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Company responses

Top 10 fast food chains respond to 'Dateline' report

Thank you for your email of Nov. 5, 2003. The Dairy Queen system’s goal is to always provide safe, high-quality food products to all of our consumers and that is why your findings greatly concern us. As with most chains in the quick service restaurant industry, all of our locations are required to follow strict health and sanitation standards that comply with or exceed county and state health regulations.

Dairy Queen restaurants are evaluated annually, or more often if needed. In addition to a formal evaluation, restaurants are routinely visited in an effort to assist their franchised owners with health and sanitation training, as well as other matters regarding their day-to-day operations. We are also committed to working with local and county health departments to correct any deficiencies at the restaurant level.

In addition to the above mentioned policies, procedures and standards, the

Dairy Queen system:

* Has had a “Zero Tolerance” policy in place since 1998 for E. coli tested hamburger products served in our restaurants. This policy also includes cooking temperatures (minimum 160 F.) and proper handling of ice cream mix. If an operator fails in any of these areas, they have 24 hours to correct the violation or risk losing their franchise.

* Endorses and requires DQ restaurant owners in new and transfer locations to attend and pass the National Restaurant Association’s “ServSafe” food handling and food safety training course. This policy has been in place since 1995. Since that time we have had more than 2,000 owner/operators and their managers attend this course.

* Has a certified training school at the corporate headquarters for Dairy Queen owners or managers. The curriculum includes food safety and sanitation principles.

* Conducts regular field training operations seminars performed by American Dairy Queen Corporation field and training staff members on a frequent basis for DQ operators and managers.

* Has system operations manuals and periodically distributes system memos/ bulletins regarding proper food handling and safety/sanitation guidelines to all of its franchised operators. This information is also available to franchisees 24 hours a day via our Dairy Queen Extranet Website.

* Makes training tapes and CD ROMs available that cover product preparation, health and sanitation procedures.

* Requires that every DQ operator post the guidelines for proper hand washing procedures by each sink so employees have easy and immediate access to this information.

* Has a Consumer Relations Department that processes complaints and inquiries from our customers that alert our operators and field-force representatives to follow up with concerns brought to our attention.

At American Dairy Queen Corporation, we work hard to do everything we can to ensure the quality and safety of our franchised restaurants and the products we serve.

Lon Brew
Executive Vice President of Operations
We appreciate Dateline for covering an issue that we work hard to address in each of our restaurants every day in the interest of customer safety.

Although the vast majority of our restaurants regularly pass health department inspections and even more rigorous internal and third-party audits, we must always do better. Any critical deficiency is unacceptable — which is why we address them immediately. Our goal is to have no critical violations and to be the best, safest and cleanest quick-service restaurant chain of them all. We are committed to achieving that goal.

We have been working hard to make sure our restaurants meet or exceed standards. here are some actions that we have taken under our current management team to achieve our goal and to assure customer safety:

Increased frequency of internal inspections
Instituted third-party inspections of food safety procedures and facility cleanliness
Retained most-widely recognized organization for food-safety certification for our managers, even if states do not require it
Installed charbroiling cooking system that controls cooking time and temperature, greatly reducing the potential for human error
Reduced number of menu items, thus simplifying food-handling and preparation
Initiated new, nationally-recognized pest-control program system-wide
Instituted new, more effective cleaning program, including better cleaning products and procedures as well as a mandatory restaurant-sanitation training course
Implemented new 800 number and e-mail system for customer feedback

The results of these and other initiatives are positive and show that we are improving. For example, the number of restaurants meeting or exceeding the top standards in our third-party audits has more than doubled in the past year.

We continue to strive to do our best for our customers. Only when we are perfect will I be satisfied.
Andy Puzder
President and CEO
Hardee’s Food Systems, Inc.
Arby’s prides itself in offering its customers the most enjoyable dining experience possible. Since our inception over 35 years ago we have implemented and followed a comprehensive food safety and employee training program throughout our more than 3,400 restaurants.

Each restaurant in the Arby’s system receives both internal and external evaluation on a regular and recurring basis. Approximately 6 times per year, unannounced evaluations are conducted by an outside source, as part of our ongoing “Arby’s Operations Promise” program. The AOP is conducted by an independent third party organization that evaluates Arby’s restaurants against our industry standards. In addition to the “AOP” program, Arby’s, Inc. Operations Department conducts internal evaluations on every restaurant. In combination, these third party evaluations along with our internal evaluations are tools, which review procedures and performance in the areas of: Service, Quality, and Food Safety/ Cleanliness.

Our Field Management Teams are all certified to teach the nationally recognized food safety training program - Serve Safe ®. Annually, Arby’s, Inc. personnel conduct hundreds of training classes throughout North America to help our franchise operators deliver the best in Service, Quality, and Food Safety/ Cleanliness. At the restaurant level, new employee orientation and training for each individual position includes segments on Quality and Food Safety/Cleanliness.
We are taking the results of the Dateline report very seriously and following up with our franchisees to ensure that each restaurant is abiding closely with the stringent policies and regulations set forth in the Arby’s Operating Standards Manual.
The quality and safety of our food is a top priority at every restaurant. That’s one reason why all Jack in the Box restaurant management must be certified in ServSafe®, a scientific regimen of food-safety principles developed by the National Restaurant Association. In-restaurant procedures help ensure compliance with our internal food-safety program. For example, as part of our HACCP system to identify and control potentially unsafe links in the food-processing chain, restaurant management regularly monitors the efficacy of equipment and procedures? daily or several times a day, depending on the task ? from confirming grill and refrigeration temperatures to kitchen sanitation. We also conduct unannounced inspections at each restaurant at least once every quarter to thoroughly evaluate all aspects of food safety ? from receiving and storing to preparing and serving. In addition, mystery guests employed by the company anonymously visit every restaurant at least twice a month to evaluate food quality, cleanliness and service standards.

Jack in the Box restaurants partner with local environmental-health agencies to quickly and effectively resolve any issue or concern that might arise. Issues that may be observed during routine inspections are quickly addressed and immediate re-inspection is requested by the restaurant to confirm compliance with all applicable health codes.   
Food safety is our number one priority and we have strict food safety and handling procedures, including regular training of employees on proper food handling.

Every Taco Bell restaurant must have a certified food safety manager, conduct Food Safety audits two to three times per day and formal audits at least twice a year in addition to local health department inspections.

We expect all of our restaurants to achieve perfect health department scores, but in the instance that one may not, we immediately take steps to rectify the problem because nothing is more important to us than the health and safety of our customers.

We are confident that the systems we have in place ensure the public’s safety and health.”

Laurie Schalow
Taco Bell Corp.
At Subway Restaurants, food safety is the highest priority and we have a very proactive program in place to ensure all of our franchises adhere to this standard.

The franchises at all Subway restaurants are trained in best practices of proper food handling and preparation. We incorporate elements of the National Restaurant Association ServSafe program throughout franchisee training and encourage franchisees to register for ServSafe training courses, which are available nationwide as well as at Subway Corporate Training Center. We also provide training materials, such as videos and updates in our internal publications, to assist our franchisees and their employees and to stress the importance of food safety.

As we have not seen the reports in question nor do we have knowledge of the exact location it is hard to comment about the specifics of the Dateline NBC investigation. Generally, however, our stores either pass their health department inspections or make immediate changes to ensure a passing grade.

In addition, each one of our restaurants is inspected at least every 30 days by trained field staff. If a food safety violation is found, the franchisee has 30 days to fix the problem. If any food safety violation is found during the next inspection, steps are taken to terminate the franchise agreement. Food safety violations will not be tolerated.

Our Operations Manuel is very clear on the requirements for food storage. We recommend that Subway employees check the temperature of each refrigeration unit every two hours and require that the temperature be checked and logged twice a day to insure proper food handling temperatures. If food temperatures do not meet proper levels, we require that the store pull the product and not serve it to customers.

Doctor’s Associates Inc.
We at Burger King Corporation are extremely disappointed by your findings. Providing exceptionally clean and safe restaurants is our highest priority. We want to assure our Guests that we will quickly investigate these specific findings, and we will take immediate and appropriate actions to address each of them.

Because our number one priority is to provide our Guests with an excellent experience in exceptionally clean and safe restaurants for each and every visit, Brad Blum, our chief executive officer, and I have been traveling around the country this fall conducting a series of Operations Excellence Conferences, with more than 6,000 BURGER KING(R) restaurant general managers, franchisees and operators. We have been providing personal attention and hands-on training around the highest standards of excellence, along with new tools and processes to help our teams run exceptionally clean and safe restaurants. We expect every restaurant in our system to deliver the highest level of standards.

We will not tolerate anything less.
Bob Nilsen
As Chief Safety Officer for McDonald’s Corporation, I am responding to your inquiry about food safety at McDonald’s restaurants. The safe operation of our restaurants — including food safety — is vitally important to us. McDonald’s serves more than 47 million customers in more than 30,000 restaurants around the world, every day. We require our restaurants to be in full compliance with all local, state and federal health regulations. No one cares more about operating clean, safe restaurants than McDonald’s.

In fact, we’re frequently recognized for our food safety leadership by government agencies and food safety experts from around the world. We’ve pioneered or were early adopters of many of the food safety innovations that are no common in thousands of restaurants throughout the United States. For example:

Hazard Analysis Critical Control point is recognized as the best approach to preventing food-borne illnesses and has been adopted by the USDA and FDA as the basis for critical food safety regulations. McDonald’s was a leader in implementing HAACP-controls in the restaurant industry. McDonald’s also requires its food suppliers to implement a HACCP system for food safety.

ServSafe Training — Since 1995, nearly 100,000 McDonald’s employees have been certified in food safety through ServSafe Food Safety Training — a state-of-the-art course developed by the Education Foundation for the National Restaurant Association. ServSafe certification or the equivalent is required to complete McDonald’s Shift Management Training Curriculum. Each restaurant is required to have a certified food safety manager for each restaurant — exceeding most local health department requirements.

Daily Food Safety Checks — Food Safety has been integrated into all levels of training provided to our restaurant employees. McDonald’s restaurant managers and crew use a detailed Food Safety Daily Checklist to monitor key food safety standards and procedures throughout each sift. Field employees complete Food Safety Procedure Validations to verify adherence to our food safety requirements.

Restaurant Operations Improvement Process — Nearly 400,000 inspections have been conducted during the last 19 months in more that 13,000 U.S. restaurants. These comprehensive restaurant inspections — announced and unannounced — help identify opportunities to improve every aspect of restaurant operations on a continuing basis — including food safety.

Unfortunately, because Dateline NBC will not provide McDonald’s with specific details from the health inspection reports that you’ve reviewed for this segment, I regrettably cannot address any purported health code violations or specific incidents. If, however, Dateline chooses to provide the information to McDonald’s representatives have requested, we will investigate and respond to any specific incidents. Any concern about food safety at a McDonald’s is investigated and appropriate action taken immediately.

McDonald’s goal is to be the world’s best quick-service restaurant experience. There is absolutely no competitive advantage to taking shortcuts in food safety. Our company was founded on the highest principles of QSC — quality, service and cleanliness. We remain committed to those principles and to serving safe food to every customer, every time they visit our restaurants.

Peter Schaefer
Corporate Vice President — Safety & Security
McDonald’s Corporation
Thank you for giving us the opportunity to respond to your letter of Nov. 5, 2003, which states that NBC Dateline collected 100 health department inspection reports from Wendy’s restaurants across the country, and that 68 had one critical violation. Since we have not seen the reports, it is very difficult to offer specific responses. We hope you will share your detailed information with us so we can ensure corrective action has taken place.

We firmly believe that one critical violation on a health inspection report is one too many. We take each report very seriously. Although a critical violation does not automatically imply an imminent health hazard — in which the health departments would close the restaurant — we must be diligent in our efforts to strive toward perfection.

We are in the food business. We fully understand the responsibility we have to provide safe and wholesome food for every customer. Our livelihood depends on this and we know there can be serious consequences. Therefore, we have created a multi-layered food safety monitoring and inspection program to make food safety the top priority in every restaurant.

Our business consists of fresh preparation of all sandwiches and salads using perishable ingredients, so constant attention to food safety is critical. When an issue arises, identified either by the heath department or by our own internal audits, we strive to correct it as soon as it is detected. A good detection system, built around multiple safeguards, coupled with corrective action ensures our customers the best possible food quality and protection.

The purpose of having an inspection system is to identify issues early and address them immediately. Health Department officials play a critical — and often unsung — role as partners in that system. Their independent inspections of our facilities are openly encouraged by our operators. Health inspections provide customers with one more check and balance to assure the safety of the food that is being served. the inspectors are extremely important, and we instructed the restaurant management teams to take immediate action to comply with any issue raised in a health inspection report.

Our approach to food safety and quality assurance extends far beyond local health department inspections. Our food preparation system is designed to prevent potential risks at every possible critical-control point, on every shift in each of our restaurants.

This system includes food safety guidelines incorporated into all of our operation procedures, constant monitoring of critical control points, and extensive training for all levels of operators:

Food Storage and Preparation: Our procedures cover storage, thawing, handling/preparation of ingredients, and cleanliness of surface areas. Store managers complete Daily Food Safety Logs to monitor equipment and critical control points for our products.
Temperature Control: Food storage and cooking is temperature-controlled and actively monitored.
Ongoing Maintenance: All areas of our restaurant properties — inside and outside — are managed for compliance with our our preventative maintenance guidelines.
Audits: We also conduct our own announced and unannounced store audits.
Training: Food safety training begins on day one with every Wendy’s employee and is reinforced on an ongoing basis.

In spite of high standards, inspections and ongoing training, we are not perfect. When issues arise, we want to know about them and take immediate corrective action. That is how we get better as a national chain. Again, we encourage you to share your information with us.

We apply only the highest standards of quality when it comes to the ingredients, and fresh preparation of made-to-order food items. We are confident in the food we serve and remain committed to serving safe, wholesome products at all times.
Thomas J. Mueller
President and Chief Operation Officer
North America