UK consumers are united in not tolerating poor food hygiene ratings and simply will not visit businesses that have had food safety issues, according to new research.
Three quarters (75%) of those that took part in a study by Checkit said they wouldn’t risk dining at an establishment that had been implicated in a food hygiene incident, even if recommended by someone that they trust, whilst 61% would not eat at a restaurant, takeaway, coffee shop or pub that has a low Food Standards Agency (FSA) Food Hygiene Rating.
The consumer research also revealed 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 an eatery while just 16% cited slow or poor service and 32% said rude or unhelpful staff would stop them coming back.
The impact of being implicated in a food hygiene incident can be catastrophic for any foodservice 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 – illustrating how difficult it is to rebuild consumer confidence and attract diners back, once trust is lost.
Dee Roche, marketing director at Checkit, said: “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 you’ve been implicated in a food hygiene incident.
“This demonstrates the enormous impact that poor food safety has on a business’ survival – how would you cope with 61% of your customers boycotting your premises? These findings are a wake-up call to any operator that thinks 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 for subsequent visits.”
The research also 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%).
David Davies, Managing Director, Checkit.net, added: “Food hygiene ratings matter to consumers, and are an increasingly important part of choosing where they eat.
“Businesses therefore need to ensure they are doing everything in their power to comply with regulatory guidelines – or the consequences could be dire. Most operators understand the importance of food safety management, but can be held back by antiquated paper-based record keeping that is time-consuming, reactive and makes it easy to forget scheduled checks. It is therefore time to move away from paper and digitise food safety management in order to make it faster, simpler and safer to achieve compliance and consequently attract ever-more discerning customers.”
The Checkit Study is based on research carried out online with 1,000 UK consumers by Toluna in H1 2016.