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Starting a food business – a step-by-step guide

These are the steps you should take when starting a new food business


Choosing the right premises

The premises you choose for your business must:

  • comply with the necessary regulations
  • allow you to prepare food safely

You must keep your premises clean and maintained in good repair and condition. Your premises must allow you to follow good food hygiene practices, including protection against contamination and pest control.

Key things to check for:

  • adequate number of wash hand basins suitably located
  • equipment storage and cleaning facilities
  • premises structure (walls, floors, ceilings and surfaces) is easy to clean and is a good condition
  • suitable preparation and workspace large enough to carry out food handling and avoiding cross contamination risks from raw or allergenic foods
  • storage and access of waste facilities
  • food storage facilities
  • suitably pest proofed, no holes or gaps that could allow access or ingress of pests

For more information about what to consider when choosing your premises please see the advice on the food standards agency website

If you are looking at starting a business from home further advice can be found here at the food standards agency website

Complete food hygiene training

All food handlers must have suitable training in food safety and hygiene. It is strongly recommended that you complete a food hygiene training course and other relevant courses, such as allergen awareness before starting to trade.

More information on food hygiene training can be found on our food hygiene training pages.

Plan food products and safe processes

You must carefully plan how your food business will work, what products you will sell, what processes are involved and if there are any specific risks to control.

In most food businesses the main four areas to consider are the four Cs:

  • Cleaning
  • Cooking
  • Chilling
  • Cross contamination

For more information on food hygiene controls, please see the advice on the food standards agency website.

If you are planning any higher risk products or processes such as vacuum packing, sous vide, rare burgers, raw fish or meat dishes or offal dishes these need additional controls. Further guidance can be found on our higher risk food and processes webpage or the food standards agency website.

Put a food safety management system in place

All food businesses are required to put in place and implement a documented food safety management system.

This system does not need to be complex but it must detail how you keep your food safe in your business.

The easiest way to achieve this is by following the Safer Food Better Business system developed by the Food Standards Agency. For further details or purchase a printed pack please visit our Food Safety Management System webpages.

Review allergens handled and complete the suitable documentation

All food businesses must be aware of what allergens they handle and have suitable controls in place to prevent cross contamination and mis sale of products.

There are certain requirements for all food businesses when it comes to allergen controls, documentation and labelling. For full details, please visit the food standards agency website

You may also wish to ask for some labelling advice from our colleagues at Trading Standards in Oxfordshire County Council, for contact details and advice, please visit the Trading Standards website.

Consider health and safety requirements

All businesses have some responsibility for protecting the health, safety and welfare of employees and others. Please visit our Health and safety advice page for details.

You must carry out a risk assessment of any risks employees and others may be exposed to and put in place suitable controls. You can find examples of risk assessments on the Health and Safety Executives website.

The safety and suitability of work equipment must also be considered, particularly gas and electrical equipment, moving equipment and chemical handling.

You can find advice and guidance on health and safety basics for businesses on the Health and Safety Executive website.

Ask for an advisory visit

If you want some further help and guidance, we are able to visit your premises before carrying out an inspection.

During this visit we can assess the suitability of the premises and structure, as well as provide advice on how to comply with the hygiene regulations and answer any questions you may have.

If you wish to have an advisory visit before trading, please see our advisory visits page.

Register as a food business

When you are almost ready to start your food business you must register with us.

You should do this at least 28 days before opening but try not to register any earlier than 2 months prior to trading. Registration is free of charge.

Please click here to register your food business.

Receive a food hygiene inspection

Shortly after registering you will receive a food hygiene inspection.

These are carried out unannounced, unless your business is based in a domestic premises when the inspection will be carried out by appointment, ideally at a time when you are handling food.

During the inspection we will review your food safety management system, training and allergen procedures as well as inspect the premises structure and go through your handling practices of the food.

Following your inspection, we will leave a report with any actions required and details of what food hygiene rating you have achieved.

Please click here for more information on the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme.

After your inspection, we may revisit to check on the implementation of any action required or it may be checked at your next inspection will could be anywhere between 6 months and 3 years depending on the type of food business you have.

For more information, please visit our food inspections webpage.

Further information

If you have any questions please email or call 01235 422403 (you will need to leave a message with your name and number and we will call you back).

Alternatively you can send us a question or query using our online enquiry form.

Community Food Provision, Events and Food Banks

If you are an individual or group wishing to prepare meals at home for the community or provide food to food banks please visit the Food Standards Agency website for some helpful advice.

Trading Standards

Trading standards can provide advice about labelling including allergens and weights and measures.  For more information, visit the Oxfordshire Trading Standards website.

Planning Permission

Has your premises got the right planning consent.  For more information, visit our planning webpages.


If you are selling alcohol or entertainment you may need a premises licence.  For more information, visit our licensing webpages.