How should you prepare for an inspection at your restaurant?
Sometimes you just never know when a health inspection may come knocking. Imagine having a bustling restaurant with numerous delivery orders when the health inspector shows up! Public health inspections are an invaluable way to guarantee your restaurant is secure and clean, helping set it up for long-term success while saving hundreds (or even thousands) in fines.
Be proactive and ready for when a health inspector walks into your establishment with a clipboard in his hand.
What Do Health Inspectors Do?
Health inspectors are professionals responsible for keeping the public safe by ensuring food safety, hygiene and staff hygiene are maintained. According to StateFoodSafety, they inspect many aspects of commercial and restaurant operations. Here are some common things inspectors consider during a restaurant inspection:
- Temperature control for food: All items should be thoroughly cooked
- Food preparation
- Food storage
- Employee hygiene – Staff members should wash their hands frequently, use gloves and cover their hair and beards with hair or beard covers.
- Installation: The kitchen is carefully laid out with all safety equipment
- Cleaning and sanitation All surfaces and equipment are regularly cleaned and disinfected
- Rodent control: Any signs or pests that might attract pests must be promptly addressed.
- Legal: All documents, permits and papers should be recorded.
Inspections of your health don’t have to be stressful. Stay calm, collected and in control by knowing what to expect when the health department visits you next time.
To identify areas for improvement, review past food inspection reports.
Past health inspection reports can help you identify areas for improvement. You could give these reports to employees or post them in the breakroom so they can focus on fixing what needs fixing and continue with excellent work in areas where your restaurant has excelled.
Create a game plan using your previous food inspection results to aid your team in preparation. Review Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points plans, quiz them about common health code violations, or consult the local health department to conduct self-inspections. These are great ways to get ready. Additionally, review any past inspection scores or areas flagged by health inspectors; ensure that serious violations are addressed right away.
Encourage Food Safety
Health inspectors are now paying more attention to food handling due to the rising incidence of food allergies and diseases related to it. Make sure your staff stays up-to-date on food safety practices such as handling foods with allergies or bacteria spread. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration offers some great tips for food safety:
- Wash your hands, food, and counters thoroughly after each use.
- To reduce the spread of germs and food-borne illnesses, keep raw foods separate from other dishes.
- To guarantee all food is cooked to the correct temperature using a thermometer, place cooked items immediately into the refrigerator.
- Store leftover food in an airtight container at room temperature until refrigerated.
After each annual health inspection, it’s easy for staff members to lapse back into old habits and overlook minor violations. To prevent this from occurring, promote good habits and be proactive when it comes to cleanliness, organization, and health standards.
While you wait for your inspection, be mindful of kitchen safety and practices. One option is reviewing your task lists for opening and closing a restaurant; you might uncover some daily tasks that will keep your establishment running efficiently.
Establish regular staff meetings.
It is essential for all staff members to be on the same page in order to avoid an adrenalin rush when a health inspector walks through your door. Hold regular meetings and ensure your restaurant remains compliant at all times. If you suspect an inspection might be coming up, call a mandatory conference and inform your staff members. Create an action plan with an agenda outlining what needs to be done in order to pass inspection.
Put yourself in the shoes of diners and experience their dining experience firsthand
It can be easy to get caught up in the backend operations or kitchen cleanliness. But it’s essential that you remember who these clean and organized spaces are for: your customers. Take a tour of your restaurant as if you were a customer; is it clean and organized? Does it accommodate food allergies and other dietary restrictions? Ask yourself, “Would I eat there?”
Health inspections are something no food establishment owner enjoys. But you can pass inspections if you take time to prepare your food correctly, then quickly serve it to customers.