While every restaurant manager hopes to follow the local health code to the letter, there are a dizzying number of variables involved. Employee turnover, a broken refrigerator, or a simple lapse in judgment by a kitchen worker can undermine a business's food safety efforts overnight. Nonetheless, you can ace your restaurant inspection with the right approach. Here is a checklist to follow before the health inspectors arrive.
Establish Food Prep Standards for the Entire Company
Local restaurant inspectors look at every business's effort to follow the health code, so use the available materials to establish kitchen policy. In the case of New York's lengthy health code, for example, guidelines on the use of sinks frequently trip up restaurant staff. Any sink used to wash vegetables may not be used for hand-washing, utility, or as a slop sink. Storage and handling of various foods have separate guidelines, and learning the code should be part of any kitchen worker's training.
Be Aggressive about Pest Control
Sightings of bugs or rodents can lead to fines, poor grades, or even closure in the worst-case scenarios. To keep critters out of the kitchen, ensure custodians clean thoroughly after every shift. Cracks and holes in the floor and walls must be sealed to block entry. In order to neutralize nesting places, remove clutter from any area close to food. Finally, restaurant managers have to ensure food is kept in sealed containers and disposed of in garbage cans that deny entry to pests.
Make Routine Sweeps of Refrigerators
Potentially hazardous foods (e.g., meats, poultry, and fish) must be stored at or below set temperatures, or your business will be in violation of the health code. Have kitchen shift leaders make regular sweeps of the refrigerators to check on temperatures. Whenever a fridge breaks down, react swiftly to move the materials inside and dispose of foods that have fallen below set temperatures. Restaurant inspections always include refrigerator checks.
Be Strict about Employee Hygiene
Anything from jewelry to untrimmed fingernails and an open drink container could be grounds for a health code violation. Instruct kitchen workers on the need to have their hair covered at all times, and follow your municipality's standards to the letter. Since most health inspections take place during off-peak business hours, remind your staff that a slow day is the worst time to be lax about regulations.
Stay Abreast of Changes to the Code
Health departments upgrade their health codes frequently in order to create safer conditions in restaurants, so make sure your team has a system that ensures continuous compliance. Among recent updates to health codes, printed calorie counts and the policies for reusable food and beverage containers have been noteworthy.
Have Measuring Equipment to Assess Cleaning Practices
Even when you have a strong cleaning system in place, contaminants may find their way onto kitchen counters and end up damaging your health code grade. Use available measurement technology to assess how well your team is doing during and after a busy shift. Before a health inspector arrives, you can assess and address problem areas using a measuring tool.
A restaurant inspection can have a big impact on a business. With the right policy and cleaning equipment to keep your restaurant up to speed, you have the best chance at success. Click here for information on advanced cleaning systems.