The new year is often seen as a fresh start for many. New year’s resolutions, busy gyms, dry January… it’s an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and repair any past issues; a period of reflection and improvement.

The same goes for food hygiene ratings, or ‘Scores on the Doors’. These ratings are more important than ever, with 84% of people being aware of the hygiene standards in places they eat out at.

A good hygiene rating will build credibility and attract loyal regulars, giving first time visitors the confidence to try something new. But a bad rating? It can be isolating and alienating for your customer base, many who will feel let down by the overall poor dining experience, and lack of cleanliness and organisation in your kitchen.

For some quick fixes and best practice advice, read our ‘7 tips for a cleaner kitchen’ blog.

The cost of a zero rating

‘Scores on the Doors’ are not designed to make life difficult or damage reputations, but rather to ensure that customers are protected when purchasing consumable goods.

There can be significant consequences for food outlets that are awarded low food hygiene score and do not take action. If a restaurant gets a ‘2’ or below, it points to serious failings within the kitchen’s internal processes, and things urgently need to change. The lowest score that a site can be awarded is a zero, and that’s a huge red flag for both the council and the consumer.

“To get a zero, there would be things like cross-contamination between raw meat and ready-to-eat products, pest infestations, it really is the worst level of compliance and they are very few and far between”, said Peter Cole, Environmental Health Officer at Pembrokeshire council told the BBC.

Being awarded such a poor score shows the world that even basic food hygiene techniques are not being observed. At risk is not only the site’s reputation and a significant loss of business earnings, but owners that repeatedly ignore warnings and have continued violations risk fines and even jail time.

It doesn’t stop there. Apps like Deliveroo and Uber Eats have revolutionised the takeaway industry over the past few years, opening the door to a whole new revenue stream for restaurants and cafes that previously didn’t have a takeaway option for customers.

However, after increased criticism that they were promoting low food hygiene standards and not holding their featured restaurants to account, both platforms tackled the issue head-on, and banned any food outlet that received a poor food hygiene rating.

Uber had this to say about the matter, “Uber Eats takes food hygiene very seriously. Any restaurant found to have a food hygiene rating lower than two will be immediately removed from the Uber Eat’s app.”

“We work closely with the FSA to make sure we have the best possible processes in place.”

So, restaurants are at risk of losing their income from delivery apps once they have received that low rating. Once discovered, Uber Eats will disable your account and ultimately kick you off the platform if urgent improvements aren’t made. But why even let it get to that stage? With support from Shield Safety Group, it’s easy to ensure that both your revenue streams and reputation stay intact.

Setting the record straight

The impact that a low hygiene score can have on your business is far greater than the steps needed to improve the food hygiene discrepancies, particularly with the help of an expert consultancy. Food safety compliance doesn’t have to be a huge headache or very expensive, it simply provides a guiding hand to support any hygiene improvements you need to make.

Here at Shield Safety Group, we work with companies that have received a poor food hygiene score and have reached out to us for the necessary support to build their rating back up. We also help businesses that want to remove any ambiguity around their food hygiene, and want to protect their rating, and ultimately their business, from prosecution. Companies like Tesco, Revolution Bars and Yo!Sushi are all under our advisory. One client that has made huge progress since partnering with us is Flaming Cow.

Flaming Cow came to Shield Safety Group with a mission. Their food hygiene rating had decreased after expanding to two locations, and keeping up with multi-site general compliance was becoming a headache. This overstretching of the staff, alongside an out-of-date Food Safety Management System, had meant their ranking had tanked at their most recent Food Hygiene Inspection.

After working together with Shield Safety Group, the Flaming Cow team were excited to announce a vast improvement in their latest visit from an Environmental Health Officer. They went from a 1 to a 5 and continue to work with us to maintain that score, and to support and train their staff.

It’s worth remembering that any food outlet that receives a zero or a one must make urgent improvements to their food hygiene standards, within a given time period set by the Environmental Health Officer. The council can use a number of enforcement options to ensure this is followed up, including surprise visits, and ultimately closure of the business if there is a risk to public health.

You’ve had a bad food hygiene rating. Now what?

For one reason or another, you’ve had a bad Food Hygiene Rating. And believe us, we’ve heard every reason in the book. Ultimately, all we care about is the best way to move forward, and you’ve already done that by reading this blog. Now all you need to do is contact us.

The next step is to establish exactly what area you are being marked down, and this can be done with a food safety audit. An experienced Environmental Health Practitioner will come to your business, review your current processes and advise you on what is required to significantly and advise you on the processes needed to significantly raise your Food Hygiene Rating. Whatever steps they recommend will be tailored to your working environment and delivered though our award-winning Compliance Centre software.

Once we are confident that the necessary steps have been completed, Shield Safety Group also offer a ‘re-rate’ service to get your business back on track. Our reputation and good working relationship with councils means that we can advise you every step of the way through the process and can encourage the council to come and re-rate your location. The sooner that poor score is in the past, the better.

Another popular way for our customers to ensure they keep their hygiene scores high, is through training. We offer a wide range of food hygiene courses, both eLearning and classroom-based in Level 1 – 4, to help keep staff up to date with specific business needs and guarantee best performance.

Moving forward

Even after the bad rating has been fixed, some customers are still wary of places that have previously slipped so far. That’s why it’s important to never take the hit in the first place and keep a consistent log of all relevant kitchen activities.

Once everything is sorted, shout about it! There’s no hiding anymore. Post about it on social media, include your Food Hygiene Rating on flyers, emails, and don’t forget to put your score on the door. It’s a great achievement to have a 5 rating and is proof to customers that you value their experience and health.

So why start off the new year with the hassle and stress of a poor food hygiene rating? Contact Shield Safety Group today and make 2020 the year that you finally hit 5 star.