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Entrepreneurs Panel

Debbie Pierce
Tony Caldeira
Laura Tenison
Julie Meyer
Richard O'Sullivan
Charlie Mullins
David Pollock
Steve Purdham
Jennie Johnson
Brian Hay
Michael Oliver
Jeremy Roberts

Takeaway the issues

Richard O'Sullivan

Founded Millie’s Cookies in 1985 and went on to sell the Bury-based chain to catering giant Compass in 2003 for £24 million. In 2007 he signed an agreement with Boost Juice Bars – an Australian-based juice chain – to operate its UK outlets. The tenth Boost unit opened in the UK in Bristol in June 2009. O’Sullivan has been chairman of the Liverpool bar chain Baa Bar since 2006 and the Mexican food chain Barburrito since October 2008.

Question: 

I’ve been offered a takeaway business at what seems like a very good price. However, it turns out that about a year ago it was hit with a number of environmental health enforcements and warned it would be closed down – all of which was covered in the local press. It’s in a great location and I’m pretty sure I can sort out any hygiene issues but is the damage to its reputation likely to have been done?

Answer: 

I suppose the reason it’s a good price is because of past “issues”. But...buyer beware!

I’d arrange a professional survey by an environmental health and hygiene specialist to ensure that there are no extraordinary cost issues with bringing the premises up to standard. Repairing drains, extraction or dealing with substantial infestation could add significant costs to your purchase price. It’s best to avoid any surprises and not just take things at face value.

If you decide to proceed, I’d ensure a full makeover and name change. That, coupled with some PR in the local press, would help place the issues of the past to the back of people’s memories. If you’d like to send out a message of change, design the prep areas so they are in full view of the customers, which forces the kitchen teams to keep everywhere clean and tidy.

And the most important issue of all is to ensure every one of your team receives full environmental health officer (EHO) training for food hygiene. Display their certificates in the customer waiting area.

Customers’ confidence in food hygiene and cleanliness, coupled with consistently high quality food and great service will deliver repeat custom and sales success.

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