Tips for nailing your next restaurant health inspection

By Rhys Martin May 20, 2024

Health inspections tend to be stressful, but this shouldn’t be the case. Instead, think of it as an opportunity to showcase how you and your staff provide patrons with a sparkling service delivery. By implementing certain measures, like digital food safety checklists, you can make your next restaurant inspection a grand slam!

Who conducts health inspections for restaurants in the U.S.A.?

Health code inspections are usually conducted by local and state government health departments. Generally, they follow a set of guidelines known as the ‘Food Code’. This ‘Food Code’, updated every five years, is a model designed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Enforcement and specific regulations vary from region to region – so it’s best to speak to your local officials on what to expect.

What are the penalties for a failed health inspection?

Penalties for health and food code violations range from fines and a lower health inspection score to more severe consequences such as temporary closure. There is even the possibility of permanent shutdown in extreme cases.

Of equal importance is the damage non-compliance will do to your venue’s reputation.

How often do restaurant health inspections occur?

Typically, inspections occur once every six months and are spontaneous, meaning you won’t be given any notice. Furthermore, if your venue has received a complaint from a member of the public, they may conduct health inspections more frequently.

Why is this important to know? They can happen at any time, any day, so it’s best to address the following points to avoid a failed health inspection.

How to avoid failed health inspections

1. Be prepared

If there’s one thing we want to get across in this article it is the importance of preparation. Without an established set of practices and procedures in place within your venue, mistakes are bound to happen. Achieving this efficiency is much easier than you think. In fact, there are a couple things you can do to assist in preparation.

Have an HACCP plan in place

A Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) plan can be your silver bullet when it comes to acing your restaurant inspections. It is an organized approach that helps identify, evaluate, and control hazards that can cause food safety issues. If you’re uncertain how to craft such a plan, our article, A guide to making a HACCP plan, is a great resource for managers and staff.

Do self-inspections regularly

Much like an athlete training before the big game, you and your staff should be match-fit when it comes to restaurant health inspections. Be sure to conduct regular self-inspections to identify potential issues and see how you can eliminate them.

How regularly you ask? Once or twice every three months should be sufficient. If you have the time to do so, there’s no reason why you can’t conduct self-inspections at the end of every week. In fact, this may prove to be extremely beneficial.

2. Keep things clean

We all know cleanliness is crucial for preventing foodborne illnesses, which can result in a failed health inspection. Make sure all areas of the restaurant, including the kitchen, dining area, and restrooms, are cleaned regularly and systematically. This helps prevent contamination and keeps your establishment in compliance with health regulations.

Once you have these hard and fast cleaning rules you can automate task management, like digital cleaning checklists, and receive notifications when you staff fulfill their responsibilities. 

2. Store food properly

Store foods at the correct temperatures: cold foods below 40°F (4°C) and hot foods above 140°F (60°C). Label and date all stored items to ensure freshness. Correct storage prevents bacterial growth and spoilage, reducing the risk of foodborne illnesses, not to mention potential poor health inspection grades.

It helps to have a real-time temperature monitoring software in place within the business to avoid spoilage. You and your staff can be notified of anomalies within your kitchen instantly and then fix the issue – saving you time, money and headaches.

3. Uphold personal hygiene

Make it mandatory for all your staff to wash their hands frequently and properly, wear clean uniforms, and use gloves when handling food. Good personal hygiene is essential for preventing cross-contamination. Poor practices can spread pathogens, leading to serious health violations and penalties.

This all relates to having a strong food safety culture within the business. If you’d like further guidance on this, our article, How to build a strong food safety culture, can help.

4. Stay on top of pest control

Pests can carry diseases and contaminate food and surfaces. Evidence of pests during an inspection will most likely lead to an immediate closure of the venue and potentially significant fines. Our article, Pest control tips for your restaurant, can help answer any further pest-related questions you may have.

5. Have your records up to date

Maintain up-to-date records of food temperatures, cleaning schedules, and pest control measures. Good record-keeping demonstrates compliance with health regulations and can help during inspections. Lack of proper documentation can lead to penalties and a lower inspection score. Digitizing your records and documentation can be an excellent way to avoid any recordkeeping mishaps.

6. Maintain your kitchen equipment

Regularly check and maintain kitchen equipment to ensure they’re in good working order and clean. Well-maintained equipment is essential for food safety and quality. Broken or dirty equipment can lead to contamination and violations during inspections. Plus, as a general rule of thumb, upkeeping kitchen equipment can also spare your business from unnecessary repair or replacement costs.

Train your staff

Provide ongoing training for all staff on food safety practices, including:

  • proper food handling
  • storage, and
  • hygiene.

Educated staff are better equipped to follow health regulations and prevent violations. Plus, if you are not at the venue when the inspection occurs, your staff should be able to assist the health code inspector during the inspection.

Avoid mishaps from happening by incorporating workplace training software. This way you know your staff are receiving informative, accurate training content.

Label and date your foodstuff

Clearly label and date all prepared and stored foods to ensure proper rotation. Think FIFO: First In, First Out. Proper labeling helps track food freshness and prevent spoilage. One of the best ways to label food is an automated labelling system. This eliminates errors simple errors caused by unreadable or smudged handwriting.

Operandio can help you enhance your health inspection score

If you run a busy venue and have a hard time keeping track of the information required for a restaurant health inspection, Operandio can help. Our innovative software can be easily integrated into your business. With features such as Bluetooth temperature monitoring, digital compliance checklists, and intuitive staff training modules, you’ll wonder how you ever operated without it. Book your free demo today.