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Ten things every new restaurant should know and do before opening

By Food Alert’s Operations Director, Mike Williams

Making a new business compliant has never been more important, so apart from finding the right location and hiring the best team, there is registering your new venture with the Environmental Health Department to consider and what to do after recruiting your first employee?

However, it doesn’t have to be daunting. Here is some guidance on all aspects related to Food Safety and Health & Safety legislation – so you’re compliant from the start.

Your starter for ten – on operating fully within the law when opening for business:

1. Legal Obligations. Registering with your local Environmental Health Department is essential, but being properly prepared for their first inspection (which may be unannounced) can help achieve the highest Food Hygiene Rating possible. You also need to implement a Food Safety Management System based on the principles of Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) and carry out ongoing Health & Safety Risk Assessments.

Plus make sure you have Employer’s Liability Insurance and that a Fire Risk Assessment has been completed by a competent person or contractor. Document emergency procedures, write a Health & Safety policy (if employing more than five staff members) and complete and display the Health & Safety Law ‘What You Need to Know’ poster.

At this point consider an integrated Health & Safety and Food Safety management system, whereby all compliance information and policy documentation can be easily accessed anytime and anywhere, across multiple locations.

2. Visible Standards - These give clues to the likely hygiene standards of your premises and rest assured your Environmental Health Officer (EHO) will look at whether your walls, ceiling, floors, doors and windows are clean and easy to maintain. Additionally, is the area fit for the purpose of producing safe food and are the premises themselves safe – e.g. the floors non-slip?

Likewise, do you have separate facilities for hand washing, food preparation, cleaning and disinfection and is the equipment functional and easy to clean? The waste area must be orderly and tidy too, plus have you got drinking water? Hot water availability is crucial as well, because without it you could be temporarily closed down by the EHO.

3. Kitchen Workflow - Your premises should be designed for efficient and safe food production to help avoid cross-contamination, so can food deliveries be put away quickly and easily and kept away from the waste area? Also, are your preparation areas of raw and high risk Ready To Eat (RTE) foods clearly and properly identified?

4. Develop a HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) Plan - Confidence in Management accounts for around 33% of your Food Hygiene Rating score during an EHO visit, so your working HACCP documentation should be updated regularly. All-important temperature records (train your staff in this) also help you to confirm compliance with your food safety management system (HACCP).

Know the difference between a control point and a critical control point and for the latter be sure to monitor and record those indentified in your HACCP – this will enable you to identify hazards at each step of food production and where it’s vital to control them and prevent food poisoning or contamination.

With so much going on, a food safety management system, such as Food Alert’s ALERT65, provides handy HACCP online templates that can also be customised, as well as flowcharts and checklists.

5. Food Safety Hazards - Whether they are physical, chemical, bacterial or allergen related, a robust documented Food Safety Management System incorporating HACCP principles will help you identify, understand and eliminate/minimise such hazards within your business. For allergens especially, always follow the correct cleaning schedule and avoid cross contamination by using the correct utensils and storage containers, plus different surfaces.

6. Health & Safety Risk Assessments - Having identified the main hazards, you need to evaluate the risks and decide on precaution, then record your findings and implement them, plus review your assessment and update accordingly – to be legally compliant.

Additionally, fire alarms and emergency lighting need to be tested every week and you must keep records; the fire evacuation procedure must be documented and practice drills undertaken, personal protective equipment (PPE) should be provided and a pest control contract needs to be in place. All of these processes can be fully automated and centralised.

7. Food Suppliers - Most important are those who supply high-risk and RTE foods (high protein content and food which will not be subject to any further heat treatment or washing), so maintain a record of approved certificates and keep up-to-date documentation to make sure the food you are buying from them is safe.

8. Have the Right People - On average, 67% of hospitality workers leave within the first year of employment, so from the offset create an environment that’s right for staff to progress in and have a broader understanding of their tasks. With longevity the product becomes more consistent and that can only help contribute to the success of your business.

9. Staff Training Records - The EHO will request evidence that your staff have received the appropriate training – induction initially (the ‘essentials’ of food hygiene) and those handling open food should be trained to a minimum of Food Safety Level 2. Keep proper records and note that food handler training and certificates should be renewed at least every three years.

It’s best to manage training from one single digital platform where you can also book courses, whether classroom based or eLearning, plus track employees’ progress as well as schedule refreshers and reminders.

10. Staff Hygiene - Create a personal hygiene policy and ensure your staff always wear the correct clean clothing and know when and how to wash their hands. Plus, all new staff (including front of house) must go through a health assessment procedure check. Poor personal hygiene of staff is one of the biggest causes of food poisoning and if a customer does become ill you will have shown due diligence by having your staff trained and that it’s recorded. They must receive recorded instruction to report any illness to their manager and stay away from work if they are suffering from food poisoning symptoms.

Granted, there’s a lot to consider pre-opening, but investing in an integrated food safety and health & safety management system will automate the whole process and remove lots of the manual paper trail stresses, so when the inspector comes calling you have everything you need at your fingertips.