The latest food and hygiene ratings show that more 60 per cent of Blackpool’s restaurants and takeaways gained a five star, with a further 24 per cent achieving four.
More than 1,700 of Blackpool businesses which are involved in the preparation of food have been inspected by the Food Standards Agency.
Of the total number of premises inspected, only two were given zero star ratings – Polly’s Kitchen in Church Street, Blackpool town centre, and The Dolphin Hotel in Central Drive. Inspectors said “urgent improvement” was needed at both. Nobody could be reached for a comment.
Despite being handed the worst rating possible, Polly’s Kitchen had a four-and-a-half out of five rating on review website TripAdvisor, based on seven comments. One said it was “comfy, clean and friendly.”
The Dolphin had the same score, based on 28 reviews, one of which said it was “immaculately clean.”
Any business that deals with food, including shops and even Blackpool Victoria Hospital’s kitchen (recently handed the top rating), has its cleanliness checked
by officers from the council.
They are scrutinised to see if they are meeting a number of requirements, with key factors including how hygienically food is handled, including how it is prepared, cooked, re-heated, cooled and stored.
The condition and cleanliness of kitchens and fridges are also checked, as are the layout, ventilation and other facilities, while eateries are also judged on record-keeping, such as food and fridge temperature charts.
Following the inspection, businesses are given a
rating ranging from zero,
the worst, to five, the
Red Brick Cafe, in Deansgate in the town centre, was given a one star rating after a visit in March. Owner Taz Robinson said his ‘score on the door’ has since been bumped up to four after a fresh inspection.
He said paperwork was the reason for his low score rather than cleanliness, and said inspectors turned up unannounced when he was not there – leaving his partner to deal with the visit without knowledge of paperwork or the criteria.
He said: “I lost a lot of points due to the paperwork situation. I reckon it is about 90 per cent paperwork during an inspection to make sure that you have all of the correct details.
“My partner didn’t know what all of this was when the inspectors came but she has been on a health and hygiene course since.”
Jennifer Everitt runs the Mayfair Hotel in Palatine Road, central Blackpool, which was given a five star rating – and expressed her delight at the result.
She was also subjected to an unannounced visit – and did not immediately realise who they were.
She said: “I thought at first it was someone looking to stay at the hotel and then realised they were here for an inspection.
“I have always been on top of all my paperwork as well as the hygiene, so I wasn’t worried at all, and I’m happy to display my five star rating in the window.”
Some companies that performed poorly in past inspections have since closed down, The Gazette has found.
Other firms have made marked improvement, like Frankie’s Cafe in Blackpool Road, Bispham, and the Peppermill in Birley Street, Blackpool town centre. Both were given one star rankings in the past – and were later upgraded to five stars.
A spokesman at Frankies said major improvements had been made to achieve such a result.
They said: “We knew we had performed poorly and we wanted to make sure that some good would come out of the rating. We looked over everything and sorted all the paperwork out ready for a re-inspection so it was a job well done when we got a five star rating.”
The council’s deputy leader, Coun Gillian Campbell, said the latest ratings were “really positive,” and added: “Not only have the number of zero-star rated premises gone down, but it’s fantastic to see that the increase in top ratings has more than doubled compared to last year.
“The rating system also supports driving up standards in food outlets across Blackpool which is a really positive outcome for both residents and visitors alike.”
The scores on the doors food hygiene system was established in 2011, though businesses do not currently have to display their ratings which, in theory, means poor ones can be hidden from view – and away from customers’ eyes.
There have been calls – and a commitment from the Government – to change that, however.
Wyre Council leader David Henderson and chief executive Garry Payne recently wrote to Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, urging the government to bring in mandatory ratings ‘at the earliest opportunity’.
A response from the Food Standards Agency said the government ‘remained committed to introducing a mandatory scheme by 2020’, council papers said.
Coun Henderson said it ‘costs money’ to send council inspectors to visit businesses, and added: “It would be pointless if that certificate is not on display to tell the public how well or how badly that premises has done.
“It would be preferable if all establishments displayed their certificate.”
Authorities have the power to prosecute businesses whose standards fall below the legal minimum, and often do – leading to court cases and fines.
The scores on the doors
Since last year, businesses appear to have tried to improve their hygiene ratings and there have been some improvements.
There were previously six establishments with a zero star rating in Blackpool: The Dolphin Hotel, Eating Inn on the Prom in South Shore, the Edwardian Hotel on the Prom in central Blackpool, Lucky Star Chinese takeaway in Park Road, Shalimar Gardens in Talbot Road, and Spiceland in Central Drive.
While the Dolphin Hotel has kept its zero star rating, Eating Inn has made a vast improvement and has been inspected again to gain five stars.
An Eating Inn employee said staff were “very happy” with the improvement, and now aim to keep the maximum rating.
The Edwardian Hotel changed its name and switched hands to become Garvey’s hotel with a four star rating.
Lucky Star and Spiceland have each gained three stars.
Shalimar Gardens had one star – a slight improvement.
The Allandale Hotel on the Prom, Lucky House takeaway in Coronation Street, and New Oceans hotel on the Promenade, all previously received one star.
The Bentleys Hotel in Bank Street, Cafe Renart in Lytham Road, Fortywinks in Charnley Road, and Old Bridge House in Lytham Road, all gained two star ratings previously.
Other establishments that have gone from a one star rating to a five star rating include the Bond Hotel in Bond Street, Kung Food Panda in Vicarage Lane, the Bay Hotel, South Beach Hotel on the Promenade, and The New Mayfair Hotel on New South Promenade.
Asia Bagus in Mowbray Drive, Corner View in Nelson Road, Golden Chef in Newton Drive, and Roker Hotel in New South Promenade, kept their one star ratings after being re-inspected.
The New Derby in Chapel Street was given a one star rating despite having two last year.
Nobody there could be reached for a comment.