Catering business set-up guide I

We offer a step-by-step insight into the must dos and don'ts of establishing a new cafe or restauranct

Interior of a cafe

Launching a new catering business during a worldwide pandemic might seem like a bit of a risk to some people, but in many ways it makes a lot of sense! With limited overseas travel and the impact of long lockdown periods, many folk are itching to get out and about in the UK and enjoy what freedom they have with trips to local pubs, restaurants, cafes and takeaway outlets. In some parts of the country, demand is higher than ever before with the rise in staycations, so now is indeed the time for enterprising entrepreneurs to get busy making their dreams a reality.

And, pandemics aside, we understand that setting up a new eaterie can be extremely stressful, which is why we’ve put together this guide to help demystify the process and provide you with a starting point. We’ve included 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.

First things first

Picture the scene. You have a wonderful vision for a quality new food outlet and are struggling to keep hold of that as you are pulled from pillar to post by plasterers, equipment suppliers and even environmental health officers, all wanting quick answers from you so that they can play their part in the project.

Sound familiar? If so, rest assured you’re not alone. We come across this kind of scenario all the time. 

The reality is that you need to resist getting caught up in the intricacies of what type of plaster to choose or whether your new toilet installation has been completed yet or not. You need to be able to stay focused on the bigger picture. The design and layout of your kitchen, and your choices of everything from crockery and cutlery to cleaning equipment are mission critical, because it is those things which can make or break your business at the end of the day by affecting your efficiency, your hygiene ratings and, ultimately, your customer reputation, especially during this period of heightened hygiene awareness and COVID-compliance requirements.

The good news is that our friendly Elliott Hygiene experts can help you do this! We offer a free set-up support service, where we will come in, audit your arrangements, look at your architect’s drawings and advise you on your choices and any changes you need to make before it’s too late. We will even liaise with your tradesmen on your behalf and help you design your packaging, so that you can continue to build your bigger dream. In fact, our clients tend to describe us as ‘an extra layer of management’.

If you want us to, we can then continue to supply you with high quality, cost effective hygiene, packaging and catering supplies once you’ve opened your doors. 

10 top tips every new food outlet owner needs to know

  1. Don’t leave it too late – share your architect’s plans with an expert catering company like Elliott’s at the earliest opportunity and get help with planning the details. This will save you the heartache of discovering that your dishwasher isn’t accessible, or your dirty pots are going to clash with your clean food preparation area. Architects are great but they tend to think ‘pretty’, whereas you need to involve someone with catering experience who will think ‘practical’
  2. As with buying a house, go for the best you can afford in choosing everything from your kitchen equipment to your crockery. While you don’t want to go overboard, cheap isn’t necessarily cheerful and you want the right kinds of products that will do their job – and will last
  3. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and make sure you really understand their expectations. Analyse the market you are aiming for and what their customer journey and relationship with you is likely to be. Don’t just make assumptions, but really map it out
  4. Think about the environment. Not only is this important for the obvious reasons, but customers increasingly expect businesses to behave responsibly in terms of the cleaning products and packaging they use, and how they dispose of their waste. For example, considering details like your grease disposal systems will save you a lot of heartache and cost down the line
  5. Research your industry requirements, such as the Food Standards Authority (FSA) ‘scores on the doors’ and the Cleaning and Hygiene Suppliers Association (CHSA) guidelines for the use of hygiene products. This will help to ensure that you get it right first time, and is another important aspect of your customer reputation
  6. In particular, decide whether you want to be a ‘Rolls Royce’ or a ‘Fiat Panda’ establishment. If it’s the former, nothing less than a 5-‘star’ hygiene rating will do, and you need to pull out all the stops to secure one – see our recent blog on this.
  7. Don’t forget to consider your choice of flooring carefully – what will be the most hardwearing and, importantly, easy to clean?
  8. Build in colour coding of all areas of your establishment – such as red for danger (toilet cleaning equipment), and blue for meat and fish preparation areas, so that you can easily avoid cross-contamination once you’re up and running
  9. Train your people thoroughly. From ensuring they know how much of each cleaning chemical to use in specific situations, to which equipment does what, this will ensure they’re working for you and not against you, and consistently getting it right
  10. Above all, don’t try to go it alone. Seeking the help of an expert company like Elliott’s will pay dividends in the future.

Set-up checklist – tick off these essential elements to make sure you’re ready for opening day

  • Decide what kind of brand you want to be
  • Get the right experts in, as early as possible, to help you execute your plans. Look for a company with lots of experience and high integrity, that can sense check your plans
  • Choose your hardware with their guidance – from kitchen equipment to crockery, cutlery and furniture
  • Engage proactively with environmental health officers to build a good relationship from the outset and ensure you’re complying with what they want
  • Make sure you have all the right signage in place – from ‘wet floor’ warnings to social distancing reminders and ‘now wash your hands’ posters
  • Develop a stock storage and rotation plan, and ensure you have an adequate labelling solution in place
  • Produce temperature logs and make sure you train your staff to fill them in properly
  • Have a locked storage cupboard in any places where chemicals are stored – particularly customer-facing areas where they could get into the hands of children
  • Take out public liability insurance to cover yourself against any health and safety incidents that do occur despite your best efforts – from accidents to instances of food poisoning
  • Schedule walk-throughs with your key suppliers at regular intervals, and then snagging well before your opening date, giving you time to identify and act on any problems
  • Clearly designate your separate zones for meat preparation, pot washing, chemical storage, food preparation and service, and flag them clearly so that everyone knows what does and doesn’t belong where and can avoid any cross-contamination issues.

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 initial consultation. To book, call 01482 27580 or email us

This brochure, from one of our key suppliers, Genware, is a great starting point. It offers an insight into the wide range of Genware product solutions we can access, with beneficial pricing for large and repeat orders. However, this is the tip of the iceberg and we can build a bespoke solution around you, tapping into an extensive supplier network depending on your needs.

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