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UK public makes food hygiene number one priority when eating out

Published 13th June, 2016 by Neil Nixon

UK public makes food hygiene number one priority when eating out

UK consumers are united in not tolerating poor food hygiene ratings and simply won't visit places that have had food safety issues, no matter what type of restaurant. 61% won't eat at a restaurant, takeaway, coffee shop, or pub that has a low Food Standards Agency (FSA) food hygiene rating while three quarters (75%) said they wouldn't risk dining at a restaurant that had been implicated in a food hygiene incident, even if recommended by someone that they trust.

These are the headline findings of UK consumer research carried out by, which also found that diners would rather put up with poor service from rude and unhelpful staff than eat at dirty restaurants. 66% of respondents rated unclean or dirty premises as the first or second reason for not returning to a restaurant. Just 16% cited slow or poor service and 32% said rude or unhelpful staff would stop them coming back to a restaurant.

The impact of being implicated in a food hygiene incident is catastrophic for the survival of any restaurant business. Of the 75% of consumers that wouldn't risk a visit, 43% said they'd never dine there, no matter what, while 32% would only return if it had closed down and reopened under new ownership. A further 22% said they'd only return if the food hygiene rating improved dramatically - meaning that owners would need deep pockets and the ability to invest heavily over a long period of time to meet hygiene standards, rebuild trust, and attract diners back.

“It doesn't matter if you are a Michelin starred restaurant or a local takeaway, consumers will not tolerate poor food hygiene and will vote with their feet if a restaurant has been implicated in a food hygiene incident,” said Dee Roche, marketing director at “This demonstrates the enormous impact that poor food safety has on business survival - how could you cope with 61% of your customers boycotting your restaurant? These findings are a wake up call to those restaurants that think that food safety is not a customer priority - diners rate hygiene as the number one reason, above service or rude staff, when it comes to choosing whether to return to a restaurant.”

The research found that consumers had the highest expectations of fine dining restaurants, with 69% saying they would not visit any that had a low food hygiene rating. This was followed by takeaways (including Chinese, Indian or kebab sellers), with 64% of people avoiding any with low food hygiene ratings. In contrast they were slightly better disposed to cafés and coffee shops (55%), possibly due to the more limited range of food being sold.

“Food hygiene ratings matter to consumers, and are an increasingly important part of choosing where they eat,” said David Davies, managing director at “Restaurants therefore need to ensure they are doing everything in their power to guarantee food safety - or the consequences for their business could be dire. While restaurants have been quick to invest in new, front of house technology, such as smart tablets to take orders, many still rely on paper checklists to manage food safety processes in the kitchen. It is time to move away from grubby bits of paper and invest in technology to better manage food safety.”

The Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS) in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland helps consumers choose where to eat out or shop for food by giving them information about the hygiene standards in restaurants, takeaways, and food shops. The scale runs from 0 (urgent improvement necessary) through 1 (major improvement necessary) to 2 (improvement necessary) up to 5 (very good). Ratings are available from the Food Standards Agency's websites and are normally displayed within the premises as well.

A full management report on the research is available at

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