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Register a food business - 2015-16

Why important

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

February 2016


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 2016-17 results

Headline 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)



Log in to view question set or View sample question set from 2016-17 (pdf)

Task report

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.

Good practice

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).

Poor practice

  • 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

Chelmsford City

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.

Wyre BC

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!



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