Restaurant health, cleanliness and safety standards are vital. If the health inspector finds that you’re not following your local health codes, your business could face fines, penalties or even get shut down. The best way to avoid problems with the health department is to keep your restaurant in inspection mode at all times, meaning no matter when the inspector shows up, your business is clean and ready to be shown off.
As with most things, preparation is key when it comes to health inspections. That’s true for the owner, manager, chef, cooks and all staff members. Everyone needs to be trained and up to speed on the proper food safety techniques including cleaning and food storage issues.
- Perform Self-Inspections. Since most health department visits are unannounced, self-inspections should be unannounced as well. Find out what forms, checklists and tools health inspectors in your area use, and get them. Most health departments will give you a copy of the inspection sheet that includes what inspectors are looking for and penalties for violations. This will serve as a great guide to ensure your restaurant is meeting all the necessary cleanliness and health requirements to get a top sanitation score. Perform these inspections several times a year to make sure everything stays up to code at all times.
- Be Thorough. As an extension to tip #1, make sure your self-inspections are as thorough as possible and don’t let your team get away with anything less than perfection (or as close to it as humanly possible.) You don’t want employees and staff to slack on their jobs or just “skate by,” especially when your restaurant’s reputation and bottom line could be at stake. Act like a real health inspector and make the self-inspections as realistic as possible. Just remember to compliment your team on the things they are doing well in addition to pointing out opportunities for improvement.
- Remember it’s a Team. Don’t single out individuals if you don’t have to. Even if one employee is in charge of cleaning a specific area, there should be a manager overseeing the effort to ensure it’s done properly. Make this a training opportunity for everyone and not a situation where you’re calling out Bobby for missing some dirt on the floor. Everyone can benefit from the findings of your self-inspection, even if the feedback comes in areas where only certain employees work.
- Quiz Your Workers. In addition to making sure they’re ready for the health department inspector, it’s a great way to make sure your team is up to date on what you do and why you do it. Stop by and ask why a worker is putting on gloves before cooking, or why they chose a certain number of wet floor signs when mopping an area of the restaurant. This is also a great way to find out where to focus training efforts for your team.
Remember: health inspection rules, requirements and regulations vary by location. Make sure you know what inspectors in your area will be looking for and how to meet those codes.