Research has shown that more than half of customers say a 4 star food hygiene rating is the minimum a food outlet would need for them to consider eating there.
The survey by Navitas Group spoke to just under 2,000 people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland who had eaten out at a restaurant or bought from a takeaway in the last month.
Findings showed that a 3-star rating (indicating hygiene standards are generally satisfactory) was considered adequate by just 27 per cent, whilst 45 per cent said that 4 stars (indicating good food hygiene standards) was the minimum rating they would expect a food outlet to have. Some 13 per cent claimed they would only eat at 5-star establishments (where hygiene standards are very good).
The research also found that discovering a food outlet had a lower than anticipated hygiene rating would put people off going back almost as much as a poor dining experience – even if they had enjoyed eating there before.
And 83 per cent of diners said they would either probably not or definitely not go back to a restaurant or takeaway they discovered had a low rating even if they had enjoyed eating there before. Over a third said they would definitely not go back.
The display of food hygiene ratings is not mandatory in England and fewer than one in five of people here always check the food hygiene rating of a restaurant or takeaway before eating out.
Bob Mackay, a qualified Environmental Health Practitioner and Technical Director with Navitas Group who has previously called for the mandatory display of food hygiene ratings right across the UK, has welcomed the move by Just Eat as a step towards creating consistency and greater transparency for consumers and raising food hygiene standards.
He said: "This move is good news and supports the work the Food Standards Agency has been doing making diners aware of how and where they can check food hygiene ratings and should create the impetus for food outlets to raise their standards if they want to be listed by achieving a minimum of 3 stars.
"However, as our research shows, food outlets should be aiming higher if they want to attract and retain customers and should ideally be aiming to beat or match the competition by targeting a 5-star rating.
"Eating out has never been so popular and the choices are so varied. Our research shows that people do want to make informed choices and be confident that the food they're eating away from home has been stored, prepped and cooked safely and correctly and to good hygiene standards."