Ten tips to help you pass your next health inspection in the commercial kitchen.
How to ensure that your restaurant receives a clean bill.
Inspections of health can be stressful. Although inspections are an expected part of the foodservice industry, many restaurants are not prepared for them. This doesn’t need to be the case! If you are more vigilant about food safety, and have a solid plan for your preparations, you will be able to face your next restaurant inspection confident.
What to Expect
No notice is required for restaurant inspections. There are usually at least two per year. However, if there is a complaint from a customer, then officials might be legally required to conduct an inspection.
You may lose your way with so many visits. But violations can result either in fines or in temporary or permanent closures. These can cause a significant impact on your restaurant’s revenue and reputation. Keep in mind that the inspector’s main goal is to ensure the safety and well-being of your restaurant, your employees, and your customers.
How to prepare
Inspections can happen at any hour, so it’s best to treat each day as an inspection day. Implement a HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points Plan) and do regular self-inspections. HACCP will identify hazards. But, by performing internal inspections, you can prepare all your staff for the real thing and improve food safety practices in your restaurant. This will ensure that diners and staff have a safe and enjoyable experience.
This all starts with understanding exactly what inspectors are looking at. You should check with your local health department for specific regulations. To catch and fix any problems before the inspection, you can conduct your own inspections.
How to do a self-inspection
Self-inspections should be performed without warning. This allows you to quickly identify problem behaviors and prevent complacency. To see our example checklist, you can check out what to watch for:
Note: This is a partial list. You can check the local guidelines to make any changes or additions necessary to ensure that your internal inspection is thorough and accurate.
Incorrectly cooking or storing food at unsafe temperatures can lead to bacteria accumulation and illness. The temperature danger zone is where bacteria grows most quickly (40degF to 140degF). According to FDA and USDA standards
- Cold food should not be kept below 4°C/40°F
- Frozen food should not be frozen at temperatures below -18°C/0°F
- Hot food should not be heated above 60°C/140°F
- Make sure to check all fridges and freezers for accurate temperature readings.
- You should ensure that meats are cooked to safe internal temperatures.
- Verify that your meat thermometers function properly.
To avoid spoilage or contamination, it is important to keep food safe.
- Do not store raw food, but cook and ready-to-eat foods.
- All food should be stored at least six inches above the floor on shelves or racks.
- Food should be properly wrapped and contained to prevent spillages.
- Make sure that you use utensils in a safe area to avoid direct contact with food preparations.
Everybody who touches food should be aware of the following guidelines and protocols:
- Make sure there’s a designated sink to wash your hands with soap and hot or cold water. It shouldn’t be used for dishwashing or food prep.
- Before handling food, make sure your employees thoroughly wash their hands in hot water (>=38Cdeg/100degF).
- It is important to ensure that single-use gloves come in the correct sizes and can be used between tasks.
- Food handlers should wear clean aprons, uniforms, and hair tied back.
- Employers should ensure that employees have proper nail lengths, and that they properly cover any cuts or wounds.
Any food that comes into contact with food can be contaminated. Regular maintenance is important:
- All food prep/contact surfaces should be regularly cleaned with soap, water and an approved disinfectant.
- Discard any damaged or cracked utensils to prevent contamination.
- Use either:
- FDA approved two- or three sink dishwashing methods (wash, rinse, sanitize).
A mechanical dishwasher.
- You should check the ice bin/machine regularly to ensure that it is being emptied, washed and dried properly.
- Non-food contact surfaces/equipment
- Even though it isn’t in direct contact, it doesn’t mean that it can’t be kept clean.
- You should ensure that floors, walls, ceilings and other surfaces are in good order.
- It is important to ensure that non-food contact equipment like ventilation, dishwashers, and ventilation are clean and in working order.
All toilets, whether for staff or guests, should be kept clean.
- Bathrooms should be cleaned from top-to-bottom regularly. This includes walls, floors, and ceilings.
- Each bathroom should be stocked with toilet papers, a garbage can, hot/cold running waters, soap, paper towels, and a hot dryer.
Storage and disposal of waste
Restaurants generate a lot waste. Here are some tips to help you decide where, when, and how much.
- You should ensure that all waste receptacles have tight-fitting lids and are pest-proof, leak-proof, and nonabsorbent.
- All solid and liquid waste must be removed from food preparation areas regularly, preferably daily.
Although pests should not be allowed in your restaurant, there is so much food that they could find a way in.
- Examine for signs of pests like droppings or nesting spots.
- Avoid food and water sources that are easily accessible. Also, be aware of entry points to walls and doors.
- Use appropriate pest control methods such as glue traps that don’t contain poisons or chemicals in food preparation areas.
- A contract should be signed with a licensed pest control operator.
The floor is not the only place where staff can learn.
If everyone in your staff is aware of the importance food safety practices, they will be more likely to self-regulate. They’ll also be better prepared for any inspector’s questions.
- Assist staff in ensuring that they are properly trained and certified according to the requirements of local health departments.
- Regularly ask your employees about sanitation and safety issues that affect their jobs.
- Serves should be included in the conversation to make sure they are familiar with how to hold plates and glasses so that contamination is avoided.
NOTE Make sure to follow-up with your staff after each inspection, internal or formal. You can address any questions or concerns or retrain if necessary.
Similar to keeping track of your daily sales and inventory, you need to keep track on your food safety practices.
- You should ensure that you have current, well-organized records.
- All inspections both internal and oficial
- HACCP and food safety training/procedures
- Pest control schedules
- Maintenance and repair of equipment
Surprise health inspections are stressful. However, our checklist and local guidelines can help you and the staff adjust to the experience. Furthermore, maintaining the safety and health of your restaurant will not only guarantee a passing grade, but it will also help you build a stellar reputation that will attract diners back again and again.