Q: How can small food businesses start to plan for the future? What advice can GFF give small businesses to focus on building business and getting back on track?

A: The Guild of Fine Food are planning to run a webinar on Thursday 21 May chaired by MD John Farrand with 3-4 food business voices to help focus on the ‘Road to Recovery’ for the independent food & drink sector. Keep an eye on our bulletins for more information.

Q: Can you introduce new wholesalers or distributors who might be happy to collaborate with Great Taste award-winning producers and help them reach more customers?

 A: Since the beginning of April, the Guild of Fine Food has published a map of businesses who are willing to collaborate and help each other during the COVID-19 crisis. This includes producers, distributors and wholesalers. Visit http://gff.co.uk/support/

Alternatively contact myguild@gff.co.uk to find out more about membership of the Guild of Fine Food and how you can join our network of food & drink businesses.

Q: Will Food Hygiene Standards become more stringent in the future due to COVID-19? How can food businesses plan ahead and prepare for this possibility?

A: The FSA has published Guidance for food businesses on coronavirus (COVID-19). The guidance states that COVID-19 “is not known to be transmitted by exposure to food or food packaging.” The guidance suggests that existing good hygiene practices (such as being “fit for work, washing hands and wearing aprons or other clean clothing”) are effective at preventing the spread of disease via food. Such controls are effective at preventing transmission of viruses responsible for food poisoning, such as Norovirus. 

With regards to food packaging, and specifically the cleaning of such packaging where necessary, the FSA guidance states that “Staff should continue to follow existing risk assessments and safe systems of working. No additional precautions need to be taken.” 

The document includes additional specific guidance relating to Coronavirus, such as social distancing.

At this time there is no reason to believe that food enforcement will become more stringent in future.

A high standard for food safety is already enforced in the UK. The current Coronavirus pandemic has not identified food safety concerns in the UK which have contributed to the transmission of the virus. 

There is a strong case to be made for enforcement not creating additional barriers to food businesses once the current COVID-19 controls are relaxed as it will be in the interest of the country to facilitate economic recovery. Businesses should however ensure that they are compliant with existing rules on food hygiene.

Q:  Is there any advice or guidance producers need for running a food business from home?

A: No specific guidance has been published to date. 

The guidance on Closing certain businesses and venues in England covers work that it carried out in other peoples homes (eg repairs, cleaning and maintenance) and describes the exemption of food businesses from the closures affecting retail businesses, but it does not specifically cover the operation of a food business from a home address. 

Food manufacturing businesses are included in the FSA Guidance for food businesses on coronavirus (COVID-19) with regard to social distancing (or the consideration of other appropriate measures where this is not possible) and general hygiene requirements. Food businesses run from the home should already have effective hygiene procedures to prevent contamination of food. This usually includes the separation of the work area by time rather than geography with effective cleaning and disinfection before food handling. This could include carrying out food production when the room is not being used for domestic purposes, or excluding family members from the work area during commercial food handling.

In the absence of specific guidance for food businesses run from the home, the food business operator should be able to satisfy their Environmental Health Officer (EHO) that hygiene requirements are being met, and that the home environment does not present additional risks beyond those that may be present in any food producing business.

Commercial operations should cease for the appropriate quarantine period if a member of the household is suspected of being exposed to or infected with Coronavirus. 

The food business operator may want to contact their EHO to inform them of any additional measures they are taking to prevent contamination of food and protect public health.

Q:  What health and safety advice can GFF provide to retailers planning to reopen their deli cafés in the near future?

Takeaway and food delivery services are currently permitted. Further information can be found in the FSA Guidance for food businesses on coronavirus (COVID-19), which includes the recommendation that customers place their order before arriving to collect it, to reduce waiting times.

Unfortunately it is not possible to say exactly what measures will be required by the Government when food service businesses begin to resume full service. It is possible that social distancing rules may be imposed to some degree for a significant period of time. This might include controls such as a requirement to seat customers at a distance of 2 metres apart, or a curfew on the hours of operation. The Guild of Fine Food will issue further advice to members where it is possible to do so.


Closing certain businesses and venues in England


FSA Guidance for food businesses on coronavirus (COVID-19)


Q: What business loans & grants are available and how can we claim?

A: A number of business loans and grants have been announced, which we are sharing in our regular support bulletins. Here’s a summary below:

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme – If your turnover is below £45 million you can access government-backed loans of up to £5 million from commercial banks. This scheme will last for six months. You can approach one of 40 accredited lenders. More information via the British Business Bank.

Bounce Back Loans – For smaller businesses that are having difficulties applying for CBILS, the government has announced that small and medium-sized businesses will be eligible to apply for bounce back loans worth up to £50,000. It is a new scheme that allows businesses to borrow between £2,000 and £50,000 to help them through the COVID-19 crisis. The loans will be 100 percent backed by the government, unlike under the CBILS which is 80 percent. The scheme launched for applications on Monday 4 May and businesses will be able to apply after filling out a short online form. The government has said that funds will be deposited into bank accounts within 24 hours of application.

Retail Grants – If you’re mainly a shop or café you will be eligible for a one-off payment. If your property has a rateable value of £15,000 and under (or you already get small business rate relief or rural rate relief) you will get £10,000. If your property has a rateable value of over £15,000 and less than £51,000 you will get £25,000. Councils have this cash and are distributing it through different processes. If unsure, contact your local authority. 

Business Rates holiday – If you are based in England and mainly operate as a shop or café then you don’t have to pay business rates in the tax year starting 6 April 2020. Your council should send you a new bill for zero pounds. Remember to cancel any direct debits or standing orders. Schemes vary elsewhere in the UK.

Job Retention Scheme – The government will reimburse you for payments to furloughed workers in March, April and May that cover 80 per cent of their wages up to £2,500 a month plus associated minimum employer contributions to national insurance and auto enrol pensions. An online system to claim this cash was promised by the end of April. For full technical detail of the scheme see the HMRC website.

Self-employment Income Support Scheme – You can claim a one-off payment of up to £7,500 to cover April, May and June. The amount will be based on a proportion of your average profits over the past few years. You need to have submitted your self-assessment form for 2018/19 and have traded in the 2019/20 tax year.Your trading profits must be no more than £50,000 and represent more than half of your total income. HMRC will contact eligible businesses in May.

VAT deferral – There is no need to pay VAT between 20 March and 20 June but you will have to make it up by the end of the tax year. 

General tax support – If you struggle to pay tax then contact the HMRC and they will consider ways to help you.

Statutory Sick Pay rebate – If you have less than 250 employees and any of them self-isolate following government advice you can claim back the cost of paying them statutory sick pay. The system to get hold of this cash was not set up as of 9 April.

Q: What news on Great Taste 2020 and what should companies who have entered be preparing for?

A: Here at the Guild we have been working hard on our support service to the sector (www.gff.co.uk/support) and looking to ensure we can deliver our robust judging process for Great Taste in 2020. Over the past two weeks, we’ve been refining our judging process so that it can operate in accordance with social distancing.

We’re pleased to be able to share with you that we have established remote judging teams who will be assessing the same products simultaneously and discussing and sharing the experience over the internet. This will ensure that your food and drink goes through the same number of judging layers and rigour.

We have started calling in product samples by email and will gradually build capacity over the coming weeks. This should mean, with no more delays, we are scheduled to complete judging Great Taste 2020 by late Summer, in good time for the important Christmas trade.

You will receive an email when your delivery instructions are ready to download – please note this will be staggered over the next three months. Please ensure you read the revised delivery and quantity instructions carefully. As we are running a reduced team at the GFF offices, could you first direct any questions you may have concerning delivery instructions to greattaste@gff.co.uk and we will arrange for someone to email or call you back.

This year, more than ever, we will need to celebrate award-winning food and drink and support the independent retailers that sell them.

Q: Is it possible to order more Great Taste labels for my products?

A: Yes – we are despatching packages at least once a week at the moment so please email greattaste@gff.co.uk with your order. We will issue an invoice and on receipt of payment, your order will be processed on the next possible despatch date.

Q: What are other food businesses doing to survive the crisis? 

A: There have been so many great stories of independents innovating and supporting their local communities during the COVID-19 crisis, helping them raise awareness of their business and attract new customers.From pubs turning into community grocery stores, artisan distilleries producing hand sanitiser, producers and retailers donating food to NHS workers and food banks, shops launching new delivery services on everything from bikes to tractors, implementing successful social distancing measures, and swiftly refining product ranges to cater for the changing needs of customers, the list goes on.

Some great examples can be found at https://gff.co.uk/category/support-stories/ which we keep adding to, or follow us social media Instagram @guildoffinefood | Facebook @greattasteawards | Twitter @guildoffinefood – using the hashtag #supportlocal

Q: Is there any advice or help GFF can give to help retailers retain customers after lock down and keep them shopping locally?

We put this question to our Steering Group retail panel, and here are some ideas they came back with so far. We will be building on these ideas in preparation for our discussion webinar on Thursday 21 May.

“This week we are re-launching a meat promotion – easy bulk buys and savings. Our new customers will not have seen these before as we stopped all promotions weeks ago and our old customers are asking when they will be back. All down to £, time and enough space in the butchery to do these packed deals.”

“The uptake we have seen in sales via our website during lockdown has been fantastic, although we would never have wished for it to happen in these circumstances. This week we have been discussing how to retain our new online customers as people start to emerge from lockdown and shopping patterns enter a new phase.  We are looking at initiatives around gift vouchers in boxes, emails to those who have newly joined our database and also contacting recent customers for product reviews to maximise our site for SEO purposes.”

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