A new campaign has been launched to encourage the Northern Ireland public to be more forward in complaining if they are not satisfied with hygiene standards when eating out.
The public awareness initiative, from safefood, also provides restaurants with guidance on how to deal with issues raised by consumers.
New safefood research has found that 53% of consumers feel reluctant to speak out if they are unhappy about poor hygiene standards.
Yet 62% of consumers will not return to the food establishment if they experience poor food hygiene standards, and will tell others of their bad experience.
Martin Higgins, chief executive of safefood, said consumers are reluctant to speak out for a variety of reasons.
“Our research reveals that a lack of confidence, concerns about how staff will react, and whether speaking out will even improve the situation are all real issues for consumers,” he said.
Good businesses will welcome feedback from their customers and respond appropriately
“We would encourage consumers not just to think it, but to say it, as good businesses will welcome feedback from their customers and respond appropriately.
“With close to a third of consumers in Northern Ireland eating a meal outside of their home at least once a week, they can play a significant role in helping to raise and maintain standards by speaking out.
“By knowing when customers have concerns about hygiene, restaurants can improve their business and if the issue is handled well customers will not only be likely to come back.”
The Speak Out campaign provides restaurants with an information pack and promotional materials containing guidance, advice and information on how to deal effectively with issues raised by customers, how to respond and how to make an appropriate redress to them.
Developed by safefood, in collaboration with Excellence Ireland Quality Association (EIQA), the pack includes a staff booklet, poster, stickers and a brochure.
The campaign is endorsed by the Consumer Council for Northern Ireland and the National Consumer Agency, and involves a two-week radio advertising campaign across the island of Ireland.