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The Nationwide Caterers Association

Safe & Legal Checklist

14 things every food business needs to be safe & legal

Safe and Legal Checklist

Every catering business in the UK must adhere to a series of legal requirements in order to trade.

Follow our useful checklist in order to ensure that you are operating in accordance with the legal guidelines.

1. Register with your Local Authority

It is a legal requirement to register your business with the Environmental Health Department prior to trading. It is good practice and NCASS recommended to register at least 28 days before you begin trading.

Registration takes place with the Environmental Health Department at your Local Authority. Mobile caterers must register with the Local Authority in which their premises are kept.

Register with your local authority

Within your first three months of trading, your Environmental Health Department will carry out an inspection of your premises to ensure that you are trading legally and safely.

2. Register your business
Register as a business

Getting the right Legal & Tax Structure for you and your business.


When setting up your new catering business, you will need to elect a business structure which best suits the needs of your business. Options include:


  • Limited Company

  • Limited Liability Partnership

  • Partnership

  • Sole Trader

Make certain that you opt for the best structure for your business and consider both the advantages and pitfalls of each structure. Once you have decided on the option most relevant to your business, you must also register with HMRC and set up a Book Keeping System. > Find out more

3. Make sure you have all of your trading licences 

Whatever your business is offering, chances are you'll need a license for it. Alcohol, entertainment, selling hof food and drink late at night and selling food on the street all require different licences. Make sure that you speak to your local authority about which licences your business requires in order to trade safely and legally.

4. Make sure your premises are compliant

Make sure your design and construction are complient

You'll need to make sure that your premises meets legal requirements

Your business premises must be well maintained, minimise air-borne contamination, provide enough work space, protect against dirt, allow for good food hygiene practices and provide suitable food handling conditions.

5. Get ship shape with HMRC

If you're the business owner, you must register for self-assessment with HMRC and keep records of all your business income and expenses.

If your business has a turnover of £81,000 or more, you'll need to register for VAT too.

6. Get the right insurance

It is a legal requirement for caterers to have Employers' Liability Insurance, if they employ one or more staff members. Each day without cover can draw fines of up to £2,500. Employers' liability insurance protects business owners against the cost of compensation claims arising from employee illness or injury which have been sustained as a result of their work.

All caterers should also have Public Liability Insurance which protects business owners should customers or members of the public suffer personal injury or damage to their property as the result of your business. Public Liability Insurance covers the cost of legal expenses and compensation claims.

> Find out more here

7. Get the right equipment

All items which come in to contact with food must be comprised of safe materials, cleaned effectively, well maintained and fitted with appropriate control devices where necessary.

All your gas equipment must be CE marked and have a flame failure advice to cut the flow of gas if a flame goes out.

8. Get a gas safety certificate

All gas equipment which is used for catering purposes must be installed, inspected and tested annually by a gas safe engineer. This is a legal requirement and applies to ALL caterers; engineers will inspect your equipment and issue you with a certificate if your equipment is safe and legal to use.

9. Get an electrical certficate

Legislation dictates that all employers must provide safe business premises and equipment. NCASS therefore recommends that all caterers have an Electric Safety Check to verify the safety of all installed appliances. Periodic Inspections should also be carried out every 6 to 12 months in order to ensure continued safety. These can be provided by any NIC / IEC registered electrician as can the PAT (Portable Appliance Test). The electric safety tests determine the safety of your electrical installation, while the PAT testing is concerned with portable appliances.

> Find out more

10. Create a food risk assessment based on HACCP

All food businesses in the European Union must have a Food Safety Risk Assessment based on HACCP (Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points) principles.

Create a food safety risk assessment

The NCASS Due Diligence System covers Food Safety, Health & Safety, COSSH, Fire Safety and Employment. This not only helps you to understand and assess the risks associated with running your business, but also ensures that you have plans in place which are designed to minimise risk and liability in any eventuality.

> Find out more here

11. Operate a Food Safety Management System/Due Diligence System

Operate a food safety management system

A Due Diligence System is a vital tool for all caterers. Having a Due Diligence system in place ensures that you have a record of the policies and procedures to which you must adhere in order to keep your staff and customers safe at all times. As a caterer, a Due Diligence System is likely your only line of defence in the unfortunate event of prosecution, so it is essential that your Due Diligence System is relevant to your business. > Find out more here

12. Get Food Hygiene/Food Safety Training

All staff members within your catering business must receive training pertaining to their position.


This ensures that each staff member is operating safely, legally and effectively. If you're unsure as to whether you or your staff require further training, then please see our Training Area.

13. Employee Policies

You must pay every member of staff at least the National Minimum Wage.

You'll also need to keep records of employees' pay and pay VAT and National Insurance contributions on their behalf.

14. Hand Washing Facilities

By law, all food business must have separate hand and pot washing facilities.


People failing to wash their hands regularly is a key cause of cross contamination and food poisoning. Subsequently, it is a legal requirement for all catering units to have appropriate hand washing facilities. Anti Bacterial Gel is not accepted by Environmental Health Officers as an appropriate method of cleaning hands. 

If you need a mobile hand-washing solution then see our Store

Catering law matters

Compliance minimises risk to your customers and staff as well as to you and your business. With more than 30 years of experience under our belt, NCASS is well placed to help you run your food business legally and safely. Trade legally and you’re in the best position to trade safely.

All the information, tools, training and legislation updates you need to trade legally are waiting for you in your NCASS membership package. We go the extra mile to ensure that our members can trade legally whilst fulfilling their passion: cooking delicious food.

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