Guide for new catering businesses

In Part 1 of our two-part guide, we offer some must-have advice for anyone setting up a new cafe, bar, restaurant or takeaway against the backdrop of COVID-19

Restaurant owner standing by the door of new premises

We understand that setting up a new bar, café or takeaway outlet can be extremely stressful at the best of times. Doing so in the midst of a pandemic adds an added dimension.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t do it, but there are extra things you need to take into account given the present, unusual circumstances, so we’ve pulled together an at-a-glance, two-part guide summarising the key things you need to consider, to help you make the whole process a little easier.

Below and in a further instalment, in a week’s time, you’ll find a range of practical hints and tips, based on our own, extensive experience of working with the sector and the kinds of questions our customers typically ask. Our aim is to help you get it right first time and avoid the potential pitfalls.

We hope you’ll find the insights useful.

First things first

Picture the scene. You have this 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. That’s 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. Believe us, we know know just how much havoc siting your dishwasher in the wrong place can cause!

The good news is that we 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, help you choose your cutlery, crockery and glassware, and design your packaging to reflect your brand and vision, so that you can continue to build your bigger dream. In fact, our existing clients tend to describe us as ‘an extra layer of management’and find that we take a vast weight off their shoulders, including John Naylor, Head Chef of Beverley’s popular Chamas and Mirage venues, who we featured in our recent blog and case study.

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 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. Choose the best you can afford – As with buying a house, when it comes to everything from 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 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 those people’s customer journey and relationship with you is likely to be. Don’t just make assumptions, 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, rather than ‘winging’ it, and is another important aspect of your customer reputation
  6. Decide whether you want to be a ‘Rolls Royce’ or a ‘Fiat Panda’ establishment – if it’s the former, nothing less than a five star hygiene rating will do, and you need to pull out all the stops to secure one.
  7. 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 etc), 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.

Restaurant 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 ‘now wash your hands’ posters
  • Develop a stock storage and rotation plan
  • Produce temperature logs and make sure you train your staff to fill them in religiously
  • 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.

Catering amidst COVID-19

Of course, anyone planning to open a new restaurant, pub or café at the present time has more than just the above to think about – they have to be COVID-secure when they open their doors too.

If that’s you and you’re feeling bamboozled by it all, you’ll find out recent blog which looks specifically at the challenges so-called HORECA (hotel, restaurants and catering) businesses face, and things they can do to overcome them.

Next week: we take a look at typical questions catering and food production and services businesses often ask us – from understanding hygiene ratings to options for eco-friendly food packaging, and offer our answers.

If this topic resonates with you and you could do with some help and advice to get up and running, get in touch with our expert team via or 01482 327580 and we’ll be delighted to guide you.


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