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'Look Before You Book' this Christmas!

It’s that time of year again – the festive season is upon us and the big day is only weeks away.  From the beginning of December, right through to Christmas Eve, it’s officially office party season – the perfect excuse to get together with your colleagues to enjoy the seasonal festivities and of course celebrate another year of successful trading.

Every year, restaurants and hotels begin their marketing efforts early, promoting their Christmas menus, gastronomic festive lunches and themed party nights. A few hours to escape the office - we all look forward to traditional culinary delights and perhaps a tipple or two.

However, if you’re the organiser of your annual office party, you may still be deciding upon a venue…

Many of us choose a party venue based on word of mouth, or we may have visited before, but how many of us consider the food hygiene rating of a restaurant before we book? This is an important factor… as worst-case scenario would be the possibility of your colleagues becoming ill with food poisoning at the annual festive event.

Food hygiene ratings are a superb indication of how dedicated a restaurant, hotel or food outlet is to food safety and sanitation.

The Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS) is run by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in partnership with local authorities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Local authorities are responsible for carrying out inspections of food businesses to check that they meet the requirements of food hygiene law.

The hygiene standards found at the time of inspection are rated on a scale. At the bottom of the scale is ‘0’ – this means urgent improvement is required. At the top of the scale is ‘5’ – meaning that hygiene standards are very good.

Before you select a location for your Christmas party, look at the food hygiene rating of your preferred venue. Has the restaurant or hotel demonstrated good hygiene standards?

Many of us may assess outstanding hygiene standards based purely on appearance. The place may look good externally – but what is actually going on in the kitchen? The FHRS enables you to check the ratings of all restaurants, hotels and eateries and then use the information to select the perfect venue for your Christmas party. The scheme also encourages businesses to improve hygiene standards.

So, this year remember that fun, laughter, good food and high spirits are all essential for the ultimate Christmas get-together – but food safety and good hygiene should also be considered.

Look out for the green and black sticker, which should be clearly displayed at the entrance of the restaurant. Alternatively, you can easily check the food hygiene ratings of restaurants on the FSA website www.food.gov.uk/ratings