Over the years, more and more garden centres have diversified their customer offering and their customer dining experience is no different. Garden centre restaurants are now becoming a foodie destination in themselves. The reputation of a garden centre is no longer simply down to the quality of the plant life and the helpful advice from a greenfingered employee.

Furthermore, garden centre restaurants and cafes are not immune to the heavy-handed, hard-hitting Tripadvisor reviewer, the media and Environmental Health Officers. With vulnerable diners, from the elderly to the very young, getting it wrong is not an option!

Our team of experienced ex-enforcement officers have first-hand knowledge and experience of auditing restaurants, cafes and dealing with food poisoning allegations and complaints. Below they share their insight into the 5 key areas every garden centre should consider for safe food production:

1. Cleanliness and Pest Control

Poor cleanliness provides a breeding ground for bacteria and may result in the redistribution of microbiological contamination. Stringent cleanliness is crucial for worktops, floors, door handles, light switches, and equipment including chopping boards, knives etc. Clothing and aprons should also be kept clean and regular hand washing between tasks should be normal practice.

It may seem obvious but pest control is essential. Be vigilant for signs of pest entry including: droppings, gnawed packaging, nesting materials, smear marks and chewed holes to the walls or around pipes. Proactive solutions include sealing waste bins properly when full, disposing of them quickly, and changing bin liners regularly. Seal all cracks and gaps between walls and ceilings and store food away from the floor, in sealed containers.

2. Temperature Control

Ensure foods are cooked thoroughly, refrigerated foods and frozen foods stored at correct temperatures and deliveries enter the garden centre under correct temperature control. Keep a twice-daily record of these checks. This will provide a useful defence in event of a food poisoning allegation.

Quick guide – Temperature Advice

Southalls Health and Safety Advice on temperature

3. Food Storage and Separation

Aside from storing food at the correct temperature, it should also be stored to prevent cross contamination (particularly between raw and ready to eat foods) and stored within its use by date.

Storing raw and high-risk foods:

  • High-risk ready-to-eat foods should be placed on the top shelves of the chiller

  • Ready-to-eat raw foods should be placed below high-risk foods

  • Raw foods which are to be cooked should be placed below high-risk and ready-to-eat foods

All foods should be clearly labeled with the correct use by or best before dates.

Further information can be found by checking out the Food Standards Agency guidance on food storage: https://www.food.gov.uk/business-industry/food-hygiene/shelf-life-storage

We also always recommend using separate (colour coded) chopping boards for cooked meat, raw meat, raw fish, vegetables, salads and dairy products. 

4. Staff training

Provide suitable training to staff according to their role. For example, a Head Chef in a large scale garden centre restaurant will typically need a higher level qualification (Level 3) whilst remaining staff or those operating in smaller garden centre cafes would typically only require Level 2 Food Safety (the most commonly obtained qualification for food handlers).

Regardless of the size of your garden centre restaurant, always have a competent person in charge of your kitchen, someone who understands the necessity of good food hygiene standards and is able to oversee all operations.

5. Allergen Awareness

You will need to know the presence of all allergens in each dish and have a means of communicating this to customers (typically via the menu or allergen matrix).

As a reminder the 14 Allergens are:

1) Celery 2) Gluten 3) Crustaceans 4) Eggs   5)Fish     6) Lupin

7) Milk 8) Molluscs 9) Mustard     10) Nuts           11) Peanuts    12) Sesame        

13) Soya   14) Sulphur Dioxide

Food ingredients should never be substituted for an alternative ingredient. Managers should brief all staff regarding allergen controls, including new and temporary staff.

Whether you run a tiny cafe or a 200 cover full-scale restaurant operation, our Food Safety Specialists are ex-enforcement officers with the background and knowledge to keep your business compliant.

We can offer advice specific to your garden centre needs, and cut the laboriousness out of daily checks and due diligence trails. Get in touch to find out how we help other garden centres and how we can help you at hello@southalls.com.