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4-star food hygiene rating expected by most customers

Over half of customers (58%) expect a food outlet to have a 4-star food hygiene rating for them to consider eating there, a survey from a leading food and hygiene safety specialist has revealed.

The research by Navitas Group comes just days after Just Eat announced it has published the food hygiene rating of all restaurants on its delivery platform.

Navitas’s survey of just under 2,000 people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland who had eaten out at a restaurant or bought from a takeaway in the last month found that a 3-star rating (indicating hygiene standards are generally satisfactory) was considered adequate by just 27%, whilst 45% said that 4 stars (indicating good food hygiene standards) was the minimum rating they would expect a food outlet to have. Some were more discerning with 13% claiming they would only eat at 5-star establishments.

The research also found that 37% of diners would definitely not go back to a restaurant or takeaway they discovered had a low rating even if they had enjoyed eating there before.

Bob Mackay, a qualified environmental health practitioner and technical director with Navitas Group, says: “Eating out has never been so popular and the choices so varied. Our research shows that people do want to make informed choices and be confident that the food they’re eating away from home has been stored, prepped and cooked safely and correctly and to good hygiene standards.”

Navitas's top tips for food outlets to improve and secure food hygiene ratings:

1. Take pride in what you do - smart clean staff and well maintained and clean premises can only give a good first impression.

2. Education is key – ensure management and staff are trained to a level that ensures they may carry out their work with competence and confidence. Level 2 food hygiene is considered the standard level of training for most food handlers, with managers/supervisors benefitting from completing Level 3 managing food hygiene.

3. Ensure that all foods prepared and served are covered by a HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point). This appears a bit of a mouthful and the formal terminology can cause some people to shy away from it. In simple terms, a HACCP is a formal process specifies the controls necessary to keep the food safe along its entire journey from the moment of purchase, all the way to the point of sale.

4. Follow food safety rules to control the risk of cross-contamination. Segregate raw and ready to eat foods during storage and provide separate raw and ready to eat food preparation surfaces and equipment.

5. Monitor and maintain the chain of temperature control. Check and record your storage, cooking and display temperatures to demonstrate that all is under control.

6. Ensure your staff have the confidence to implement and record corrective actions when controls have not been achieved. This may mean rejecting food deliveries that do not meet temperature requirements, or food not achieving correct cooking temperatures.

7. Keep all records up to date, logically filed and readily accessible – lost or poorly kept records do not give a good impression for confidence in management, and can be one of the drivers of a low food hygiene rating.

8. Introduce a proactive pest control contract with a competent contractor. Why wait for problems to develop when you can receive advice on proofing and general housekeeping arrangements, and have measures already in place to deal with ‘lone intruders’ before they take hold.

9. Consider going digital and getting the edge – installing a digital temperature monitoring system provides a reliable extra pair of hands for a fraction of the cost so your team can focus on preparing and serving safe food to your customers.

10. Plan ahead and invest in your businesses’ reputation. Seek professional advice from one of Navitas’ qualified Environmental Health Practitioners who can advise on, and verify, the effectiveness of your food and safety procedures.

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