How to achieve a 5 star food hygiene rating

Blog banner with summary of this guide on how to achieve a 5 star food hygiene rating

Some dream of Hollywood, but you dream of that coveted 5 star food hygiene rating. And guess what? We can make your dream come true! Don’t fear the Evil Queen (or Environmental Health Officer) and their Poisonous Apple (inspection checklist), because this blog will share classic mistakes to avoid and tips on how best to prepare for your next inspection. Got the Snow White metaphor? Good, you can call us your Prince Charming. 😉

Food safety is a complex and constantly evolving operational system. So, whether you run a single-site fish and chip shop or a campus with multiple food outlets, there is a lot to consider for your next inspection. This blog will crack open all the secrets of how to achieve a 5 star food hygiene rating. Specifically, we will show you the importance of switching to digital food safety to impress your EHO. Ready to get that 5 star food hygiene certificate?

Food hygiene ratings: what you need to know first

The basics

Food hygiene rating schemes serve as a guide for businesses and customers to help them make more informed decisions. Also known as the scores on the doors, they represent the food safety standards set by your local authority. Consequently, an Environmental Health Officer (EHO) can unexpectedly visit your premises to check you are compliant. Then, they will award you a final hygiene rating.

Hygiene ratings range between 0 and 5

Ranging from 0 (worst) to 5 (best), food hygiene ratings ensure it’s safe to eat at your premises. With a score of 0, you must take immediate action to solve the flagged food safety issues. In fact, you will be asked to stop services until it’s all resolved. Also, expect more inspections in the following 28 days.

A score of 1 or 2 will be considered as a fail. Similarly, quick action is required or your business could be threatened to close down. Once more, act promptly as your business is likely to be reinspected every 6 to 12 months until considered as safer.

Finally, a score between 3 and 5 is seen as a pass. 

Images of the different food hygiene ratings you can get

Breakdown of scores to better understand how to achieve a 5 star food hygiene rating

Confused about your food hygiene rating report? We know, it’s a bit tricky! While you need to aim for as high as possible on the final score, you want the lowest grade possible on each separate criteria. The 3 criteria of your food hygiene report are:

  • Food hygiene practices (how the food is handled, stored, etc.)
  • Structure & condition of the premises
  • Confidence in management & documentation

So, for each criteria you will receive a grade between 0-25 and 0-30. And precisely here, you want to have the lowest score possible. In fact, a 5 star food hygiene rating will be awarded when you score no more than 5 in each inspection criteria.

Breakdown of each criteria that makes up your hygiene rating
Breakdown of final score criteria that makes up your hygiene rating

Classic mistakes to avoid to achieve a 5 star food hygiene rating

The example of a multi-site campus 🎓

This blog takes the example of a university with 2 campuses and multiple food outlets. These include cafés, restaurants, catered halls, event catering and more. In fact, food is provided to more than 15,000 students and staff, daily! In addition, there is a great team of 100+ members. Together, they provide exceptional food while guaranteeing 5 star food hygiene. Here’s the team to know about for this example:

  • Toby: Catering Services Manager
  • Abigail: North Campus Food Safety Manager
  • Charlotte: South Campus Food Safety Manager
  • Dan: Chef North Campus
  • Byron: Chef South Campus

The team is especially proud of their 5 star food hygiene rating. Wondering how they got there? This is the story we’re about to share. Enjoy!

The campus catering services team that will serve as an example in this blog

First mistake: focusing only on food safety 🍔

To land that sweet 5 star food hygiene certificate, you must look at the bigger picture! Indeed, it’s quite easy to have a reactive attitude to food safety. It’s all about being proactive and focusing on more than just food hygiene. In fact, your EHO will assess the following 3 areas to decide on your final food hygiene rating: 

  • How hygienically the food is prepared, handled and stored;
  • The condition and structure of the premises;
  • Management of food safety and documentation.

Put simply, a clean kitchen top and good ventilation won’t suffice to get a 5 star food hygiene rating. Your EHO will carefully analyse the premises, pathways for staff, ventilation, pest control and more! All relevant documentation should be available and up-to-date to act as evidence of a well and safely managed food business.

💡 Campus catering example:

Toby, our Catering Services Manager, ensures that these 3 criteria are proactively managed. Workflows are in place to guarantee that food is hygienically handled in all food outlets. In addition, all outlets are well maintained and structured for staff to operate safely. Finally, Toby keeps all relevant documents & evidence centralised in one digital platform. That way, he’s ready to proudly and easily display all of this every time an EHO visits one of the campuses.

Second mistake: missing paperwork and evidence 🧾

Your EHO will assess your overall food safety management system, and record-keeping is essential! There’s a difference of weight between the 3 criteria that make up your overall food hygiene rating. Did you notice that? Your grade for confidence in food management and relevant documents is actually the most heavily weighted criteria! So no paperwork can be left behind to maximise your chances of getting a 5 star food hygiene certificate. 

Ensure that the following documents haven’t expired and are safely stored and quickly accessible at all times:

  • Checklists (food hygiene, opening/closing, cleaning routines, etc.)
  • Staff training certificates (if relevant – set reminders for expiry dates!)
  • Equipment maintenance certificates (set alerts for expiry dates!)
  • HACCP & safety procedures

💡 Campus catering example:

Abigail & Charlotte, our respective North and South campus managers, use Navitas Safety to digitally store all paperwork. This allows them to instantly access any document to impress any EHO visiting. That way, the EHO leaves the premises with peace-of-mind. Abigail & Charlotte can proudly say that all of their food outlets on campus display an incredible 5 star food hygiene certificate on their doors!

Third mistake: how an inefficient food safety management system prevents you from getting a 5 star food hygiene rating 📉

On average, 1/7 takeaways and 1/13 restaurants fail their food hygiene inspections because they are dirty or have poor procedures in place.

Continuously review and improve your overall food safety management system. Even a small food hygiene faux-pas could rob your chances of getting a 5 star food hygiene rating. In fact, your EHO will check that your food business has a systemic approach to managing food safety. Therefore, they will need to feel confident that your policies and workflows guarantee flawless food safety for staff and customers. So regularly review and update your procedures and HACCP, and specifically:

  • How your team identifies potential food safety hazards;
  • The way they control such hazards;
  • Finally, how they eliminate them.

Feeling a bit rusty? We crafted a guide on how to build a strong food safety management system.

💡 Campus catering example:

Head chef’s Dan & Byron remind us of classic safety blind spots and mistakes that cost them a poor hygiene rating in the past:

  • Food supplier traceability: check your supplier’s own HACCP, labelling & storage practices. Ensure clear communication workflows to avoid bad repercussions on your catering services’ reputation.
  • Staff training: even if it’s not mandatory to have official training with certificates, it will definitely improve your chances of landing a 5 star food hygiene rating.
  • Waste management: Dan & Byron have effective waste management digital checklists now to ensure flawless safety and avoid cross-contamination and pest issues. 

How to achieve a 5 star food hygiene rating with digital food safety

Image of a 5 star food hygiene rating

Every chef has a special sauce or spice that makes their signature dish so special. And so does every catering and operations manager! We’ve heard the very best of them call it digital food safety. It saves them so much time by delegating all the ‘dirty’ work to technology. In the meantime, they can focus on the bigger picture… Curious? You’re in the right place! Here’s how modernising food safety processes helps you land that (very) sweet 5 star food hygiene rating! 🌟

Hassle-free and time-saving digital checklists

Example of a digital checklist to help you get a 5 star hygiene rating

Checklists are an inherent part of a foodservice teams’ daily routine. Still, they add up quickly and can be stressful to complete. And not only do they use a lot of paper, but they are also time-consuming! Do you remember that ‘confidence in management’ is the most heavily weighted criteria of your EHO inspection? Therefore, being able to confidently show all documents and checklists within seconds is key! Truly, this is where digital checklists are a real asset to maximise your chances of getting a 5 star hygiene certificate.

With Navitas Safety you can create 100% digital checklists. Opening/closing checks, cleaning routines, food sampling checklists – create anything you want! Then you can choose the frequency and set reminders. Finally, top it up with customised approval workflows. And voilà! Perfectly smooth food safety processes to impress your EHO. 😌

💡 Campus catering example:

Toby (our campus catering manager), can access any food safety and health & safety checklist from the online platform. In fact, he can visualise what’s due, late and complete! The colour-coded traffic light system gives him quick insights of all ongoing safety checks across all food outlets and sites. Likewise, Abigail & Charlotte can also visualise their respective campuses’ checklists. Oh! Abigail just received an alert 📱 about a late weekly deep cleaning checklist for the main campus restaurant! The win? It took her a few seconds to act rather than spending hours finding the paperwork and visiting the campus. Easy!

Did you know about our FREE pre-inspection checklist?

Automated freezer & fridge temperature monitoring for a 5 star hygiene rating

Manually checking and recording appliance temperatures is time-consuming. Frankly, your chefs and cooks would prefer to focus on their culinary passion and customers! Hence delegating all the ‘dirty work’ to technology can truly transform your teams’ food safety routines. Setting up a system of automated and wireless freezer & fridge temperature monitoring devices is a way to work smarter in commercial kitchens. In fact, we call them Smart Pods here at Navitas Safety!

Once placed in your fridges, freezers, hot hold and/or chilled cabinets, they automatically check temperatures every 30 minutes, 24/7. In other words, you don’t have to manually check temperatures ever again! All temperatures are automatically logged into the system with a colour-coded system that will alert your teams when needed. That way, you can quickly see for yourself – and show your EHO! – how everything is in control. 

💡 Campus catering example:

Smart Pods are Dan’s and Byron’s favourite go-to safety tool. Both chefs can remotely visualise all fridge and freezer temperatures without the need to be on site. That saves them (and their teams) so much time! Indeed, they simply let the system run in the background while they delight their students with nutritious meals and/or enjoy their time off without worrying. 🧡

Digital food probes to avoid human error

Digital food probes to achieve a 5 star food hygiene rating

In the same way, checking food temperatures is time consuming for teams, yet it is a central food safety element to ensure a 5 star food hygiene rating! So, equipping teams with digital food probes is a simple switch to save time and reduce human error. How?

First, all food safety guidelines (HACCP) and menu information are uploaded into the digital probes. That way, staff always know what to do and no mistakes can be made. In addition, all temperature data is automatically logged into the system! So there’s no need for staff to manually record temperatures on a pile of papers!

Finally, the digital food probes have a camera to capture any evidence, with all pictures digitally stored in the system. This is perfect to reassure your EHO that all the evidence is available if needed.

💡 Campus catering example:

Abigail is an absolute fan of the Smart Probes. In fact, it has revolutionised the way her team works on North Campus’ food outlets. Indeed, during an EHO visit she creates special logins so that the inspector can access all food temperature data and evidence. On top of that, Abigail doesn’t need to run from one food outlet to another! She can simply visualise all temperatures within a glance from her tablet or mobile. Also, Dan and the other chefs on campus have noticed a great increase in overall confidence within their teams thanks to the handy digital food probes. 🙌

Finally, food safety software for 360º visibility on all processes

Dashboard of our food safety software to help you improve your hygiene ratings

Managing food safety across one or multiple outlets can become seriously complicated without the right tool. In order to get a 5 star food hygiene rating, having a full visual of all food safety processes is essential. So, how can you stay on top of everything?  Let food safety software become your eyes and ears! Visualise all day-to-day safety tasks within one platform with real-time insights. That way, nothing slips through the cracks! Similarly to your car’s dashboard, food safety software gives you all the commands and visuals you need to be compliant 24/7. Find out more here!

💡 Campus catering example:

The campus catering teams couldn’t imagine their lives without Navitas Safety’s food safety software. Specifically for Toby, the live dashboard of day-to-day food safety tasks truly gives him complete confidence. Thanks to dynamic filtering (due/late/done), both campus managers Abigail & Charlotte can stay organised with flawless food safety standards. And with limitless reporting capabilities, both site managers automate weekly reports to themselves and Toby, the Catering Manager. In addition, Byron & Dan, our chefs from each campus, use the software to manage suppliers and trace ingredients from goods-in to plate. Smooth and efficient food safety management, really!

Did you know 94% of Navitas Safety’s partners who switched to digital food safety have achieved a 5 star food hygiene rating? 🌟

We’d love to hear about your needs and food safety routines. Perhaps we can help make your life a little bit easier? We can’t wait to help you achieve (or maintain!) that lovely milestone of a 5 star food hygiene certificate.

Fancy more cool stories about the superpower of digital food safety on hygiene ratings?

Leicester College saves 264 hours of manual work thanks to digital food safety! Read more about how Richard Plummer, Commercial Catering Services Manager, saves time and money across its 3 campuses. And that, while guaranteeing excellent food safety standards to 25,000+ staff and students.

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