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Christmas is the busiest and typically the most profitable part of the year for many street food traders, but with additional customers also comes added pressures, which is when a lapse in attention to detail and standards could occur.
So with so much involved in setting up and running a street food business, we asked Mike Williams, Director of food safety specialists STS, to discuss some of the main food safety and hygiene issues businesses should be aware of.
If you’re only just considering setting up a pop-up kitchen don’t be fooled into thinking that you can simply turn up, put in a few hours of effort and turn a profit. There’s a whole lot more involved than simply throwing a BBQ or wok in the back of a van, grabbing a pack of burgers and other ingredients, some paper plates and napkins and setting up shop! Rigorous attention to detail and forward planning are vital if you want to succeed in this highly competitive industry.
Many well established food retailing businesses consider opening up seasonal pop-up catering operations as a way of reaching out to new customers, capitalising on a captive audience, diversifying their operation and potentially increasing profits, but even with their vast expertise, equipment, ingredients and staff quite a few don’t succeed, mainly because there are so many other factors that need to be carefully considered.
A pop-up or casual food stall is essentially a new business in the eyes of environmental health, even if it is only going to trade for a single day. It’s vital that you clearly demonstrate that you have full knowledge of and are compliant with all food hygiene regulations. The new operation needs to be registered with the environmental health service at your local council at least 28-days before you begin trading even if you have already registered another food business. You’ll also need to document all the food safety management procedures that you have in place, based on the principles of HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) and demonstrate that you understand what is needed from a food hygiene perspective.
Food stalls come under close scrutiny from environmental health as their lack of space and facilities mean that cross contamination, allergen control and general food safety can sometimes be difficult. Access – or more precisely the lack of access – to running water, needed to maintain proper hygiene standards, is also another contributing factor. You’ll also find that where customers can see the total operation they are more critical about food hygiene standards and lack of space is not an excuse when it comes to food hygiene. If they see something untoward they simply won’t buy from you. It is imperative that all the usual precautions are taken and that your business conforms to all current food hygiene requirements, including:
Once you’ve registered the operation with the local council you’ll also have to comply with local licensing laws for each location in which you plan to operate, You may need late night licences; one for the sale of alcohol, live music or entertainment and even potentially a licence from the landowner. You should also have factored in public and personal liability insurance along with employers insurance to cover all staff (even if additional people are needed for just one day), along with theft or fire insurance. Specialist vehicle insurance may also be required and you’ll need to consider how you transport food, what specialist equipment may be needed and where everything is stored when not being used.
There is so much to be considered when you are looking to operate a pop-up kitchen or food stall. It can be an excellent way to raise your profile, generate a good profit margin and reach new customers, but food safety should always be your prime concern. The last thing you want is to be prosecuted or cause your customers to become sick or even die as happened recently – that case resulted in a hefty fine and a custodial sentence. This is why there are strict legislative and food safety standards that need to be observed in order to stay on the right side of the law. Don’t forget, even once your pop-up is up and running, an environmental health officer could regularly pay you a visit just to make sure you are maintaining standards.
For more information and advice on running a pop-up operation and to ensure you have the correct processes in place and up-to-date, seek advice from your local authority or an independent health & safety organisation such as STS. They can be contacted on 01252 728300 or via their website at www.sts solutions.com or www.elas.uk.com.
STS is part of the ELAS Group of companies and a leading provider of food safety consultancy and training services to caterers, food retailers and suppliers in the hospitality, healthcare and education sectors. The team is highly experienced, trusted and award-winning, providing organisations with the critical support they need to meet vital operational and compliance standards. It can also draw upon wider group expertise to provide a full range of support and compliance services including: Food Safety, Employment Law, Health & Safety, Occupational Health, Payroll and Accredited Training. For more information visit www.elas.uk.com or www.sts-solutions.com
Mike Williams – Consultancy Director, STS Solutions
Mike William is a Director of STS Solutions, the leading UK food safety and health & safety management consultancy. Mike has over 20 years’ experience in food safety in both enforcement and consultancy, working as an Environmental Health Officer for various authorities and now in the private consultative sector.
Mike was Senior Environmental Health Officer with Sefton Metropolitan Borough Council, responsible for leading prosecutions, completing inspection schedules and advising on all areas of food safety in line with role requirements. Prior to this, Mike spent six years with NSF-CMI as a Safety Advisor Account Manager. Mike also worked with Derwentside District Council and Sunderland City Council as an EHO. Mike’s key roles within STS Solutions include business development and account management along with ensuring that the audit teams operate consistently and effectively to the needs of STS customers.
Mike’s areas of expertise include: food safety, health & safety, illness investigation and water hygiene control; which includes Legionella infection management.