Owning a restaurant means that health inspections are part of your routine. They can be stressful, especially since your restaurant’s ability to operate depends on passing these inspections. But don’t worry – there are steps you can take to prepare and make sure you pass every time. In this guide, we’ll go over how to prepare for and pass health inspections, and even give you some checklists to help you out.
Preparing for a Health Inspection
To pass a health inspection, you need to be prepared. First, review your local health code requirements, since inspectors use these as a guide. Knowing the health code lets you plan for the inspection and make sure your restaurant meets all the requirements.
Next, research common health code violations in your area. This will show you where other restaurants are struggling and give you an idea of what health inspectors might focus on.
Since health inspections can happen at any time, having a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan is helpful. This plan helps you perform self-inspections and create daily routines you can use to stay in compliance with health codes.
Make health and food safety a regular topic of conversation with your employees. Quiz them on their knowledge and discuss health and safety during meetings. This will help everyone understand what’s expected of them.
Lastly, restaurant owners and managers should continuously monitor the restaurant to ensure compliance and address any issues right away. Use a digital system to ensure that this is completed daily, and doesn’t get missed over time.
Passing a Restaurant Health Inspection
To pass a health inspection, your entire restaurant must meet health code requirements. Inspectors will check the kitchen, food storage areas, garbage handling, and more. Here’s a simple checklist for passing a restaurant health inspection:
- Make sure employees wash their hands regularly and correctly including only using the handwashing sink for handwashing, and not for washing food, containers, or utensils
- Require employees to wear clean clothes and closed-toed shoes
- Have employees eat or smoke only in designated areas
- Keep food at least 6 inches off the floor
- Maintain clean, dry food storage locations (shelving, refrigerators, and freezers)
- Label all food items with the correct dates and expiration details
- Use the First In, Last Out (FIFO) method for food storage
- Store food and chemicals separately
- Keep refrigerator and freezer thermometers visible and accurate
- Prevent cross-contamination of food
- Thaw frozen food correctly (under running water or in the refrigerator)
- Keep outside trash containers covered and clean
- Ensure sinks have proper pressure and water temperature options
- Maintain drains and plumbing
- Keep restrooms clean and stocked
- Inspect the restaurant for pest and rodent activity and use appropriate treatments
- Properly label, store, and dispose of hazardous materials
- Post required employee health, general health and safety, and consumer advisory signs
Passing a Kitchen Health Inspection
Kitchen health inspections focus on food preparation areas. This part of the restaurant is crucial because poor conditions can affect customers’ health. Here’s a handy kitchen health inspection checklist:
- Make sure all employees have the required food handlers’ card
- Keep all equipment clean and properly sanitized (including ice makers which are a frequent violation)
- Cover stored utensils to protect them from contaminants and dust
- Require hairnets and facial hair nets for employees
- Have separate stations for washing, rinsing, and sanitizing
- Keep water heated properly for sanitizing
- Ensure that sanitization chemical levels are correct (document each setup with photo item in Jolt)
- Require clean hands, utensils, and gloves when handling food
- Properly dispose of garbage and waste
- Heat food to safe temperatures and maintain those temperatures in hot holding areas
- Store utensils and cooking equipment at least 6 inches above the floor
- Replace chipped and cracked cooking implements and dinnerware
- Install adequate lighting with shatterproof or shatter-resistant covers on fixtures
- Install washable ceiling tiles above food preparation areas
- Keep ventilation filters clean and free of buildup
Always Be Ready for a Health Inspection
To make sure you’re always ready for a health inspection, use your HACCP plan as a starting point and assign tasks to employees to keep the restaurant clean and safe on the appropriate schedule. Make cleaning an ongoing activity, which will help you stay prepared for surprise inspections.
Regularly inspect plumbing, fixtures, storage temperatures, surfaces, and other critical areas to spot problems quickly. Fix issues as soon as possible to reduce the chance of them being a problem during an inspection.
Keep up with changes in health codes and provide ongoing training and discussions for employees about health and safety.
What to Do During a Health Inspection
When a health inspector arrives, first verify their credentials. If you have doubts, contact the health department to make sure the inspector is legitimate.
Follow the health inspector during the inspection, noting any violations they identify. If you can correct the issue immediately without disrupting customers, do so. The inspector will note that corrections were made during the visit.
Ask the health inspector for clarification if you have questions about violations, but don’t argue with them. Sign the inspection report, which only confirms that you received a copy, not that you agree with the findings.
Avoid offering food or drink to the inspector, as it could be seen as an attempt at bribery.
What to Do After a Health Inspection
After the inspection, you’ll receive a score or grade. Correct any violations noted in the report as soon as possible. Determine which issues can be handled in-house and which require professional help, like plumbers or electricians. For the latter, get estimates and schedule services quickly.
If your restaurant received a low score (usually below an 80 or B), you can schedule a re-inspection. Talk to your local health department to find out how soon a re-inspection can take place and decide when to schedule it based on the work needed to become compliant.
Learn from Past Inspections and Audits
As health inspectors or even corporate auditors flag certain items in your location, you can add those items to Jolt’s checklists to ensure they never become a problem again. This not only helps the specific location that was audited, but also allows your other locations to benefit from the shared knowledge. By addressing these flagged items, you can dramatically improve your audit scores over time.
Jolt Lists can help you stay on top of routine maintenance and cleaning tasks and are essential for high audit scores. You can create tasks, assign them to employees, and monitor their completion. This keeps you in control and improves visibility so that you are always prepared for an audit. Jolt also lets you include training videos and documents to guide employees’ work, ensuring tasks are done correctly and up to auditors standards. As you customize Jolt Lists over time to meet your restaurant’s needs, and use features like touchless temperature capture to record temperatures in critical areas like refrigerators and freezers, health inspectors will quickly see that you take food safety seriously, and they can start to build increased confidence in your operations, which may lead to a reduction in the number of audits you receive throughout the year.
By streamlining task management and improving accountability, Jolt helps make passing health inspections a breeze. Schedule a Jolt demo today to see how it can improve your restaurant operations and increase your audit scores.