As lockdown restrictions are easing up in England and Scotland, and foodservice businesses are able to serve customers in outdoor areas once again, many business owners are hoping that the hospitality industry can recover as quickly as possible, as could be observed in February for the construction industry, that was able to bounce back once suspended projects were given the green light to resume.
While service remains limited and indoor service is not yet permitted, the news has come as a huge relief for foodservice businesses that haven’t been able to operate for several months. As some premises are getting ready to open their doors once again, it is the perfect opportunity for business owners to perform a series of checks that will not only ensure they can safely welcome staff and customers again, but also ascertain that no issue will prevent them from flipping that open/close sign on the big day.
Premises that have not served for weeks or months should be thoroughly cleaned before activities can resume. This is of course particularly important during this pandemic but should always be a priority to ensure food safety standards are respected.
Prepare a cleaning schedule to make sure all equipment and surfaces are cleaned regularly. You will also need to set up a system to track what has been cleaned and when – all staff will have to be fully aware of any processes so they can put them in place.
Cleaning products should be appropriate for food preparation activities and meet the requirements of British Standards BS EN 1276 or BS EN 13697 – always check the label before using any disinfectant to verify that the product is suitable. You can find a comprehensive list of products online, but always double-check information is up to date with your supplier or on the manufacturer’s website if available.
As most equipment will have been turned off and left unused for a while, it’s important to check that everything is running as expected before re-opening.
Any equipment used to keep food chilled or frozen (i.e. freezers, chilled display units, fridges) should be allowed to reach the required temperature before stocking them. You may have to take several measurements apart to verify that temperature can be maintained to store food safely. At this point, some maintenance may be done on equipment that has been inactive for a long time.
Other equipment used to prepare food should also be checked once cleaned so that maintenance can be done or recalibration carried out as necessary. Any dishwashers should run empty before first use, so they can be cleaned and ensure they are performing as intended.
Check plumbing and water
Clean water is essential to running a food service business. After months of inactivity, it is crucial to perform a full review of the kitchen and customer facilities. Start by running water in all sinks to ensure that there are no blockages. Any residue left in the pipes can dry up, causing such blockages, which is why it is important for hospitality businesses to properly dispose of any food leftovers to reduce the waste going into pipes as much as possible. Business owners are also responsible for safely disposing of FOGs (fats, oils, grease) as these can merge into fatbergs, huge masses of waste that can cause massive disruptions in the sewers system and cost the UK around £100m a year.
Don’t forget to check customer bathroom facilities to ensure toilets are still flushing as normal and sinks are also free of blockages.
Leaks can prevent businesses from opening and can prove costly if left unchecked. They can cause water pressure issues as well as physical damage to pipes, walls or ceilings. Check the premises for any obvious signs of water damage or leak. Particularly low pressure in your boiler system could also be a sign that water is escaping from cracks or holes, so it’s worth keeping an eye on it. If your water bills are increasing for no obvious reason, this could be yet another sign of a leak.
Foodservice businesses should also remember that the water market is open to competition, so if you’re looking to benefit from higher standards of service or cheaper tariffs, you can choose who your provider is and switch business water supplier if you think it is worth it.
Notify your local authority
Finally, business owners should remember that any change in activity should be reported to their local authority or council. This means that businesses operating as takeaway/delivery only planning to reopen terraces should notify their local authority before doing so to check that the business is correctly registered.
The government has published guidance on how to work during coronavirus safely, so it’s worth taking the time to review these regularly as they are updated.
Note that England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all have different rules.