A Guide on How to Ace a Restaurant Health Inspection
When you’re a restaurant owner or manager, a random health inspection can make your nights sleepless. Do you know what to do in restaurant health inspection?
Restaurant health inspections are designed to ensure the safety of your guests. You can pass by regulations by storing, thawing, and cooking food while keeping all areas clean.
Not following health codes can be extremely costly. Violations found by a health inspector could lead to fines and closure of your business until conditions are improved, which customers do not want.
If you keep your restaurant in tip-top shape, inspections will be less stressful because there will be no surprises.
In restaurant health inspection, it is essential to research the laws and regulations for your area. Although all regional codes align with the FDA, CFIA, or other agencies in a given country, there are no standard food code requirements.
- The Canadian government has released a guide to food safety in restaurants.
- American restaurants: Click here to learn more about the food safety guidelines in your state.
What are restaurant health inspections?
A restaurant health inspection examines food storage, production, and processing of food products. This can happen during packaging as well.
A health inspector will pay attention to the cleanliness of your kitchen, storage areas, and freezers. They also check how you store food before it is cooked.
When do restaurant health inspections occur?
Typically, they come every six months, but if a customer complains to the food inspector about your establishment, you are obligated to have them inspect.
What does a health inspector look for?
The main thing that health inspectors look for during an inspection is if your restaurant’s food can potentially contaminate the customer. They will also be looking out for things like:
- Uncovered stored food
- Inappropriate containers
- To mark the date it expires, labels on food are not used by most countries. This is because food can last for years, but they have a high risk of contamination if left unrefrigerated.
- No gloves on your employees
- Storing raw ingredients next to meat is not a good idea because it would be dripping in juices.
- Signs of pets
- When storing cleaning products, make sure to put them near the pantry so that they are easy to find.
- Lack of temperature control
- The restaurant was not keeping track of any temperatures.
- There are a bunch of kitchen hazards
- Unkept food handlers
- Lack of general cleanliness
In restaurant health inspection, restaurant owners need to prove that they know all the local health codes and have up-to-date training on food safety. The inspector will ask questions about these topics during a restaurant inspection, which happens for those who want their Food Handler’s Permit.
To ensure that your employees are educated on food safety, including a section in the employee handbook to discuss it.
What should you do if you get food safety violation?
If you are issued a violation, the most important thing is not to panic. The priority should be finding and implementing an immediate solution.
For minor violations
If you have a minor violation, such as unkempt furniture or improper labeling on your food products, the inspector will likely give you time to fix it. They may not even charge you with an infraction if they see that it is just something small and easily fixed. It will be recorded, though, for future inspections.
To ensure that your staff is aware of the seriousness and importance of food safety, be sure to provide a brief overview. It’s also essential to test their knowledge on how best practices are implemented.
For major violations
If you violate the law in a more profound way, such as cooking food that is not clean or cross-contaminating foods with each other, then you will be fined and closed down until your issue has been fixed.
If you cannot comply with the guidelines, your restaurant can end up permanently closed. This is a public violation posted on the health department website.
One of the most common violations in food safety are:
- Unsafe food sources
- Proper food storage is essential.
- Sick restaurant staff
- Food that is not cooked correctly, undercooked food
How to be up to date with all of the food safety guidelines?
As a restaurant owner, it can be challenging to keep up with food safety guidelines as they change. It’s even more challenging when you’re expanding and opening new locations in other provinces or states.
Janilyn Hutchings, a food scientist and certified professional in safety for food preparation, advises that you contact your local health department to stay up-to-date on any new regulations.
Seven tips for acing a restaurant health inspection
To be prepared for your health inspection, it is essential to act like every day of the week is a Monday.
The following are some of the most crucial points to keep in mind:
1. Ensure every employee has their Food Handler’s Permit
A Food Handler’s Permit is a permit that ensures your staff members have taken the time to complete food safety certification. It will provide you with all sanitation, storage, and preparation regulations.
It’s a good idea to provide food safety training for your employees, even if the area where you operate doesn’t require it.
2. Set your priorities
Every restaurant has its own rules. Make sure that your front- and back-of-house employees are on the same page, or they will be operating independently of one another. When you lay down expectations for cleanliness at all stages of food preparation and service, make sure to include time frames and personal hygiene.
3. Set up a daily maintenance schedule
Cleanliness is essential, so make sure that all staff knows who’s in charge of keeping things clean and the best way to stay on top of it. This includes making certain hand sanitizer is always available, counters are cleaned often enough (which might be more than you think), bathrooms get a deep cleaning at least once per day, freezers are wiped down every morning before anything goes into them.
4. Stay up to date
Always be aware of changes in local health codes and laws because they are constantly changing. Also, make sure to have regular stand-up training for your employees so that you can remind them about essential principles.
5. Create can’t-miss visual reminders
Having food safety posters in the kitchen or break area can help ensure that employees are constantly reminded of their responsibilities. It’s essential to make sure these posters stay up and visible for everyone because they continuously remind everyone what should be done (like handwashing and proper cooking temperatures).
6. Establish a consistent cleaning schedule
You may think that cleaning is just a matter of common sense, but it’s not. Your restaurant should have an established program for when your staff cleans their work areas at the end of each day.
7. Conduct your inspections
It’s hard to keep employees motivated without giving them a little push now and then. Managers should take the time to conduct surprise inspections to make sure their staff is always on top of things.
Make sure that your staff is following the rules every day. It will become a habit and be challenging to break if not.
The management system is about sales and profitability and includes productivity metrics to help you better understand your staff’s performance.
Health inspection checklist for restaurants
The health codes that restaurants follow are meant to keep customers safe. They prevent bacteria and other contaminants from coming in contact with the food a restaurant serves.
Candess Mendola, a Senior Trial Paralegal and Editor for makefoodsafe.com came up with this list of 25 things you should do before the health inspector arrives at your restaurant. Here’s a summary of it:
#1 Food storage
One of the most critical aspects of food safety is storage.
All food must be stored so that it will not spoil or get contaminated.
It is essential to store food at least six inches off the ground and never place raw meat above ready-to-eat ingredients.
Food should be packaged in containers to avoid contamination and spills. Ensure that any perishable food is refrigerated or frozen before reaching 41-135 degrees Fahrenheit.
Make sure that your refrigerator is set to a temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. And to ensure that the temperature inside your freezer is below 0 degrees Fahrenheit, keep it closed and insulated.
#2 Food preparation and cooking
In addition to proper handling, cooking and storing food is also a large part of maintaining safe levels.
A primary concern in food preparation is cross-contamination. It’s essential to have different surfaces and tools for each kind of food to avoid contaminating it with other foods. For example, if you are preparing peanuts on a cutting board used for raw chicken, then there is the risk of bacteria transferring from one type of meat to another.
It is essential to take as much food out of the fridge or freezer before it spoils and enters an unsafe temperature zone.
When cooking raw meats, fish, or poultry, make sure to heat it until the internal temperature reaches at least 71 degrees Celsius. Make sure you use a food thermometer because this is when all bacteria will be killed.
To ensure that meat and fish are cooked at the right temperature, inspectors use a digital thermometer to check them.
#3 Foodservice health inspection
When serving food, it is essential to ensure that the server never comes in contact with a surface area where guests’ plates are.
All dishes, glasses, and silverware should be cleaned before being put on the table for service. Plates should never be held by their edges or tops but instead always from below to avoid contact with food residue.
Food that has been done for one customer should not be given to another.
Ensure your staff’s hygiene is up to par, so they don’t contaminate the food and workplace.
Always wash your hands in the designated handwashing sink, rather than one used for dishes.
Employees should always wash their hands after using the bathroom.
Handwashing is one of the most critical factors in preventing illness and disease. It’s not enough to turn on a faucet for 20 seconds, but instead, employees should wash their hands with soap and hot water at least twice before going back to work.
Employees should have a provision to cover any cuts or wounds in their contract.
Always use a new pair of single-use gloves when handling food and replace them immediately if they get damaged.
Food handlers should not wear jewelry on their hands unless it is a plain ring.
Aprons should be worn when in the kitchen but removed before leaving to avoid dirtying other areas of clothing.
Label and store toxic cleaning products away from food-related areas.
#5 Keep pests at bay
Rats and other pests are attracted to restaurants. They can eat supplies, which is bad for the budget and poses a health risk.
To keep pests from getting into your food, make sure to clean up all spills and dispose of garbage properly.
If you find any holes in your walls, plug them in immediately. You should also ensure that all entry points are blocked and unsupervised doors have self-closing hinges.
Keep your floors and food prep surfaces clean. This means no crumbs or spills on the floor in case someone slips. Store all of your unused containers airtight to prevent any chance of contamination.
Keep the house clean by taking out trash regularly. When garbage piles up, it can attract bugs and other pests.
Keep trash cans with lids on them and make sure dumpsters are not near any entrance points so that rodents have no place to hide.
Rats and insects can be a problem in the restaurant. Set up traps with glue instead of poison or chemicals if this is an issue.
How to ace a restaurant health inspection?
Restaurants need to stay up-to-date with food safety and cleanliness practices. To assure that your restaurant complies, make sure you have a set of procedures for all staff members to follow; they should be focused on food safety and workplace hygiene.
Getting a high grade on an inspection will keep customers coming back, and it may encourage new ones to visit you.