How to set up your own small food business

Many of us dream of working for ourselves. And, as a large proportion of the UK workforce is self employed or in a small company, it’s clear that the dream is achievable.

woman running small food businessBut, before you set up your own small business, it’s important to research the legal requirements.

If your dream business involves food, whether that’s a kiosk, a café or a restaurant, you’re going to need to know how to handle, store and serve the food that you sell.

There is an awful lot to consider – including knowing the 14 allergens list so that you can keep your customers safe.

Erudus, a company which stores and shares food- labelling information within a data pool for customers’ benefit, has helped to put together a start-up guide of key advice:

Before you start up

Whether you’re planning to start a catering business within premises or from home, a mobile or temporary food stall or a standalone café, you’ll need to register your business with the Environmental Health Service at your local authority 28 days before opening. Remember that if you have more than one premises then you’ll need to register them all, even after you have registered one under the same name.

Presentation of foods

According to The General Food Law Regulation (EC) 178/2002, any foods presented for sale within a premises should not mislead consumers, and neither should the labelling, advertising and presentation of that food. Labelling should clearly stipulate the product for sale, as well as offer any allergen information on the packaging.

Traceability

The Regulation also instructs food business operators to keep records of the foods, food substances and the food-producing animals that have contributed towards supplying the business. You will also need to state when and where you have supplied other businesses with produce, if you have done so. Keep this information safe in case you’re ever asked to show it to the authorities.

Suppliers

Your business is dependant on the reliability of a supplier, and the safety and quality of the food that they supply to you. Try to make sure that all the produce that you receive from a supplier has been stored, processed and handled safely before it is in your care, by checking it carefully once received. When food is delivered to your business consider:

  • Are chilled and frozen foods cold enough?
  • Is the packaging damaged?
  • Is it what you ordered?

If you are suspicious, you have the right to reject a delivery. It’s also a good idea to contact your supplier so they can address these issues.

Cross-contamination

Cross-contamination occurs when foods such as raw eggs, meat and poultry come into contact with cooked foods. This can happen when foods drip onto a clean surface, utensil or food product during the preparation process. Hands can also spread cross-contamination and bacteria so it’s important that they are thoroughly cleaned after handling raw food produce.

hand washingYou also need to remain aware of your customers’ health. Knowing the 14 allergens means you can always note which foods come into contact with each other to avoid allergen cross-contamination.

To help with this, foods should be stored and labelled correctly in kitchens so that it is clear where and what food is being stored at any one time. When preparing food, stick to the following rules:

  • Keep raw meat/poultry and ready-to-eat foods separate at all times, including packaging material for ready-to-eat-food.
  • Wash your hands after handling meat/poultry, fish, eggs and unwashed fruit and vegetables.
  • Clean and wash work surfaces and equipment before and when handling these foods.
  • Prepare and store allergens in different areas of a kitchen and when serving them to the public.
  • Keep raw produce below ready-to-eat food in the fridge, or in a different fridge if this is possible.
  • Attempt to educate any new members of staff to the business on cross-contamination, allergen contamination and food hygiene.

Take the next step

Although there seems like a lot to consider, with some careful preparation your well-organised kitchen and reliable procedures will help keep your business compliant.

Having your own business will be incredibly rewarding and worthwhile. Go for it…

Andrew Mills

About Andrew Mills

After graduating in a degree in English Literature from Northumbria University, I worked as an English Tutor at Cramlington Learning Village then went to Newcastle University to study a Masters Degree in Modern and Contemporary Literature while working part time in the school. During this time, I worked as a freelance contributor to the student newspaper The Courier as a reviewer of popular music, and chaired a reading group at the Newcastle City Library as part of a book club series. I am a writer, freelance reader and proof editor for Repeater Books and enjoy reading novels from the early 20th century and playing music in bands.