As a new hygiene rating system is announced we ask if customers actually take any notice of them.

As a new hygiene rating system is announced we ask if customers actually take any notice of them.

As the Food Standards Agency replaces the old Scores on the Doors system of rating the hygiene of an establishment, we ask how important such scores are to a business.

The new scheme, to be simply entitled Food Hygiene Rating, is designed to be rolled out across the entire country so that there is a universally understood standard. This seems to make sense, but how much attention do customers actually pay to the stickers which are generally displayed near the entrance to a pub, restaurant or hotel?

Those establishments which have achieved a high rating are likely to display their rating with pride, but customers are less likely to look for the sticker if it is not displayed prominently.

Jon Averns, director of London Environmental Health & Public Protection, said: "The public are able to use this information when deciding which food outlets to visit and we hope that companies will recognise that displaying a good hygiene rating is good for business."

It is good for business when a restaurant is deemed hygienic by inspectors but a reputation is based on much more than just that. A clean and hygienic eatery should go further than just the kitchen and a place which follows through with good practices should be recognisable to customers straight away. Hygiene ratings are more likely to reinforce the opinion that a customer has already formed as opposed to helping them decide where to eat.

Would you be put off your favourite restaurant because it had a low hygiene rating even though you have eaten there for years? Or would you give it the benefit of the doubt and assume that the inspectors caught it on a bad day?

Then there are the restaurants which have been designed in a way in which the kitchen is a focal point and on show to the diners. Some people find it reassuring to be able to see their food being prepared and keep an eye on the chefs, making sure nothing untoward is going on with the food. In the absence of such a set-up, should these people trust inspectors to be their eyes and ears or should customers put their faith in the restaurant's proprietors? ADNFCR-2719-ID-801327551-ADNFCR
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