5* hygiene – why miss out?

For businesses selling food – either over the counter or in a sit-down venue – hygiene has never been as critically important as it is now due to the devastating impact of COVID-19.

Cafe staff member cleaning tables

If that sounds like stating the obvious, I apologise, but it really is impossible to overstate the priority that cleaning systems and equipment should be given, both by existing businesses and new outlets that are opening in the wake of the pandemic.

So with that in mind, the UK’s hygiene rating system – denoted by five green circles – also needs to be front and centre. And the absolute best way of securing yourself top scores on the doors is to start with the end in mind.

When you’re busy trawling through furniture and decoration swatches, and creating your sexy marketing materials, give some thought to those little green circles. Because, nondescript though they may be in themselves, they have the power to make or break your business. 

And that has never been more true that it is now. Even before COVID, savvy customers would make buying choices based on how much they trust brands. However, now, the need to demonstrate your dedication to complete cleanliness has rocketed off the scale. People desperately want to eat out, especially after the isolation and confinement of lockdowns, but they need an overt reassurance that they will be protected as far as possible from the risk of contracting the coronavirus – and what better way to achieve that than by displaying an official 5-’star’ hygiene rating?

The acid test – a customer’s eye view

One great way to give yourself the best chance of making the grade is to put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Walk around your premises with a critical eye, look in those nooks and crannies, and ask yourself ‘is there anything, at all, that a customer could find fault with in here?’

Take in everything from your skirting boards and underneath your cupboards, to your crockery, your blinds or curtains, your loos, the state of your cleaning equipment, the joins in your flooring and walkways and even the inside of your dishwasher. Honestly, would you be happy being served food or a meal knowing it had come from this environment? If you’re not absolutely sure, CHANGE IT.

Points mean… some of the things your business is judged on

Food hygiene ratings are allocated by local authority environmental health officers and based on factors such as:

  • Food storage: are the places where you keep your food clean, free from cross-contamination and at the right temperature?
  • Food handling and preparation: do your employees wear protective gloves, are your handwashing facilities appropriate and do you make sure that the right crockery, cutlery and containers are used to ensure freshness and avoid cross-contamination? Does the way you handle food reflect best practice – ie keeping raw and cooked meats, and dairy items, separate?
  • Stock rotation: Do you have a proper system in place to ensure out of date goods don’t make it into the hands or mouths of customers? ‘Day dot’ labels are the way to go for this
  • Processes: do you have a proper, documented cleaning schedule? Are your different zones and tools clearly colour-coded, to make sure that, for example, you don’t use the same cloths or mops to clean the toilet and the kitchen?
  • Condition: Is your kitchen, food preparation or retail space in a good state of repair? Are there any areas that are worn or damaged, which have the potential to harbour bacteria?

The most common reasons businesses miss out on five ratings

We’ve been in this business for quite a while, and have seen a few things in that time. Sometimes it can be the smallest of things that make a difference between passing or failing a hygiene inspection – and between gaining a five rating or a lower one. Often, it’s about more than ‘just’ hygiene, and this means sometimes business owners are so focused on getting that right, they don’t see the bigger picture. Here are some examples:

  • Perished fridge seals
  • Incomplete temperature log books
  • Cross-contamination from inappropriate use or re-use of equipment
  • Rotation of food and ingredients
  • And, the big one, ineffective sanitiser for cleaning. Many businesses don’t realise they need an industrial grade sanitiser. ‘Control of substances hazardous to health’ or COSHH standards (more recently referred to as MSDSs, or Material Safety Data Sheets), dictate what the chemicals you use need to be able to achieve. Regulation EN 1276 dictates that products must be able to kill 99.999% of bacteria within 30 seconds. Meanwhile, EN 14476, which requires that chemicals used must be able to kill 99.999 of viruses within five minutes, depending on the product (most actually achieve this within one minute and). Needless to day, we are rigorous in ensuring that all of the products we recommend and supply, comfortably meet these standards. However, the power of advertising means many businesses aren’t aware that popular brands of household cleaner you buy in the supermarket just can’t cut that. 

I’ve concentrated on the things that can go right or wrong at the inspection stage, but the best way of all to ensure compliance is to build good practice in right from the beginning, making this a main driver behind your kitchen and counter design. I’ve seen many beautiful kitchens, in which businesses have invested tens of thousands of pounds, which are woefully inadequate from a practical point of view. The converse of this is that, if you build the right work flow into your design, achieving good hygiene and customer care will happen naturally.

If you are opening a new business or have an existing one which is about to undergo an inspection, and you could do with some experienced, friendly advice, email our experienced team on enquiries@elliotthygiene.com or call 01482 327580.



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