Almost half (44%) of customers said they would turn away from a restaurant, café, takeaway or pub if a food hygiene rating of less than four out of five was on the door.
Commercial insurer NFU Mutual estimate over 43,000 hospitality businesses in England will be at risk when they are legally required to display food hygiene ratings on the doors in 2019.
The NFU Mutual Food Hygiene Ratings Report, published today, shows that one in seven businesses across England, Wales and Northern Ireland have a food hygiene rating of three or below. Over 82% of all English catering and hospitality businesses have a hygiene rating of four or five.
While 80% of those surveyed are currently unaware of or not actively seeking the food hygiene ratings for their favourite food outlets, only one in 20 people said they would not be influenced by food hygiene ratings.
The mandatory display of food hygiene ratings schemes has already taken off in Wales and Northern Ireland, with England due to follow suit in 2019. Running in Wales since 2013, the scheme has helped to drive up standards with the number of businesses with the highest rating of five rising to 60% in 2016.
Darren Seward, hospitality sector specialist at NFU Mutual, said: "Our report shows that when it comes to food safety customers have naturally high standards and that a ‘good' score can no longer be seen as an aspiration but a minimum benchmark.
"It's fantastic to see that over 82% of all hospitality-sector food outlets in England have a rating of good or very good and the industry as a whole is taking real pride in food hygiene, but imminent compulsory displays are destined to be a game changer for those businesses struggling to reach the top grades. In advance of legislation changes all business owners should prioritise their food hygiene plans and processes, acting now to ensure that they have considered all hygiene and paperwork aspects rated by their local authority including cleanliness, structure and confidence in management, to ensure a continued rating of 4 or 5 for the day an inspector calls. Our free Food Hygiene Ratings Report also contains advice to help businesses achieve a good rating."
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