How to pass a restaurant inspection
Managers and staff may be worried if a surprise audit or health inspection occurs at a restaurant. A health inspector will suddenly appear at your restaurant, either during lunch or on a holiday. While inspectors may try to avoid inspections at these busy times, some inspectors will find themselves in a queue of restaurants waiting to be visited.
You can still pass the restaurant health inspection even if your guard is down. And it’s not as difficult as you might think. It all comes down to planning and preparation. Consider this quote by Benjamin Franklin: “By failing not to prepare, your are preparing for failure.” This is a lot wisdom. You should ensure that your restaurant has policies and procedures in place to allow you to pass a food inspection.
Before a Restaurant Health Inspection, Employee Training
Make sure your employees are familiar with the basics of using gloves, temperature taking and washing hands. These procedures should be second-nature to your employees as they carry out their job functions. Here are five things employees need to do when at work. They are crucial because they relate directly to the most serious violations inspectors find in an audit. These violations will have the greatest impact on inspection scores.
1) Monitor food temperatures. It is a good idea to keep a daily temperature log for your kitchen. An inspector will be impressed by a temperature log. Two times per day, check food temperatures: between lunch and evening shifts. It is important to avoid eating food that is not at the right temperature. You can add ice to cool it down if the temperature is slightly higher than the target temperature. If the temperature has reached almost 50 degrees Fahrenheit, you can throw it away. A follow-up inspection may be scheduled if the inspector discovers food that isn’t at its proper temperature, particularly on the warmer side. These inspections usually have fees that the restaurant must pay.
2) Wash your hands. Managers need to be on the alert to ensure employees wash their hands at the right times. If an employee fails to wash his hands after a visit by a health inspector, it is important to remind him or her. It is better to tell the inspector about the situation than to risk him saying something. According to the FDA employees must wash their hands …:
You must be able to enter a food preparation area.
- Clean, single-use gloves are required for handling food or between glove swaps.
- Before starting to prepare food
- Before you handle clean equipment or serve utensils
- Switching between raw food and ready-to-eat foods is a common task when you are changing jobs.
- Take away any soiled equipment, dishes, or utensils.
- After touching any exposed human body parts (e.g., hands, arms or other than clean hands)
- After you have used the toilet
- After coughing or sneezing, blowing your nose, smoking, chewing tobacco, or eating or drinking
- After caring or handling service animals or aqua animals such as molluscans or crustaceans,
3) Disposable gloves should be used when handling food. If they are handling food with their hands, gloves should be worn by kitchen workers. To ensure successful glove use, kitchen workers must wash their hands after putting on gloves. It is important that your staff are trained on proper glove use and how to change gloves between handling cooked and ready-to-eat food. This will be a common practice and inspectors will observe your kitchen staff.
4) Be sure to follow sanitation guidelines. Make sure your staff inspect the towels used to wipe down tables and counters at restaurants throughout the day. The person who is responsible for the operation of the warewash machine must ensure it is clean. If the inspector notices any sanitation problems, he or she should take immediate action to correct them.
Place food and drinks for employees in the appropriate area. A designated area should be set aside from the food preparation areas so that employees can eat and drink there. Your employees should be trained to throw away any employee food or drinks when inspectors arrive. Managers on duty can also go through the kitchen and inspect for food and drink that has been improperly stored.
Do your own internal audits to get ahead
Three things are done by internal audits: 1) training of staff; 2) preparation of the restaurant for a local health inspector; and 3) ensuring that the restaurant can serve safe food and offer the best dining experience.
Managers should check the restaurant for possible critical violations on a daily base, much like a health inspector. Notify the manager of any critical violations that are most frequent and make necessary adjustments to rectify them. Take stock of the line in the kitchen. Check that employees use gloves and wash their hands properly. You must ensure that the warewasher properly cleans dishes. Also, ensure that food and drinks for employees are stored properly.
Your own internal audits can help you keep current with the regulations and give your staff an opportunity to perform well in a real health inspection. Use this checklist to make sure your audits are more thorough. It covers items that are usually checked during a service inspection such as temperatures, service lines, walk-ins, prep areas, chemicals, and general operations.
Be Proactive during a Restaurant Health Inspection
Training your employees will ensure that they know that if a health inspector arrives at their workplace, they should immediately alert the manager. To ensure that there are no violations, it is vital that the manager goes through the inspection along with the inspector. This is because the inspector may note that the manager has corrected the violation on the official report. The overall inspection score might be higher.
Managers should inform employees that a restaurant inspector is on the way. They should remind their employees that proper procedures are necessary to ensure the restaurant passes inspection. Also, the manager should look around for potential violations and ask employees to correct them.
Inspectors love to see managers communicating with their employees throughout an inspection. They provide direction and information regarding local food safety regulations and FDA Food Code regulations. This shows that the manager knows the regulations well and is coaching employees.
Let’s wrap it up!
Every employee should strive to pass a restaurant’s health inspection. Restaurants with consistently poor scores in health inspections can have a negative effect on their reputation, which could lead to lower earnings. Training restaurant staff on the most critical health violations and conducting internal audits will ensure that the restaurant passes any inspections conducted by the local health department. Training employees about what to expect when they arrive at the inspection station will help them be prepared.