The boss of a popular Preston venue today told how he fears his business has been damaged after bungling council inspectors gave him the wrong food hygiene rating.
Haighton Manor was inspected by Preston Council in February last year and given a rating of three out of five – a major improvement on the rating of one which was recorded under the previous owners.
But thanks to “human error” at the council, a rating of one was still recorded on a hygiene ratings website – accessible to anyone – for seven months.
It was only changed after one of the venue’s suppliers spotted it and general manager Marc Bond complained to the Town Hall.
Since then, the venue has been re-inspected again and now has four out of five.
Today, the council apologised for the error.
But Mr Bond, who took over in November 2011, said it was impossible to calculate the damage done to the business if people had seen the incorrect rating and chosen not to go there.
He said: “When they inspected we were going through the kitchen improvement programme so we were never going to get the top marks because we were still rebuilding the kitchen.
“They sent me a certificate saying ‘generally satisfactory’ but it (the incorrect rating of one) was on the website for seven months. We would not have known had it not been for a supplier pointing it out to us.
“What we can’t possibly calculate is the damage it did in terms of people looking at (the website) and saying, ‘Okay, we won’t go there.’
“What we asked the council to do, quite reasonably, was to fund us to re-publicise the business to help counteract some of the damage. They refused point blank.
“We spent £30,000 on advertising at the same time as they were telling people we were unclean, unsafe and badly managed. I would advise other restaurant owners to check what is being published online because the council can make these terrible mistakes. They were telling us one thing and the public another.”
Mr Bond said the business is now thriving again. Haighton Manor has 50 weddings bookings this year alone and a busy conferencing business.
A spokesman for Preston Council said: “Since they took over, the current owners of Haighton Manor have put in a significant effort to improve the overall food hygiene standards at the premises.
“The previous owners had a food hygiene rating of one, indicating that major improvements were necessary.
“The current owners received a generally satisfactory rating of three when first inspected, but unfortunately due to human error that score was not immediately published on the national food hygiene rating website.
“The council was notified by the proprietor, Mr Bond, of this error and immediately apologised and took steps to publish the correct score.
“The owners continued to make improvements during 2012 and at a second inspection in September 2012 the premises received a rating of four, which indicates a good level of compliance with food hygiene requirements.”