Coffee shops are becoming more popular at both ends of the spectrum, whether a full-on corporate operator like Starbucks or Costa Coffee or more community and local grounds with drop-in coffee shops.
From a property perspective, the former ones are more straightforward in that things are easier to arrange. They already have standard fit-outs and procedures that they will be responsible for, and any landlord just needs to agree and documents standard terms and fit-out like any other commercial tenant.
For those at the latter end of the spectrum, whether a start-up wanting to begin a coffee shop, or landlord trying to encourage and work with a small operator, there can be a range of issues behind the scenes that become confusing.
Half the battle is first knowing what these issues are, and the various different ways that these need addressing. Therefore here is a flavour of these, not exhaustive of course, but a help to begin seeing what these are.
1. Compliance Concerns
There are three general areas to be aware of when it comes to compliance. If you have a lease scenario, then this will need checking as to whether these fall completely within the tenant’s remit, or the landlord’s as well, and if the landlord is included then whether any costs are recharged anyway through a service charge.
Firstly, general legislation that provides an obligation on the person responsible for the activity and area. There are mainstream ones such as the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, which oblige a responsible person to make sure things are safe and that necessary fire systems and procedures are in place. There’s also the Food Safety Act 1990 which focuses more on food and drink activities of the coffee shop, which will in turn have an influence on the property as well.
Leading on from this, the second aspect is registration of the coffee shop business with the local Environmental Health Authority 28 days before any trade commences (separate to an application afterwards for a Food Hygiene Rating Scheme). Practically this will be through a department in the local authority, and any early discussions with them helping to agree things at the outset before they then inspect the premises.
One grey area you may need to clarify is when this ‘business’ is officially triggered, particularly if it is an evolving service from, say, a point of internal refreshments within an organisation.
Also this environmental involvement with your local authority is in addition to any other property and business issues you liaise with the local authority on, for example business rates, planning permission, building control, and even waste removal services.
Thirdly, check what any insurers need you to adhere to, including any business, public liability, and contents cover as well as the main buildings insurance. In a landlord-tenant situation these may be across both parties, and although they will by default expect and maybe insist upon general areas of compliance like above, there may be additional requirements particularly from any unique policy and inspection of the premises.
2. Procedures & People
Before getting into some nitty-gritty property changes to look out for, it’s worth taking a step back to see what general procedures a coffee shop business will need to adhere to, and how their treatment of people like staff and shoppers will have an effect on the property interest.
Someone of the main sources of guidance on this will be Starting a Food Business guidance notes from the Food Standards Agency and your local authority.
So here are some of the people and procedural things to consider:
* A general Food Safety policy which has the basics of things like the Safer Food Better Business information (SFBB), and will be the main piece of documentation that any authorities like Environmental Health will want to inspect
* Specific Risk Assessments for the food and drinks activities
* Remembering that all new workers and volunteers will need training, both induction and ongoing. As well as food-related awareness and safety courses, part of this will be more building related issues like the Fire Evacuation Procedure and security measures.
* Manual Handling policy in place, and any additional aids to help with
* Lone Worker policy and action points, with the encouragement of others always being around, and any areas in, say, darker hours being safe and secure.
* Provision of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), whether by the business or individuals.
* Policy and awareness of dealing with cash and monies, including storage of, and security of things like the till.
* Procedures for correct storage and stock management, including a system for using the right items within their correct date range.
* Cleaning arrangements under a suitable COSHH policy, with additional hygiene requirements for food areas, and requirement for additional deep cleans of areas like coffee machines.
* Waste removal, both general and additional packaging, and of course food and drink waste.
3. Property Works
When it comes to the property aspect, here is a flavour of the kinds of issue to look out for in a special coffee-shop and catering scenarios:
* Extraction and ventilation for odours in the cooking and preparation area.
* Non-slip floor covering for behind counters and preparation areas.
* Separate sink and water for handwashing purposes.
* Hot water provision.
* Easy toilet access, including facilities for disabled persons.
* The correct preparation areas and worktops, including splash backs and seals to stop any bacteria collecting in hidden areas.
* No rough edges to cause harm to people, something you may see in more modern rustic-look coffee shops.
* Fire prevention systems, including doors that will correctly close in the event of a fire alarm activation. Also suitable fire blankets and extinguishers to hand, particularly around the cooking area.
* Correct lighting, both general so that people can still see without being too dimly-lit and ambient, and the right emergency light cover.
* First Aid and Accident Book facilities.
* Separate storage for cleaning items away from the food preparation area.
* PAT (Portable Appliance Testing) for each electrical item that is plugged in, as well as a current Fixed Wires Test for the hard wiring (usually every 5 years with commercial property).
* Asbestos Survey and Management Plan, particularly important with the fit-out works and modern trends to get down to exposed natural materials.
* Correct water systems, in terms of the right heating and cooling which can be even more important for people in this relaxed environment, and relevant Water Risk Assessments and water tap- and temperature-testing procedures.
* Signs and notices to not only warn people but guide them through the coffee-shop experience.
Filtering Through the Solution
It can appear very confusing when you begin to look at the detail needed for something like a coffee shop which on the face of it may appear straightforward with just a simple drinks facility in a kitchen area. Once you break it down though you can begin to see a clearer path as to where you need to go and what steps to take.
The sooner you brainstorm this and map actions out, then the better it will be, so that you can begin working with any other property interest like a landlord or tenant to make sure things are correctly prepared for.
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