Improve hygiene scores or lose customers, new report warns

Some 44% of diners would turn away from a food outlet that had a food hygiene rating of three (generally satisfactory) or less out of five – even if it was their personal favourite.

With almost one in seven UK food businesses currently rated between zero (urgent improvement necessary) and three, a “staggering 65,000 pubs, restaurants, cafés and supermarkets” are at risk of losing customers, according to NFU Mutual’s hygiene ratings report.

In Wales and Northern Ireland businesses have to display their hygiene ratings by law. Pressure has been growing on England to follow suit – local authorities want compulsory “scores on the doors” for all food outlets in the country.

Last year, Food Standards Agency chair Heather Hancock urged ministers to approve new regulations. She pointed to “robust evidence” that links the bugs found at food businesses and the hygiene rating.

“The higher the rating, the fewer the nasty bugs,” she explained. “A good hygiene rating signals that you’re a responsible food business. And there is no extra regulatory burden, save for popping the sticker on the window.”

Darren Seward, insurance specialist for the hospitality industry at NFU Mutual, said it makes good business sense to display the ratings and strive to achieve the “magic five stars”.

That isn’t easy, he admitted, but consumers are “increasingly expecting high standards from the food establishments they frequent. The onus is on owners and managers to make sure their standards are reflected in good ratings,” he added.

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