No matter how clean and how orderly your restaurant is, health inspection anxiety seems like an entirely unavoidable part of life as a restauranteur. All too often, inspection days tend to sneak up on unsuspecting owners and managers across the country. And consider this -- there’s likely no stronger red flag for a health inspector than a seemingly-frantic restaurant owner when inspection time comes around. All of this creates an anxiety-ridden day, especially when combined with the logistical and operational nightmare presented by a health inspection. When the inspector comes around, you basically have to stop everything in its tracks. Luckily, Provi is here to help. We’ve put together a checklist for passing your next inspection -- with flying colors.
First and foremost, don’t freak out. Understand that health inspectors are just doing their jobs -- they really aren’t out with the mission to close down restaurants. Diners are twice as likely to get sick eating out than eating at home, so it’s important to keep things safe for customers. On top of that, if a customer gets sick from a restaurant… they aren’t coming back. So, all of that said, just remain calm.
Be sure to regularly check your previous inspections and familiarize yourself with the process and results. It’s important to know what you got right, and what you can improve on moving forward. Be sure to not only correct past errors, but also review stronger areas, and ensure the quality is still there. If there was a single key to unlocking a successful health inspection (there isn’t), reviewing your past inspections would likely be it.
Your staff may not be thrilled with constantly being retrained, but it’s a necessary part of ensuring compliance with local health codes. If you see problem areas, don’t hesitate to have employee-wide training sessions on even the most basic health and safety procedures. In the fast-paced world of restaurant and bar work, it’s easy for employees to let health procedures fall by the wayside. And on that note, always be sure to encourage and even reward positive habits. If you see employees taking the extra step for the sake of health and safety, be sure to point that out and encourage that behavior.
Staff meetings are a great place to address health and safety concerns. Even if the meeting isn’t strictly for the purposes of discussing these types of issues, we encourage you to include it on the agenda. Addressing health and safety issues in this way has another added bonus, too -- you can single out specific issues, without naming names or making any guilty parties feel uncomfortable. Whether monthly, weekly, or every day, take staff meetings as an opportunity to address health and safety issues. It’s also a fantastic chance to give credit where credit is due! If you witnessed an employee going above and beyond, give ‘em some shine!
We don’t want to send anyone on the path to micromanagement -- really, we don’t. It’s very easy to get so wrapped up in micromanagement that you completely forget the big picture. All of that being said... periodically checking in on your staff and how they are working can do wonders for health and safety. If you see a team member working with a particularly high-risk process or ingredient, don’t hesitate to gently remind them of the proper procedures. It’s a fine line to walk between obnoxious and reasonable, but when it comes to health and safety… better safe than sorry, right?
This is a particularly handy thing to do. It can be done internally by those familiar with proper protocols. Alternatively, there are cleaning and health companies which offer this service. Often, these mock-up inspections are performed by former health department employees and they typically follow up-to-date codes and regulations. All around, this is a fantastic way to assess the cleanliness of your restaurant or bar, well ahead of any ‘official’ inspections. Though they do come at a cost, a mock-up inspection can be the difference between an “A” and a “B” letter grade in your window.
Obviously, if you don’t know the rules, you’re going to have a tough time following them. For that reason, we encourage you to regularly keep up-to-date with your local regulations and health codes. They don’t change extraordinarily often, but you should definitely be aware when they are altered. Keeping up to date with health codes and ordinances is a key part of owning or managing a restaurant. Again -- if you don’t know the rules, you can’t follow them!
In some areas, it’s a legal requirement for restaurant workers to be ServSafe Certified. While this can create an annoyance, the ServSafe program outlines a comprehensive list of safe food handling techniques. For that reason, consider requiring your employees to be ServSafe certified, if they aren’t already. The course is very affordable and provides a wealth of health and safety information for employees.
In truth, this could probably be said for many parts of restaurant management. But, don’t just let things pile up. Tackle health and safety concerns head-on as they happen. Bad habits tend to spread quickly, especially if those habits offer a quicker or easier way to get something done. For that reason, try to nip unsafe practices in the bud as you see them in your day-to-day.
At the end of the day, health inspections aren’t a huge deal when you know how to prepare. Follow the above tips and tricks to ensure maximum preparedness for when the inspector drops in. Be sure to consult local guidelines for accurate, up-to-date information as well. While there’s no prize for passing a health inspection, a high grade is going to ensure that guests keep coming back, day in and day out.
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