If I have called the part where we discuss bank accounts and accountants boring, this is super boring! Compliance is a necessary evil. It’s actually for the common good, but like all things not created by actual restaurant operators, sometimes it may feel like a “box ticking exercise”.
Registering with your local authority
First and foremost, you must register with your local authority 28 days before opening. You may be fined, imprisoned for up to 2 years or both if you run a food business without registering. It’s a fairly simple process and you can find more infohere. In general I have found the English authorities very helpful. Once you register an inspector will get in touch and will give you a bit of advice on where to find relevant documentation, best practices and how to achieve a high food hygiene score. They won’t necessarily inspect your premises before you open, but they will come in at some point. The first time they’ll most likely make an appointment. In Bedfordshire I always felt that, in the first instance, an inspector wants to help you to succeed. This doesn’t mean they will always be nice to you though, and if they say something must be fixed or changed, you’d better do it straightaway.
The local authority will ask you at least 2 things:
- To download the “Safer Food Better Business, for Caterers” pack and complete it. This pack is about 100 pages long, so you may want to start it in good time and store it in the premises. It contains some check lists that you need to sign off daily. The local inspector will ask to see those.
- To make sure that everyone working in the premises has a “level 2 food hygiene certificate”. You and your employees can complete this course online, in about 2 hours. It costs around £20+VAT.
You must have Employers and Liability insurance in place. You may want to get some other cover as well, such as business interruption, content/equipment, theft etc. Read your insurance terms carefully. You can search online or use a broker. Your landlord will have to sort the insurance for the building, but you’ll have to refund them!
Nowadays that everything is done online, you will have to register with HMRC and get an online account. The process is fairly simple and once set up it will allow you to submit returns, pay taxes and keep track of your submissions with HMRC. Some of the most commons services you need to register for are:
- Corporation Tax
- VAT (Read our previous blog post)
I think it goes without saying that it is illegal to sell alcohol without a license. To apply for a license, you will need to complete an application form and send it to your local council, along with a fee. You will also need to send copies of your form to the police, fire fighter department and other authorities. In my case I remember having to photocopy the form and sent it to 9 different authorities! In your license you will have to specify your opening hours, the hours you will sell alcohol, how you will protect children (for example age verification) etc. Make sure your opening hours and service hours are longer than you actually need, as you don’t want to have to modify your license later on. For a pizzeria, the chances of being refused a license are slim.
At some point your local fire department will come and inspect your premises. Again, in most cases, the firemen will try to help you out and give you advice. You will need a risk assessment; you can find more information and a template here. In most cases in your area there will be a retired fire fighter that has opened a consultancy firm. I would contact them for some advice and to buy your fire extinguishers and other bits such as fire blankets, so that they can install them for you in strategic positions and advice on which once you need.
As my mum used to say “nothing is free”. Even though you are already paying Spotify to listen to music, you have to pay a license to play music in your establishment. I think this is fair enough as it compensates musicians and their publishers for their artistic work, nevertheless I believe the fees are a bit steep.
Thanks for reading and listening to my story, I hope you found it useful,
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