More than two-thirds of people check food hygiene ratings before they spend, research by insurance firm NFU Mutual has shown.
NFU found that 69% of diners questioned check a restaurant's ratings, with 34% saying they would turn away if it had a rating of three or less – a category that more than 40,000 hospitality businesses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland fit into.
Takeaways and sandwich shops are most likely to have their ratings checked, with 55% of potential diners saying they actively look them up, with restaurants a close second at 54%.
The NFU has linked the figures to an increased awareness of food-related illnesses, with the Food Standards Agency reporting that two-thirds of foodborne norovirus cases are linked to eating out and takeaways.
Takeaways and sandwich shops also have the lowest average scores, with 27% scoring a three or below.
Darren Seward, hospitality and food and drink manufacturing specialist at NFU Mutual, said: "Food hygiene looms larger than ever in the public consciousness. Judged by the court of public opinion, even the smallest lapse in hygiene standards can make or break a reputation overnight, so it's crucial that businesses don't get complacent about food hygiene."