Cooking from Home - Environmental Health et al

(26 Posts)
TeamEdward Wed 14-Nov-12 22:17:12

Hello!
I thought I'd share my expereince of starting my own business from home and what the registration and inspection process is like.

Registration was really easy - I phoned my borough council, told them I was starting a baking business from home and they booked me in for an Environmental Health visit. They also suggested I contact the council's planning department, in case I needed planning permission. I didn't need planning permission as my business is very low-key (not loads of visitors, deliveries etc to hassle the neighbours).

I roped my Mum in to helping give my kitchen and bathroom a deep clean, but it really wasn't that necessary. The EHO didn't look in the fridge or oven. Shedid a visual check to see that the kitchen was well maintained and in good order, asked questions about storage of ingredients and about how I go about cleaning and the preparation of food.
I filled in the registration documents for her there and then, and she took me throught the Safer Food, Better Business document which is the recommended paperwork to document your cleaning routine etc.

I was worried I would be penalised for not having a seperate handwashing basin but, because cake making is low-risk food safety wise, the one and a half sink unit is sufficient as long as the half bowl is used for handwashing and the whole bowl for washing up. There seems to be quite a bit of common sense leeway applied to domestic kitchen being used for commercial purposes.

Hope this helps some of you - please ask me any questions, or post your own experiences!

GretaGip Wed 14-Nov-12 22:57:40

Your cakes look great, TeamEd.

Not the spotty oen though.

wink

TeamEdward Wed 14-Nov-12 23:07:39

Ha! Yes, that was a rather nasty case of chicken pox!
I have more cake pics in my gallery. I'd put the website address put and ask for your opinion, but it would out me!

GretaGip Wed 14-Nov-12 23:19:00

You could PM me?

(It's CTR btw, in my kickarse name)

k2togm1 Thu 15-Nov-12 13:04:06

Marking my place.

dizzydixies Thu 15-Nov-12 15:12:11

I run a food business from home too. 2yrs now. I'm the same but the Scottish system is a bit different I believe. Complete change from the last day job and utterly exhausting as I'm working ALL the time either making the goods or doing paperwork/answering calls or emails or delivering or getting ingredients etc etc etc

I'm at the stage now where I've capped what I can earn working from home so either have to keep going here OR take the plunge and go to the bank for a premises.

This was only supposed to be pin money from a hobby that I'm relatively good at grin

Got my food hygiene certificates from the local college using my ILA allowance

The house has been visited & cleared by the Env Health as SOON as I started up.

Seperate handwash sink isn't an issue as I make low risk goods and have a 1.5sink.

I can't work when I'm in charge of the kids - too much risk of cross contamination.

You can't have your laundry in the same room as your prep (fairly self explanitory)

No pets in prep area.

Domestic and commercial goods all have to be kept seperate.

That was the main points of my visit - hope this helps someone smile

k2togm1 Thu 15-Nov-12 22:33:42

So what happens if you 'fail' it? Are you given another chance?
My washing machine is in the kitchen, is that going to be a problem then?
I've been putting it off but got to do it!
What do you make (sorry I'm on phone and can't go back to check last posters bameblush)

k2togm1 Thu 15-Nov-12 22:34:07

* name dizzydixie

TeamEdward Fri 16-Nov-12 17:44:31

My washing machine is in the kitchen and it wasn't a problem. I have set "Kitchen hours" when I consider the business open. I don't have any domestic laundry in the kitchen at those times, and I have scheduled the cleaning routines I use at the beginning and end of these times.

It's really, really hard to fail (think rats running across the worktops and cockraoches playing cards in the fridge).

PurpleGeekyGirl Fri 16-Nov-12 19:44:07

Thanks so much for posting this smile it's something I need to get sorted and it's good to know it's not as scary as it sounds! I've over 25 years of food industry knowledge and experience so am not worried about my knowledge, but I was worried about the use of domestic premises vs catering specific ones!

dizzydixies Sat 17-Nov-12 14:32:32

They're never wanting you to 'fail' but they will give you guidelines regards best practise.

As TeamEdward says - if your laundry has no place other than the kitchen then you'll have to keep it seperate from all commercial production - nobody wants to eat food that's been prepped at the same time as you sorting through dirty undies!

It's all about common sense - laundry/storage/household pets/children etc

I have to admit it's a complete PITA now as I'm producing so much it's completely taken over my domestic home sad time to reconsider. The latest Env health chap I spoke to was one who always advises people NOT to start a food production business within their premises if they can really avoid it hmm I'm beginning to understand why now though lol

k2togm1 Sat 17-Nov-12 22:16:42

Time to take the plunge! We've been doing a fayre today and tomorrow, sold almost everything for the two days today so I take it as a 'go for it' signal. I better clean those cupboards then... I don't want to be the first one ever to fail without rats!

TeamEdward Sat 17-Nov-12 23:39:13

dizzy, my friend who is a commercial surveyor/estate agent says the opposite! Suitable premises are hard to find and expensive to kit out, so he recommends staying "at home" for as long and possible - even if it means moving production out to a converted garage or similar.
Maybe that is just down here (South coast) though.

dizzydixies Mon 19-Nov-12 21:53:28

I don't have a garage and demand is outstripping the domestic situation. I've done this for 2years now and need to seperate the workplace from the home. There just isn't any opportunity to switch off.

I did think the bloke was a twat though grinhmmgrin

TeamEdward Mon 19-Nov-12 21:56:02

Fair play, dizzy. I am only just starting and finding it a bit stressful to seperate home kitchen life from business kitchen life!

dizzydixies Mon 19-Nov-12 21:57:24

You have to be very strict with yourself otherwise there is just no switching off. I'm planning BIG changes for 2013 which will hopefully be the right decision <meep>

wem Tue 20-Nov-12 07:41:44

This is really interesting, thanks for starting it TeamEdward. I'm doing the same, but although I registered with the council about 10 months ago I haven't heard anything from them about an inspection. At the time they said I was low risk and that it'd probably be about 6 months before they got round to coming to see me, and as I was really only doing the odd cake for family I wasn't worried. But I'm selling to actual customers now, and feel a bit anxious that all they've done is send me a booklet to read.

I did chase them up once as I was worried that I'd missed out some bit of the process that meant I wasn't on their books but was told I'd done everything I needed to. I might go back to them again soon.

Also, I'm only just starting out and I'm already day-dreaming about having premises. Very difficult to keep everything separate.

MoreBeta Tue 20-Nov-12 08:26:15

Interesting thread.

There are large numbers of well established commercial baking and catering businesses failing at the moment so starting from home and keeping cost slow is a good thing. One very well regarded catering business failed in our town just yesterday and the owners lost everything.

Once a business reaches a certain scale though you will inevitably have to make the decision whether or not to move to commercial premises as dizzydixies is now doing . The problem is that commercial rents are still far too high and add on top of that business rates, insurance and more staff - your fixed costs go through the roof. Working from home is quite different from having a commercial operation.

Working from home there is very little in the way fixed amount of money going out of the door every month for rent and rates and wages - regardless of what you actually sell.

My advice is do your budget really carefully before taking on a commercial premises. Know what your break even point is. Ask yourself how many cakes you will have to sell to cover your fixed costs if you expand into a commercial space? It may be that the step up in volume you need is much larger than you can realistically hope to sell. In the current economic climate it may be better to just raise your prices to cut of some of your demand so you can keep it home based for the time being but make more profit that way. Another solution is to move house to somewhere where you can get a garage, outbuilding or workshop space attached to the property. I know of someone who started a home baking business on their kitchen table and then sold their house and bought a smallholding with old outbuildings they gradually converted as they needed to expand.

Commercial landlords are just being ridiculous with rents at the moment and being in charge of your own destiny by owning your business space rather than paying a landlord who demands ever higher rents in the face of an ever slowing economy makes more sense. The gaps on the high street and massive amounts of space on industrial estates is telling everyone that commercial rents should fall but banks and landlords are stil holding out and businesses are going under and property standing empty as a result.

dizzydixies Tue 20-Nov-12 16:38:04

Houses are so in demand here we couldn't being to use that as an option unfortunately. Most of the commercial premises here are bought by cash rich builders and turned into domestic properties so someone like me cannot get their hands on one. It's now happened 3 times and regardless of how I complain to the council they continue to let it happen.

Without going into the nearest city I can't get anything as we live in a small town. There is something nearby that I've been looking at which has been sitting empty for a few years so some negotiation may be done on that.

It HAS to go out of the house, I have no life and no time and the kids are sick of it. Fortunately for me it's not been a rush decision and I won't move till I find the right place - I can keep going as I am as long as I know I'm taking steps towards improvement.

I don't need a premises with footfall or on a high street so the rental value is actually very low in terms of square footage. Fingers crossed this is the one this time (4th time lucky!)

k2togm1 Tue 20-Nov-12 21:15:37

Very interesting contributions!

What have you all done about 'best before dates' ?

TeamEdward Tue 20-Nov-12 22:19:06

I've put on my order form/T&Cs that cakes are made to be eaten fresh and that we recommend they are eaten by the day after delivery/collection. Ball is in the customers court then!

k2togm1 Fri 23-Nov-12 20:51:27

Thanks teamedward. I wonder if I can do the same though, as I hope to start supplying local cafes.

Any ideas of how I could find out? I should perhaps ask the eho.

wem Sun 25-Nov-12 09:50:21

TeamEdward - how do you use your order forms exactly? I tend to do a lot of the consultatipn with customers by email and then send a final email setting out exactly what they've ordered. I would like to start using official order forms though, would it work to send one by email for them to fill in, or just fill out the details myself and send them a pdf or something?

TeamEdward Mon 26-Nov-12 14:04:50

I've made an order form up, my cakes so far have been made after a personal consultation so I fill it in with the customer. But it could just as easily be emailed, filled in and posted/emailed back.
PM me your email address and I can send you my order form to look at. I adapted it from a book about starting your own business, and "stole" a few ideas from other cake businesses who have their terms and conditions online.

wem Mon 26-Nov-12 18:21:43

That'd be great, thanks. I'll pm you smile

dairymoo Wed 28-Nov-12 14:47:21

This is a really interesting thread as I am in the process of setting up a (sort-of) catering business. I came across the idea in the States where you cannot sell food made in your own kitchen due to legal reasons (all food for sale needs to be made in a certified commercial kitchen) and wasn't sure if the same applied in this country. But I'm guessing from what you all are saying that it isn't the case. I am actually planning on doing a lot of cooking in my clients' kitchens but will still need to be certified. I was quite worried about it but am relieved that a few of you are saying it's not a big deal!

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