Food and drink appears to be an industry that has experienced both highs and lows during the lockdowns. Popular takeaway chains have continued to operate and so have large grocery brands which had to adapt certain methods to ensure they can continue delivering food to households.
As the food and drink sector has the ability to stay open, there has been a wave of individuals seizing the opportunity of making additional income through food delivery or takeaway from the comfort of their own home.
Under the law, if you are providing third-parties with food on a “regular and organized basis”, then you are a food business, even if the food is being given away for free. This means that you need to follow all applicable rules for food businesses. If you are charging for food, then there are even more considerations.
Remember standard business considerations apply
First of all, you will need to take care of your tax obligations. This means registering as a sole trader (or partnership) or setting up a limited company. You may also want to set up a bank account and credit card for your business. If you are a sole trader, this could be a regular personal account/card but kept for business use.
If you are employing staff, then you will need to comply with your obligations as an employer. Similarly, if you have any third parties visit your premises, you need to ensure their health and safety.
Please note that in this context, the term “third parties” includes suppliers and freelancers as well as members of the public.
Find out more about choosing your business structure.
Check that you can run a food business from your home
If you run any sort of business from home, you should inform your landlord/mortgage provider and insurance company. Depending on where you live, you may need to inform your leaseholder and/or local council as well.
In practice, you are unlikely to have any issues doing ‘knowledge work’ at home, a food-based business, however, may be another matter.
Your best chance of success is to think about what sort of objections people may have and then preemptively show how you will deal with them.
For example, consider noise, smells, safety (especially fire), waste disposal (pest control) and traffic management (deliveries, staff and customers). Basically, take away any reason for someone to object you serving or delivering food from your home.
Remember you must register your food business
You should register your food business at least 28 days before you start trading. This can be done online. If you have already started trading, then you should register as soon as possible and be prepared to explain the delay. This will be far easier than waiting until your local council finds out about you, which they will.
Prepare for an inspection
Technically, it is at your local council’s discretion whether or not they inspect you. It’s just about guaranteed that they will. They will want to check your standards of food hygiene and health and safety. This can actually be seen as a benefit as it will allow you to display their food hygiene rating to reassure potential customers.
Be aware of the basic rules to follow
To begin, you should ensure standard workplace health and safety along with general hygiene (the two are closely linked). If you have done your checks regarding using your home as a place of business then you will have covered this. Remember, however, that you need to repeat these checks periodically to ensure that you can account for any changes.
You will also need to demonstrate appropriate food hygiene and food safety measures. The easiest way to demonstrate competence in food hygiene is to undertake an accredited course in it. A Level 2 course is currently enough to meet regulations. These courses can be done online and are very affordable.
Of course, once you have done the course, you’ll need to implement what you’ve learned. This may require buying some special equipment, for example, thermometers. Again, this is very affordable.
You’ll also need to demonstrate a knowledge of food safety. The Food Standards Agency offers free online training in this. Once you complete the modules, you get a downloadable certificate. It’s advisable to do the whole course, but at the very least inform yourself on allergens and labelling.