How to make sure your staff don’t cost your business its ‘5-star’ food hygiene rating.

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Read time: 4 minutes

Today, I want to talk about a mistake that I see many food businesses make.

I’ve seen this countless times during the 11 years I spent working for local authorities. There are so many fantastic food businesses out there and some very passionate owners behind them. However, all of that hard work and effort can be a waste if the business end up with a low food hygiene rating.

A low food hygiene rating may mean that your customers go elsewhere, you aren’t able to trade on delivery platforms or you face enforcement action from the local authority.

A common cause of a low food hygiene rating is when staff don’t know how to handle an Environmental Health Officer (EHO) visit. It really doesn’t need to be this way.

Don’t assume that you will be onsite when the EHO turns up.

There are three elements that an officer will assess during a food hygiene inspection:

  • food safety and hygiene procedures. This includes an assessment of whether the food is being handled and prepared hygienically.
  • structure and cleaning
  • confidence in management/ control procedures. They will assess how food safety is being managed and what systems and checks are in place to make sure food is safe. This includes staff training.

If staff don’t know how to deal with the officer, this can actually impact on the overall rating. In particular, the third element; confidence in management/ control procedures. If an officer is not dealt with in a calm, confident and professional way and if staff are unable to clearly explain how the business ensures food safety, the officer may lack confidence in how you are managing food safety.

So where do some food businesses go wrong? And why do some food businesses end up with a low rating because of this?

Here’s 7 mistakes I’ve come across in food businesses throughout my career. Let’s dive in.

Make sure you avoid these 7 mistakes

  1. Not training your staff on how to deal with the EHO
  2. Staff that are unable to confidently answer food safety questions
  3. Not training your staff on what to expect during an EHO inspection
  4. Not having any staff onsite who know how to deal with the EHO
  5. Staff ignoring the EHO
  6. Staff being rude to the EHO
  7. Staff telling the EHO that they don’t know anything about food safety paperwork/ where the paperwork is located

1. Not training staff on how to deal with the EHO

Too often, food business owners or managers hope they will be onsite when the EHO turns up.

They therefore don’t train their team on how to handle an EHO visit. Only to end up with the EHO turning up and there being no one onsite who knows what to do.

Instead, food business owners or managers should be focused on making sure all of their team members know how to approach an EHO visit.

The result is that staff are confident and prepared and know exactly what to do when the EHO turns up. This includes acting in a calm, polite and professional manner. This should help to ensure that the inspection gets off to a great start (first impressions do count!) and the officer has confidence in the way the business is being run.

The end result: a better food hygiene rating!

2. Staff unable to confidently answer food safety questions

Staff may have done a food hygiene course a few years back and have a certificate to show for it. But what good is that, if the officer asks them basic food safety questions such as “What temperature should your fridge be?” and they can’t answer them?

Staff who regularly undergo refresher food hygiene training and where food safety quizzes and answering food safety questions are a regular part of their role will be able to answer questions with confidence, even when they are under pressure.

3. Not training staff on what to expect during an EHO inspection

In my experience, the main reason staff or business owners get nervous about their food hygiene inspection is that they don’t know what to expect. None of us like “the unknown”.

The good news is a food hygiene inspection doesn’t have to be a mystery. Most inspections follow a similar format and the officer will be assessing these three areas:

  • food safety and hygiene procedures
  • structure and cleaning
  • confidence in management/ control procedures

Training your staff on the format of a food hygiene inspection or even better conducting your own ‘in-house’ inspections will mean that the actual inspection is much less daunting for your staff.

4. Not having any staff onsite who know how to deal with the EHO

This may sound really obvious. But I’ve inspected so many businesses over the years, where I’ve turned up and received a totally blank look. Then I’ve been told there is no manager  or supervisor around or been asked to come back another time. I actually went to one business when the staff member was in such a panic, they closed the shop and left.

From the EHO’s perspective, if your business is open to customers, then there needs to be someone onsite who knows about food safety. After all, it’s important that customers receive safe food.

If staff are going to be left onsite then they need to know how to work safely and also they need to be prepared and ready for an EHO inspection. It doesn’t need to be a nasty surprise.

5. Staff ignoring the EHO

This sounds crazy, right? But it’s actually happened to me. More times than I can count. I’ve turned up to do inspections, where I’ve been totally blanked by the staff onsite. When I ask “Who’s in charge?”, I get told “We don’t know”.

If you just leave the EHO to get on with your inspection and refuse to answer any of their questions or help them, the inspection is going to go horribly wrong. They just won’t have any confidence in the way the business is being managed and you will end up with a very low food hygiene rating.

6. Staff being rude to the EHO

This again may sound crazy. But trust me, it happens.

The result: most likely a low food hygiene rating.

7. Staff telling the EHO that they don’t know anything about food safety paperwork/ where the paperwork is located

If staff are left working in a business then at least one person onsite needs to be in charge of the food safety paperwork. This means; knowing what it is, where it is and ensuring it is being completed/ followed in practice.

I’ve heard every excuse possible. Telling an EHO that food safety paperwork is not onsite because its with the accountant is simply not believable. If food safety paperwork isn’t onsite, this is very likely to impact the food hygiene rating.

Great food businesses avoid these mistakes. As a result they achieve a better food hygiene rating.

What else do you do to set your business up for success?

TL;DR

Avoid these 7 mistakes:

  1. Not training staff on how to deal with the EHO
  2. Staff unable to confidently answer food safety questions
  3. Not training staff on what to expect during an EHO inspection
  4. Not having any staff onsite who know how to deal with the EHO
  5. Staff ignoring the EHO
  6. Staff being rude to the EHO
  7. Staff telling the EHO that they don’t know anything about food safety paperwork/ where the paperwork is located

HOW TO GET YOUR

5 STAR RATING

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

FREE EBOOK!

“How to get your 5-star food hygiene rating.”

Written by Chartered Environmental Health Officer, Natalie Stanton.

Includes a 50-point inspection checklist!

Learn what the officer will be inspecting and achieve the top Food Hygiene Rating for your business.

Here's how I can help you

Get food safety training from an Environmental Health Officer (EHO). 

This is the UK’s first self-taught, online Level 2 Food Safety & Hygiene course for Catering that is created and taught by EHO, Natalie Stanton. There are no PowerPoint slides and no monotonous voiceover. In only 2 hours, Natalie guides you through the key aspects of food safety in 13 short, pre-recorded videos.