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Coronavirus – managing the risks for your food business

Published on 30th March 2020 - Last update on 27th April 2020

Whatever your business, you will need to take some special steps to safeguard your staff and your customers.

These steps will be even stricter if you are running a food business. It is very unlikely that the coronavirus could be transmitted directly through food – but contact with servers, food preparation staff and customers could all provide opportunities for contagion.

This risk needs to be managed if your business is to stay open and work safely.

Restaurants who have turned to providing a takeaway service, established takeaways, shops selling food and food processing plants need to follow guidelines developed by the Food Standards Agency and Defra. It covers several areas including good hygiene practice, management of employee sickness, and social distancing for specific food business settings.

Social distancing in shops 

Social distancing rules affect everyone – not just people in the food business. To minimise opportunities for the virus to spread, you need to maintain a distance of two metres between individuals. This can be difficult in a small shop or over a narrow counter – but you need to find solutions.

The practical implementation of this advice will depend on the local circumstances. However a few general indicators may be relevant to the majority of retail outlets - and they start before customers even reach your shop.

Use additional signage to ask customers not to enter your shop if they have symptoms, and control entry so that the premises do not become overcrowded. Try to keep people two metres apart at all times. It can help to use floor markings to indicate the social distancing advice of two metres, particularly in the most crowded areas, such as around serving counters and tills. Pay particular attention to queues for your checkout - use signage to direct customers into lanes if possible. 

At the counter or checkout, use perspex or glass barriers at tills and counters if feasible, as an additional form of protection for workers and customers. And encourage the use of contactless payments where possible.

Safety in takeaways and restaurants offering a pick-up service

You need to avoid people waiting - so only take orders online or by telephone, and refuse to take orders on the premises if possible. Customers who come without having already placed an order should be encouraged to leave the premises and place their order by telephone or online and return at a designated time for collection.

Customers could have staggered collection times and be discouraged from entering the premises until their order is ready, and should enter one at a time.

Try to discourage crowding outside your premises. Where possible, use queue management systems to maintain the two metres separation.

Consider delivery services if possible.

Do you need financial support to make your premises suitable for a takeaway or collection service? Contact us to see how we can help 

Food processing plants and kitchens

Food safety practices in food processing plants should continue to be delivered to the highest hygiene standards including the use of some personal protective equipment and frequent hand washing. People should be reminded to wash their hands for 20 seconds and more frequently than normal. You may need to provide additional handwashing stations or facilities if possible, providing soap, water and hand sanitiser.

Where the available space makes social distancing difficult to do so, employers should consider what measures may be put in place to protect employees. Protective clothing must be used and, once staff have left the food processing areas, a social distancing and further hand washing should be enforced.

The same advice must apply to staff canteens, which can remain open where there are no practical alternatives for staff to obtain food. Notices promoting hand hygiene and social distancing should be displayed prominently. 

What about the costs?

Any change you make to your usual business practices is likely to involve cost. You may need to issue protective gear, bring in signage and handwashing equipment, and provide extra floor space, all of which can involve expense at a time when your takings will almost certainly be down.

Local grant funding could be available for many small businesses that currently qualify for Small Business Rate Relief (SBRR) - a grant of £10,000 will be paid automatically by the local council.

Your local authority is scheduled to contact you in the early part of April with the details of what you are entitled to. Payment should be made shortly after. If your retail business has a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000, the local council grant could rise to £25,000.

However, you may need other types of funding - and need them immediately. 

The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme - CBILS

You may be eligible for the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), which could let you borrow up to £5m.

This provides loans rather than grants, and these loans will be interest-free for 12 months, with the government promising to underwrite 80% of the loan should a business fail.

The scheme is a part of a wider package of government support for UK businesses and employees. You can apply to lenders directly – but at Rangewell we are ready to help provide the help you need to secure the funding you need.

Our expertise can be valuable in ensuring that the funding you get really is the best for your needs, as the CBILS facility can support many types of lending.

Most popular is likely to be cashflow support which can provide a reserve of cash to tide a business over while income is reduced. You can borrow from £1,000-£500,000 – or up to £5m through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), and we may be able to secure the funds you need in a matter of days. 

You might also be eligible for revolving credit facilities under CBILS. These are also known as overdraft replacement and allow you to borrow and repay funds as required. 

What should you do now?

If you are keeping your food business open through the crisis, you will need to take all the necessary steps to be compliant with guidance without delay. You will then need to look at your financial needs - and, at Rangewell, we are ready to help. 

Whether we can help you find the answers to your needs with a loan under CBILS, or need more extensive answers such as Asset Refinance or even a remortgage to keep your business afloat, our team is ready to help. 

We know all the lenders in the market, and we can work with you to find the most cost-effective answers to your funding needs. During the current crisis, we can provide the quickest way to find the cash you must have.


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