As restaurants and retailers begin to reopen their doors, market research has gone from a competitive advantage to a fundamental necessity. I’m not just saying this because I write a market research blog, I’m saying it because these are the times we live in.
McDonald’s has given us a glimpse of the types of in-store guidelines restaurants will implement to mitigate as much risk of coronavirus transmission as possible and inspire confidence in their safety. On May 14, the fast food giant sent its franchisees a 59-page memo outlining the necessary health and safety initiatives owners must institute before reopening their doors, detailing necessary equipment, practices, and behaviors.
“All restaurants must implement these standards, in addition to state and local laws, before reopening a dining room,” advised Joe Erlinger, president of McDonald’s USA, eliminating any confusion around whether these initiatives--ranging from mandated equipment purchases to new employee sanitation practices--are optional.
Now, I understand that I regularly implore you, dear readers, to consider the utter necessity of market research, in good times and bad, because there really is no substitute for data-driven analysis and action. But this moment that we are in right now--as restaurants and retailers begin to reopen their dining rooms and sales floors--well, it truly is time to put up or shut up. Market research, particularly health and safety market research, are literally the only way to ensure that new initiatives are followed on a regional, district, and store-by-store level.
So with that in mind, let’s take a look at McDonald’s memo, the guidelines it mandates, and the health and safety market research can help businesses institute and monitor their own (likely similar) standards.
New Times Call for New Health and Safety Practices: McDonald’s Plan
The memo, first obtained by the Wall Street Journal, delineates new tools and practices franchisees must implement before reopening their dining rooms.
There’s a lot of guidelines in there beyond the expected six-foot markings on the ground and a deep-cleaning before opening, so we will just give you some of the highlights:
- Employees must be provided masks and gloves, wash their hands every hour, and abide by social-distancing requirements in kitchens.
- Employees also must undergo wellness and temperature checks when reporting to work.
- Bathrooms must be cleaned every half-hour, and be outfitted with a $718 hands-free sink and a $310 automatic paper towel dispenser.
- Soda fountains must be closed or operated by an employee and some tables must be closed off to ensure diners remain six feet apart.
That’s a lot of time and money for franchisees to be putting into this necessary, but expensive nonetheless, effort. And absent moving into their restaurant to monitor it during every waking hour, there’s only one way for corporate officers and franchise owners to ensure these standards are met. Yes, it’s market research and we’ll get to that in a minute.
Contextualizing the Beef Between McDonald’s Corporate and Franchisees
First, some quick context regarding McDonald’s historically contentious relationship with its franchisees. This is important because many corporate-franchisee relations are similarly strained (talking about you, Subway), but corporate and franchise must work together for the good of the brand and the business.
Indeed, there has been long standing beef between McDonald’s and its franchisees, related to excessive corporate promotions and expansions that saturate the market and cannibalize individual restaurants. With COVID-19, this battle has taken on a new front related to corporate relief packages designed to help franchisees besieged by the pandemic.
We don’t need to get too deep into this beyond saying that as franchisees ask corporate for more relief, corporate is mandating additional expenses franchisees must incur before reopening. McDonald’s has already warned at-risk franchisees may need to downsize or even sell if they feel they are unable to weather the coming storm.
But as Business Insider pointed out, McDonald’s itself is heavily investing and cutting into its own profits; whether or not it is entitled to ask the same of its franchisees is up for debate, but not in this blog. We’re here to talk about the market research, which is the only way to build good-faith trust between these parties and their employees, and ultimately their customers as well.
New Times also Call for New Customer Interaction Guidelines: McDonald’s Plan (continued)
Speaking of customers, McDonald’s memo also offered franchisees new guidelines regarding customer interactions in the era of coronavirus.
These range from how to deal with customers not wearing masks or not following distancing guidelines to how to discourage transients from bathing at the bathroom sink (apparently, you tell them, “Our top priority is safety and, due to our cleaning guidelines, we ask that you refrain from bathing in our restroom.”)
Additionally, workers should give customers their food in bags that have been twice-folded, remember to provide ample napkins and straws to avoid further interactions, and are encouraged to use non-facial greetings such as a thumbs up, hand signals, or a verbal greeting (side note: I really miss seeing people’s smiles).
Between in-store health and safety standards and new forms of customer interaction, there are a lot of initiatives and variables at play. Corporate leadership as well as the franchisees themselves must do everything they can to ensure these standards are implemented and followed on a regular basis.
Health and Safety Market Research is the Methodology for This Moment
Health and safety market research allows businesses to ensure their franchisees are implementing and adhering to new standards while also giving franchisees themselves a window into their employees’ day-to-day adherence.
TrendSource offers two market research solutions to this problem, both of which can offer real-time data and documentation through customizable dashboards.
- Self-Reporting Photo Audits: Store operators and employees document and self-report their compliance, which TrendSource certifies, analyzes, and packages into digestible reporting web-sites, allowing companies to monitor individual locations and regions based on local restrictions.
- In-store audits: TrendSource will send Field Agents (who are always in compliance with social distancing and sanitation best practices) into locations to document safety measures such as distance markers, masks and sanitizer availability, and employee compliance.
Accidents are going to happen, mistakes are going to be made, this is a learning process for everybody in the industry. But ensuring adherence to health guidelines and corporate safety initiatives is the best (if not only) way to mitigate as much risk as possible. And market research is the only way to ensure its implementation and efficacy.As McDonald’s said in the memo, “We ask that you remember: We only get one chance to do this the right way.” We couldn’t agree more.