Fire safety in takeaways and cafes.

If you're in the food business, here are fire safety the essentials you need to know. 

If you're responsible for a food business like a restaurant, cafe or takeaway, there are specific areas of fire safety you need to really pay attention to. 

What causes fires in restaurants and takeaways?

  1. Kitchen appliances 25%
  2. Cooker 23%
  3. Electrical distribution 17%

On this page, we'll take a closer look at the risks – and what you can do to reduce them. 

Did you know?

Everyone in business needs to complete a Fire Risk Assessment and make a emergency plan.

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Risky business – what to watch out for 

The first step to improving your fire prevention strategy is identifying where things can go wrong. In 2016/17, our firefighters attended many fires in food businesses across London, and we've noticed some common factors in the premises who run into problems. 

Common fire risks in food businesses

  1. Dirty ducting – if you don't clean the ducting in your extraction system regularly, you're at a greater risk of ducting fires 
  2. Poor fire-safe separation between units – this is especially dangerous if you don't keep your ducting clean. Ducting can pass through residential accommodation above and causing secondary fires. 
  3. Electrical fires – because businesses haven't tested portable appliances (like kitchen radios or blenders), and because the electrical system itself isn't up to scratch. 
  4. Electrical lighting – can be placed too close to flammable material, increasing the risk of fire. 
  5. Cooking techniques – overheating of oils used for cooking
  6. Tumble dryers – food businesses can get through a lot of laundry, and face increased risks, for instance when drying towels overheat in the dryer, or staff members forget to regularly clear lint. 
  7. Outdoor areas and shisha bars – patio heaters and their gas supplies need to be handled carefully, and so do shisha coals.
  8. Storage and rubbish – we often see blocked escaped routes, and piles of rubbish increasing the risk of potential arson or accidental fires from stray cigarettes. 

Firefighters tips for restaurants and takeaways

Though the food business poses extra risks and challenges when it comes to preventing fire, with a little planning you can keep your customers, your people, and your premises fire safe. 

  • Have ducting cleaned regularly in accordance with guidance TR/19.
  • Ensure ducting is installed correctly.
  • Make sure all electrical items are tested and maintained – check regularly, and don't allow employees to bring their own kitchen appliances to work. 
  • Ensure your electrical system is regularly tested – at least once every year.
  • Educate your staff about the risks of overloading sockets, and make sure no-one is using counterfeit phone chargers
  • Use your tumble dryer safely – have named individuals responsible for cleaning lint and checking it dryer regularly. 
  • Complete your Fire Risk Assessment, and make an emergency plan that includes disabled people.

Why should you care about fire safety? 

  1. You are risking lives if you don't.
  2. It's the law – you can face an unlimited fine and even time in prison if you don't meet your legal obligations.
  3. It makes good business sense – the Association of British Insurers reported that around 60% of private businesses never recover from a fire. 

Signs that something’s amiss…

Gaps and holes

Typically between the stairs and the commercial premises.  A fire in the commercial premises can allow smoke and the products of combustion to enter the staircase and stop people exiting.

What to look out for: 

  • Damaged walls from the staircase to the commercial premises – look out for holes or large cracks.
  • Ill-fitting or damaged doors in the wall from the commercial premises to the staircase.

Holes in the floors exposing the premises beneath.

Residential entrance through the commercial premise

If a flat or bedsit can only be accessed through the commercial premises, fire can spread very quickly from one area to another and you may have no way to escape.

What to look out for: 

  • No separate entrance or way to leave quickly in an emergency.

Useful downloads

After we leave – what happens after a fire?

Download PDF (177kb)

GN96 – Catering Kitchen Extract Systems

Download PDF (469kb)

Complete or update your Fire Risk Assessment

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