New rules for the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (often known as 'Scores on the Doors') mean outlets can now pay a fee to be re-inspected as soon as changes have been made, rather than waiting months or even years for a revisit.
This means that restaurants receiving a low score can learn from an inspection and make prompt changes to their hygiene practices, without being penalised in the long-term by a score that no longer reflects their business or the improvements made.
The 'Scores on the Doors' scheme will become mandatory in England in 2019, with all restaurants and food outlets required to display their ratings publicly. The scheme is already compulsory in Wales and Northern Ireland, with a similar Scottish scheme expected to follow.
“We welcome the change in policy which should help hundreds of our members and other restaurants,” says Dr Lisa Ackerley, food safety advisor at the BHA. “The BHA has been campaigning for timely revisits and better consistency of rating and a fairer appeals process. As the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme is becoming very popular with consumers to inform choice, the BHA believes it must be fair.”
Ufi Ibrahim, chief executive of the BHA, adds: “The BHA, which represents restaurants and food outlets across the country, campaigns on many issues on our members’ behalf. This is example of how our hard working and expert team can get results.”
Don’t make fees compulsory, warns ALMR
Despite the BHA’s welcome of the move, the ALMR (Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers) added a note of caution, warning that fees should only ever apply to requested re-inspections.
“The introduction of fees for inspections can help streamline the process for businesses, but local authorities must ensure that fees only apply to re-inspections requested by a venue and not routine inspections,” says ALMR chief executive Kate Nicholls.
“As long as these fees remain voluntary then this should be a positive step for closer working between venues and councils.”
In 2016, a report found that customers thought cleanliness and hygiene ratings were even more important than customer service.
However, the ratings scheme has often caused controversy as higher-end restaurants have claimed it is more difficult for them to keep a five-star rating than for chain groups, while a number of sites (such as Dabbous, Chez Bruce, and Cromlix House, among others) have previously failed to achieve the top score despite their high-profile success.