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In the hospitality industry in 2020, wine cellars held a total value of £810,896 of stock. When you incorporate the figures for beers cellars and pub cellars, this value rockets way over £1 million.
With cellars being such a crucial component of many food and drink businesses in the UK, proper cellar management is essential. In fact, Beer Piper reported that pubs in the UK waste 40 million pints of beer every year due to inefficient cleaning of beer lines.
By following proper cellar management procedures and processes, businesses in the UK can save themselves huge amounts of money every year.
What is cellar management?
Many businesses in the UK utilise cellars for storing stock, equipment and machinery. Cellars are rooms below the ground level that are completely underground. A cellar typically maintains a consistent temperature and level of humidity, providing an ideal temperature for storing beverage stock such as wine, liquor, beer and ales.
Many hotels, pubs, bars and restaurants will utilise their cellars to store their beverages. Cellars are a great way of controlling the temperature and humidity levels that your stock is stored in, helping businesses to monitor the movement of stock, and protecting the stock from potential theft.
Some food businesses also use root cellars. This is a type of cellar that utilises the natural cooling, insulating and humidifying properties of the earth. Root cellars maximise the usable life of many foods, particularly crops and root vegetables such as onions, potatoes, garlic and carrots. This is because of the cool temperatures and controlled humidity in a root cellar.
Cellars usually maintain a temperature of 0-7° Celsius and 80-90% humidity. This slows the release of ethylene gas and the growth of microorganisms that can result in decomposition, resulting in a longer shelf life.
The environmental features of a cellar can also help to maintain the flavour, texture and nutritional value of the food. A cellar can also be used to store tinned food.
Many cellars also have an efficient cellar cooling system, which can help to keep their products fresh.
Cellars are a crucial aspect of many businesses in the UK and cellar management is therefore essential to ensure the quality of stock. Cellar management involves ensuring a cellar is well maintained and that hygiene standards are high.
Some ways to ensure proper cellar management are:
- Create a cleaning schedule:
Businesses have a legal requirement to properly clean food and drink storage areas. Not only does proper cleaning and maintenance help to protect the health and safety of your customers, but it can also help to protect the quality of your products. Having a cleaning schedule and cleaning policies in place helps to ensure standards are maintained and all staff adhere to the same guidelines. Cleaning policies should also apply to any equipment, machinery and utensils that are in your cellar. This includes beer kegs, wine barrels, dispense equipment and cask beer lines.
- Create a maintenance schedule:
All equipment and machinery must be properly maintained in order to ensure the consistently high quality of your products and the health and safety of both staff and customers. Consider how frequently your equipment needs to be maintained and what steps should be followed.
- Check gutters, drains and pipes:
This helps to ensure that water is able to flow properly and there is no debris or other blockages. Blockages can affect the flow of water and result in unclean water or burst pipes.
- Check for leaks:
Leaks in a cellar can be particularly problematic, especially when they occur in the walls, floors and ceilings of your cellar. Leaks can cause damage to the cellar and your stock and result in huge financial losses.
- Prevent insect and pest infestations:
The temperature, humidity and darkness of a cellar can attract insects and pests who may then breed and cause an infestation. Not only can insects and pests damage your stock and make food and drink unsafe to consume, but they can also damage equipment and furniture. Some insects, such as termites, can even cause structural damage to your cellar. You should regularly clean your cellar and check for signs of insects or pests.
- Check the temperature and humidity levels:
It is important to maintain the correct temperature and humidity in your cellar. Beer, wine and ale require a specific temperature for the fermentation process, or to ensure they age properly. Food also requires a specific temperature and humidity to prevent spoilage. You should regularly check the temperature and humidity of your cellar or install an alarm or warning system that will notify you if the temperature is not within the ideal parameters.
- Check ventilation is suitable and sufficient:
Good ventilation helps to reduce humidity and condensation. Condensation can result in a damp cellar and encourage the growth of mould. Some cellars may require manual ventilation, meaning you will need to open doors, windows or air hatches periodically.
- Ensure waste is not stored in the cellar:
Waste bins should not be kept in cellars and waste should be disposed of in other areas as quickly as possible.
- Implement CO₂ safety procedures:
A bar or pub cellar is likely to have CO₂ gas cylinders in its cellars that are used when pouring beer from the tap. The CO₂ extends the life of draught beers and gives them the fizz and froth they are known for. Having CO₂ cylinders on your property can result in gas leaks and have serious health implications. CO₂ cylinders should be stored safely and CO₂ gas sensors should be installed to detect any gas leaks.
Regulations and legislation around cellar management
The Food Safety (General Food Hygiene) Regulations 1995 covers not only food but also beverages such as beer and wine. Under the regulations, a cellar must have the same hygiene standards as are expected in a kitchen.
This could include:
- Managing cellar hygiene.
- Properly cleaning and maintaining drink dispense systems.
- Ensuring the structure of the cellar is in good order and condition.
- The correct cellar temperature should be maintained at all times.
- Suitable lighting should be present.
- Suitable and sufficient ventilation should be present.
- Access to the cellar should be free from obstruction.
- Ensuring that electrical equipment is operated safely.
- Properly cleaning all spillages.
- Perishable food should not be stored or prepared in a cellar.
- Smoking is not permitted in a cellar.
- Sumps should be cleaned regularly.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (1999) requires employers to control health and safety risks relating to a cellar. Some ways an employer can do this include having a health and safety policy, conducting risk assessments, implementing any actions or control measures from the risk assessments, and ensuring that all employees are aware of and are trained in how to deal with risks.
Some potential hazards and risks in a cellar are:
- Falling from height.
- Biological hazards, such as animal droppings, insects and mould.
- Poor ventilation.
- Electrical hazards that have a risk of electrocution or electric shock.
- Manual handling risks, such as lifting, carrying, pushing, or lowering a load.
- Trip and slip hazards.
- Falling objects.
- Areas of poor visibility.
- Hazards relating to CO₂ and other gases.
Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations requires employers to control any substances and materials which could be hazardous to health.
Employers are legally required to:
- Identify any substances or materials which could be hazardous.
- Conduct a risk assessment (if there are more than five employees).
- Record your findings.
- Implement control measures to reduce or eliminate the risks.
- Provide information, training and guidance to employees.
- Monitor control measures and conduct regular reviews.
- Create a plan for any emergency situations.
Who would manage the cellar?
Not all members of staff will be able to manage a cellar, nor will they all have access to the cellar. Often, it is only managers and supervisors that have the authorisation to access cellars and other storage areas.
A business may choose an existing manager or supervisor to be in charge of cellar management or may employ a member of staff whose sole responsibility is managing the cellar. The cellar manager may also train other members of staff who can assist in managing the cellar.
However, the cellar manager will usually always be present when the cellar door is open, or another member of staff is accessing the cellar. At all other times, the cellar will remain locked to ensure that access is limited, and the cellar, and any stock within the cellar, is never left unattended.
Staff must be trained in a variety of areas to ensure they have the knowledge, skills and competence to manage a cellar.
Some areas of cellar management you will need to be trained in include:
- Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH)
COSHH regulations are designed to protect employees from illness and injury when working with substances and materials which could be hazardous. The cellar manager must be aware of how to identify any risks or hazards and implement safety measures.
- Line cleaning
When managing a beer cellar or pub cellar, you must be aware of how to effectively clean the beer line system. This can prevent bacteria, mould, limescale and yeast from building up in the dispense lines. Beer lines will need to be cleaned every week and is an essential part of cellar management.
- Cleaning and maintenance of storage areas, equipment and machinery
Proper cleaning and maintenance are essential for the health and safety of customers and consumers. The cellar manager must be able to create cleaning and maintenance schedules and procedures and ensure these are being followed at all times.
- Changing gas cylinders, barrels and kegs
This includes how to change them safely and how to check they have not become hazardous to health.
- Food hygiene
Whether it is a food cellar, pub cellar, beer cellar or wine cellar, the cellar manager will need to be aware of food hygiene regulations and ensure that they and other members of staff are adhering to them. Any staff member who has access to the cellar should complete food hygiene training and obtain a food hygiene certificate. Food hygiene training should also be updated once every three years.
- Health and safety
This includes manual handling, working at height, and other potential hazards. The cellar manager should be able to conduct risk assessments and implement any actions.
The dos and don’ts in cellar management
When considering cellar management, there are some good practices you should ensure you follow and bad practices that you should avoid.
- Adhere to all COSHH regulations.
- Conduct risk assessments, record the findings, implement the actions and ensure they are regularly reviewed and updated.
- Ensure cleaning procedures are followed and hygiene standards maintained in the cellar.
- Follow Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) guidelines.
- Keep clear records of cleaning, maintenance, temperature checks, allergen information and health and safety procedures.
- Check for signs of insects and pests.
- Clear up any spillages immediately.
- Ensure the cellar has a working smoke detector and a CO₂ detector.
- Train any staff who will also have access to the cellar.
- Ensure the cellar has proper ventilation.
- Ensure temperature and humidity are within the correct parameters.
- Store or prepare perishables in the cellar.
- Have a waste bin in the cellar.
- Smoke in the cellar.
- Have animals in the cellar.
- Ignore any strange smells or odours.
- Use strong chemicals, disinfectants and bleach for cleaning in the cellar.
- Keep stock and other trip hazards on the floor.
- Allow non-trained staff to have access to the cellar.
- Ignore signs of leaks and blockages.
- Store cleaning materials, mops and buckets in the cellar.
Cellar general management process
In order to ensure your cellar is properly maintained and hygiene standards are upheld at all times, there are some general cellar management processes and procedures you can put in place for everyone who has access to the cellar to follow.
- Clean the cellar thoroughly on a regular basis
The frequency with which you will clean your cellar will depend on how often your deliveries are, the type of stock you store in your cellar and the level of activity that takes place. Usually, it is recommended that your cellar has a thorough clean once a week. This includes cleaning walls, ceilings, floors and drains.
- Implement a cleaning procedure
Your cleaning procedure will cover any equipment, utensils, barrels, kegs, dispense equipment and cask beer lines. You will need to specify how frequently these are cleaned and what cleaning materials will be used.
- Conduct risk assessments
You will need to conduct risk assessments relating to any aspect of cellar management that has potential hazards and risks. This could include moving the stock, cleaning equipment and handling potential spillages. Ensure all control measures are implemented and hazards are either eliminated or reduced to the lowest possible level. You will also need to review and update risk assessments regularly.
- Keep up-to-date records
Not only will this ensure the cleaning procedure is followed and that all areas are cleaned, but it will also provide evidence to an Environmental Health Officer (EHO) to show that you have up-to-date records of all cleaning and hygiene processes. The EHO may also want to see records of any allergen information, temperature checks, risk assessments, and health and safety policies.
- Introduce regular temperature checks
You could choose to manually check the temperature of the cellar at regular intervals or install a temperature checker or regulator in the cellar that will warn you if the temperature changes.
- Manually ventilate the cellar
Many cellars lack natural ventilation so you may need to implement a system for manually ventilating the cellar on a regular basis.
- Keep an accurate record of your stock
This ensures you are aware of when your stock entered the cellar, and you can monitor the brewing or ageing process. Stock management provides inventory records that you can refer to when ordering new stock or calculating profits and losses.