Many restaurant owners and managers find themselves stressing over upcoming health inspections. While passing an inspection can be difficult, having the right daily procedures and policies in place will help you ace your inspection with ease. Making sure your employees are trained on everything from effective methods for tracking temperatures to appropriate processes for wearing gloves and washing hands will keep you and your staff from scrambling when the health inspector arrives.
The Purpose of an Inspection
First and foremost knowing the purpose of an inspection will help all parties involved get on board with the process of preparing and maintaining effective restaurant policies. Restaurant inspections or food safety compliance inspections are conducted by health inspectors to reduce the potential for outbreaks of foodborne illness, to promote safe food handling practices and basic sanitation requirements, and to reinforce food safety guidelines and regulations. The frequency of inspection is based on a risk-based criteria analysis, but most restaurants are inspected 2 to 3 times each year.
The Best Way to Prepare for an Inspection
The best way to prepare for any inspection is to serve as your own health inspector and by enforcing regular self-inspection of food safety regulations. You should also work to identify any infractions and correct them before a health inspector identifies them. Not only do self-inspections improve food safety in your restaurant, but they also reduce the liability of your business.
An important step in self-regulation of your restaurant is learning to identify infractions. There are two classifications of infractions on a restaurant health inspection:
• Crucial Infractions – Issues that present an immediate health risk and would likely cause foodborne illness are considered crucial. These include food contamination, time and temperature issues, lack of water, sewage backup, and active pest infestations.
• Significant Infractions – Problems that present a potential health hazard are considered significant infractions. These include food contact surfaces and equipment that need repair or cleaning, dishwashers or refrigerators that require repair, missing thermometers, unsanitary garbage storage, improper sanitization of equipment and utensils, dirty ice machines or bins, and unsanitary bathrooms.
The Pros Restaurant Inspection Tips
- Rate your establishment based on the same metrics. If you really want to know how your restaurant will measure up in an inspection, you need to evaluate it based on the same standards the inspector will use. You can typically find the form or a similar one that the health department uses on your local health department website. Use this as a guide to evaluate your current performance.
- Make sure everyone is trained. Delivering the correct training to all of your staff is an important step toward ensuring you are meeting all current food safety standards. All service staff should receive food handler training and be certified through a food safety certification course, such as ServSafe, per your local health department’s standards. Make sure you are regularly refreshing your food handlers on safe food handling practices as well.
- Maintain good records. Keeping accurate records of food safety inspection reports conducted by the health department and self-inspection reports by you is important. Likewise, be sure to document pest control schedules as well as equipment service and repair and maintenance records.
- Monitor for pest infestation. Regularly monitoring for pests and checking for infestations is an important step to passing your inspection. It is in your best interest to secure a contract with a licensed pest control provider to get regular pest control services.
- Evaluate waste storage and removal. Sanitary storage of waste is an important component of food safety. Create a procedure to remove solid and liquid waste on at least a daily basis. Also maintain waste receptacles that are leak-proof, pest-proof, non-absorbent, and easily sealed.
- Maintain food contact surfaces. All surfaces that come in contact with food need to be cleaned regularly using an approved solution. Also, washing equipment and discarding broken or compromised tools is important to reduce the spread of germs.
- Implement effective hygiene practices for employees. All food handlers are required to wash hands before and after handling food. These individuals must use water, soap, and a clean dry towel when washing. Appropriate garments should also be worn at all times during food prep and distribution.
- Maintain effective food storage practices. Regularly monitoring food storage practices will also help you pass inspection. Make sure food is stored properly before cooking as well as after cooking. Label any chemical and store them in a location separate from food.
- Check food temperature controls frequently. You need to be well-versed in the local health regulation requirements regarding food temperature control. Be sure to regularly monitor food temperatures, ensuring that cold foods are cold and hot foods are hot.
Train all of your managers and make sure everyone is on the same page. Making sure all of your employees and manager are well-trained on food safety and on all policies is an essential to passing inspection. Using a system to train and maintain all employees is an important step toward successful completion of an inspection.
If you follow these tips for how to pass restaurant inspection, you and your staff will be prepared for a health inspection whenever the inspector arrives. Keep in mind that most inspectors usually arrive unannounced, so it’s important to maintain these practices all year long.