What is the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme? 

Your Food Hygiene Rating, often referred to as ‘Scores on the Doors’, represents how safe and hygienic your food business is. Scores are given to all businesses that serve food to the public, not only pubs and restaurants, but cafes, supermarkets and garden centres and they are often the first thing customers will notice when they walk through the door. 

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The Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (nFHRS) is used by food safety officers (FSOs) when inspecting your business, with scores calculated according to ‘food hygiene’, ‘structure and cleanliness’, and ‘confidence in management’. 

Inspections generally occur every 18 months, but for those with low scores or problems reported, the frequency of inspection will increase. Once inspected, your business receives a certificate and sticker detailing the score, with scores ranging from 5 – ‘very good’, to 0 – ‘urgent improvement necessary’. A business can choose whether or not to display the rating but all ratings are available to see on the Food Standards Agency website and, as consumers become more familiar with these scores, they will often look out for them. 

Our team of experienced ex-enforcement officers have first-hand knowledge of what inspectors look out for, and with their insights, we’ve outlined some of the biggest food safety offences that affect your scores on the doors. 

Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Notice (HEPN)

If there are severe issues with food hygiene standards, an officer will serve a HEPN in order to shut down part, or all, of a premise until the problems are resolved. For example, if pests are found to have only affected one area of the premise, it may be that this is the only area closed down, but imagine that this is the kitchen of a restaurant – this would effectively shut down business for the whole premise!

A HEPN will likely be enforced for numbers 1-3 of the offences listed below:



Cockroaches, mice, rats – signs of them include: droppings, gnawed packaging, nesting materials, smear marks and chewed holes to the walls or around pipes.

We recommend

  • Sealing all cracks and gaps between walls and ceilings
  • Storing food away from the floor, in sealed containers, and at the correct temperature
  • Sealing waste bins properly when full, disposing of them quickly, and changing bin liners regularly
Poor food hygiene – HEPN can be enforced for this 


  • Cross contamination of raw meat and cooked foods
  • Not storing food at correct temperatures
  • Storing raw meat with ready to eat foods
  • Storing food passed its use by date
  • Not cooking food thoroughly; for example, meat and pate

We recommend

  • Using separate chopping boards for cooked meat, raw meat, and veg
  • Checking fridge temperatures regularly (twice a day for most businesses)
  • Storing raw and cooked meat on different shelves – raw meat should be stored below ready to eat foods
  • Labelling all food clearly with use by dates
  • Checking out Food Standards Agency guidance on food storage here.
Poor cleanliness – HEPN can be enforced 


  • Poor cleanliness in general, including worktops, floors, door handles, light switches, and equipment including chopping boards, knives etc.
  • Walls and surfaces that are difficult to keep clean, such as untreated wood.
  • Staff not washing hands regularly.
  • Dirty clothing and aprons.
  • Sewerage leaks. 

We recommend

  • Implementing a ‘clean as you go’ policy
  • Cleaning all used surfaces with hot soapy water and disinfectant
  • Ensuring disinfectant is diluted correctly and the correct contact times are adhered to
  • Cleaning floors and walls daily and conducting a weekly deep clean
  • Ensuring antibacterial hand wash, hot water and hand drying facilities are in the kitchen 
  • Washing hands in between tasks
  • Ensuring staff have aprons – the employer should provide these
  • Investigating and resolving any odours or blockages quickly to avoid sewerage leaks
Incomplete or non-existent paperwork


  • No documented food safety management system in place that is commensurate with the size of the business e.g. Safer food better business.
  • Out of date or incomplete safety management system 

We recommend

  • Completing the safer food better business folder that is commensurate with the size of the business
  • Updating records and procedures when something changes, such as switching from home-made to bought-in desserts
  • Carrying out daily due diligence checks to prove that the food that you produce is safe to eat
  • Keeping records together and in date order, ideally on an online system such as Safety Cloud to keep a history of all checks
Management being unable to answer FSO’s questions


The EHO asks questions related to how food safety is handled in the establishment and the manager either does not have the knowledge to answer, or the establishment doesn’t carry out the procedures being asked about by the EHO.

We recommend

  • Having a competent person in charge – someone who understands the necessity of good food hygiene standards and is trained in them or willing to learn
  • Providing suitable training to staff according to their role. For example, a head chef will need a higher level of training than a pot wash. L2 Food Safety is the most commonly attained qualification.

Whether you are a multi-sited restaurant chain, or an independent garden centre with a small on-site café, 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 business needs, and cut the laboriousness out of daily checks and due diligence trails. Get in touch to find out how we help other food businesses and how we can help you. Request your consultation with a specialist below: