Food Safety Rating Guide: How to Get a 5-star Food Hygiene Rating

When you run a restaurant, you know your customers don’t just expect your food to be delicious. They also expect it to be prepared in a clean, hygienic and safe environment. As such, many diners are likely to take an active interest in your restaurant’s restaurant hygiene rating.

Building trust is a big part of managing your business. When customers know they can expect a consistent standard of service, food and safety from you, they’ll be much more likely to keep coming back. A perfect food safety rating shows your diners that you care about their health and wellbeing as much as you value their dining experience. Here, we look at how to get a 5-star hygiene rating and what it means for your business.

How does a perfect restaurant hygiene rating benefit my business?

In an age where many restaurants expand their offering to new clients through food delivery platforms like Deliveroo, Just Eat and Uber Eats, more and more prospective customers are looking at your restaurant. And you’d better believe that some will be looking at your food hygiene rating on the Food Standards Agency (FSA)’s website.

Because restaurant hygiene ratings are made public, this provides restaurants with an added sense of accountability. Not to mention, of course, the duty of care your restaurant has to its diners. While this rating does not reflect the taste of your food, the standard of your service, or the quality of your dining experience overall, it may be a factor that influences whether prospective diners visit you or your competitors.

Indeed, a 2019 survey by the FSA revealed that 73% of consumers report that food hygiene scores “help make decisions about where to eat or buy food”.

A high rating can demonstrate to hungry diners that your restaurant can be trusted, that you train your staff to a high standard and that you value their health. A poor restaurant food hygiene rating could give potential customers pause no matter how scrumptious your food looks or how glowing your customer reviews may be.

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Food safety ratings explained

The Food Hygiene Rating Scheme is a nationally-recognised initiative, providing consumers with a clear indication of the hygiene standards they can expect in any restaurant in the country. Before we look at how to achieve a perfect food health and safety rating, let’s take a moment to explore the different cleanliness ratings of restaurants and what they mean.

  • Food Hygiene Rating 0- This means that an inspector has scored the restaurant with more than 50 points based on issues that they have found on the premises that could put the health and safety of diners at risk. A 0-rating means urgent improvement is necessary.

  • Food Hygiene Rating 1- An inspector has scored the restaurant 45-50 points based on issues with food hygiene, record-keeping or staff training and major improvements are necessary.

  • Food Hygiene Rating 2- A score between 35 and 40 has been issued, highlighting issues with food handling practices or facilities that are cause for concern. Improvements are necessary but not urgent.

  • Food Hygiene Rating 3- The restaurant has been scored between 25 and 30, meaning that standards are generally satisfactory. While there is room for improvement, any issues found do not represent an immediate risk to public health.

  • Food Hygiene Rating 4- The restaurant has scored between 15 and 20 points and the inspector deems the standard of hygiene to be good. While there may be some areas for improvement, these will be only minor and help the restaurant to achieve a perfect rating.

  • A Food Hygiene Rating of 5- This rating is awarded for restaurants with a score of less than 15 meaning that the standard of food hygiene is excellent and no further action is recommended.

What to expect during a health inspection

An inspection from the FSA can be a nerve-wracking prospect. But that nervousness quickly abates when restaurateurs know what to expect during a restaurant inspection. Inspectors will make their way around both the restaurant and the kitchen assessing the following:

The condition of the premises

Inspectors will check the physical condition of the kitchen and dining areas as well as the exterior of the premises. As well as checking the cleanliness of the premises, they will make a note of any issues with the layout or lighting as well as pest control facilities.

How food is handled

Inspectors will look closely at how food is stored, prepared and cooked within your restaurant.

How food is kept safe

Finally, inspectors will rigorously check what measures the restaurant takes to ensure that food is kept safe. This can include an inspection of processes, systems and employee training in order to ensure that everyone who works in the restaurant is doing their part to promote good food hygiene.

How to get 5-star food hygiene rating

Now that we’ve explored the different food hygiene ratings and how a positive or negative rating may affect your business, let’s look at how to achieve that perfect 5-star restaurant food hygiene rating.

Maintain a high standard of cleanliness

Every member of your team plays a role in ensuring the cleanliness of your restaurants but the responsibility ultimately lies with management. Make sure you maintain high cleanliness standards by:

  • Maintaining a cleaning rota for the restaurant and kitchen

  • Ensuring that ovens are cleaned weekly and refrigerators are cleaned monthly

  • Keeping sinks clean and bins emptied

  • Keeping antibacterial hand sanitiser available to anyone who needs it

  • Keeping cleaning roll and antibacterial cleaner within easy reach for staff to clean up spills as and when they happen

  • Ensuring that every staff member understands their unique responsibilities in maintaining cleanliness

Invest in employee training

Rigorous employee training can help to ensure that all team members understand the importance of good food hygiene and their role in maintaining high standards.

While there is no single mandatory qualification for food hygiene, most businesses ensure a standard programme of training whether in-house or outsourced by a third party. Food hygiene training should be part of your onboarding process with ongoing refresher training for long-term team members.

Employees should be constantly reminded of key expectations including:

  • Hand washing

  • Wearing appropriate headwear

  • Minimising the wearing of jewellery

  • Wearing appropriate gear (e.g. gloves, hair nets and aprons)

There are many external training providers that offer food hygiene certification with courses built around the realities of restaurant management. These include:

  • Food Hygiene Level 1- An introduction to the hazards associated with handling lower-risk foods

  • Food Hygiene Level 2-Also known as the basic food hygiene certificate, this is a legal prerequisite for all staff that work in environments where food is prepared, handled or cooked

  • Food Hygiene Level 3- This certificate is aimed at managers and supervisors and deals with development and control of food safety management systems

Manage food hygiene hazards

Restaurants must be proactive in identifying potential food hygiene hazards and implementing processes to guard against them. Perished ingredients being kept in storage, bins overflowing and improper hand hygiene, for instance, can all be perilous to your restaurant’s food hygiene.

Cross-contamination is another major hazard in restaurants. When handling raw foods, ensure different knives and chopping boards are used to mitigate this risk.

Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) is an essential risk-management tool when it comes to identifying food hygiene hazards and implementing strategies to mitigate them. Teams can undertake a short course that equips them with the HACCP skills needed to maintain high standards of hygiene.

Tidy up your record keeping

It’s not just your kitchen and dining area that need to be clean and tidy in order to achieve a 5-star rating. You’ll also need to become fastidious in your record-keeping. Be sure to keep comprehensive records to demonstrate your commitment to cleanliness, including:

  • Toilet cleaning and inspection records

  • Refrigerator temperatures

  • Potential food safety hazards identified

  • Cleaning measures and rotas

  • Employee training records

If you’ve got it, flaunt it

Restaurants in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are legally required to display their restaurant hygiene ratings in a prominent place like a front door or window. Restaurants in England are not legally obliged to display theirs, and the FSA’s own research reveals that over 50% of restaurants did not display their food hygiene rating despite 77% of restaurateurs stating that they felt mandatory display would be a good idea.

Proudly displaying your restaurant hygiene rating can be an excellent way to show prospective customers that you have nothing to hide.

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