- Just Eat is removing all U.K. restaurants with a zero rating for hygiene — which in England, Wales and Northern Ireland means "urgent improvement is required" — by May 1, according to BBC. The food delivery platform's announcement followed a BBC investigation that found that 50% of the eateries rated zero by the Food Standards Agency in Manchester, Bristol and London were featured on its app.
- Going forward, new and existing food outlets on the app must have a rating of no less than 3 ("generally satisfactory") on the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme.
- Just Eat will invest $1.3 million to bolster food hygiene and safety standards and will help restaurants on its app with ratings below three improve their scores.
Quality control is crucial to the success of third-party delivery platforms, though customers typically blame the restaurant they ordered from for any issues they may have with their purchase. Delivery aggregates, however, are still on the hook for partnering with sub-par businesses, and in an increasingly cutthroat segment, any food safety stumbles can be a bruise to branding.
And Just Eat's issues were far more than just a stumble. Though the company claims most of its partners have good hygiene ratings, the BBC reported that it found rodent droppings on food preparation gear, mouse corpses laying in grease puddles and cockroaches infesting food preparation areas at some of its restaurants.. As part of its $1.3 million investment in restaurant hygiene improvement, Just Eat will send a food safety expert to struggling establishments and help them develop plans to get back on track, as well as how to book a re-inspection.
Just Eat's struggles are symptoms of an industrywide issue. Tech-startup HDScores has been calling out food vendors since 2012, and recently released an application that lets users view health ratings for more than 1 million businesses. In collaboration with Yelp, HDScores has cited 28 million health issues at restaurants.
Online ordering also enables restaurants to better hide their health hazards. Diners scrolling through lists of nearby eateries don't have letter grades and other signposts typically hung in restaurant windows to guide their assessment of whether or not an establishment is safe to eat from. And food safety is top of mind for consumers — 41% of diners say a restaurant's health department score influences their decision on where to eat, according to a Steritech survey. Thirty-one percent of diners will avoid an entire chain if only one location suffers a foodborne illness outbreak.
In order for Just Eat and other food aggregates to maintain quality reputations and sustain diner loyalty — customer health must be a top priority. And though investing in better standards could be costly, it would be better to eliminate existing issues and prevent future problems rather than risk highly visible reports like BBC's damaging investigation.