Get Our Email Newsletter

Risk Management and Loss Prevention in the Quick-Service Restaurant Environment

Our mission at McDonald’s is to deliver your food with fast, accurate, and friendly service. Serving our customers with the expected speed requires the highly coordinated actions of our management team and crew. Satisfying surges of customers during peak times is repeated several times each and every day.

Orders are taken from several points at the front counter and the drive-thru. The kitchen crew is busy making the food as others are filling the orders and still others are cleaning, mopping, wiping tables, collecting trash, and performing a multitude of tasks. How is risk management and loss prevention handled in such an environment?

All the activity is carefully coordinated, but in our industry, when the pace of work increases, the opportunity for accidents increases. Worker’s compensation claims along with reported customer accidents tend to increase in our industry with the peak times of business. There are more employees and more customers in the building or on the premises during those times. In addition to keeping our employees safe and secure from Risk Management in the Quick-Service Restaurant Environmentaccidents, the reductions of accidents and their associated cost also affects the profitability of the restaurant, including insurance premiums.

- Digital Partner -

So, what do we do about it?

Timely Reporting

The comprehensive safety and loss prevention program at McDonald’s begins with the accurate and timely reporting of accident claims. Timely reporting of the incident allows quick response by our third-party administrator.

The health and safety of our employees and customers is paramount. The third-party administrator’s involvement ensures the quick and proper treatment of any injury that may occur. An adjustor is assigned to handle all aspects of the claim and has responsibility for working with the employee and the preferred medical provider as well as the customer and their needs.

McDonald’s has agreements in place with preferred medical providers to provide the best care at a reasonable cost. The agreements with these preferred medical providers help reduce unnecessary trips to the emergency room, so that emergency rooms at hospitals are reserved for emergencies only. In order to get the claim into the hands of the professional adjuster as quickly as possible, the restaurant management team calls in the claim within 24 hours of occurrence.

Trend Analysis

Understanding the claims information collected by the third-party administrator is important in identifying risk management and loss prevention trends and determining action steps. The data can indicate patterns of particular causes and types of accidents. It can also indicate patterns regarding the frequency or severity of claims as well as time of day, day of the week, or specific location within the restaurant or on the premises. The data is shared with operations personnel along with action-oriented solutions. Resources can then be applied to correct any issues or conditions responsible for the accident trends.

LP Solutions

Restaurant Reviews, Audits, and Inspections

Safety reviews are conducted in multiple ways—by a restaurant safety representative, the management team, outsourced to professional safety inspectors, risk management representatives, and/or security managers. It is imperative to identify the root cause of the accidents that occur and inspect the premises for unsafe conditions, practices, and compliance of safety policy and procedure.

The restaurant safety reviews and inspections are designed to identify these risk management and loss prevention causes and conditions. If needed, an action plan is then prepared to address the issues and provide solutions and resources. It is important to train the management team and crew.

Outsourced inspections also include the review of play areas for children, food safety, and policy and procedures for the handling of chemicals in the restaurants.

Proactive Intervention

Some of the proactive measures taken to address root causes include the following:

- Digital Partner -

Slip-Resistant Shoes—All corporately owned McDonald’s now require the management and crew to wear slip-resistant shoes. The shoes are Risk Management in the Quick-Service Restaurant Environmentordered for the employee and are considered part of their uniform. Slip-resistant shoes have been a proven proactive measure for the reduction of employee slip-and-fall accidents in the restaurant.

Floor Mats—Slip-resistant floor mats may be used near the dish sink in the kitchen, in front of kitchen ice machines, and in walk-in coolers and freezers. Mats have also been effective in slip-and-fall prevention in the dining room when placed inside entrance doors and in front of self-service beverage areas and ice machines.

Properly Cleaned Floors—Employees are trained to quickly clean up any spills that occur. They are also trained to place wet-floor signs by the mopped areas in the dining room of the restaurant to advise our customers of the freshly mopped floors.

The crew is also trained to use separate buckets and mops when cleaning the kitchen and dining room so that dirt and grease mopped up in the kitchen are not transferred from the kitchen to the dining room. The proper concentration of approved cleaner is used with hot water. Training also includes frequent changing of the water and cleaning solution in the mop buckets.

Proper Use of Safety Tools—As mentioned above, wet-floor signs may be placed about the spilled area or freshly mopped floor. The hot grills require scraping and cleaning. A specially designed tool is used to keep hands and fingers away from the hot grill surface.

Hot oil must also be filtered, drained, and replaced regularly. Hot shortening accidents while filtering can cause severe burns. The proper safety tools when draining the hot oil include face shields, special gloves, and aprons.

Proactive Messages—Each corporate-owned restaurant receives a monthly poster with proactive safety messages and instructions and risk management and loss prevention talking points for training.

Restaurant Safety Committees—Restaurant safety representatives establish a restaurant safety committee with active participation and representation of various positions, authority levels, and responsibilities. It is important to have restaurant maintenance represented on the committee. The safety committee may design a lesson plan for a particular month, and discuss action items for the restaurant. The committees are encouraged to review their particular accident claims, identify the root causes, and discuss the training and communications with the rest of the restaurant management and crew.

Risk Management in the Quick-Service Restaurant EnvironmentReturn to Work and Modified Duty—The contributions of our employees are greatly valued. We want injured employees to continue to be productive members of the restaurant team, despite work restrictions. Getting injured employees back to work must be a component in a comprehensive company safety program. Coordinating with doctors, health clinics, and managed-care facilities to get our employees back to work is a priority.

To return employees back to work quickly, jobs are modified to accommodate many physical restrictions. If restrictions involve not standing for prolonged hours, the employee maybe supplied a stool. If a restriction involves a lifting-weight restriction, a job or task may be found to accommodate it. Managers are trained to understand the ramifications of injured employees not getting back to work as quickly as possible. While the injury of any employee is taken seriously and every effort is made to provide them with the best possible care, we want them to continue to be a productive member of the restaurant team, even with their restrictions.

The return-to-work and modified-duty programs also benefit the company by decreasing lost time due to injury, improving staffing issues, increasing morale, reducing medical costs, and limiting litigation.


The most progressive, proactive, and contemporary training program at the restaurant level has been the development of online training modules. The program is presented in a choice of English or Spanish. The modules are interactive and test the learning of the employee as they progress through the training material.

The training material presents an orientation to the company and foundation areas of restaurant operations, including security and safety, hospitality, cleanliness and sanitation, maintenance, and information pertinent to the service and food production activities.

The safety portion of the training material provides instruction on accident prevention. The key message repeated throughout the training module is “…no work is so important that it needs to be done in an unsafe manner.”

Measurement and Accountability

After inspections are completed, recommendations are made for improvement and the safety committees become active. The question then becomes: whom do we hold accountable and how do we measure our success?

Because responsibility for safety is the responsibility of multiple individuals in various management capacities, accountability is shared.

Divisional Risk Managers—In corporate-owned McDonald’s restaurants, divisional risk managers are held accountable for the reduction of accident claims frequency and severity for their assigned division of approximately 2,000 to 2,500 restaurants. They work closely with the third-party administrator and preferred medical providers along with various levels of restaurant operations, human resources, and the security and safety department.

Risk managers are also instrumental in providing the training and education materials presented at the operations supervision and restaurant levels in all corporate-owned restaurants.

Security Managers—As the risk management and loss prevention departments become more closely aligned, it has synergized many of the same Risk Management in the Quick-Service Restaurant Environmentgoals and objectives in reducing losses and making a positive contribution to the safety of our employees and customers. Security managers are now an integral part of the safety initiatives in the restaurants. They conduct reviews and develop action plans for improvement. Security managers are also held accountable for the reduction of frequency and severity of accident claims as well as the overall safety performance in their assigned regions.

Restaurant Operations—Restaurant operations is held accountable for the improvement of accident claims frequency and severity, from the restaurant management staff ascending through every level of restaurant supervision. The restaurant teams are responsible for the restaurant crew safety and security training using periodic training materials, e-learning modules, and teaching safe operations of restaurant equipment. They are also responsible for reporting accident claims within 24 hours, and the follow-up and correction of any deficiencies found in outside inspections or audits.

It is vitally important to measure results. We do this in a variety of ways.

Claims Review—One of the most important aspects in the success of the risk management and loss prevention program at McDonald’s is the relationship with our third-party administrator. They handle every aspect of claims management, following McDonald’s protocols, and provide us with comprehensive information that allows us to understand how accidents occur. This gives us the data necessary to develop protocols to help reduce accidents.

Fraud—Quick-service restaurants are susceptible to possible fraudulent accident claims. Every claim is reported to the third-party administrator and the claim is investigated according to established protocols. Any suspicious or major claim may be reviewed by a team consisting of the claims adjuster, restaurant supervision, security, and the divisional risk manager.

Most corporate-owned restaurants are equipped with the latest technology in digital cameras and recorders. Protocols have been established for covert surveillance for suspicious workers’ compensation claims. If a claim is proven to be fraudulent, the investigation moves to the next step, potentially resulting in the loss of applicable medical benefits, termination of employment, and possible prosecution.

Fraudulent claims by the public are turned over to counsel and possibly to local law enforcement.

Rewards and Recognition

Rewards and recognition have been used effectively at McDonald’s to improve and/or maintain high levels of performance. Public recognition of crew, restaurant managers, and supervisors at meetings and conventions add emphasis to the safety program and reward the behavior that prevents accidents and saves insurance premium dollars.

Restaurant crew, managers, and supervisors are rewarded in a variety of ways for excellent performance in safety. This serves to reinforce the safety initiatives continually to train, educate, and communicate safe working habits to our restaurant crew and management teams and create a safe, pleasant environment for our customers as well.

Working safely in a quick-service restaurant during the height of the lunch rush is challenging. Our mission is to give our customers a pleasant experience every time and be their favorite place to eat. They want their order to be accurate and they want it fast.

The key to a sound risk management and loss prevention program is to have well-trained employees working safely in a safe environment, no matter the speed. All of the key components described above have to be coordinated and embedded into the established culture, because at McDonald’s—Safety is No Accident.

This article was originally published in 2006 and was updated April 12, 2016. 

Loss Prevention Magazine updates delivered to your inbox

Get the free daily newsletter read by thousands of loss prevention professionals, security, and retail management from the store level to the c-suite.

What's New

Digital Partners

Become a Digital Partner

Violence in the Workplace

Download this 34-page special report from Loss Prevention Magazine about types and frequency of violent incidents, impacts on employees and customers, effectiveness of tools and training, and much more.


View All | Sponsor a Webinar


View All | Submit a Whitepaper

LP Solutions

View All | Submit Your Content

Loss Prevention Media Logo

Stay up-to-date with our free email newsletter

The trusted newsletter for loss prevention professionals, security and retail management. Get the latest news, best practices, technology updates, management tips, career opportunities and more.

No, thank you.

View our privacy policy.