January 2023

· 4 min read

Case Study: HMSHost Benefits From NSF Partnership Approach to Food Safety

Read how HMSHost benefits from its long-standing partnership approach to food safety with NSF.
Chef making a salad in kitchen - HMSHost benefits from NSF partnership approach to food safety | NSF

Airport Dining Specialist HMSHost Is Benefiting From NSF’s Partnership Approach to Food Safety

Part of Autogrill Group, the world’s largest provider of food and beverage services for travelers, HMSHost specializes in airport food and beverage services. Through its portfolio of local, specialty, national and proprietary brands, the company has created innovative dining venues at over 120 airports in the US, Canada, Europe and Asia.

As airport waiting times have increased, so too have travelers’ appetite for high quality food and beverages. HMSHost’s vision, is to bring these consumers new, exciting, affordable dining options, complemented by a seamless, contactless experience and excellent customer service. Since 2008, NSF has supported the company by helping it manage food safety risks through rigorous, responsive independent audit programs and data.

The Challenge

HMSHost brings operational expertise, fresh new concepts, and high-quality food and beverage offerings to airport venues across North America. It is keenly aware of emerging consumer trends and seeks to adapt to travelers’ changing expectations.

From quick service restaurants and ‘grab and go’ to casual dining and airline clubs, HMSHost is a multi-faceted organization. It also operates in a heavily regulated sector. These factors highlight its key challenge – to serve safe food, always.

Meeting this challenge means enhancing the food safety knowledge of its staff on site and providing them with additional resources. As Sheila Bliss, Senior Director of Quality Assurance, explains, “As a company, we’ve changed a lot over the years. We’ve brought many airports into the audit program, then airport clubs, other services and suppliers, and we’ve carried out a lot of customization – recently, for example, to cope with Covid-19.”

She continues, “Our challenge has grown to include much more than conducting the food safety and quality audits in the restaurants, so we don’t want a third-party audit company that takes a ‘checklist’ approach and just gives us standard reports. We need an audit partner who can adapt to our organizational complexity, be flexible in their reporting and reactive to our needs.”

The Solution

HMSHost’s solution lies in its longstanding partnership with NSF, which implements an extensive, ongoing program of independent audits on the company’s behalf. “NSF’s auditors are my eyes and ears, because there’s no way I can cover it all,” says Bliss.

NSF delivers nearly 3,500 bi-annual audits each year, which includes food safety audits and workplace safety audits at various locations and airline clubs throughout most major airports. Food safety audits include assessment of FDA food code standards for restaurants, bars, grab and go kiosks, and lounges, while workplace safety audits include assessments of OSHA standards.

Bliss describes the relationship with NSF as “truly collaborative”. It includes:

  • Bi-weekly touchpoints with HMSHost’s management to discuss issues and concerns
  • Monthly reporting, including current audit statistics
  • Bi-annual business reviews, including an overview of the previous round (performance, top non-compliances, success areas, and implications for future program changes)
  • Customized online dashboards, allowing HMSHost to access both overall and region-specific audit data
  • Digital corrective action system, enabling HMSHost to document and monitor corrective actions taken in response to audit non-compliances
  • Participation in a customized manager-led audit (MLA) program, where the relevant HMSHost manager acts as the auditor while the NSF auditor provides guidance, asks pertinent questions, and fills in any gaps in the manager’s knowledge
  • Participation in a customized, half-day classroom training program, followed by an MLA, for units that have failed two audits in a row, to get to the root causes of the audit failures.

NSF’s auditors use the organization’s electronic auditing tool, iAudit, to capture data, eliminating the need for a spreadsheet-based assessment. The system then identifies non-conformances, which are managed through NSF Connect, a web-based portal. Using a centralized system allows visibility of audit bookings, audit reports, and corrective action reports, and can automatically generate an email notification to the appropriate individuals within the audit chain. It also provides data that can be reported via a tailored dashboard with tracking and trending capabilities. Managers of both NSF and HMSHost have access to the dashboard for real time audit data, such as the number of completed audits, audit results, and year-on-year comparisons.

The Results

“NSF’s technology brings continuous improvements to the quality of our audits,” says Bliss. “They’re getting quicker, more efficient and more user-friendly all the time. But most of all, NSF’s reviews make them more informative. That is a key differentiator, because we’ve spoken to other audit companies who don’t review their audit results with clients at all.”

Bliss describes NSF’s account managers as, quite simply, “fabulous”. She explains, “They’re on the phone regularly, telling us what’s going on, and sharing ideas and best practices. If there’s a problem, they’ll work their magic to help us figure out how to fix it.”

She concludes, “You can hire a lot of third-party audit companies to complete a list of tasks, but that won’t make them a partner in your business. NSF is nimble and adaptable. No matter what we’ve thrown at them over the years they’ve found a way to support us. That’s what makes them a partner.”

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