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10 Tips from Restaurant Pros to Help You Pass Your Next Inspection

Updated on September 13, 2017

To a restaurant owner or manager, health inspections can be a stressful event. But establishing some simple strategies can set your restaurant up for success.

1. Know the Process

Get a copy of the form your local health inspector uses. If your restaurant has any copies of previous health inspections, use those as a starting point.

Familiarize yourself with how the inspection will proceed. Knowing what the critical violations are ahead of time will help you better prepare. Use any past inspections to identify the areas that your restaurant can improve upon the most.

2. Understand the Basics

Before your health inspection begins, it's important to remember to prioritize the critical violations. While the basics of your health inspection are usually general food-safety issues, they can still get overlooked during the daily grind.

Guidelines for cross-contamination, kitchen safety, personal hygiene, proper temperatures, and cleanliness are going to be the first thing the inspector looks at. These are also the issues that are going to be the most damaging to your restaurant's health report.

3. Schedule a Staff Meeting

To ensure everyone is on the same page, hold a mandatory meeting with your staff. Use this as an opportunity to inform employees about your expectations for preparing the restaurant for inspection.

Relay the importance of proper food safety standards and guidelines. Assign any cleaning or maintenance tasks that need to be done before the inspection and put together an action plan to make sure those projects get completed.

4. Perform a Self-Inspection

Doing your own inspection on a weekly or even daily basis can help you to think like the health inspector. Create or download a checklist to use when you walk through your restaurant that includes checking temperatures, making sure food is stored properly, and evaluates all critical areas. Then correct any problems immediately.

Getting into a routine of self-inspection will help you remember all the regulations you should be adhering to. This will increase your likelihood of passing a real inspection in the future.

5. Address Potential Fire and Flood Hazards

For preventing fires, equipment like stoves, grills, and fryers should all be clean and in working order. All vents and hoods should be free of debris, with filters clean and in place.

Check plumbing including fixtures, drainage, and back-flow devices that could lead to potential problems. Improper water flow from sinks, drains, toilets, and refrigeration units can all count as violations.

6. Reinforce Proper Handwashing Procedure

Handwashing to prevent foodborne illnesses might seem like a no-brainer, but proper hand washing procedure is often overlooked. Getting employees to use the correct water temperature (at least 100°F) and wash for the required amount of time (no less than 20 seconds) is just a start.

Make sure your staff knows how often and after which tasks they are required to wash their hands. Designate specific handwashing sinks and make sure any necessary signage is in place to comply with local health codes.

7. Check Temperatures

In addition to checking hot and cold food items with a probe thermometer, consider replacing old internal thermometers to get the most accurate reading inside your refrigeration units.

If food is found to be out of a safe temperature zone it's important to take immediate action. Food that is only a few degrees too warm can sometimes be rapidly chilled with ice or other means to get it back to a safe temperature. However, food that is closer to 50°F should be discarded.

8. Prevent and Eliminate Pests

Rodents and insects are naturally attracted to any place that makes and serves food. To prevent pests, keep all drains, corners, and floors cleaned and cleared. Keep exterior doors shut to avoid pests coming in from outside and set out traps to address any current pests.

If an inspector discovers a few droppings or a single insect, it might only count as a minor violation. An infestation, though, can prompt a health inspector to close down your restaurant.

9. Follow Sanitization Standards

Your restaurant should already be using a cleaning and sanitizing routine, but it's good practice to ensure it adheres to your local health department's standards as well. Sanitizer buckets and dishwashing machines will both be checked during inspections, so if they aren't sanitizing properly, address the problem right away.

10. Review Changes to Local Health Code

Finally, don't get caught off guard by newly added regulations. While the local health department usually notifies restaurants of any coming changes, stay on top of it yourself by checking online or calling the health department for any updates. No one wants to get needlessly marked down on an inspection because they weren't aware of a new policy.

© 2017 Bernice Ray Hollins


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