In the UK, where there’s food, there’s regulation! And with good reason. Naturally, no restaurant wants to cause its patrons harm––or suffer the bad reputation that comes along with that. Catering regulations in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are overseen by the Food Standards Agency (FSA), and in Scotland by the Food Standards Scotland (FSS). It’s your obligation as a business owner to know what the law requires to keep your establishment compliant.
Clients are increasingly more conscientious about where they spend their ‘dining out’ money and how safe and hygienic the environment is. No matter how delicious your dishes may be, a low hygiene rating is an instant turn off.
Ignoring the regulations or cutting corners is a sure-fire way to compromise your restaurant’s growth potential and competitive edge. So, if you’ve ever been tempted to skim over the rules or even sweep a couple under the rug, we have five reasons why doing so would be in bad taste.
1. Regulations keep your staff protected
A quick way to lose the respect of your employees is to expect them to work in an environment that compromises them ethically or puts them in physical danger. Most people in the catering business know that hygiene and food safety is imperative.
Without fit-for-purpose catering equipment, cleaning supplies or best practice health and safety protocol, morale will slip, and talented individuals will leave to work in better kitchens.
An environment that enables food safety isn’t the only thing that matters to your people. Adequate care to ensure good ventilation, functional drainage, safe electrics and regular maintenance makes your restaurant a safer place to work. You can also encourage a high standard of personal hygiene by providing dedicated hand wash stations that require minimal contact.
2. Compliant restaurants have loyal customers
Catering regulations require that you prepare, store and dispose of food in a safe and hygienic manner. Providing visual reassurance to customers (like your hygiene rating sticker and a customer confidence sticker) inspires confidence, letting them know that good practices are enforced in your establishment.
People would take some persuasion to return to a restaurant that was responsible for the outbreak of an illness. When this does happen, it’s often discovered that the issue proliferated as a result of inadequate compliance with regulation.
But the rules aren’t merely about the food you serve; poorly maintained washrooms, dirty surfaces, and other neglected areas of your restaurant could quickly become a festering cause for concern.
Covid-19 has forced 77% of customers to now pay more careful attention to what restaurants are doing to protect them. It therefore goes without saying that your customer’s loyalty will greatly be affected by the actions you take to ensure a safe environment, and those are closely related to regulation compliance.
3. Catering regulations guide you towards an excellent reputation
Restaurants that pick up a fine or consistently get bad reviews don’t last very long. Once word gets out that safety and hygiene are compromised at your establishment –– even if you take remedial action –– the damage is already done. One study suggests consumers have developed a ‘one-strike and you’re out’ mentality.
Customers expect a delightful culinary experience; for most, eating out is an event, a luxury, and an enjoyable experience. Picking up a bug should never be on the menu.
In a digital world where customer feedback germinates faster than you can say salmonella, guarding your reputation by ensuring that you’ve done everything possible to meet regulation is the most fundamental of steps to make.
4. Following the rules saves you money
Following catering regulations in the UK may seem like a tedious and costly exercise at times, but in truth, there are many long term savings you can look forward to by ensuring you’re compliant –– not the mention the expense spared on fines or potential legal charges you may end up with if your establishment is found to be the cause of a health and safety issue.
When your restaurant is deemed to be safe, and you’ve received the necessary certifications (check what applies in your area), your profile is automatically boosted. Customers will organically promote your dining establishment to others by word of mouth. All that self-perpetuating free marketing eventually adds up! Popular, trustworthy restaurants are far more likely to sustain their success than those that have a dink in their health and safety reputation.
Other, often unacknowledged, benefits of regulation compliance is that it encourages employees to use equipment and perform tasks in a way that maximises the longevity of your catering equipment and infrastructure because regulations are based on best practices. This helps you to save money on frequent repairs or maintenance where it could have been avoided.
5. Build on your green initiatives
The motive behind regulations is often a big picture one. Yes, the safety of people comes first, but the environment is also worked into the mix. The UK, like many Western territories, has obligations to greener earth initiatives, meaning the catering regulations promote a reduction in the utilisation of plastics –– think about the recent straw ban, for example –– as well as a reduction in food waste ending up in landfills, and more conscious management of the disposal of fats, oils, grease and starches (FOGS) which can cause problems in the local sewage network and even the surrounding natural environment.
When it comes to catering, the rules are there to be followed. They’re good for business, and they’re good for people, so be sure to stay on top of recommendations and guidelines for your particular part of the world.