Food Hygiene & Safety

Food Hygiene Rating Scheme – Top 10 Tips to Get It [2023]

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Lead Academy
15 Mins Read

A quality food hygiene rating is essential if you’re looking for business growth in the food industry. That’s where an article about food hygiene rating scheme guidance comes in.

There are tons of businesses just like yours. Some of them may even provide better tasting food than you. So you’ll have to go for some very aggressive marketing if you want a sustainable business growth. However, your marketing will go be in vain if you don’t have a quality food hygiene rating to start with.

Conscious people are attracted by a clean kitchen, especially, in the case of a restaurant. If your kitchen is an eyesore, most people will stay a mile away from your place no matter how tasty your food is. It’s a balancing act between profit and quality assurance. So, here’s top 10 tips to get a quality food hygiene rating scheme to help you start your food business venture.

But first, let’s introduce you to the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme.

A woman wear gloves while chopping in kitchen

What is the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme guidance?

You may have noticed a sticker in the window or on the door of different food businesses when you go out to eat or shop for food. You may have also noticed that the sticker is usually in a place where you can easily see it. That’s the food hygiene rating scheme guidance.

In fact, every premise that falls within this scheme is given a sticker. They are actively encouraged to display it where you can easily see it, like the front door, when you visit them.

If you look closely, you’ll also see that these stickers show a date. The date is a reference to the time when a local authority’s food safety officer comes to check the hygiene standards of that particular premise of a food business.

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The Food Hygiene Rating Scheme is a partnership initiative for the Food Standards Agency/local authority. People buy food from food outlets or eat out all the time. This includes restaurants, supermarkets or other food shops as well.

Our arbitrary taste preference aside, how do you know that a place at least looks out for its customer’s health? That’s where the food hygiene rating scheme guidance comes in. The aim of this food hygiene rating scheme is to help consumers choose where to eat out or shop for food.

So, in short, it’s a hygiene standard.

But one thing to note is that there are businesses in the whole food business chain/industry that do not sell their food directly to the customers. These can be businesses that are manufacturers or wholesalers etc and so on. For example, you might be a farmer who is under a contract with a supermarket.

Your produce goes directly to the shelves. In that case, you may be bound under different legislations that control the quality of your produce. However, the food hygiene rating scheme guidance isn’t something that you have to worry about.

Another thing to note, businesses like pharmacies can sometimes put things on their shelves that can be considered food. For instance, it isn’t wrong for them to keep baby formula on their shelves. However, their business as a whole isn’t targeted towards selling food.

A drug store’s majority profit will obviously come from selling drugs and other related items used in the medical industry. Selling food items isn’t their main concern. That’s why they aren’t under this scheme either.

Lastly, new businesses sometimes take some time to be rated. In that case, their rating may not appear on the list at all. That does not necessarily mean that their food is bad.

Visit our other blog, “How can Poor Food Hygiene Adversely Affect a Food Business?

So, how does this food hygiene rating scheme guidance work?

It starts with an inspection to check compliance with legal requirements. Let’s discuss that in detail in the following section.

The man keeps the food inside as the delivery person left it outside the door

Different Types of Rating Scheme

As I’ve stated before, the food hygiene rating of your business will start with an inspection. The local food safety officers are usually responsible for running such inspections. They will check if your business is compliant with the law and cover certain key aspects.

So, what are these aspects? Well, they refer to the things that can indicate if the food products your business shells out is safe to eat. The more conditions you meet on a positive note, the higher your standards and thus higher rating. Now, take a look at these aspects that we’ve been talking about.

Food handling

Food handling is a broad term that covers everything from food preparation to storing after preparation, cooking or garnishing. In between, the food item can go through a number of stages like re-heating, cooling etc. Food handling is one of the most likely times when unhygienic practices can affect the quality of the food. This is why it’s one of the key areas that food inspectors will investigate before giving you a rating.

The condition of the premises

No matter how clean your food is, if your premises are unsuitable for food preparation, it will definitely give a negative impression to the food inspectors, thus landing you with a bad rating.

For example, if you work with food that can easily get mouldy, you’ve to make sure that your place has enough ventilation. Lighting also plays a major role. It’s not only important to see “if the french fries have developed any brown crust” on their outside, but also to identify any sort of issues before they head out to the shelves or to the customers.

A group of chefs is hard at work in the kitchen

Sense of responsibility

Every business has to have a sense of responsibility and business ethics to ensure that their customers are well taken care of. Otherwise, the question of honesty and integrity automatically rises up. The food inspectors also take a look at these aspects- how the business manages and records what it does to make sure food is safe. If the business caters food, the inspectors will look into that too. They will also take staff training into account. Lastly, the previous history of compliance is also something that the inspector will check too.

Okay, so the inspector has checked your food business according to some criteria. Now they will provide you with a hygiene standard. But, what do these standards mean?

Well, the standard scale of food hygiene ranges from zero to five. Five being the best and zero being the worst.

  • Rating of 5: Conditions are very good
  • Rating of 4: Conditions are good, but you can still aim for the very best.
  • Rating of 3: Conditions are generally satisfactory. But there’s room for improvement.
  • Rating of 2: Improvement is necessary. This is where you should start to worry.
  • Rating of 1: Major improvement is necessary. This is a red sign for you. You risk losing customers and legal repercussions if something goes south.
  • Rating of 0: Urgent improvement is necessary. Close the place down if possible and address all complaints against you. Don’t EVER take this lightly. A rating of zero means your place is totally unfit to be a place where food is handled in any sense of the word.

So, that’s the whole rating system in a nutshell.

After the inspection, you’ll receive a sticker that has your place’s rating on it. You can display it at each entrance to the premises.

Aspects Outside the Scope of the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme

Now, you may wonder, what about the rating of the food itself in terms of taste? Well, that’s not under the scope of the food hygiene rating scheme. What else doesn’t it cover? That’s what we’re going to address now.

Quality of the food

A dish can be totally healthy and hygienic at the same time but taste horrible. I hate pickles, for example. But it’s a totally arbitrary thing. One of your favourite food items might be pickles.

I like sushi. You may hate sushi, and that’s totally fine. A restaurant may serve great pizza, while the restaurant right across the street may serve pizza that is doughy, rough and bland. But the food hygiene rating has nothing to do with this fact. The rating doesn’t cover the taste or the quality of the food.

Customer service

Who likes to wait half an hour for some bacon and eggs coupled with a cup of coffee? Nobody. But some restaurants are so terrible at customer service that even bacon and eggs will take half an hour to reach your table. You can complain about that in a Facebook comment thread, but the food hygiene rating will not help you with that. Customer service is also outside the scope of this rating system.

Culinary skill

The same food can have its taste that ranges from the size of the sun to the size of the moon, depending on where it is being made. The food hygiene rating system doesn’t cover this aspect either.

Presentation

If the presentation of your food has issues regarding health or hygiene hazards, then it’s under the food hygiene rating system. The restaurant will be rated taking this fact under consideration. However, if the presentation is merely a “look’s sake”, then it’s outside the scope of the food hygiene rating scheme.

A couple get the food delivery and give rating

Comfort

Any place that serves food may totally disregard your personal comfort, and they can still be rated five in the food hygiene rating system. However, comfort has nothing to do with the rating scheme.

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Top 10 Tips to Get a Quality Food Hygiene Rating Scheme

The following tips are among the most sensible advice that you will receive regarding your food business. Also, they aren’t strictly for business growth, rather a wholesome look at the hurdles under the rating system, things that you can take advantage of and the workarounds around particular issues etc.

First tip: Put The Food Standards Agency’s website to good use

The Food Standards Agency has lots of information on what to do to improve your food hygiene rating. If you have some time, go read their materials. You’ll find a lot of helpful information there.

Second tip: “Safer Food Better Business” is also there to help you out

Don’t hesitate to use systems such as “Safer Food Better Business””. These are there to help you out with your business.

Third tip: Contact the Food and Health and Safety Team if necessary

If you think that the rating you have received is unfair or wrong, immediately contact the Food and Health and Safety Team and contact the food safety officer. Ask them how they inspected the business and under what ground was the rating given.

Fourth tip: Appeal a rating

If you can’t sort things out by contacting the Food and Health and Safety Team, then you can appeal in writing. Just complete an Appeal Form and send it to the Food and Health and Safety Team within 14 days after you receive the rating.

At this stage, you can visit our other blog on Food Safety Management System (FSMS).

Fifth tip: Exercise your right to reply

“Right to reply” is different from an appeal. You’ll complete a Right to Reply form and send it to their local authority. The goal here is to let the food safety officer know how your business has improved hygiene or if there were unusual circumstances at the time of the inspection.

Your reply will be published online by the local authority with the business’s hygiene rating.

Different delicious seafood with bread and french fries

Sixth tip: Request a Re-visit

If you go through the improvements to hygiene that the local authority food safety officer recommended in your business, then you can request a re-visit.

To ask for a re-visit, you’ll have to complete the re-visit form and send it to the Food and Health and Safety Team. The re-visit will cost you £150.

Seventh tip: If you cannot find your rating

If you cannot find your rating, look it up using just the business name or with the first part of your postcode.

For instance, if you’re doing business from your home, then only limited address information is published, i.e. the first part of the postcode. Your full address will only be published if you give the inspecting team the permission.

So keep these things in mind when looking for your rating. Contact the local authority if you’re still unable to find it. The FSA provides the rating website but what is published on it is supplied by the local authority.

Eighth tip: Publishing the rating early

If your business is based in England and Wales, then you can request that a rating is published before the end of the appeal period. This request has to be in writing, and it should include:

  • details of who you are
  • the name and address of the business
  • your contact information
  • the date of the inspection
  • the rating given

The local authority usually reviews the request and publishes the rating early.

A man prepare food for delivery

Ninth tip: See it as an opportunity for your professional development

It doesn’t matter who you are and what your background is. The truth is you have to take the time for professional development if you want to be successful in your trade. You don’t have to waste your precious time going to traditional physical classrooms for basic courses.

If the Covid situation has taught us anything, it’s that the internet is a vast sea of knowledge and utility. Those who know how to use it are miles and miles ahead of the rest of us.

So, how can you use the internet to your advantage?

Lead Academy has a Level 1 Food Safety catering course that can give you a basic understanding of food safety. If you’re working at a managerial level then look for the Food Safety Course For Catering Manager course. To be honest, that’s all you need for a deep understanding of food safety.

I’d highly recommend you to do these courses and follow the expert advice to get a high food hygiene rating.

Tenth tip: Making the most out of your rating

Put your rating into good use by marketing it intelligently. Let people know who you are and your practices. It doesn’t matter if your food tastes like heaven. You’ll definitely have people swarming in your place, and you’ll also have some fans from outside your area, but that’s about it. You have to know how to advertise yourself.

As I said, the food hygiene rating is one of the tools for this advertisement. But, you also have to understand that this is a solid base to build upon. You’ll have to scale up from here.

FAQs

What the rating covers?

The food hygiene rating scheme informs clients about the sanitary standards of businesses, allowing them to pick where to dine or purchase food. This helps to guarantee that consumers are adequately informed about the environment in which their food is processed, allowing them to make informed choices.

Why is the scheme important?

It’s a building block for all food businesses. The food hygiene rating reflects the findings of the inspection. The scheme’s goal is to empower customers to make informed decisions about where they eat out or buy food and to push companies to improve their hygiene standards due to those decisions.

What does a 3 star hygiene rating mean?

It means that your business premises are neither good nor bad. Basically- “Conditions are generally satisfactory. But there’s room for improvement.”


Conclusion

In this day and age, you can’t expect to do any business without people being aware of your trade. The internet is that far-reaching. So, take the food hygiene rating scheme very seriously as it is one of the major marketing tools that can help you scale up your business rapidly.

The rest is up to you, your advertising prowess and the quality of the team of your business. As you can see, getting a high rating isn’t all that complex, but you have to be aware of how you can get a high rating as well as what to do if something goes south. Hopefully, reading this blog thoroughly will have you start your business ventures right away.


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