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Why Food Hygiene Ratings matter to consumers

Since it was launched in 2010, the Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS) has become increasingly visible and trusted by consumers. Recent Checkit research demonstrates its importance for diners when choosing where to eat – whatever the type of restaurant or food business they are visiting.

61% of consumers said they wouldn’t eat at any establishment that had a food hygiene rating of 2 or below, meaning it was classed as ‘Improvement Necessary’, ‘Major Improvement Necessary’ or ‘Urgent Improvement Necessary’. Just 9% of the 1,000 consumers surveyed said they’d ignore the rating – and even they admitted they would be extra careful in what they ordered and suspicious of what they were served.

What was especially interesting is that consumers are united in relying on hygiene ratings, across all food businesses. Asked how low food hygiene ratings would affect their choice of different types of restaurant the findings were extremely consistent:Checkit_Q1

The research found that consumers had the highest expectations of fine dining restaurants, with 69% saying they would not visit any that had a low food hygiene rating. This was followed by takeaways (including Chinese, Indian or kebab sellers), with 64% of people avoiding any with low food hygiene ratings. In contrast they were slightly better disposed to cafés and coffee shops (55%), possibly due to the more limited range of food being sold.

However, whatever the sort of restaurant well over half of consumers simply wouldn’t eat there if the hygiene rating showed it required improvement of some sort. This shows they recognise and understand the scheme, and use it as part of choosing where to eat. At a time when there are calls for the display of ratings to be made mandatory for food premises, rather than just listed on the FSA website, this reiterates the importance of hygiene to businesses.

Cleanliness over service
Checkit also asked consumers to rank the factors that would stop them returning to a restaurant or other food business. It found that customer service is considerably less important than hygiene and cleanliness to consumers.

Which of these factors most puts you off going back when eating out/visiting a takeaway/visiting a coffee shop?

Going backEssentially this means that consumers would rather put up with poor service from rude or unhelpful staff that didn’t know what they were doing, than visit somewhere unhygienic.

The findings of the Checkit research are clear – food hygiene ratings are now an essential part of picking somewhere to eat, and consumers have zero tolerance for unclean or unhygienic businesses. They will vote with their feet (and wallets), demonstrating the importance of having a comprehensive food safety management system in place that ensures compliance and the highest possible ratings. Otherwise businesses will lose out to their rivals, risking their survival in such a competitive and fast-moving environment.

To find out more about the financial impact of poor food hygiene, and to see the Checkit research in full, download The Financial Impact of Poor Food Safety Management management report here.

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