Boost Your Business: How to Earn a 5-Star Food Hygiene Rating

Want to boost your food business and increase your profits?  Achieving a 5-star hygiene rating can help get you there.

You see, post-covid, consumers are increasingly concerned about food hygiene and safety.  But a 5-star rating can give them the confidence to do business with you.

According to recent data from the Food Standards Agency, 67.18% of businesses have a 5-star rating.

So how can you become part of that statistic?

Well, that's what you're going to learn in this article.

First of all you'll learn how to get an inspection.  Then we'll take a look at what you need to do to prepare for an inspection. 

Finally we'll look at what to expect on the day and what sort of questions you may get asked.

Let's get to it.

How to get an inspection

Before you can receive an inspection, you need to register with your local council as a food business.

Then, once you have registered your business, officers will carry out an inspection.  They will then give you a rating.

Generally it is up to the officer carrying out the inspection to decide when it will take place.  In other words, officers will usually turn up unannounced.

But if your food business is home-based, then they may contact you to arrange a suitable date and time.

I've included a link to the food business registration webpage on my resources page.

Things to do before an inspection

On the day of the inspection, the officer will ask to see the paperwork that you have in place.

So, you need to have all that in place before the inspection takes place.

The first thing you're going to need is your level 2 food safety and hygiene.

You should do this course ideally before registering your business.

You can find a link to this course on my resources page.

Another recommended course is the food allergen course.  This is a free course provided by the Food Standards Agency. 

Again, this link is also on my resources page.

Paperwork

One of the most important parts of the inspection is the paperwork you have in place.

Paperwork consists of the systems, procedures and checklists your business has in place.

Good paperwork is a must because it backs up what you say to the inspection officer.

It also means you have repeatable processes that help to reduce risk.  It also helps to reduce mistakes that may affect food hygiene.

The most important paperwork for inspections is the “safer food, better business pack”.

This pack is free to download or you can buy it online from Amazon.  The links to these are on my resources page.

This pack is a must.  It contains everything you need to know and you should also keep it within your premises at all times.

If you want a 5-star rating, you need to fill it out and know it inside out.

During the inspection, it is one of the first things your officer will ask about and ask to see.

The pack is very useful in that it tells you what you should do to maintain good hygiene standards.  The pack also lists the reasoning behind certain things.

There's also space next to each item that allows you to write down what you actually do.  For example, it may say “staff should change their aprons after handling raw meat, poultry etc".

You could then write next to it “staff use separate brown aprons when handling raw food" for example.

The pack itself is very comprehensive and leaves no stone unturned.  But it's essential that you go through it all.

Some of what's contained within the pack may not be applicable to your business. 

For example, there's information in the pack about the freezing of food.  If you don't freeze food, then some of the info won't be applicable. 

But you still need to write down in the pack that you don't freeze food.  In other words, the paperwork needs to back up what you're saying.

The role of the inspector is to check what you have written down is actually happening in your business.

Other important paperwork

Before you start trading, make sure you have public liability insurance.  During your inspection, prepare to show your certificate to the inspector.

You also need to have done your HACCP.  This stands for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point.

HACCP is a way of managing food safety hazards.  It also allows you to highlight potential problems.  An example may be a certain product that 'goes off' after a few days of being in the fridge.

There is a free web tool on the Food Standards Agency website called the MyHACCP.  This tool helps you create your own food safety management system.

The link to the tool is on my resources page.

One final potential gotcha is to do with the waste that your business produces.

When it comes to waste, you can have it collected by a source.  Or you can dispose of it yourself.

But, to dispose of waste yourself, you need to register as a waste carrier.

I've included the link on my resources page which allows you to register as a waste carrier.

If this is the case, you need to be able to show the officer some sort of certification to prove it.

If you have a third-party collect your waste, you need to document this too.  That way you can prove to the inspection officer that you have the procedures in place to manage waste.

What to expect on the day of the inspection

On the day of the inspection, it's normal to be a bit apprehensive and nervous.  It shows you care about good food hygiene and your business.

On the day, expect the officer to have a good look around your business.  He or she may ask you questions whilst doing so.  They may also take photographs of things.

They may also ask you to walk them through a typical day in your business.

As the inspector asks you questions, they will ask you to prove that you have things written down. 

For example, they may ask you if you freeze food.  But even if you don't freeze food, they will ask you to show you that you have written this down.

In other words, the paperwork will need you to back-up what you're saying.

What do food inspectors look for?

Food inspectors look for a lot of things but their main goal is to see if food is being handled hygienically. 

They also want to find out if your food is safe to eat and identify potential risks that could cause harm to the public.

During an inspection, a food safety officer will score a business in each of the following areas.

Note: To achieve the highest rating, your business must perform well in each area.

Hygienic food handling

Inspectors examine how well the establishment prepares and handles food.

They also look at how the business deals with the cooking, re-heating, cooling and the storage of food.

Inspections also cover things like temperature control and personal hygiene.  In other words, how clean the chefs are working (washing of hands etc).

Finally, inspections examine how well a business prevents cross-contamination.

Allergens

One area that inspectors are big on is allergens.

So, make sure you have an allergy list available for customers to see.  If a customer has an allergy, they will want to know what dishes they can order.

You can make allergen lists yourself or they're downloadable from Etsy.

It's also a good idea to have allergen awareness posters in the kitchen available for staff to refer to.

Here's some extra things to be aware of:

  • If you serve gluten-free foods for example, be sure to use separate equipment.  You should also store that equipment separately.
  • An inspector may ask you to gather all the ingredients in one of your dishes.  They may then check each ingredient for allergens and cross check with your list.
  • Inspectors will also want to see that you have taken a course on allergens.  So be ready to show any certificates that you may have.

If you deliver food, label the food with allergen stickers.  This should also contain a link to your websites' terms and conditions.

Finally, if any of your ingredients contain allergens, be sure to write them on a label.  Then attach it to the container.  This isn't necessary if you keep ingredients in their original packaging.

Cleanliness and condition of facilities and building

In this area of inspection, officers examine the physical condition of the building.

They look to see how good the structure is and how well it's maintained.  Besides the cleanliness, the following factors are also considered:

  • Building layout
  • Building lighting
  • Building ventilation
  • Pest control
  • Any other facilities

Management of food safety

This area examines the processes and procedures that are in place to ensure food safety.

This gives the officer an idea of how likely a business is to maintain standards in the future.

Much of this comes down to having good paperwork, which we have looked at before.

Questions food hygiene inspectors may ask

Food hygiene inspectors check to ensure that establishments follow proper food safety guidelines.

To ensure compliance with these guidelines, inspectors will ask a variety of questions.

Here's some questions that they may ask on the day of inspection:

  • Do you serve meat?
  • What food do you make?
  • Do you outsource to suppliers?
  • Do you have a list of suppliers?
  • Do you handle fresh cream?
  • Do you handle fruit?
  • Where are cleaning products kept?
  • What is the fridge situation?  Is there a chance of cross-contamination?
  • Do you have two basins, one for washing up, the other for handwashing?
  • What sink will you use for washing fruit and veg?
  • How do customers receive their orders (contactless delivery or collection)?
  • How many times do you wash dishcloths?
  • Questions about pest control
  • Questions about waste, what do you do with it?
  • How much soap do you put in a mop bucket? 
  • Where are your gloves, aprons and PPE stored?
  • Do you have a suppliers list?

Before you go…

The information in this article is a great start.  But I highly recommend reading my companion article.  It's almost like a part-2 to this one with lots of non-obvious food hygiene tips to help you get that 5-star rating…

Boost your hygiene rating with these proven food hygiene tips