One of the ways that shop-owners are fighting back against online retailers is by offering complementary food and drink to their customers. But what are the legal and regulatory implications of doing this?
Whilst you may think the answer is ‘none’, there are a number of different matters to consider and a lot depends on what you plan to serve, where and at what time. Here are some of the matters that could apply to you:
Local Authority Licences
You will normally need prior permission from your local authority to:
- Offer hot food (both complementary and paid for)
- Offer paid for cold food
- Offer alcoholic drinks (both complementary and paid for)
- Regularly offer food and / or drinks after 9 pm (occasional evening events are okay)
You may need local authority planning approval if you are physically altering your shop so you can supply the food and drink. Whether you need such approval depends on the extent of your planned works.
Change of Class of Use Permission
Commercial buildings are divided into various categories known as ‘Use Classes’. Depending on the extent to which you wish to offer the food and drink, you may need to approach the local authority for permission to change your current Use Class.
If you have a landlord, you would need to check whether your lease / licence allows you to offer food and drink and whether prior consent is required for any changes to the property. If consent is required from your landlord, there is usually a cost involved in getting it and you will need to factor this in to your plans.
Check the terms of any insurance policies to check whether any notifications need to be given to insurers to ensure continued coverage.
If any existing employee is now required to stock/prepare/serve food and drinks, and such new services are significantly different from their current responsibilities, then the new duties may constitute a change in their contract of employment.
Changing an employee’s job description could be a major change (depending on the circumstances). If so, depending on the contract terms, their approval is most likely going to be required. If they do not give consent but you force them to undertake the new duties anyway, you could be in breach of their contract of employment.
Health and Safety
Shop owners are under a general duty to provide a safe environment for their customers, visitors and staff. Implementing food and drink facilities must be done in a safe and healthy way. Storage must also be done safely and hygienically, especially if the food or drink are perishable or can make people ill if stored incorrectly (e.g. chicken and salmon).