Opening your own bar, restaurant, café or similar in the UK
Starting up: Your first steps to running a catering business
It is very important to get things right at the start, because this will make it much easier for you to run your business well in the future.
- Where you work
Registering food premises
If you are planning to start a new catering business, you must register your premises with the environmental health service at your local authority at least 28 days before opening.
This is a legal requirement under the Food Premises (Registration) Regulations 1991 and applies to most types of food business, including catering businesses run from home, and mobile or temporary premises such as stalls and burger vans. Contact your local authority for information on how to register.
If food premises are used by several catering businesses (for example, a village hall or conference centre), the person who allows the premises to be used for this purpose is responsible for registering them. However, if you use your own premises for a catering business, you must register them, even if you use other premises too.
You might also need to register as self-employed and/or register for VAT. These registration processes are completely separate from registering your food premises.
Remember that you might need planning permission to alter premises. And you will also need to pay business rates on most premises. Contact your local authority for information on these matters.
- Rules about premises
When you choose the premises for your business, it is very important to make sure that they meet the necessary regulations are suitable for the purpose of your business allow you to prepare food safely
The following rules apply to your whole premises, not just the areas used for preparing food.
- Design and construction.
The premises you use must be designed and built in a way that allows you to keep the place clean and to work hygienically. They must also be designed to keep out pests, such as flies and rats.
- Hand washing facilities and toilets
Your premises must have enough washbasins for staff to wash their hands. (This is as well as sinks in food areas for washing food and cleaning equipment) There must also be enough toilets and these must not lead directly into food areas.
Basins for washing hands must have hot and cold running water. And you must provide soap and materials for drying hands hygienically, such as disposable towels.
- Changing facilities
You must provide adequate facilities for staff to change their clothes, where necessary.
You must make adequate arrangements for food waste and other types of rubbish to be stored and removed.
There are rules about the way certain types of food waste must be collected and disposed of. Contact your local authority for more information.
- Water supply
There must be an adequate supply of drinking water at your premises.
- Other requirements
Your premises must also have adequate ventilation, lighting and drainage.
For more information, read Food safety regulations, which is published by the Food Standards Agency, or contact the environmental health service at your local authority.
- Food preparation areas
All these rules apply to rooms where food is prepared.
- Floors, walls and surfaces
Floors and walls, and surfaces in contact with food, must be in a ‘sound condition’. They must be easy to clean and (where necessary) to disinfect.
In practice, this means that floors, walls and surfaces should be smooth, hard-wearing, washable and in a good state of repair.
Ceilings must be designed and constructed in a way that prevents condensation, build-up of dirt, moulds, and shedding of particles.
In practice, this means that ceilings should be in good condition, smooth and easy to clean, with no flaking paint or plaster.
Windows and any other openings must be designed and built in a way that prevents dirt building up. Windows that can be opened to the outside must be fitted with insect-proof screens, where necessary.
Doors must be easy to clean and, where necessary, to disinfect.
All equipment that comes into contact with food must be kept in good repair and be made in a way that allows it to be cleaned thoroughly and, where necessary, to be disinfected.
Facilities for cleaning equipment
Your premises must have adequate facilities for cleaning and disinfecting any tools, utensils and equipment used in the premises. There must be an adequate supply of hot and cold water.
- Facilities for washing food
You must have a separate sink for washing food (not the same one used for equipment and utensils) if unwrapped food is handled as part of your business. There must be an adequate supply of hot and/or cold water of drinking quality.
Always use basins and sinks for the right purpose. Staff should wash their hands in basins that are used just for washing hands. They should never wash their hands in a sink used for cleaning equipment or a sink used for washing food. Equipment should be cleaned in a sink used just for that purpose. And food should be washed in a sink used just for washing food. Remember
- Health and safety
You must work in a way that protects the health and safety of your employees and other people who might be affected by what you do. If you have five or more employees, you must have a written health and safety policy, which describes your health and safety arrangements.
For more information, see the Small Business Service publication, Small Firms: Health and Safety or contact the Health and Safety Executive at www hse.gov.uk or on 08701 545 500.
- Fire safety
You must carry out a fire risk assessment at your premises and take fire safety precautions to help protect you, your staff and customers. The type of precautions you must have will depend on a number of things, such as the size of your premises. For advice, contact your local fire authority.
If you are planning to adapt premises, it is a good idea to get fire safety advice before you start the work.
For more information, see Fire safety: An employer’s guide. You can view this publication online on the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister’s website (www odpm.gov.uk), or order it from HSE Books at www hsebooks.co.uk or on 01787 881165.
- Mobile/temporary premises
If you run a food business from mobile or temporary premises, you need to know about the same hygiene issues as other food businesses. Because space is limited, the legal requirements are slightly different and allow greater flexibility.
For more information, contact the environmental health service at your local authority. Mobile and/or temporary premises include marquees, stalls and burger vans.
If the premises you use are only used occasionally (such as village halls), the law also allows some flexibility. Remember, mobile and/or temporary premises still need to be registered – see Registering food premises.
- Staff, suppliers and transport
Recruiting and training staff
Reliable and responsible staff are important for any business. If possible, it is a good idea to recruit staff with some catering experience and/or training.
You must make sure that any member of staff who handles food has
adequate supervision, instruction and/or training in food hygiene for the work they do.
So, when you hire a member of staff, you should make sure they understand the main food hygiene issues before they start work. See the 4 Cs. And you (or the manager/supervisor) will also need to explain to them how to do their individual job hygienically.
It is a good idea for you and your staff to go on a food hygiene course. Short courses in food hygiene are available at three main levels: foundation, intermediate and advanced. National vocational qualifications (NVQs) in food preparation also cover food safety.
It is a good idea to keep a record of any training you or your staff have done, because then you will be able to show this to environmental health officers when they visit your premises. Tip Suppliers
Your choice of supplier is important because their reliability, and the safety and quality of the food they supply, could affect your business. It is especially important that the products you buy have been stored, processed and treated safely. When food is delivered, check that: it is what you ordered chilled and frozen food is cold enough (ideally below 5oC for chilled food, and below -18oC for frozen) packaging is not damaged
If you have any concerns about the safety of the delivery do not accept it, or put it on one side until you return it to the supplier. Make sure it is clearly marked to avoid staff using it accidentally.
It is a good idea to keep a record of what products you receive from which supplier. Then you will be able to contact the supplier later if there are any problems with the product.
When you transport food – perhaps from your premises to another venue, or from the cash-and-carry to your premises – you must prevent it from becoming contaminated, for example with dirt or bacteria.
It is especially important to make sure that:
food is transported in packaging or containers that protect it from contamination chilled foods are kept at the right temperature (some businesses use cool bags and boxes, or refrigerated vans) raw and ready-to-eat foods are kept apart Vehicles used to transport food must be kept clean and in good repair.
- Food hygiene
Good food hygiene is essential to make sure that the food you serve is safe to eat. And it makes good business sense because good hygiene helps prevent food poisoning and protects your reputation with customers.
When you are setting up a catering business, it is a good opportunity to introduce ways of working that will help you ensure good hygiene right from the start.
The four main things to remember for good hygiene are the 4 Cs:
Cleaning Cooking Chilling Cross-contamination
You can use the 4 Cs to help you prevent the most common food safety problems. The following sections explain how you can use each one.
Effective cleaning gets rid of bacteria on hands, equipment and surfaces. So it helps to stop bacteria from spreading onto food. You should do the following things.
Make sure that all your staff wash and dry their hands thoroughly before handling food. Clean food areas and equipment between different tasks, especially after handling raw food. Clean as you go. If you spill some food, clear it up straight away and then clean the surface thoroughly. Use cleaning products that are suitable for the job, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Do not let food waste build up.
A cleaning schedule is a good way to make sure that surfaces and equipment are cleaned when they need to be. It can also help to stop cleaning products being wasted or used incorrectly. Work out what needs cleaning every day, or more than once a day, and what needs cleaning less frequently. Your schedule should show: what needs to be cleaned who is responsible for doing the cleaning how often it needs to be done how the cleaning should be done It is a good idea to include cleaning instructions showing: what cleaning products should be used how the products should be used, including how much they should be diluted and how long they should be left in contact with the surface (following the manufacturer’s instructions) how the products should be stored (in a special place away from food) Tip
Keep dish cloths and tea towels clean and replace them frequently. Otherwise they could spread bacteria. Remember
Lack of basic cleanliness is one of the most common reasons for food businesses being prosecuted.
Thorough cooking kills harmful bacteria in food. So it is extremely important to make sure that food is cooked properly. Undercooked food could cause food poisoning.
When cooking or reheating food, always check that it is piping hot all the way through (and do not reheat more than once).
It is especially important to make sure that you thoroughly cook poultry, pork, rolled joints and products made from minced meat, such as burgers and sausages. This is because there could be bacteria in the middle of these types of meat. Proper cooking is essential to kill any bacteria, so these types of meat should not be served pink or rare.
Whole cuts (such as steaks) or joints of beef or lamb can be served pink/rare at the customer’s request.
When you are keeping cooked food hot, you must keep it above 63°C. When you are serving or displaying food, it can be below 63°C for a maximum of two hours. But you can only do this once. Then you must throw the food away, or cool it as quickly as possible and keep it chilled until it is used. Of course, different dishes need different cooking times. If you work out the temperature and time you need to cook a particular dish in your oven, you can use these settings and times to cook the dish in the future. But remember, ovens and other equipment can vary and go wrong, so you will need to check regularly that these settings and times are still right to cook dishes properly. Tip Keeping food hot
Chilling food properly stops bacteria from growing and multiplying. Some foods need to be kept chilled to keep them safe, for example food with a ‘Use by’ date, food that you have cooked and will not serve immediately, or other ready-to-eat food such as prepared salads.
It is very important not to leave these types of food standing around at room temperature. So, make sure you do the following things.
Check chilled food on delivery to make sure it is cold. Put food that needs to be chilled in the fridge straight away. Cool cooked food as quickly as possible and then put it in the fridge.
Keep chilled food out of the fridge for the shortest time possible during preparation. Check regularly that your fridge and display units are cold enough.
Cold food must be kept at 8°C or below, under the Food Safety (Temperature Control) Regulations 1995. In practice, the coldest part of your fridge should be between 0°C and 5°C to make sure that food is kept cold enough. Use a fridge thermometer to check regularly that your fridge and any display units are cold enough. Food will cool more quickly if you divide it into smaller amounts and put it in shallow dishes. Tip Keeping food cold Cross-contamination
Cross-contamination is when bacteria spread between food, surfaces or equipment. It is most likely to happen when raw food touches (or drips onto) ready-to-eat food, equipment or surfaces.
So, if raw meat drips onto a cake in the fridge, bacteria will spread from the meat to the cake.
If you cut raw chicken on a chopping board, bacteria will spread from the chicken to the board and knife. If you then use the same board and knife (without washing them thoroughly) to chop a cucumber, the bacteria will spread from the board and knife to the cucumber.
Hands can also spread bacteria. If you touch raw food and do not wash your hands thoroughly you can spread bacteria to the other things you touch.
Cross-contamination is one of the most common causes of food poisoning. Do the following things to avoid it.
Keep raw and ready-to-eat foods apart at all times. Wash your hands thoroughly after touching raw food. Clean work surfaces, chopping boards and equipment thoroughly before you start preparing food and after you have used them to prepare raw food. Ideally, use different chopping boards and knives for raw and
Keep raw food below ready-to-eat food in the fridge. If possible, use separate fridges for raw and ready-to-eat food. Make sure that your staff know how to avoid cross-contamination.
It is very important to store food properly to keep it safe. Make sure you do the following things.
Keep foods in the fridge if they need to be chilled – see Chilling.
Store raw food apart from ready-to-eat food – see Cross-contamination.
Never use food after the ‘Use by’ date, because it might not be safe to eat. If you save cooked food to be eaten later, cool it quickly, put it in the fridge and use within two days – it is a good idea to date food, using stickers you can write on, so you always know how old food is. Check food with a short shelf-life every day to make sure it is still within its ‘Use by’ date. Follow any storage instructions on food packaging. Store dried foods (such as grains and pulses) off the floor, ideally in sealable containers, to allow proper cleaning and protect them from pests. Remember the rule first in, first out to make sure that older food is used first. This will help to prevent waste. When you put food in the fridge or storeroom, make sure the foods with a sooner ‘Use by’ or ‘Best before’ date are at the front of the shelf, so they are used first. Stock rotation Inspections
Environmental health officers will inspect your premises to make sure you are following food hygiene rules. They might come on a routine inspection, or visit because of a complaint. Usually, they will not tell you in advance that they are coming.
How often your business is routinely inspected will depend on the type of business and its previous record. Some premises might be inspected at least every six months, others much less often.
The environmental health officers will offer help and advice on food safety, and can take action if they find that your standards of food hygiene are not good enough. In serious cases, action might include closing the premises or prosecution.
The Food Standards Agency leaflet, Food law inspections and your business, explains the inspection process and your rights of appeal if you are unhappy with the way an inspection has been carried out.
- Rules about menus
When you sell food or drink for people to eat or drink on the premises, you must make the prices clear, for example on a price list or menu. You must include VAT in the prices when appropriate (see Charging VAT below).
If you add a service charge (a percentage or amount), or if there is a minimum charge, you must display this with as much prominence as the other prices.
- Describing food
You must describe food and drink accurately on menus, blackboards and adverts. Any illustrations must accurately represent the food you are selling. Descriptions and illustrations must not be misleading.
Descriptions like ‘fresh’, ‘home-made’ and ‘suitable for vegetarians’ can easily be used misleadingly. Visit the Food Standards Agency website www food.gov.uk, or contact the trading standards service at
your local authority, for advice on how to make sure your descriptions do not mislead.
Products described as ‘sausages’ or ‘burgers’ on menus must contain a minimum amount of meat, by law. Contact the trading standards service at your local authority for more information.
Usually, catering businesses do not have to label food. But if the food contains ingredients that are irradiated, or derived from genetically modified (GM) soya or maize, you must say this either on a label attached to the food, on a menu, or on a notice that is easily visible to the customer.
The same rules apply to food that you pre-pack to sell direct to the customer (for example, sandwiches made and packed in advance in a sandwich bar). There are more extensive labelling rules for retailers.
Contact the trading standards service at your local authority for more information.
You must have a license to sell alcoholic drinks. To apply for a license, contact the licensing justices at your local magistrates court.
There are also rules about the quantities of beer, wine and spirits you can serve. Contact the trading standards service at your local authority for more information.
Lots of the information on this page is based on legal requirements under a range of acts and regulations. This section explains the main laws that apply specifically to food businesses in Great Britain. Similar laws apply in Northern Ireland.
Under the Food Safety Act, you must not:
sell (or keep for sale) food that is unfit for people to eat cause food to be dangerous to health sell food that is not what the customer is entitled to expect, in terms of content or quality describe or present food in a way that is false or misleading Lots of the advice in this booklet will help you to obey the Food Safety Act. For example, the 4 Cs can help you to maintain good hygiene in your business. This will help you to prevent food becoming unfit or dangerous to eat.
It is important for you to be able to show the steps you have taken to ensure good food hygiene. If you were prosecuted under the Food Safety Act 1990, there could be severe penalties. You would need to convince the court that you had taken all reasonable steps to avoid the offence you had been accused of (this is called a ‘due diligence defence’).
Food Premises (Registration) Regulations 1991
If you are planning to start a new food business, you must register your premises 28 days before opening. See Registering your food premises.
Food Safety (General Food Hygiene) Regulations 1995
These Regulations set out the basic hygiene rules that food businesses must follow in relation to staff, premises and food handling. Many of these requirements are explained in the earlier sections of this booklet.
Food Safety Regulations, a booklet published by the Food Standards Agency, contains more detailed information about the regulations.
Food Safety (Temperature Control) Regulations 1995
Temperature control is all about keeping food at a temperature that will keep it safe (whether hot or cold).. The regulations cover the following issues:
the temperature at which certain foods must be kept which foods are exempt from specific temperature control when the regulations allow flexibility In Scotland, the regulations apply slightly differently to the rest of the UK, but the principles are the same. For more information on rules in Scotland, contact the environmental health service at your local authority.
Food safety regulations, a booklet published by the Food Standards Agency, contains more detailed information on the regulations.
Have you registered your premises?
Do the design and construction of your premises meet legal requirements?
Have you considered health and safety and fire safety arrangements?
Do you and your staff understand the principles of good food hygiene?
Have you and your staff had food hygiene training?
Have you considered what food safety problems there could be at each stage of your business?
Have you put the necessary food safety procedures in place and are you making regular checks to make sure they are working?
Have you registered as self-employed?
Do you need to register for VAT?
Are you keeping records of all your business income and expenses?
Are you keeping records of your employees’ pay and do you know how to pay their tax and National Insurance contributions?
Do you describe food and drink accurately?
Do you need to apply for a license to sell alcohol?
Some of this information was referenced from website: food_gov_uk site with thanks.