Hotel hygiene ratings leave food for thought

An investigation by Which? Travel has found that more than 650 UK hotels have a poor food hygiene rating. Some top hotels, including several with four stars and others with two AA Rosettes, received a food hygiene rating of just one.

In total, 652 UK hotels, B&Bs and guesthouses have poor food hygiene ratings, indicating that improvement is necessary, in some cases urgently. Each of these properties received a two or below from their local authority on the Food Standards Agency (FSA) 0-5 scale, or an ‘improvement required’ rating in Scotland. But some choose not to display the ratings provided by inspectors, either on the premises or online.

A number of hotels Which? found with poor hygiene ratings, but high star ratings include:

  • London’s five-star Royal Horseguards hotel has two AA Rosettes but a hygiene rating of just two.

  • In Birmingham, the four-star Novotel was given a hygiene rating of two for ‘high-risk food… out of temperature control’.

  • Inspectors at the four-star Copthorne Hotel in Birmingham discovered raw meat stored next to sauces in the fridge and out-of-date seafood, awarding a rating of one.

  • With two AA Rosettes, Best Western’s Dean Court Hotel in York was given a food hygiene rating of just one.


Which? Travel sent undercover researchers to do a spot check at eight hotels in London, Birmingham and Northumberland with a food hygiene rating of between 0 and 2. Not one visibly displayed its rating at the time of the visit. The Food Hygiene Ratings Scheme (FHRS) in England and the Food Hygiene Information Scheme (FHIS) in Scotland do not require hotels, B&Bs or guesthouses to publicly display ratings, unlike businesses in Wales and Northern Ireland.

Which? is calling for the mandatory display of food hygiene ratings at hotels, B&Bs and guesthouses across the UK, not only outside premises, but also on their websites. The FSA also believes a compulsory scheme is necessary and is building a case for a mandatory display scheme to be rolled out in England. Food Standards Scotland is also reviewing a similar scheme. Which? will be sharing its latest research with the FSA.

Rory Boland, Which? Travel Editor, said:

“Around nine in ten of us eat at least one meal in our overnight accommodation so it’s vital that hotels, B&Bs and guesthouses have high standards of food hygiene. We know that displaying the rating outside the premises encourages higher standards, which is why we support the FSA case for a compulsory display scheme for the whole of the UK.”


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Notes to Editors:

  • In January 2017, Which? accessed food hygiene ratings at hotel, B&Bs and guesthouses across the UK from the Food Standards Agency website.

  • Which? sent undercover researchers to eight hotels in London, Birmingham and Northumberland in November 2016. Each had a food hygiene rating of between 0 and 2. They checked all entrances to see if the rating was displayed prominently.

  • In November 2016, 5,088 Which? members completed an online survey about their knowledge of the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme and their eating habits when staying in UK hotels and B&Bs.

  • Local authority inspectors rate food businesses, including hotels, B&Bs and guesthouses, from ‘0’ (urgent improvement necessary) to ‘5’ (very good).

  • AA Rosettes are awarded by AA Hotel and Restaurant Inspectors recognising cooking at different levels nationwide.

  • Which? spoke to the AA, Visit Britain, the Good Food Guide and the Michelin guide, none of which stated explicitly that they routinely check food hygiene ratings.

  • Responses from hotels:

    • Best Western blamed the score at Dean Court Hotel in York on ‘a previous chef’s administrative oversight and clerical error’. It said the hotel is currently awaiting re-inspection.

    • A spokesperson for Guoman, owner of the Royal Horseguards, told us ‘a new senior management team immediately took action to improve standards’ after its March 2016 inspection. ‘The hotel is in touch with [Westminster] Council and expects to have another inspection shortly.’

    • Novotel’s owner, Accor, said about its Birmingham property: ‘We took immediate action to correct the issues raised from the inspection [in June 2016]. We are currently in the process of applying for recertification.’

    • A Copthorne spokesperson explained that ‘the visit [by inspectors] occurred at a time when standard processes had been disrupted temporarily by a change in the kitchen team. ‘The general manager took immediate action to remedy the faults identified and requested a return visit by environmental health inspectors at the earliest opportunity. At the time of writing (January 2017), a formal visit has not yet been made

  • Which? Travel is the only travel publication with a full-time investigations team.


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