There’s a lot to consider when it comes to starting a food business. As well as creating a unique and tasty product, there is a wide range of things to be aware of – from facilities, equipment and staff, to regulations, hygiene and more.
Froghop have helped many individuals and companies with both their product and their production. We’ve gathered together some tips and information to help when you’re starting a food business. Whatever stage you’re at, it makes real sense to consider these things carefully.
The right place and facilities
Style and decor is up to you, but the perfect home for creating your product must comply with strict regulations and allow you to prepare food safely (even if it is your actual home).
- adequate ventilation and drainage
- good lighting
- enough wash basins for staff to wash their hands – along with cleaning and drying materials
- separate sinks for washing food and cleaning equipment
- hot and cold running water of drinking quality
- facilities for changing clothes
- storage space for utensils and equipment
Everything must be kept clean, disinfected and maintained in good repair and condition.
Rules for food preparation areas
Every surface in the room(s) where food is prepared must be considered. This means: the floor and walls; ceilings; windows and doors and all other surfaces.
Each should be:
- maintained in a good condition
- clean and easy to clean
- free from condensation and mould
- free from flaking paint or plaster
Walls should be smooth, hard-wearing, washable and in a good state of repair.
Windows, hatches and doors must be constructed in a way that prevents the build-up of dirt. Any opening to the outside world must be fitted with insect-proof screens which can be removed for cleaning.
Keep equipment in great condition
Whether you select cutting-edge or old-school tools to help you with your products, all equipment must be kept in good order, repair and condition. Anything that touches food must be cleaned effectively and disinfected frequently enough to avoid contamination.
Dealing with food waste
With creation comes waste, particularly where food is concerned, so it’s vital to have adequate facilities for its storage and disposal. What’s more, you should remove food waste and other rubbish as soon as practicable to avoid build-up and attracting pests.
Which leads us to…
In the food industry, the three main groups of pests are:
Make sure to check regularly for signs that pests are invading: damaged packaging; droppings; live or dead insects. Research pest contractors and have a list of contacts on hand. A speedy response will be crucial if you want to limit the damage of an infestation. Investing in pest-proof packaging is a sensible precaution and may save you money in the long-run. However, it will still be prudent to keep up your checks as a matter of course.
Remember health and safety
Understandably, food production is subject to more stringent hygiene and health and safety rules than most other sectors. You must have a written health and safety policy if you have five or more employees, but it’s also good practice to have one if you have fewer than that. Remember, it’s your responsibility to make sure your team are trained to operate equipment and conduct themselves with safety in mind.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has developed a guide to help small and medium sized businesses understand health and safety. You can access it here: H&S ABC – An easy guide to health & safety.
No matter the kinds of food you create, you must carry out a fire risk assessment and then take appropriate fire safety precautions to help protect those working in and using your premises.
If you plan to adapt your premises, it’s a good idea to get fire safety advice before you start the work. You can get advice from your local fire authority and for more information, see the fire and explosion pages of the Health and Safety Executive website.
Registering your business
You must register your food business with your local authority at least 28 days before opening. It’s non-negotiable but the good news is it’s free. Registration will apply to all types of food businesses that serve customers directly and also if you prepare, cook, store, handle or distribute food. Companies involved with food distribution or food supply operating from an office should also register as food businesses. This applies even if no food is kept at the premises.
There are a few exceptions including food businesses that make, prepare or handle meat, fish, egg or dairy products for supply to other businesses who may require approval by a local authority rather than just registration.
The food hygiene rating scheme
Once registered, you may be inspected by your local authority. Getting a top rating (5) in the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme is an important way to secure customer confidence so it pays to make sure everything is ship-shape.
Useful links for starting a food business
- Food and Drink Federation – the voice of the UK food industry
- Food Standards Agency – wide range of food safety guides and information
- FSA’s Food Hygiene Ratings – useful site where you can look-up food hygiene ratings for businesses in England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland.
- The Institute of Food Science & Technology – the UK’s leading professional body for those involved in all aspects of food science and technology.
- Department for Business, Innovation & Skills – wide range of business information and support
- Health & Safety Executive – specific information for food manufacturing businesses