Health inspections for restaurants are an important aspect of having a healthy eating environment and showing customers that you care about their safety. A clean restaurant isn’t just about getting an A grade, but protecting against the risks of unclean kitchens that lead to food poisoning and other illnesses. In general, health inspections will occur 1-4 times a year, though the exact time span and guidelines for inspections will vary by state. Get to know the guidelines in your state and keep the following tips in mind.
Restaurant Operating Risks
When operating a restaurant, you are liable for risks relating to your customer’s health and safety. When you slack on guidelines and cleanliness in the kitchen and bathrooms of your restaurant, you put yourself and them at risk. This includes food poisoning from spoiled food or contamination of foods, improper labeling of food items, not throwing out food when it is past its due date, and failing to follow proper hand washing guidelines. This is why having health inspections is so important.
Preparing for an Inspection
Here are some valuable tips to help you prepare for the inspection and make sure your employees know how to handle an inspection.
Educate Employees. You should be informing your employees of proper safety precautions in the restaurant, including washing their hands, labeling food, being careful to avoid cross-contamination and never using food past its expiration date. Choose random days to test their knowledge and monitor their food handling.
Try a Sample Inspection. During the inspection, tools will be used including chemical test strips, flashlight and alcohol wipes. Use the same tools to inspect every inch of your restaurant, inside and out. This gives you an idea of what the health inspector might find. Take notes of anything you find that the inspector might give you a low grade for and get it remedied as soon as possible.
Don’t Forget About Outside. Many restaurant owners will keep a clean kitchen, bathrooms and dining area, but forget about outside. The inspector starts outside and will pay attention to the cleanliness and landscaping, including whether or not it is safe for customers.
Become Familiar with Details. You should know what the health inspector is looking for, including exact details about proper refrigerator and freezer temperatures, handwashing practices, food handling guidelines, training employees, requiring food handling licenses and anything else that is relevant.
Types of Health Inspections
You should also be aware that depending on your county and state, there are three possible types of inspections. They include a routine inspection, complaint inspection and follow-up inspection. The routine inspection is done on a regular basis, often 2-4 times a year. Complaint inspections come after a customer has noticed unclean areas or gotten ill after eating at your restaurant. A follow-up inspection comes after you have been given instructions on how to improve your restaurant’s cleanliness and the inspector comes back to be sure you made those corrections.
What to Expect from the Inspection
As you might have guessed by now, the food health inspector will go over every square inch of your restaurant. They are looking for the following:
- Safe environment for customers and employees
- Properly labeled food
- Proper temperatures of refrigeration units
- Proper food handling
- Hand washing by all employees
- Cleanliness inside and out
- Separate surfaces for raw meat than preparing foods
- No pests or rodents in the restaurant
Aside from preparing for the health inspection, you should also have restaurant insurance policies to protect your restaurant from liabilities. If a customer was to get food poisoning or an illness after eating at your restaurant, insurance like general liability, spoilage coverage, and food contamination insurance would protect your business.