Advice for Catering Businesses

Ards and North Down Borough Council Environmental Health Team has put together the following information for catering businesses who may have started a delivery service during the Coronavirus/COVID-19 outbreak. 



This advisory note is intended for registered food businesses wishing to operate a temporary delivery or collection service during the current difficult trading period.  It contains some simple advice for those wishing to offer a basic food preparation and delivery service.  It remains the responsibility of each food business operator to ensure that the principles of your HACCP based food safety management system are followed. This may require you to amend your procedures and to provide additional instruction to staff.  Complex menus will require particular attention to ensure food is safe.  The cooking and preparation of food should be carried out ensuring that you are taking all the normal food safety precautions that you would normally be expected of your food business.  In particular, regular effective hand washing is essential.


Food should be packaged securely, covered, enclosed, sealed in containers or using materials that are suitable, designed for the purpose and are food safe.  


When a customer places an order for food staff should ask about any allergen concerns.  If a customer makes a request that food should not contain an allergenic ingredient, then this should be clearly recorded on the order.  When completed for delivery the order should be labelled in a clear and legible manner to enable the customer to easily identify the food which does not contain the allergen of concern.  It is important that if you do not have a procedure for controlling possible cross contamination of allergens that you inform the customer of this possibility.


  • Food which has been cooked and then chilled carries additional risks as food poisoning bacteria will grow even during chilled storage and proper reheating is essential.  You should prepare food and ingredients on the day of use if possible and keep chilled until needed.  Frozen ingredients should be defrosted using safe methods – see link below.  The food should be kept in the refrigerator until needed and packaged for delivery.
  • Do not attempt to guess how long food can be kept by the customer prior to consumption. Unless you have scientific evidence that the food will remain safe it is suggested that the food should be clearly labelled to be reheated (or eaten cold) as appropriate on the day of purchase.
  • Chilled food should be clearly labelled informing the customer to place it in the refrigerator and to keep refrigerated until reheating the food or if intended to be eaten cold.
  • If the food requires to be reheated then it should be labelled with reheating instructions.


Every effort should be made to ensure food is maintained at a safe temperature during delivery.  Cold food should be packed into cool boxes containing ice packs or wrapped in clean insulated blankets.

Hot food should be supplied with the intention that it will be consumed immediately and should be delivered to the customer in the shortest time possible.

If delivery vehicles are being used for other purposes when food is not being delivered they should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before being used to deliver food.


Your food may be consumed by People with a ‘high risk’ health condition.

It is essential that all staff and especially those that prepare or handle open food continue to observe the very highest standards of personal hygiene and handwashing in line with the widely publicised NHS guidelines.


You are advised to draw up a simple written procedure for staff to follow when taking orders and preparing food for delivery and ensure that staff are instructed accordingly.  You are advised to maintain a record of the steps you have taken. If you require any further advice or clarification of any of the points raised in this note, you should not hesitate to contact the council’s Environmental Health team:  Phone: 0300 013 3333

The following links contain important information that will assist you to provide a safe delivery and/or collection service.


  1. How to safely defrost frozen ingredients

  1. Allergen guidance

Safer Food Better Business


Other guidance can be found by following links from the Food Standards Agency home page:

Contact The Environmental Health Team

If you need further help or advice, contact the Environmental Health Team.

NI Business Info Guidance for Businesses

NI Business Info has published advice for food businesses on food hygiene, packaging and coronavirus. 

View Advice