A new independently-verified COVID safety standard for hospitality businesses has been launched to supercharge consumer confidence in the sector as it reopens.

The Safe to Trade Scheme works with outlets to ensure that their premises and teams are COVID compliant, going beyond government guidelines to help them deliver the safety measures that consumers have stated that they want to see in venues. It has been developed by an expert team of Safety Practitioners at Shield Safety Group (SSG), alongside an independent Governance Board of the UK’s leading food safety scientists and professionals.

The Scheme is underpinned by an industry-led safety charter that not only helps the UK hospitality industry to trade safely but also aims to supercharge consumer confidence and get customers back through the doors. It enables a safe reopening, with ongoing COVID-19 checks and monitoring, allowing a business to demonstrate a commitment to trading safely, while encouraging customers and staff to independently feedback on safety performance.

Other features of the Safe to Trade Scheme include an advice line, eLearning and each individual outlet on the scheme is accredited against a safety charter built by a best in class expert board. It also combines remote risk assessment data-capture and remote audits with Shield Safety Group’s award-winning compliance software c/o an app. This enables a robust, rapid process protecting all parties.

The Scheme has been designed with the visibility of venue compliance in mind and, as well as providing window stickers and certificates, it delivers a searchable database of compliant members. Once a venue achieves approved status it is listed on the Public Register, and its ongoing performance is then monitored and kept up-to-date via anonymous customer and employee feedback on the Safe to Trade Scheme website.

The Public Register creates a unique feedback and ratings loop that encourages outlets to adjust and adapt their practices to ensure that their business stays compliant while continuing to thrive. It can also be provided to regulators to assist with the requirement to risk rate businesses for official visits and manage their focus on non-compliant businesses.

Members of the Scheme can be confident their business is complying with the law and will receive protection from COVID-19 related enforcement action, as it has assured advice status. This is very important when regulators have different views on what a business should be doing to achieve compliance.

Those who meet the standard are then awarded a certificate and window sticker to visually reassure customers that it is COVID-secure and more and are listed on the Public Register, designed to be a searchable database to help consumers and local authorities identify venues that have been approved as Safe to Trade.

Feedback by customers and employees is also actively encouraged for continual improvement and can be posted anonymously on the Safe to Trade website. This provides a unique feedback and ratings loop that encourages outlet managers and owners to adjust and adapt their practices, ensuring that their business stays COVID compliant and continues to thrive.

Safe to Trade is spearheaded by SSG, alongside a Governance Board of top-ranking industry experts, including John Barnes, the ex-Head of Local Delivery at Food Standards Agency; Geoffrey Podger, the former CEO of the Health and Safety Executive and Food Standards Agency; Dr John Holah, the ex-Head of Food Hygiene Department at Camden BRI; Sterling Crew, the ex-Technical Director at manufacturers Peter Black and Kolak Snack Foods and Mark Flanagan, CEO of Shield Safety Group (SSG).

Mark Flanagan who heads up the Safe to Trade Body’s Governance Board explains: “The hospitality industry has been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the next six to 12 months businesses in the sector are going to have to re-think how they engage with and reassure their loyal customers, if they are to quickly start to regain lost revenue.”

Shield Safety Group is a leading provider of health, safety and risk management services including food safety, fire safety, Assured Advice, consultancy services and software solutions.