If you love to cook, have an entrepreneurial streak, and want to take your career in a new direction, starting your own catering business could be the perfect fit for you.
Apply for food business registration
If you want to sell food in the UK, you need to apply for food business registration through the UK Government website. This is free, but needs to be done at least 28 days before you plan on selling food to the public.
To ensure you’re abiding by Food Safety laws, it’s important to contact Ashfield District Council Environmental Health and Food Safety Officers and request a visit so we can inspect your kitchen.
We will you on any upgrades you need to make to your premises in order to comply with food safety laws. We will typically check that your walls, floors. surfaces and counter tops are in good condition and easy to clean, as well as assess your ability to maintain a hygienic cooking environment. This will include inspecting your kitchen and toilet facilities, checking if you have pets and/or children, how you plan to ensure a clean and hygienic environment BEFORE you cook.
We will look at the procedures you plan on implementing for cleaning your premises and ensure the cleaning chemicals and materials are suitable for the job intended.
Getting the right Legal Structure for you and your business
When setting up your new catering business, you will need to elect a business structure which best suits the needs of your business. Options include:
- Limited Company
- Limited Liability Partnership
- Sole Trader
Make certain that you opt for the best structure for your business by visiting the Central Government website and considering both the advantages and pitfalls of each structure.
General Food Law
Before you begin trading, you should brush up on the General Food Law requirements you’ll have to abide by as a professional caterer. The Food Standards Agency has a guide that covers all the basics you should make sure to read.
Food safety Management System
We will require you to put in place, implement and maintain a FSMS - Food Safety Management System (such as SFBB ) The detail within this document will depend on what sort/type of food you are hoping to make at home. If you are creating high risk foods with meat in or hand made sandwiches then the detail and procedures required will be greater than a cake maker.
Under the Food Information Regulations you have a legal obligation to provide allergen advice to anyone who purchases food from you. More information can be found here
Food Hygiene Training
The law requires that "food handlers are supervised and instructed and/or trained in food hygiene matters commensurate with their work activity" and that "those responsible for the development and maintenance of the procedure referred to in Article 5(1) of this Regulation (Hazard Analysis) or for the operation of relevant guides have received adequate training in the application of the HACCP principles"
In real times this requires a person cooking food to be either supervised by a trained person, or to have sufficient knowledge to create and cook food safely but more importantly to be able to demonstrate and reassure an Environmental Health Officer that they have sufficient knowledge.
Food Hygiene training should be undertaken to a certificate equivalent to CIEH (Chartered Institute of Environmental Health) level 2.
Those responsible for the running of a food premises and ensuring hazards are identified and controls are in place should take a training course equivalent to level 3.
Home caterers must comply with the same structural requirements of any food business. Please see here. The only exception is Chapter III of Regulation 852/2004 applies specifically to "premises used primarily as a private dwelling-house but where foods are regularly prepared for placing on the market"
Designated Food Equipment
Any food ingredients and food equipment used in your food business should be stored separately from food ingredients and food equipment used daily in your domestic setting.
If you are handling raw and cooked foods, you should have separate, ideally colour coded equipment to distinguish that used for raw foods and so reduce contamination potential.
As a home caterer you must still have regard to Ecoli Guidance here
Protective clothing is designed to protect the food from you and contamination and not you from spillages and splashes of the food.
Every person working in a food-handling area is to maintain a high degree of personal cleanliness and is to wear suitable, clean and, where necessary, protective clothing.
Separate over clothing/aprons should be used when preparing and handling raw meat; it is highly recommended using a disposable plastic apron for handling and preparing raw meat and vegetables. Once used, it can be ripped off and disposed of rather than re using and offering the potential to transfer bacteria to other foods and work surfaces
You should ensure you have a separate supply of clean clothing and aprons (even designated trousers or skirts and tea shirts) you can wear as a uniform when cooking. these should be kept in a clean and hygienic manner to prevent potential contamination - taking this uniform off will signal the end of the workday and help you switch off from work.
If you are making food at home to transport to a venue you must consider two main food safety issues: keeping the food protected from contamination and, if the food is potentially hazardous, keeping it cold (8°C or colder) or hot (63°C or hotter)
Protecting food from contamination
It is important to protect food from contamination by keeping it covered at all times. You can achieve this by using containers with lids or by applying plastic film over containers.
Materials used to cover food should be suitable for food contact, to ensure that they do not contain any chemicals that could leach into the food. Aluminium foil, plastic film and clean paper may be used, and food should be completely covered. Packaged products should not need additional covering. Previously used materials and newspaper may contaminate food and should not be used.
When potentially hazardous foods are transported they should be kept cold (8°C or colder) or hot (63°C or hotter) during the journey.
Alternatively, you could use time, rather than temperature, to keep the food safe while it is being transported. If the journey is short, insulated containers may keep the food cold.
If the journey is longer, you may need to use ice packs to keep food cold and insulated containers to keep food hot.
Place only pre-heated or pre-cooled food in an insulated container, which should have a lid to help maintain safe temperatures.
Insulated containers must be:
- in good condition and kept clean at all times
- used only for food
- kept away from other items such as chemicals, pet food, fuel and paint
- be filled as quickly as possible and closed as soon as they have been filled.
- kept closed until immediately before the food is needed or is placed in other temperature-controlled equipment.
- Containers of cool food should be placed in the coolest part of the vehicle.
- If the inside of the vehicle is air-conditioned, cold food may be transported better here rather than in the boot.
- Vehicles should be clean. The vehicle should not normally be used for carrying pets or dirty equipment
- You should not smoke in the vehicle while transporting food
- The journey should be properly planned and should be kept as short as possible.
- When collecting ingredients, cold foods should be collected last and immediately placed in insulated containers or cool bags for transporting to the preparation facility.
- When taking prepared foods to a venue, pack the food into insulated boxes as your last job.
- When you arrive at the venue, make it your first job to unload any hot or cold food and place it in temperature-controlled equipment.
Notice to inspect a Home caterer
Unlike a commercial premises where an Environmental Health Officer has a warrant to enter the premises with no notice: Environmental Health Officers or Food Enforcement Officers MUST, by law, give you 24 hours notice of their intention to visit and inspect you at your home address. We normally do this by email or by a telephone call. We generally arrange a mutually convenient time and date to visit you, however please bear in mind normal working hours.