Food business opening and closing checks- what you need to know

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For a food business to ensure food safety it is essential to complete opening and closing checks each day. This is definitely something that the EHO or food safety officer will look at during a food hygiene inspection. Without them, a food business could receive a low food hygiene rating under the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme. Opening and closing checks are very beneficial to a food business as they ensure organisation and that all staff members know what they need to do. This is especially important in a busy and fast-paced environment.

Opening checks are things that a business must check before opening. Likewise, closing checks are those that must be completed before closing. These checks are important to ensure food safety. By completing them a business will have the opportunity to identify any issues and put them right quickly. This can be extremely beneficial for the business.

Let’s take a closer look at why opening and closing checks are important for a catering business, who should complete them and what sorts of opening and closing checks should be completed.

Why is it important to do opening and closing checks?

A food business that completes the necessary opening and closing checks demonstrates that they are trying to comply with food hygiene regulations. They also help a business to operate in an organised manner. Completing opening and closing checks poses many benefits including:

  • ensuring all staff are aware of their tasks and complete them in the correct order
  • helping each shift to run smoothly by ensuring the necessary checks are made at the right time
  • enabling corrective actions to be taken quickly with minimal disruption to the business
  • enabling the business to operate in an organised manner
  • ensuring that safe and high-quality food is served to customers
  • minimising customer complaints
  • ensuring that the business is following their food safety management system
  • ensuring compliance with legal requirements

Who should complete opening and closing checks?

Opening and closing checks may be divided between the front and back of house. Front-of-house staff would normally be responsible for completing checks in their area and the same for back-of-house staff.

Food business operators should ensure that their staff receive adequate food hygiene training in how to complete the opening and closing checks as they relate to their job role. Staff training is important in ensuring staff know how to complete the opening and closing checks and what corrective action to take if they find a problem.

What opening and closing checks should be completed?

The following are examples of opening checks that a food business in the hospitality industry may need to complete. These will of course vary depending on the type of food business and the types of food handled. A food business may wish to add extra checks.

Front-of-house

Opening checks may include:

  • setting tables
  • organising menus
  • stocking the bar
  • having accurate allergen information for dishes available for customers with food allergies

Closing checks may include:

  • cleaning
  • emptying bins
  • restocking the bar
  • polishing cutlery and glasses

Back-of-house

Opening checks may include:

  • Making sure food deliveries have been checked and put away
  • cleaning and disinfecting food preparation surfaces and equipment (a cleaning schedule can be helpful here)
  • checking the temperatures of chilled storage equipment such as fridges, freezers and chilled display equipment to make sure they are working properly
  • checking that other equipment such as ovens are working properly
  • making sure food handlers are fit to work and wearing clean work clothes
  • making sure new food handlers have received training including an introduction to food hygiene practices and personal hygiene and are aware of the business’ approach to food safety
  • checking that all areas are free from signs of pests
  • checking that hot and cold water is available at all sinks and wash-hand basins
  • ensuring soap and paper towels are available at all wash-hand basins
  • ensuring cleaning equipment and products are available. Including sanitiser for cleaning and disinfecting food preparation surfaces and equipment
  • ensuring a working probe thermometer is available and probe wipes
  • ensuring that allergen information is accurate for all menu items
  • ensuring all foods are in date and any out-of-date foods are thrown away

Closing checks may include:

  • cleaning and disinfecting all food preparation surfaces and equipment (a cleaning schedule can be helpful here)
  • checking dates on foods and ensuring any out-of-date foods are thrown away
  • covering and labelling food and putting it away in the correct storage locations (i.e. fridge or freezer)
  • ensuring foods are stored to prevent cross-contamination (i.e. raw foods are stored away from cooked foods)
  • checking the temperatures of fridges, freezers and chilled display equipment to make sure they are still working properly
  • turning off ovens and other cooking equipment
  • cleaning floors and removing any debris
  • washing all utensils, equipment, dishes and cutlery
  • removing waste and putting new bags into the bins

It is helpful for a business to have an opening and closing checklist in place that contains a list of tasks to be completed. This could be available as a digital checklist. There are some digital systems that offer this including FoodDocs and Safeintel.

Safer Food Better Business (SFBB)

The Safer Food Better Business (SFBB) pack, produced by the Food Standards Agency is a food safety management procedure that may be used by some catering businesses. The pack contains a number of safe methods and diary sheets. These diary sheets relate to opening and closing checks that a business may complete. Any business using SFBB as their food safety management procedure should ensure that they complete the daily checks and record these in the diary. The SFBB pack can be downloaded for free here.

There is also the Safe Catering pack for use in Northern Ireland. The Safe Catering pack can be downloaded for free here.

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