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The impact of poor food hygiene on London restaurants

London is world-renowned for the range and diversity of its food businesses, with hundreds of new restaurants, cafés and takeaways launching every year. Diners can choose from a huge array of cuisines from around the world, from Michelin starred restaurants to neighbourhood cafés.

However, a large number of these businesses are putting their continued survival at risk through poor food hygiene. Analysis by Checkit of Food Standards Agency (FSA) data found that 5,168 London restaurants, cafés, canteens, mobile caterers, pubs, takeaways, sandwich shops and hotels had Food Hygiene Ratings of two or below. This means they fall within the FSA categories ‘improvement necessary, ‘major improvement necessary’ or ‘urgent improvement necessary’.

Running a food business in London is already difficult, with demanding customers, high rents and stiff competition meaning that many restaurants don’t survive for longer than a year. Essentially, 13% of all London food businesses require hygiene improvements and this will only accelerate their demise as customers choose to dine elsewhere.

Checkit found that 61% of consumers say they won’t eat at a restaurant, takeaway, coffee shop or pub that has a low Food Hygiene Rating while three quarters (75%) say they wouldn’t risk dining at a restaurant that had been implicated in a food hygiene incident, even if recommended by someone that they trust. So, those 5,000+ restaurants face losing over 60% of their customers – hardly the perfect recipe for success.

The local view
London covers 30+ separate boroughs, and analysing the FSA data shows huge discrepancies between them. In Newham nearly a third (31%) of food businesses require improvement – yet in the boroughs of Bexley and Kensington and Chelsea the figure is just 5%. The statistics for takeaways and sandwich shops in Newham make particularly worrying reading – 51% score two or below. That means you are more likely to go to a takeaway in the borough with a poor food hygiene rating than not – and given that 64% of consumers say they’d avoid takeaways with low food hygiene ratings, this will have a major impact on the sector’s revenues and individual business survival.

Other noticeably poor boroughs for food hygiene were Islington (with 24% of businesses having low ratings), Harrow and Havering (both with 22%), Ealing (20%) and Lewisham (19%).

The findings demonstrate that food hygiene is now the number one priority for consumers when dining out. Checkit’s consumer research also found that diners would rather put up with poor service from rude and unhelpful staff than eat at dirty restaurants. 66% of respondents rated unclean or dirty premises as the first or second reason for not returning to a restaurant. Just 16% cited slow or poor service with 32% saying rude or unhelpful staff would stop them coming back again.

All of this means that a large number of London restaurants are risking consumer boycotts by not meeting minimum food hygiene standards. Using digital technology to implement effective food safety management systems will enhance standards, boost staff productivity and give managers the control to oversee essential processes in the cloud, without needing to be on site every day. By better controlling risks , restaurant owners and managers are more likely to be able to thrive and grow their business, rather than suffering a customer exodus followed by a dramatic drop in financial revenues and swift closure.

Now is the time for all restaurants to put hygiene first – or face the consequences.

Note on the data:
The Checkit Study is based on research carried out online with 1,000 consumers by Toluna in Q1 2016, combined with analysis of the Food Standards Agency’s Food Hygiene Rating Scheme website on 4th May 2016. This covers all restaurants, cafés, canteens, mobile caterers, other catering premises, pubs/bars, takeaways/sandwich shops and hotels/B&Bs with a Food Hygiene Rating of 2 or below.

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