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Safe food handling tips for reopening after Covid-19
With only two weeks to go until the hospitality sector opens up again on April 12th, there are a number of things you ...
With only two weeks to go until the hospitality sector opens up again on April 12th, there are a number of things you need to keep in mind when reopening your venue in a safe manner.
We know you want to return to trading as fast as possible. For everything to go smoothly and safely, you will need to perform some extra checks that are different from the “normal” daily opening checks from back in the day.
Amongst other things, you will need to review your Food Safety Management System to identify (any new) risks and record them in your Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan. The government has issued detailed guidance for food businesses for the reopening, and there is also a government checklist you can go through to help ensure that reopening your business is a success.
With lots of info to take in, have a look at this condensed checklist that we have compiled to help you guarantee safe food handling and follow food safety guidelines, and through that, the safety of every person involved.
YOUR 9 STEP PLAN TO REOPENING YOUR FOOD BUSINESS
#1 House rules and access: customer safety
- Even though your long-awaited customers will be eating and drinking outdoors, they will still need to come inside to use the toilets and baby changing facilities. To manage visitors on your premises, create clear signposting with the important locations on them.
- It is worth putting up signs with your house rules and having your staff introduce them to customers when taking orders. You can also list the rules in your online booking system if you have one.
- Remember that all your customers need to be seated. Ordering at the bar is not permitted.
- Face coverings will be mandatory in all public areas. Customers must wear them except when seated to eat or drink.
- You will need to collect customer details using Track and Trace and display the NHS QR code posters at all entrances. Your customers must use the code or leave their contact details before they access the premises.
#2 Monitoring the health of your staff
- Check whether your staff’s health certificates need to be updated.
- Consider introducing lateral flow tests to protect your staff. If your food business has over 50 employees, you can register to receive tests for your staff who don’t have any symptoms.
- If your business has fewer than 50 employees, contact your local authority for free tests.
- Think about how to monitor staff health in the most seamless, friendly way. Communicate the plan to everyone.
#3 Staff training
It is safe to say that daily routines are no longer second nature to your staff, and they may have forgotten some of the safety expectations in the business, even if their training is technically up to date. You might also need to adopt new ways of working and make sure your staff follow the food safety guidelines in the new situation.
- Your furloughed staff most likely need a refresh on how things work safely.
- Set up and communicate the policies related to managing Covid cases in your company.
- If you are bringing new staff on board, ensure they have completed all the required training before starting, and know how to adhere to the food safety guidelines and to undertake tasks safely.
- Check whether your safety, health and safety, and fire safety training are up to date, and conduct all the necessary training before reopening.
#4 Physical space preparations
- Think through what practices you can deploy to protect your customers and staff: can you keep the doors open? (Highly recommended!) If not doors, how about windows?
- To maintain social distancing, only allow a restricted number of customers onto your premises.
- Review your table spacing, and wherever possible, introduce one-way systems for entry and exit.
- Follow the rule of 6 / two households per table.
- Check whether all your the furniture is in good order
- Conduct fire safety checks and equipment inspections. Don’t leave them to the last minute as all remedial actions need to be completed before reopening.
- Check all outdoor shelters for safety before putting them to use. All shelters need to be structurally intact and safe. It is illegal to gather indoors (even when it is raining cats and dogs), so make sure your gazebos, canopies, umbrellas and marquees are all in good working order.
- If you have not run your water systems during the closure, flush all toilets and let hot and cold water run from all the taps for at least 5 minutes. (This reduces the risk of stagnant water speeding up the growth of Legionella, the bacteria responsible for Legionnaires’ Disease.)
- See that all fire exit points are free from obstruction.
#5 Ensure appropriate cleaning and disinfecting requirements are met
- If possible, use digital tools to notify you of the cleaning and monitoring tasks. Your staff will most likely feel overwhelmed when returning to work, so extra tools can help them to ensure that nothing relating to food and hygiene gets overlooked.
- Check the performance of all the extraction fans in your toilets to make sure they are in good working order and allow air to flow.
- The cleaning of high touch areas must be carried out frequently using sanitisers and disinfectants complying with BS EN 1276.
#6 Staff safety
Frequent hand washing and cleaning of high touch areas like door handles, toilets and front of house counters will help to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
- Remind your staff how and when to effectively wash their hands. Put up posters near sinks as reminders.
- Use digital cleaning checklists if possible.
- Check whether you need to make a recurring PPE order for items your staff require daily.
#7 Safer food, better business
Following the food safety guidelines is now more important than ever.
- Confirm all your kitchen equipment is in good condition and can be turned on and off safely. Do this before your staff return to work. Turn the equipment on one at a time when conducting the initial check, followed by a full routine of your entire kitchen.
- Schedule a time to clean all the equipment properly.
- Check for evidence of pest activity. Keep an eye out for droppings on the floor, gnawed packaging, moth webbing, etc.
- Before stocking up on food and ingredients, turn your fridges and freezers on in advance to see whether they are working properly at the correct temperature.
- Check the batteries in your temperature probes and make sure the probes are providing accurate measurements.
- Consider switching to a digital platform that helps you manage all your food safety guidelines from one place.
- Make sure your staff members know that they need to wash their hands before handling clean cutlery, dishes, glasses, or other items to be used by your customers.
- Organise bin collections if you need to dispose of a large amount of expired stock.
#8 Incorporate digital technologies
Integrated systems that have everything that a food business needs for operating a fully compliant business built in - from staff training reminders and monitoring checklists to HACCP systems running correctly – will be the tools that get countless businesses back on their feet and help them to grow in 2021.
If you are not ready to make the full switch to a digital platform yet, think of these steps first:
- Can you remove the need to handle cash by switching to mobile apps?
- Do you still need printed menus or can they be made digital?
- Can you keep digital records of staff training so you have everything you need in a central location?
- Can you incorporate digital checklists for cleaning and monitoring tasks to guarantee a higher food hygiene rating for your business?
#9 Your menu
We have reached the most inspirational part – your menu. Whether your menu is the same as it used to be or whether you have completely changed it, check whether:
- Your menu descriptions are accurate.
- Your allergy information is accurate (making sure all allergen information is correctly displayed is easy and safe to do using a digital tool).
- If you are using products that have been frozen during the period of closure, make sure the food quality complies with the required standards.
YOU NEED TO HAVE A FOOD HYGIENE RATING DISPLAYED
All food operators in England, Wales and Northern Ireland need to display their food hygiene rating on their entrance door. As this is a legal requirement in Wales and Northern Ireland, and highly recommended in England, you should know how the 'scores on the doors' reflect the state of food and hygiene in your establishment.
The rating reflects the hygiene standard your venue achieved at the last inspection carried out by an Environmental Health Officer from your local council. The scheme gives businesses a rating from 5 to 0.
This is what the food hygiene ratings stand for:
5 - Hygiene standards are very good
4 - Hygiene standards are good
3 - Hygiene standards are generally satisfactory
2 - Some improvement is necessary
1 - Major improvement is necessary
0 - Urgent improvement is required
Using smart tools to guarantee safe food handling will also help your business achieve a higher food hygiene rating. Oh, and don’t forget to display your rating at an easily visible spot as it encourages trust in your customers who are eager to return and who care a lot about food and hygiene! It is your responsibility to show that your business complies with the government’s regulations. :)
MAKE THE MOST OF THE SITUATION
According to the UK Hospitality Tracker, in the second quarter of 2020, sales across the UK’s hospitality sector plummeted 87%, equivalent to almost £30bn in lost revenue. The lockdown has had an enormous impact on the industry.
The hospitality sector contributed £133.5bn to the UK economy in 2019 but in 2020, the pandemic had a disastrous impact, with lost sales of more than £53bn. It was one of the first sectors to suffer the ramifications of the full lock-down and one of the last sectors allowed to re-open.
Unless you are a very small scale producer, food manufacturing is a sector where it is impossible to work from home. You can’t package fish fingers over Zoom, right? Keeping your staff safe and taking all the required steps to make sure your manufacturing facility is a secure environment will be every food business’s priority in 2021.
Reopening your food business can be stressful. But if you know how to guarantee safe food handling and the safety of your staff, it can also be a time for opportunities, and for thinking out of the box. Bravely!
TOP 3 TRENDS FOR 2021
There are some trends that cannot be ignored any more. For example, the integration of virtual and physical inspections will keep rising. Since it renders following the food safety guidelines seamless, the digitalisation of food safety is becoming the new norm. With social distancing rules in place, audits need to be conducted online while still making sure that the food establishment has their records up to date, hygiene measures in place and all the correct checklists drawn up. This can all be checked and safe food handling achieved with digital tools.
Plant-based meals and interest in them hit an all-time high in 2020, and the trend is definitely not showing any signs of slowing down. Even countries that traditionally have predominantly meat-based cuisine have seen a rise of plant-based dishes entering the market.
Special flavours and experiences – unique artisanal products, fine dining at home, you name it - are getting everyone’s attention. It all makes sense: we have been robbed of our regular ways of experiencing life to the fullest, and are looking for and creating ways to go on taste journeys on alternative – and safer - routes.
The future is finally looking hopeful!