How to prepare yourself for a restaurant inspection
It can happen at the worst times. There might be a full restaurant, with many delivery orders. Then suddenly the inspector arrives.
Public health inspections can help restaurant owners understand the safety and cleanliness in their restaurant. An inspection can help you ensure long-term success in your restaurant, as well as save hundreds or even thousands of dollars in possible fines.
The good news? You can keep your cool and be ready for the moment when a health inspector enters your establishment, clipboard in tow.
What does a health inspector do?
Health inspectors are professionals who make sure that the public is safe. They inspect food safety practices, food hygiene practices and staff hygiene. StateFoodSafety says they look at many aspects of your restaurant or commercial kitchen operation. The following are common elements inspectors examine during a restaurant’s health inspection:
- Food temperature controls: Each item is thoroughly cooked
- Food preparation
- Food Storage: Goods should be stored in cool and dry areas in appropriate containers that are clearly labeled
- Employee hygiene Staff members should wash their hands frequently, use gloves, and cover their hair.
- Setting up a facility: A kitchen has been carefully designed with all the safety and equipment needed
- Cleaning & sanitation: All surfaces, equipment, and utensils should be regularly cleaned and disinfected
- Pest Control: All areas where pests may be attracted are addressed immediately and any rodents or bugs are removed.
- Legal Documents, permits, papers and other documents are all included
It doesn’t have to be difficult to pass health inspections. It will be easier to remain calm, composed and relaxed when the health department comes by the next time.
Look back at past food inspections and identify areas where improvements can be made
For reviewing areas in need of improvement, you can use health inspection reports from past years. Post or hand out past inspection reports in the breakroom to allow employees to focus on problematic areas and continue the great work in areas where the restaurant has excelled.
Use your previous food inspections to create a gameplan for your team. Your Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points plan should be reviewed. You can also quiz your team regarding common violations of the health code, check with your local health department, or conduct self-inspections. All great ways to get your team ready. Take note of your previous inspection scores, as well as areas that were flagged by inspectors in the past. This will help you ensure that any major violations are addressed and not a cause for concern.
Promote food safety
Food handling is becoming more important as food allergies and other foodborne diseases are on the rise. You should regularly check in on your staff and make sure they are aware of food safety techniques. This includes food handling practices that can cause food allergies or spread bacteria. These are good food safety practices according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
- Wash your hands, cookware, and food.
- Raw foods should be kept separate from other food to prevent contamination.
- Make sure all foods are cooked to the correct temperature. Use a thermometer for verification.
Get food into the fridge immediately
Your staff may slip back into old routines and overlook minor violations after an annual health inspection. Encourage good habits and be proactive about maintaining high standards of cleanliness, organization, health, and safety.
You’ll save time later when you have to inspect the kitchen. It might be a good idea to go back over your task list for opening and closing restaurants. To keep your restaurant in tip-top shape, you might add a few tasks to the daily routine.
Schedule regular staff meetings
Staff must be on the same page to avoid the adrenaline rush that can occur when a health inspector enters a restaurant. Regular meetings are important to ensure your restaurant meets all standards. You can also call mandatory meetings to inform employees that you may need to inspect the restaurant. Prepare an action plan and agenda to cover the cleaning and maintenance requirements to pass the health inspection.
Take the role of a diner
It’s easy for us to get caught up on kitchen cleanliness and backend operations. You must remember your customers when you keep things organized and clean. Take a walk through your restaurant and put yourself in the shoes of customers. Is it clean. Is it easy to accommodate food and dietary preferences? Let’s ask ourselves: Would I eat there?
The health inspections are not something any food establishment owner wants to face. However, if you are able to properly prepare the food, you will be able to pass the inspection quickly and get back to serving customers.