A RECENT STUDY in Which? magazine suggested that when it comes to food hygiene we are living in a “postcode lottery”. The publication is pushing for mandatory display of the food hygiene rating in a prominent position. Why? Because outlets with a low score are simply not advertising their scores, leaving diners in the dark in an attempt to save their businesses.
In the study, one Birmingham postcode showed a fantastic 4.9 average, whilst others are suffering from average scores as low as 2.6. Bexley’s DA9 postcode was the lowest rated, and there were five other Bexley postcodes with an average score of under 2.84.
The instant reaction might be to suggest that the Bexley environmental health officer (EHO) must have been having a bad day compared to the overly generous EHO in Birmingham, but the fact remains that these scores are particularly low. With the national press starting to raise the profile of this issue, a low score at a restaurant could dramatically reduce business. One food outlet local to us received such bad press in the local papers that it changed its name to avoid diners making the connection.
Indeed, in the Which? study 2,000 readers were questioned, and the overwhelmingly majority (95%) said that they would not eat in a restaurant rated lower than a three. Diners are known for voting with their feet, and they will quickly start to realise that no score on display simply means a bad score. What’s more, the Food Standards Agency has launched an app allowing those with the right device to simply point their phone at a given premises and find out the rating. This means that even without mandatory display of scores, diners are still able to quickly access the information and make a decision that could have a negative impact on your business. Having said that, if the FSA is going to invest in a ratings system then why not publicise it.
How does an EHO score a food business?
EHO’s mark heavily for certain issues, meaning that you could go from five stars to three stars or worse in no time at all. So, ask yourself the following five questions:
- Is there a full food safety management system in place?
- Is every member of staff fully trained?
- Is the cleaning as thorough as it should be?
- Are there any outstanding maintenance issues?
- Are there any pest issues?
If you’ve answered no or maybe to any of these, then you might need some help.