a 2008 report conducted by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), the most prevalent violations found in both restaurants and fast food chains were:

  • Unclean Food Surfaces
  • Improper Temperature Storage for Raw and Cooked Foods
  • Employees Failing to Wash Their Hands After Handling Raw Meat
  • Employees Failing to Wash Their Hands After Using the Bathroom1

Three out of four of these most frequent health department violations can be avoided with better employee training and education.

To ensure proper temperature storage of raw and cooked foods, you should implement the right restaurant temperature monitoring solution from ComplianceMate. Call us at 678.526.4628 to request a free demo today!