Having a 5-star food hygiene rating should be the aim of every food franchise. It gives diners confidence in the quality of your food, knowing you take standards, safety and hygiene seriously.
The Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS) is recognised throughout the UK, with ratings awarded after an inspection. With proper planning, appropriate staff training and attention to detail – a five star rating is achievable for any food business, no matter how large or small.
Today, we explain what to expect during your inspection visit, as well as the most important considerations for achieving those coveted five stars.
What is the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS)?
The Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS) is a system that’s in place to maintain and improve hygiene standards across the hospitality sector. The scheme is run by all councils across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and operates in conjunction with the Food Standards Agency.
Food inspectors use the scheme to investigate the hygiene standards at different food locations. It applies to all hospitality businesses (including online delivery franchises) serving food directly to consumers or businesses. This includes restaurants, pubs, cafés, takeaways, hotels, hospitals, schools, and more.
Here’s how the scheme categorises food hygiene standards:
- 5 – hygiene standards are very good
- 4 – hygiene standards are good
- 3 – hygiene standards are generally satisfactory
- 2 – some improvement is necessary
- 1 – major improvement is necessary
- 0 – urgent improvement is required
These ratings represent the food hygiene standards at the time of inspection. Every time a business undergoes a new inspection, their rating is updated.
The FHRS also applies to online food businesses, although there’s currently no requirement for them to display their food hygiene rating (more on this later). However, some third-party delivery companies are making it a requirement.
Just Eat, for example, displays food ratings for every restaurant on their platform. The ratings instantly appear in-app and online, so customers can take this into account when deciding where to order from.
Why is the hygiene rating important?
Let’s take a look at some of the reasons a good hygiene rating is important.
- To ensure you’re safely preparing and storing food. A good hygiene rating means you’re preparing safe food in a clean environment. It helps you follow food hygiene laws and regulations that prevent any foodborne diseases and keep your customers safe.
- To help customers choose where to eat. A food hygiene rating helps customers make informed choices about where to eat. It gives them insight into how their food is prepared, enabling them to choose the most hygienic option.
- To encourage more customers to buy your food. According to research, 58% of consumers wouldn’t eat from a food outlet with less than a 4-star rating. By having a higher hygiene rating, you’ve got a better chance of getting more customers through the door and increasing your restaurant revenue.
What do FHRS officers check?
At your hygiene inspection, a food safety officer will check three important aspects:
- Food handling. This includes how hygienically your food is prepared, cooked, stored, heated and cooled.
- Physical conditions. The overall cleanliness, layout, lighting, and ventilation of your facilities.
- Process management. How you manage training and systems around food hygiene (both now and for the future) to ensure food safety.
At the end of the inspection, the officer will award a food hygiene rating (based on the 0-5 scale as outlined above).
Businesses with low ratings must make immediate improvements to their hygiene standards. For example, if you’re not storing food safely, you’ll need to make urgent changes and follow safety regulations. The food safety officer will tell you when these improvements are due (which varies based on the issue).
If hygiene standards are poor and food is unsafe to eat (meaning that there’s a risk to public health), the officer could stop your entire business operation. This is one of the reasons it’s so important to follow health regulations. If you don’t, you could be putting your business at risk.
How to achieve a 5-star food hygiene rating
To improve your restaurant cleanliness rating, it’s vital to look at every aspect of your kitchen operations. This includes your food preparation, storage, overall cleanliness, and staff training.
Let’s look at these areas in more detail.
1. Provide staff training
To ensure your business complies with food hygiene regulations, everyone needs to know the best practices for cleanliness. The only way to make sure everyone’s on the same page is to deliver staff training.
Training should cover the following information:
- What the key regulations and hygiene laws are
- The best practices for adhering to these laws and regulations
- How to uphold high hygiene standards
- How to avoid contamination and unsafe food
2. Store food safely
Food storage is an important part of food hygiene. If you don’t store your food correctly, you risk harmful bacteria contaminating your food.
To be sure you’re storing your food correctly, read up on the best practices for food storage. Regulations may vary based on the type of business and your location, so be sure to review the information that’s relevant to your business. Then, you can audit your existing storage systems to make sure it follows these practices.
Some examples include making sure raw and cooked foods are stored separately, storing keeping certain foods at the correct temperature, and ensuring that use-by dates are clearly displayed and adhered to.
3. Create an HACCP plan
A Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan is like a risk assessment. It involves reviewing potential hazards that could make your food unsafe to eat, and identifying ways to reduce or remove these risks.
To create an HACCP plan, here’s what you need to do:
- Review your business operations and food handling processes to pinpoint what could go wrong and what risks there are to food safety
- Identify how to remove or mitigate those risks
- Decide what to do if something goes wrong
- Notify all staff of the procedures
- Keep records to track how well the procedures work
- Amend and update procedures whenever you need to
With this plan in place, you’ll have a better chance of keeping your food safe from chemical, biological, and physical food safety hazards. It helps you maintain food safety standards while reducing cross-contamination.
4. Improve overall cleanliness
Regularly cleaning and disinfecting your kitchen is a necessity to get your hands on a high hygiene ranking. Here are some of the areas you need to consider when it comes to improving the cleanliness of your kitchen:
- Cleaning surfaces and equipment that come in contact with food. Any equipment or surface that comes into contact with food needs to be cleaned - period. If it’s not, the food could become contaminated and unsafe to eat.
- Running a well-managed waste disposal. To keep your food prep area as clean as possible, you need an efficient waste disposal system in place. It should be easy to access, easy to use, and kept away from the food preparation area.
- Providing substantial staff facilities. To make sure your staff can safely handle food, they need an area where they can effectively wash their hands. This means providing antibacterial soap and sanitizer, as well as hot and cold running water for washing.
5. Track your food safety efforts
Tracking your food safety activity demonstrates the steps you’re taking to keep your restaurant clean, safe, and hygienic. It’s a great way for inspectors to review what you’ve done in the past, what you’re doing now, and what you plan to do in the future.
You can use it to monitor fridge temperatures, outline your cleaning measures, record staff training, and keep an eye on food safety hazards.
Are there any businesses exempt from the food hygiene rating scheme?
Yes, there are two types of businesses that don’t fall under the remit of the food hygiene rating scheme.
- Businesses that are low-risk to public health. For example, chemist shops or newsagents that sell ready-made food that doesn't require refrigeration (such as chocolate bars).
- Care services. This includes childminders and businesses that offer care services at home.
These groups are still inspected by local authority food safety officers, but they’re not given a hygiene rating in the same way as other hospitality businesses.
Displaying your hygiene rating: the law
Different countries have different legislation around displaying hygiene ratings. Some countries require food locations to display their ratings, while others don’t.
You’ll probably have seen these ratings at food establishments. They’re often displayed in windows, on doors, or somewhere else inside the premises. They look like this:
Let’s take a look at the rules for displaying these ratings in each country.
England is the only country that doesn’t require businesses to display their hygiene ratings. They’re encouraged to do so, but they won’t be penalised if they don’t.
Despite not being a requirement, a lot of food premises still opt to display it. Think about it - as mentioned previously, if you have a high rating, people are more likely to buy from you. In other words, you can maximise your food hygiene rating to encourage more customers to order your food.
In Wales, hospitality businesses must display their ratings in an obvious place. This could be the entrance to the restaurant or the front window of the business. If they don’t display it clearly, they’re breaking the law.
If someone asks for a hygiene rating over the phone, businesses in Wales must also provide it verbally. Takeaways and other online food providers must include a bilingual statement on their physical menus which tells consumers how to find the rating on their website.
Businesses in Northern Ireland must display their ratings at the customer entrance. Customers must easily see them before they enter the premises.
Similar to Wales, Northern Ireland businesses must also provide their hygiene rating over the phone if someone asks for it.
The FHRS doesn’t apply to food premises in Scotland. Instead, Scotland operates the Food Hygiene Information Scheme (FHIS) which is run by the Food Standards Scotland (FSA). It applies to all food outlets that supply meals and food to consumers.
The FHIS gives hospitality businesses a “pass” or “improvement required rating”. Consumers can access the FSA website to see the rating of any food premises in the country.
Keep on top of food hygiene best practices with Peckwater Brands
Because customers might not come into contact with any staff other than delivery drivers.
They’re putting all their faith in an online system, hoping that the food they order has been prepared in a clean, safe, and hygienic kitchen. Ordering from Just Eat will give them some insight, but not all food delivery providers offer a food hygiene rating so easily.
To make sure you’re running a top-quality kitchen, get in touch with Peckwater Brands. Our team will help you launch the perfect virtual brand for your existing kitchen, and we’ll help you stay on top of safety requirements and hygiene regulations.
Find out more about working with us to increase your revenue and boost your profits.