Register a food business - 2015-2016
Although visits for business represent only about around 1.5% of all visits to council websites, registering food businesses is a legal requirement under EU law and every council website should aim to get this right.
Date of assessment
Shire districts and Northern Ireland Districts
Very few websites qualify for a ‘good’ or ‘very good’ rating for this task, and in many cases this is down to the difficulty of finding the information, since many sites locate it under environmental health rather than business. This approach reflects a classic ‘producer perspective’ – the mindset that says because environmental health officials deal with food hygiene, the information should be in ‘their’ section. A ‘user perspective’ would place the information with other information for businesses, or at the very least have it heavily cross-referenced.
Find your council report
Check ‘coverage’ to see if your council has been surveyed. Go to councils page and select your council. Look for link to task report under 2015-16 results
Provide a good or very good online service based on this survey
Better connected rankings
*Discrepancies in the figures are due to rounding off
- 4 stars (Very Good)
- 3 stars (Good)
- 2 stars (Unsatisfactory)
- 1 star (Poor)
|Yes/No score||Essential question||User journey||Not out of date||Not over-wordy/jargon||Star rank|
|Average score||Percentage yes||Average score||Average score||Percentage yes||Percentage yes||Average star rank|
NB Question highlighted in green is an ‘essential question’ that must be answered correctly for the council to meet the standard for this task. Questions highlighted in blue affect star ranking
|Questions to be answered 'Yes'||Percentage answered correctly|
|Q1 Does a Google search lead me to the task?||97%|
|Q2 Does the site make clear that every premises where food is stored, prepared, distributed or sold, stalls and vans, MUST be registered.||81%|
|Q3 Does the site refer to the need for premises approval (as opposed to registration) for businesses handling some types of food ?||59%|
|Q4 Does the site make clear that registration is required 28 days in advance of starting to trade?||79%|
|Q5 Does the site make clear the consequences of failing to register?||21%|
|Q6 Is it clear how to get advice if you don't know whether registration or approval is needed for the business?||66%|
|Q7 Is it possible to register a food business online?||65%|
|Q8 Is it possible to apply for premises approval online?||31%|
|Q9 Do the pages for registering a food business link to any sources of information or support for local businesses?||9%|
|Q10 Do the pages for registering a food business link to any sources of information or support on food hygiene?||70%|
|Q11 Does the home page lead me directly to the task?||55%|
|Q12 Does the service landing page link me directly to this task?||73%|
|Q13 Does a site search return the correct result listed in the first five results?||86%|
|Q14 Does the A to Z list include this task?||66%|
|Other questions affecting standard achieved|
|Was the content you reviewed free of any out of date information?||4%|
|Overall, how do you rate the journey plus task completion? (0-3)||1.6|
|Was the content you reviewed concise and free of jargon?||3%|
Just over one in five of the sites tested achieve a good or very good rating for this task. The fact that 64% of shire districts did so when the task was last tested in 2014 should be discounted, since that test had significantly fewer and less testing questions. Questions asked then that were repeated in 2016 achieved similar and in some cases better scores.
The 2016 question set covered the issue of approval as well as registration for a food business, and this is why a lot of sites have done less well. More than 40% were unable to answer ‘yes’ to our essential question Does the site refer to the need for premises approval (as opposed to registration) for businesses handling some types of food ? Consequently none of these sites score above 2 stars for the task.
This is really not such a tough question though: the GOV.UK page about registering a food business (which hands visitors off to council sites if they need to apply) covers the difference between registration and approval quickly in a few simple lines of text. Councils could do a lot worse that simply copy and paste this into their own pages.
One of the biggest issues with this task was findability. The information should be in the business section, as well as or perhaps instead of in the environmental health pages. Whichever the case, the information needs to be consistent with clear cross referencing.
Where content was found in two places, licensing sections would tend to use the EUGO (EU Point of Single Contact) format for the content, while in environmental health/feed safety sections, content would cover much of the same ground but be written differently, and would usually be better linked with other information around setting up and running a food business.
In some cases, landing on one of these sections and not the other would result in a very different experience where key elements present elsewhere might be missed. For example, if you arrive at the Stroud website from our Google search, it takes you to the food safety section with a page about registering a food business. This page only has a link to download and print a form to register. There is no mention of the online option found on the food premises registration page in the Licensing section. Furthermore there was no link between the two parts of the site, so anyone pursuing the licensing section route would be unaware of the useful pages about food safety.
The experience of visiting many sites for this review suggests that there is a convention of calling businesses that require approval ‘food premises’ and those that just require registering ‘food businesses’. Sometimes menus or the A-Z would have two unexplained entries: ‘food businesses’ and ‘food premises’ and apparently expect users to know the difference.
Linking between the food business registration page and premises approval information was often poor or non-existent. The only reference on the registration page might be a link in a menu, or some vague text such as ‘Some manufacturers handling products of animal origin may need to be approved by the local authority.’ In this particular case, users need to navigate up to the landing page in order to find that there is a whole page dedicated to approvals with a link to an online form.
Food business are required to register with the council, and it is a criminal offence not to do so. Sites sometimes failed to make this fact clear enough and that prosecution could follow where this had not been done. Given the importance of registration, few sites provided clear information about what happens after forms are received.
Finding the task
- Provide a direct link from the business landing page to a brief description of the registration process, which is a legal requirement.
- Take visitors to the same page from any site search result or A to Z entry.
- Include in the A to Z list entries under F (for food) and R for registration.
Completing the task
- Make sure that content is clear and easy to understand.
- Remind visitors that it is a legal requirement to register food businesses
- Provide information about premises approval and when this is required
- Provide a prominent link to the council’s online registration form or link to the GOV.UK registration service
- Explain that registration is free and that there is no requirement to re-register.
- Provide links to food hygiene courses if available.
- Provide links to information or checklists for starting up a food business.
- Display full contact details specific to the task (email, phone and post).
- complicated, lengthy and repetitive content full of legal jargon
- failing to clarify the difference between food business registration and food premises approval.
- missing or incomplete contact details (eg no postal address supplied and yet you have to post back a form printed from a ‘pdf’).
- references to ‘certain types of business’ that may need to have premises approved, rather than specifying what the types are.
Sites that we recommend
Excellent customer journey. Addresses this from the business viewpoint and doesn't require businesses to already be aware of the regulations. Can see immediately from the business menu that there is a requirement for Food Businesses to be registered. Necessary information given clearly and concisely.
Good simple content, clearly explained and well judged. Answers almost all of our questions, and on one page. No jargon in sight. Well done! Excellent signposting too!