We are here to help you find kitchen space and we want to make sure you are going about it the right way. That is why we have partnered with the Nationwide Caterers Association to keep you up to date with all the support they can offer to make sure your business is safe, legal and profitable. This week they gave us 7 things you need to know when hiring a kitchen space.

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Have you found that it’s nigh on impossible to professionally produce food from home? You’re not alone. Environmental health departments have been known to ask caterers to apply for planning permission and build a commercial kitchen at home. It’s longwinded, it’s expensive and it’s just not practical. Especially for food start-ups who want to get cooking right away.

The thing is, street traders, function caterers and event professionals need a hygienic and suitable kitchen space to prepare and cook food in. So the flexible, low-cost option that Kitchup offers could just be the godsend to caterers looking for kitchens on an ad hoc basis.

If you’re going down the renting route, here’s 7 things you need to know before you get started.

Properties don’t get hygiene ratings, businesses do.

Yes, the suitability of your business space is taken into consideration during your hygiene inspection but overall, it’s the business that gets assessed and rated, not the kitchen. The kitchen you rent may well have a level five food hygiene score but that doesn’t mean that you do too, just because you’re renting it out.

If the environmental health officer visits your rented kitchen as part of your inspection, it’s because they want to know that you’ve chosen a safe and suitable space for your processes. They’ll take that into consideration when deciding which rating to award your business.

If the kitchen’s not clean enough, stay well clear.

As the food business operator (FBO) it’s your legal responsibility to make sure that you’re producing food that’s safe to eat. So if you turn up to a kitchen that’s not clean and get on with the cooking anyway, you’re putting your customers’ safety and your business’ future at risk.

Before using the kitchen, check that it’s hygienically clean and safe for food production, and that the equipment is too. If it’s not you should refuse to use the property until suitably cleaned.

Check that temperature control equipment is in good working order before starting any food preparation too; you’ll have to record fridge temperatures and cleaning in a rented kitchen, just as you would while out trading.

The local authority needs to know that you’re using rented space.

Your local authority will want to be confident that you are preparing safe food and may want to observe you doing it. When you register your business, make sure you inform them that you’ll be using rented kitchen space to cook or prepare food.

If you’re ever in the unfortunate position where a food poisoning outbreak occurs, you’ll also need to let your environmental health team know that the rented kitchen you use could be infected (or could even be the cause).

You’ve got to assess the risks of the rented kitchen.

All food businesses within the EU must have a food safety management system in place, and it has to be based on the principles of HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points).

As part of your safety procedures you’ll need to consider the risks and hazards of practices and physical set-ups throughout your business. That includes within your rented kitchen space, with consideration to the equipment and processes used there.

You still need liability insurance whether you rent or not.

Wherever you cook, you should have liability insurance. The law actually requires that you take out employer’s liability insurance to protect you and your business against claims from injured employees or contractors. That’s the case if you employ even just one person, and you should know that unpaid volunteers can still be classified as employees.

You need to make sure that your liability insurance covers you against all eventualities and take out public, product and employer’s liability insurance to keep your business as protected as possible. If you’re a mobile caterer, you’ll find that most local authorities and event organisers require you to have a minimum of £5 million public liability cover anyway.

To find out more about insurance for caterers, take a look here.

You’ll need to think twice before using high risk equipment.

Before using certain high risk equipment in a rented kitchen, you’ll need to make sure that it’s absolutely safe to do so. We’re talking things like vacuum packers, meat slicers or sous vide machines.

You might find out that you’re not actually able to use certain equipment within the rented kitchen. For example, did you know that the Food Standards Agency don’t allow dual use of vacuum packing machines? That means you can’t use one machine to vacuum pack both cooked and raw foods.

So if your menu is dependent on use of a high risk piece of kit, always ascertain whether you can use everything you need before agreeing to rent the kitchen. If you’re not sure whether it’s safe to use any of the equipment in your chosen rented kitchen, contact the owner, your local environmental health department and – if you’re member of the Nationwide Caterers Association (NCASS) – your trade association.

You’ll get all the support you need from NCASS.

When you become part of the NCASS family you get the exact advice and support that you need, exactly when you need it. We’ll back you up, answer your questions about all aspects of catering (not just commercial kitchens!), and lend a helping hand whenever you need. And that’s not all.

You’ll also get the tools that you physically need to have peace of mind that you’re trading legally and safely. Things like due diligence documents, £1000’s worth of training, the protection of a Primary Authority and great discounts on insurance.

But all that is nothing compared to the happy feeling you’ll get knowing that you’re part of the UK’s only trade association dedicated to supporting mobile caterers through every step of their careers. The other 3000 caterers in the NCASS family will tell you just the same. Find out more here.