FOOD hygiene is vital in the hospitality industry and should be given top priority if operators do not want to risk damaging their reputation and business, say experts.
Customers are increasingly turning to online sites where reviews are published and if the premises are unhygienic customers will quickly get to know about it and vote with their feet.
To combat bad online reviews, trainers say staff must be aware of what is expected under food hygiene and health and safety legislation.
Mark Hogan, marketing manager of Foodservice Equipment Marketing (FEM), said a business’s margins and reputation could be badly affected by negative customer feedback.
“Stringent hygiene standards should be given high priorities in any business,” he said.
“No operation wants bad press.
“The reality is that good hygiene practices are essential and should be taken seriously.”
In addition to social networking and online review sites, customers now have more ways to find out about operators’ premises and food and hygiene standards.
It means establishments can have their reputation ruined by one bad review.
Beyond that, reports from official bodies are also made public.
Brian Auld, director of professional development at The Royal Environmental Health Institute of Scotland (REHIS), said many local authorities have introduced the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme where inspection results are publicly displayed by the business.
“This scheme provides assurances to the standards of food hygiene found on the date of inspection and potential customers can look up participating businesses to see how well they are complying with legal requirements for food hygiene,” he said.
“This will undoubtedly impact on consumer choices to visit or use particular establishments.”
The effects of a bad inspection, he said, should not be taken lightly and can impact badly on a business if enforcement action is necessary.
“Both local and national media tend to take an interest when any enforcement action has been taken by environmental health officers against food-related businesses.
“This can have a devastating impact on a food business with many often closing as it is hard to prove to the public that improvements have been made.”
Ensuring food-handling staff are trained to understand their responsibilities is vital.
But training must be geared to the specific employee to ensure it is relevant, according to Frazer Grant, CEO of ABV Training.
“What is important here is that the training given is relevant to what that member of staff is being expected to do,” said Grant. “For example, you wouldn’t need to make a waitress do a level 3 or 4 food safety qualification run over three and five days respectively, they may be okay to do a qualification via e-learning.”
For pub and restaurant operators with more than one site, the specialists said it’s important there is a consistent cleaning rota across all venues, with the same products used throughout the estate.
Experts advised “consistent cleaning products” are used across all sites and training introduced to ensure all staff know what is required to meet health and safety standards.
Peter Alsworth, chemical sales director at cleaning products firm Winterhalter, said: “Having an agreed cleaning regime and a structured range of products in place makes life easier, especially for businesses with multiple sites.
“Where staff regularly transfer between sites, consistency is easier to maintain and less training is required.
“Training on cleaning techniques is important, as staff will use domestic cleaning products at home and need to understand that the chemicals used in the hospitality industry are much stronger and require careful handling.”
Food hygiene isn’t the only important issue to tackle in the kitchen, however.
General health and safety can also cause problems for businesses if standards are not maintained.
Louise Ramsay of DG Training said some of the biggest health and safety issues in hospitality include slips, trips, falls, burns and correct lifting techniques.
“The main pitfalls include the risk of accidents and injury to staff, visitors and members of the public,” said Ramsay.
“This can lead to fines and compensation claims from those affected.
“There also tends to be a higher turnover of staff in establishments where health and safety is not up to standard, leading to lower productivity and profits.”
And while staff training on health and safety is essential, there’s no reason it has to be dull, according to Mark Pauley, director of Safety Training Scotland.
“Health and safety training can be perceived by many to be ‘boring’ and a ‘box-ticking exercise’,” said Pauley.
“Good health and safety training is far from this and your staff should find it useful, informative and engaging.
“Managers, supervisors and head-chefs should also be encouraged to deliver regular ten-minute ‘tool-box talks’ to staff on health and safety issues.
“These short discussions on a regular basis with staff can be just as useful to staff as formal training.”
Pauley recommended operators take a look at the Health and Safety Executive website (hse.gov.uk/catering) for some easy guidance on health and safety.
1. Ensure you have accredited training for staff
2. Introduce an HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point)-based food safety management system
3. Maintain a consistent cleaning rota
4. Have management regularly check environment and systems