Catering business set-up guide 2

In the first part of our guide to launching a new catering business, we provided a range of practical hints and tips based on our own extensive experience and the kinds of questions our customers typically ask, to help you get it right first time and avoid some common pitfalls. In this second part, we focus on those questions that we hear most often from our clients, and explain some of the fundamentals of hygiene management within the sector. 

Close Up Of Worker In Restaurant Kitchen Cleaning Down After Service

What is a 5-‘star’ hygiene rating?

This reflects your compliance with requirements laid out by the Food Standards Authority (FSA), for everything from your cleaning processes to your food storage arrangements. It is an important mark of quality and you ought to do everything possible to achieve a 5-‘star’ rating – denoted by a series of green circles. 

It is very stringent and it is easy to overlook small details that will make the difference between you achieving a 5 rating or less. 

This is where talking to an experienced company like Elliott’s comes into its own. We have good relationships with environmental health officers and know exactly what they are looking for, and so can avoid any costly and time consuming delays in achieving your ‘scores on the doors’. 

How can I achieve a ‘5’ hygiene rating?

The FSA specifies the hygiene requirements for catering establishments. These cover everything from your food storage arrangements to your cleaning processes and equipment, and the types of chemicals you use.

In order to ensure the best possible reputation for your new catering business, you should aim for the maximum 5 score. To achieve this, you must ensure that you have very rigorous systems in place and we would always advise seeking the help of an experienced, specialist company that understands the detail of the FSA standards and can ensure you get it right first time. See our recent blog dedicated to this topic

I’m opening a new shop/factory/restaurant, what catering and hygiene equipment/processes do I need?

Every outlet is unique so it’s worth getting an assessment from specialists such as Elliott’s to give you expert guidance and ensure you tick every box.

I’m a food manufacturer/transporter – how can I comply with British Retail Consortium (BRC) guidelines?

Like the FSA, the BRC has some very detailed and extensive guidelines for food supply businesses. These cover everything from designated zones for products incorporating ingredients like nuts that people have allergies to, to the thoroughness of your cleaning regimes. They also take in your food storage arrangements, both in-house and during transportation.

How do I know if we have good enough hygiene standards in my café/shop/factory/local authority building?

The best thing to do is to work to industry benchmarks, laid down by organisations like the FSA and the BRC as mentioned above. These will ensure that you don’t just do ‘enough’ but ensure the highest mark of quality, which will give you the best possible reputation among existing and potential customers. 

I’ve failed an environmental health inspection, what can I do?

First of all, don’t be too downhearted. Businesses can fail an inspection on points of detail. What matters now is that you quickly pick up the baton and do what is necessary to turn the situation around.

To do that, we would recommend you seek expert advice from a company like Elliott’s, that can advise you on where exactly you went wrong and what you can do about it. We have good relationships with environmental health officers and can also liaise with them on your behalf to ensure that we get you up to scratch as quickly as possible.

How can I source environmentally-friendly cleaning materials and disposables cost-effectively? 

Increasingly stringent sustainability guidelines mean that reputable manufacturers are moving increasingly towards ecologically-sound cleaning products. Increased demand is also making them more and more cost effective.

We supply a range of effective and environmentally-friendly cleaning products and can advise you on sourcing products that are right for your business on all fronts. Our buying power, coupled with a careful review and planning of your hygiene practices to ensure optimum chemical dosage, means we can help you make the right choices at very little – if any – additional cost. As customers increasingly want to deal with environmentally-conscious companies, this will do your reputation with them no harm at all either. You’ll find some further ideas in this brochure from our key supplier, Genware.

 Where can I source environmentally-friendly food packaging cost-effectively?

As with cleaning chemicals, we have an extensive, tried and tested list of packaging suppliers and can work with you to source something that is high quality, sustainable and positive for your brand reputation.  

When we work with business owners to help them choose the right packaging, we consider everything from their target customers to the nature of their food products and what will keep it freshest for the best customer experience. The range of environmentally-friendly packaging options has grown rapidly in recent years and it is possible to achieve that sweet spot of something that looks great, delights your customers, fits with your budget and doesn’t harm the world we live in. See our blog on environmentally-friendly packaging options for a more detailed overview, and take a look at our brochure for more inspiration.

How can I arrange training for my cleaning/hygiene team? 

The first step is to meticulously review your cleaning requirements and processes to ensure you have the right products, equipment and routines in place to make sure it is carried out as effectively as possible.

We can take care of this for you, end-to-end, training your staff on everything from what ‘clean’ looks like for your kind of business and potential pitfalls to avoid, to how to use specific pieces of equipment and what your area colour-coding means. 

How can I save money on my cleaning materials?

We have a strong track record of saving the organisations we work with between 40 and 100 per cent on their cleaning costs. This starts with a thorough hygiene audit, in which we analyse everything from who in your team does what, to what chemicals and sanitary items you use. There is always money to be saved, both through our buying power as part of the Socius group of companies, and by making sure you are using the right quality and quantity of disposable items, and the correct soap and cleaning chemical dosages.

I’m opening a restaurant/café, where should I source my cutlery, crockery, kitchen utensils and chef uniforms from?

Again, this is all part of your overall planning, and we can help with it all. It starts with a sense check of your kitchen design and flow, and also involves a detailed look at the audience you are serving and their expectations. 

We also consider aspects such as presentation, durability, size and longevity when advising you on sourcing the correct crockery, cutlery and furniture. More often than not, cheapest is not best when it comes to these things, as you need them to be up for the job and last as long as possible. Again, the Genware brochure will provide you with plenty of initial inspiration.

I’m opening a restaurant/café, where can I get advice on the best kitchen design? 

A lot of businesses make the fatal mistake of planning their kitchens in isolation from the processes that will need to take place there, and the outcomes they need to achieve. As a result, they might end up with a very beautiful architect’s rendition with insurmountable flaws. For example, we’ve seen industrial dishwashers placed in inaccessible areas and food preparation areas placed right next to the stack of dirty pots. 

The upshot of all of this, is that we would always advise getting a specialist hygiene and catering supplier like Elliott’s to review and troubleshoot your draft kitchen design, to identify any issues or glitches before it’s too late. Without this, at the very least there will be ongoing annoyances to contend with, and at worst you could be left with significant issues that may be costly to put right and/or prevent you achieving that all-important 5 hygiene rating.

What is the most effective toilet cleaner for commercial premises?

Many companies make the mistake of using bleaches and supermarket-bought cleaners but the reality is that they’re not effective enough for commercial cleaning. Bleach is not actually appropriate for cleaning loos at all, as it masks the issue while not getting rid of limescale. It is also a very aggressive chemical, and not ideal for either the people handling it or the environment. Meanwhile, readily available ‘over-the-counter’ cleaners just aren’t up to the job of keeping commercial premises up to scratch in the clean stakes. We’re all familiar with their bold claims to kill germs, for genuinely-effective cleaning and limescale removal a dedicated, professional toilet cleaner is recommended, and we can, as always, recommend the best one for your needs.

And, of course, the advent of COVID-19 means that the chemicals you use throughout your premises need to be even more effective than ever, which we can also help you with. You’ll find more details around this in our recent blog on how to achieve a 5 hygiene rating.

Are electric hand dryers or paper towels better for washrooms?

We actively counsel against using electric hand dryers because of their ability to not only harbour the kinds of germs in their nooks and crannies that you don’t really want to be contending with, and dispel them around your washroom, spreading bacteria and viruses  far and wide and putting the health of users at risk. And, again, this is an even more consideration against the backdrop of COVID-19.

Not only that, but many people now prefer to have the option of using paper towels, and so this can be a greater win for from a customer care perspective. While you might be taking a sharp intake of breath at this moment, thinking that lots of paper waste is not great for the environment, the right ones can actually be just as ecologically sound as a drier, if not more so, and the versions we can supply options made from 100 per cent recycled pulp.

 What kind of soap should we use?

Again, this really depends on your individual business requirements. However, as a rule of thumb, we always advise a blend of soaps in kitchens, loos and anywhere else your staff and customers need to wash their hands, coupled with hand sanitising gels or foams in these places as well as high-traffic corridors and entrance ways to your business and its different zones. This combination helps to minimise any risk of cross-contamination and protect you against the spread of bugs like colds, flu, norovirus and of course coronavirus, which have the potential to put part of your workforce out of action.

How can we protect against COVID-19?

We understand how overwhelming it can be having to navigate your way through the COVID-secure maze and maximise your margins or simply operate in a safe and compliant way. The good news is our experts here at Elliott’s are on-hand to help you, with our top-quality guidance on hygiene strategies and day-to-day management, as well as being able to supply the best products for you to use for keeping germs at bay and the most reliable personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep your staff safe. 

We can even supply you with bespoke signage to remind customers about social distancing requirements and handwashing techniques, and advise you on takeaway packaging options if you’re dealing with a food-to-go service. 

It’s also important to educate your workforce on COVID-secure hygiene practices for avoiding any kind of illness, and put in place rigorous cleaning processes, not just in public areas but also ensuring shared workspaces and gathering areas are thoroughly and regularly sanitised. You’ll find more information on this in our Guide to getting COVID secure.

If you would like a detailed and bespoke assessment, looking at what will work best for your business, as cost effectively as possible, why not take advantage of our free hygiene audit. To book, call 01482 327580 or email us. 


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