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Starting a food business

When starting up a new catering business it is very important to get things right at the start because it will make it much easier for you to run your business well in the future.

Before opening a food business you must consider the following matters:

Planning consent - Ensure the premises which you intend operating from has the necessary planning consent. For further details contact Development Control

  • Tel: 0115 876 4447.

Building works - If you intend to carry out structural works to the premises you may need Building Regulations approval. For details contact the Building Control section.

Arrangements will need to be made for the collection of your trade waste. For details contact Waste Services (Commercial)

London Road

  • Tel: 0115 915 2230
  • Fax: 0115 915 2121

Registration applies to most types of food business, including catering businesses run from home and mobile or temporary premises, such as stalls and vans.  If you have more than one premises, you will need to register all of them.

Legal requirement - It is a legal requirement when starting up or taking over ownership of a food business to register with the Food Team at your local authority at least 28 days before operating. There is no charge for registration.

Operating a mobile food business - If you are operating a mobile food business the vehicle must be registered with the Council where it is stored / garaged overnight. Also if you are operating a mobile food business you should contact the Markets and Fairs Team on 9156970 who will advise on which streets street trading is prohibited.  

The vast majority of food businesses will simply require registration. However, if you are operating a business  producing or supplying products of animal origin to other food businesses, you may be required to apply for approval to use your establishment for that purpose.

Products of animal origin include meat products, fishery products, minced meat, meat preparations etc. For example, a meat pie is a meat product. If you cook meat pies in your premises and sell them to members of the public, you would not require approval, as you are not supplying other food businesses.

However, if you cook meat pies and only sell them to other businesses such as restaurants, shops etc, then you would require approval. If you cook meat pies and supply members of the public and food businesses, you may require approval depending on the circumstances.

If approval is required, this will place additional requirements on you as a food business operator with regard to structure, layout, health marking etc. Clearly, this is a very complicated area of food law and each case needs to be looked at individually. Please contact the Food Team to discuss your operation if you think approval may be required.

Click here to download an application form for a food business establishment supplying products of animal origin.

Click here to download guidance on completing this application form

The vast majority of food businesses will simply require registration. However, if you are operating a business producing products obtained from the germination of seeds and their development in water or another medium, harvested before the development of true leaves and which are intended to be eaten whole, including the seed you are required to apply for approval to use your establishment for that purpose.

If approval is required, this will place additional requirements on you as a food business operator. Please contact the Food Team to discuss your operation if you think approval may be required.

Click here to download an application form for a food business establishment producing sprouted seeds

Click here to download guidance on completing this application form

Since 2006 it has been a legal requirement to write down details of what you will do and what records you will keep to make sure your food is safe to eat.

Rather than small independent businesses having to produce this type of documentation themselves, the Food Standards Agency has produced a pack called Safer Food Better Business. This pack will guide you through how to comply with this requirement as well as provide you with the necessary documentation. Simply work through the pack and tick boxes or write brief notes in various sections to indicate what you do to prevent your food from becoming unsafe.

Every day the person in charge signs a diary within the pack to indicate that the safe methods were followed, and if necessary, makes a note of anything that went wrong and what was done about it.

The Safer Food Better Business pack and diary sheets can be downloaded and printed from the relevant section of the Food Standards Agency's website.

Packs were previously available in hard copy, however, the Food Standards Agency no longer provide these.

Food handlers must be adequately trained in accordance with the food handling duties undertaken.

You must ensure your premises are not the cause of a statutory nuisance to neighbouring properties from emitting smoke, fumes, gases, dusts, steam, odour, noise, or having accumulations or deposits that are prejudicial to health or a nuisance.

An adequate number of toilets need to be provided for members of the public eating or drinking food in restaurants and cafés. However, if the business is predominantly a takeaway where seating is limited to eight or less, you will not be expected to provide toilets for customers.

The food premises must be kept clean and maintained in good repair and condition, to enable adequate cleaning and disinfection.

Floors and walls and surfaces in contact with food must be in a sound condition and must be easy to clean and where necessary disinfect. Floors, walls and surfaces need to be smooth, hard wearing, washable and in good state of repair. Suggested floor coverings include flooring tiles (quarry ceramic or vinyl), vinyl safety flooring, Terrazzo, cast in situ resin flooring. It's advisable that the flooring is coved to aid cleaning.

Suggested wall surfaces include washable painted plaster, Epoxy resin and similar coatings, ceramic tiles, stainless steel sheeting, PVC, GRP and other proprietary sheeting.

Suggested food contact surfaces included stainless steel, ceramic, food grade plastics.

Ceilings need to be designed and constructed to prevent the build-up of dirt, condensation, mould's and the shedding of particles. Suggested ceiling surfaces include smooth washable painted plaster, direct fixed ceiling systems, suspended ceilings.

Windows and other openings must be constructed to prevent the accumulation of dirt. Windows which can be opened to the outside environment must, where necessary, be fitted with insect-proof screens which can be easily removed for cleaning. Where open windows would result in the contamination of foodstuffs windows must remain closed.

Doors must be easy to clean and where necessary disinfect. A variety of smooth impervious surfaces are available. A cleanable paint or sealed finish would comply. Unsealed wood does not comply.

Equipment that comes into contact with food must be kept in good repair and be made in a way that allows it to be cleaned thoroughly and where necessary to be disinfected.

Facilities for washing equipment need to be provided for the cleaning and disinfecting of work tools and equipment. Suitable equipment will include sinks with a supply of hot and cold or appropriately mixed running water with detergents and disinfectants for manual equipment cleaning, sterilising sinks, dishwashers.

Drying of equipment must not cause re-contamination. It is advisable that space is provided to allow equipment / utensils to air dry.

Facilities for washing food

Separate sinks must be provided for food preparation and equipment washing. The sinks must be provided with a supply of hot and cold running water which is of drinking quality. In smaller operations one sink may be used for both equipment and food washing, provided that both activities can be done effectively and without prejudice to food safety.

Wash Hand Basins

An adequate number of wash hand basins must be provided depending on the size and layout of your business. Wash hand basins must be located close to toilet facilities and at strategic places in the premises so that food handlers have access to them. Wash hand basins must only be used for washing hands. Materials for cleaning hands and for hygienic drying need to be provided. It is recommended that liquid soap is provided and drying facilities include either disposable paper towels, roller paper cabinet towels, warm air dryers, washable fabric towels.

Sanitary accommodation for Food Handlers

An adequate number of flush lavatories must be available and connected to an effective drainage system. Lavatories must not lead directly into rooms in which food is handled. Two doors should provide an intervening ventilated space between the WC and food room. Food should not be stored in this space.


Suitable and sufficient natural or mechanical ventilation needs to be provided to ensure that heat and / or humidity do not build up to levels that could compromise the safety of the food. As a target, ambient temperatures should be below 25 °C. Natural ventilation in rooms where food is cooked will only be suitable in small premises where there is a low heat input into the room. Mechanically drawn air into food preparation rooms must not be drawn from dirty areas such as waste storage areas or rooms used for dirty processes such as pot wash. All parts of the ventilation system must be accessible for cleaning.


Adequate lighting needs to be provided, to enable safe food handling, effective cleaning and the monitoring of cleaning standards. Recommended illumination levels range from 150 lux in store rooms to 500 lux in food preparation areas. Glass lights should be fitted with shatterproof diffusers in areas where open food is handled.

Everything Regulation Whenever It's Needed

For further information on local authority regulations visit the ERWIN (Everything Regulation Whenever It's Needed) website.

The website helps businesses to comply with regulations by providing information to meet their particular type of business. Advice includes Fire Protection, Food Safety, Environmental Protection and Private Sector Housing and Licensing.

See also the Guidance for food businesses at the Food Standards Agency (FSA) Website for more advice on starting a food business along with lots of other food related guidance.