Health inspectors are tasked with inspecting restaurants to ensure your establishment is following proper food-safety guidelines.
These inspectors, usually employed by state and local health departments, can show up without warning—even in the middle of a busy rush—so they really see how a restaurant operates. Typically, they’re looking for common food-safety violations, such as pest control issues, unintended contamination, lack of hand washing, poor sanitization, and improper temperature controls.
“Guests don’t always know about the many food-safety practices you and your employees follow in your kitchens,” says Patrick Guzzle, the Association’s vice president of Food Science, and a former health inspector. “They’ll often rely on local or state health department inspection reports, which are usually public record.”
Though health inspections can feel stressful for both operators and their employees, there are steps beyond following the proper safe food protocols that you can take to score well.
Here are 7 tips to follow during your next inspection:
- Communicate to the inspector anything out of the ordinary that’s taking place during the inspection. For example, if you’re preparing a large order for a catered event, dealing with a supply issue, or are short staffed, explain the issues clearly up front.
- Accompany the inspector during the walk-through so you can offer thoughts and answer questions on what they’re seeing and why it might be a problem. Never argue; just be prepared to take mental and/or physical notes for follow-up fixes.
- If you’ve already implemented good food-safety practices, you shouldn’t have to change your normal practices during the inspection. Nevertheless, you might want to tell your staff to be prepared to answer any questions the inspector may have.
- Demonstrate your knowledge of good food-safety practices. Ensure everyone is washing their hands frequently (make sure your handsinks are clear, equipped and operating), checking temperatures, and taking other measures to help show the inspector you and your employees practice good food safety controls.
- Make sure you know proper health and hygiene practices if asked, including when to restrict or excuse an employee from work because of health concerns.
- Ask the inspector any questions you may have about what he or she is finding. If they identify problems, ask how soon the issue has to be fixed.
- At the end of the inspection, ensure you know what you’re signing off on. Will the inspection report call for follow-up visits or reports? Take the inspector’s contact information in case you have additional questions.