So you want to improve your farm shop or independent retail business?
Businesses need change. It is a fact that good growth over a period of time will inevitably plateau and eventually decline. This is a phenomenon described by Charles Handy in his book ‘The Empty Raincoat’ with a Sigmoid curve. According to Handy, the best time to start a new curve - that is, intervene with changes that will produce new growth for your business - is before you reach the peak of your existing one - point A on the diagram. That way you’ll have resources and momentum; however, most people only think of doing something new when their business has begun a downwards trend, point B on the diagram. Catching the right moment is what it’s about and successful businesses are continually changing and reinventing.
Farm shops are not immune from the Sigmoid effect! Retail Netwerks UK (RNUK) has observed over its 20+ years of working with farm retail businesses that they are generally slower to change than is good for them. Too often what was a thriving, leading edge farm shop goes into decline through staying too long in its ‘comfort zone’ and not making investment in change.
WHAT’S AT STAKE?
Local authority Food Safety officers, part of the Environmental Health department, have legal authority to impose requirements for food safety. Their visits to premises are annual or less frequent than this for premises where they see good practice. Where they see faults, their visits will be more frequent. The most serious breaches can result in a business being closed to customers without notice.
The food safety scores used in England and Wales are numerical, 0 through to 5, and results are published on local authority websites. You can also put your score quite literally on the door to show your high standards achieved.
Included in the assessment is overall cleanliness, management of fridges and freezers, vermin control etc - and, importantly, the assessment includes documentation for a Food Safety Management System with a separate document for each product made on the premises.
RNUK has worked with farm shops to produce documents and templates that enable production teams to keep up to date with their paperwork. In addition, flow charts and checklists that form the backbone of the documented food safety system are produced so that good practice for temperature controls etc can be demonstrated at all times.
The farm shop had been awarded a score of 2 (improvement needed) by the Food Safety team. The main issues revolved around documentation which the management team was finding daunting to prepare.
RNUK was asked to work with the farm shop management, kitchens and production teams to produce appropriate documents, templates for future work and training which would enable them to keep their Food Safety Management folder up to date.
The Food Safety Officer was invited to reinspect following this work. The premises now has a score of 4, and is still improving its procedures.