Fans of Eastenders will have seen the storyline featuring the Masood family setting up a catering business at home. In the world of soap operas, lack of proper preparation meant that the consequences were no more serious than a quick telling off by an Environmental Health Officer and having to go into business with Ian Beale, though that is quite a penalty!
If you were thinking that you love to cook and would like to follow their example, here are some of the legal, financial and practical issues you need to consider.
You must register with the Environmental Health Dept of your local council at least 28 days before beginning. This is required by law, and you can be prosecuted for not complying. The Department will make periodic inspections, and do not have to give prior notice.
The Food Standards Agency dictates strict policies on keeping your food preparation practices hygienic, and it is a requirement that you keep records. You must also have procedures in place to deal with what are described as hazards. This will include things like possible contamination with chemicals such as cleaning products or broken packaging. If you are planning to deliver food, the vehicles you use must also be compliant with Food Safety regulations.
If you are intending to upgrade your kitchen to meet professional standards, you may also need planning permission. You may also be required to make changes to your toilet and washing facilities. And don’t forget that if you are using part of your home as business premises, you may have to pay business rates. If you have a mortgage, you must consult with your lender, not only about alterations, but they need to know that your home is being used as a business too.
You will also find it prudent to be adequately insured. At the very least you will require Public Liability insurance which will protect you in case of claims should there be a case of food poisoning. If you employ staff you may also want to consider Employers Liability, as catering businesses use a lot of equipment that can cause accidents, from sharp knives, to boiling water! If you are using vehicles to deliver food, you will of course need to insure those.
Last but not least, proper arrangements will need to be made to dispose of food waste. You must contact your Local Authority about this, as there are strict E.U. regulations that have to be met. This may all sound very daunting, but much of it is commonsense, and will set your business up from the start to be safe, enjoyable and profitable. And you need never have dealings with Ian Beale!