Your First Steps in Opening a Food

Are you thinking of opening a food outlet in the United Kingdom? If so, there any a number of important issues to address at the outset. If you do not get these right to begin with, you could end up with problems in the future.

Even before operating out of your premises, it is compulsory to register with the Environmental Health Service Department of your Local Authority. You must register at least twenty-eight days before opening a food outlet and it is free to register. Registration is obligatory whether you are running a catering business from home, a restaurant franchise or temporary premises such as mobile catering vans or market stalls and each individual outlet must be registered. Sometimes premises may be used by more than one catering venture, such as a conference centre or a community hall. In these cases, it is the responsibility of the owner of the premises to register them. Registering on line with the Environmental Health Service when opening a food outlet is now possible with many Local Authorities. Other Local Authorities require the form to be posted, faxed or emailed, although application downloads is now nearly always available.

There are other important tasks to carry out before opening a food outlet. You will have to think about registering for Valued Added Tax (VAT) and might also need to register as self-employed and you will probably have to pay business rates. You will need to keep accurate records of all your income and expenditure. Also note that you might need planning permission from your Local Authority if you will be making changes to your premises. The design and construction of your premises must meet legal requirements with regard to health and safety and also fire regulations. You must ensure that all your food and drink is described honestly and accurately. For example, if you describe your food or drink as organic, fair trade or free range, you must ensure that your goods are indeed as described. If you plan to sell alcohol you will need to apply for the appropriate licence from your council. Permission will also be needed if you plan to sell hot food after eleven at night and you may need an entertainment licence if you plan to host live acts.

Also very important when opening a food outlet is to ensure that you and your staff have received appropriate training and understand the principles of good food hygiene, in order to prevent food poisoning. Food safety management procedures will need to be set up and adhered to and accurate records of these will need to be kept. If you are employing paid staff, you must keep records of their pay and ensure that the correct tax and National Insurance contributions are paid. You will need to contact your council with regard to sorting out waste and recycling collection and ensure that any local byelaws are adhered to.