How to Prepare for Restaurant Health Inspections

By GoCanvas Team on August 8, 2022

The key to preparing for a restaurant inspection is making sure that the whole staff, from waiters to busboys, know what they are responsible for daily.

Learn more about our apps for inspections!

When a restaurant fails a health inspection, it’s not because they were caught by surprise or because they made a single mistake. If you fail an inspection, that means that your team repeatedly did not follow the proper steps to ensure the levels of safety for food preparation and consumption. This failure in food safety operations is not usually done intentionally, as no one actually wants to hurt their paying customers, but happens when the proper steps to ensure operational excellence aren’t tracked, documented and reviewed each day.

Read on as we explore tools, tips, and tricks that can help every restaurant manager ensure that their staff is properly prepared for the next health inspection.

Top 3 Most Cited Health Code Violations & Solutions

#1. Improper Cooldown Controls – We all know that the cooking temperature of food is critical for consumer safety, but did you know that the cool-down temperature and procedure are just as critical? This means having cooling equipment to create safe temperatures, like blast chillers or ice wands that can reduce the temperature of hot foods from the danger zones of bacteria growth within 6 hours. An FDA study found that 79% of restaurants were improperly cooling foods, which inherently means that a majority of food staffs in America were not given the proper tools or knowledge to do their job correctly. It is the responsibility of every restaurant manager to ensure that their crews has a clear understanding of the dangers of not properly cooling foods, and giving them training on the best practices of food storage. You can reference FDA Food Code 3-501.13 for more information or the amazing infographic that ECOLAB’s created below.

Food safety graphic by ecolab

#2. Improper Hand Sanitization – There are still a surprising number of violations that occur from kitchen staff members not washing their hands properly! A kitchen environment is filled with bacteria which is why it’s essential to monitor and maintain high levels of hand sanitization within your restaurant. You can achieve this by posting signs that encourage hand washing, having gloves readily available in high traffic areas, and having a strict policy of separating sick employees from the kitchen. These steps, along with frequent monitoring, can help you avoid being one of the 75% of restaurants found to be performing “inadequate handwashing” according to FDA Inspections. You can reference FDA Food Code 2-301, as well as the ECOLAB infographic below, for more information.

Ecolab: Improper handwashing

#3. No Separation between Raw & Ready Foods – Cross contamination is a major issue in the restaurant industry. This occurs when a cold food item, containing living and harmful bacteria, is placed in close proximity to a ready-made item. In this fashion, bacteria from the hazardous food item is able to contaminate the ready-to-serve food products, and thus extremely harmful to the end consumer. Fortunately, this type of violation is easy to avoid by taking very basic steps to ensure the safety of both your food and your customers. The first step is setting up proper storage within your temperature-controlled fridges by creating a complete separation of raw meats from cooked products. The second step is to make sure that all cooking utensils are properly marked and assigned to designated workstations. For example, knives for raw chicken preparation should not be placed near or around the station for cutting salads or raw vegetables. Setting up proper workstations, as well as procedures for food preparation and storage are essential for maintaining a clean kitchen. You can reference FDA Food Code 3-302.11, as well as the ECOLAB infographic below, for more information.

Ecolab: Raw Animal Foods Not Separated from Ready-to-Eat Foods

3 Tips to Keep Your Employees Prepared for Restaurant Inspection Reports

When trying to improve the daily operations of your restaurant, it’s important to give your staff the tools needed to achieve operational excellence. That doesn’t mean spending thousands of dollars on software or machinery that you don’t need, but instead focusing on items that will help foster employee education and efficiency.

#1.  Modernize Safe Food Handling with Mobile Checklists –  You know what every restaurant that fails an inspection has in common? Paper checklists. From bathroom to kitchen cleanliness, kitchen staff across America still just simply check a box and leave their initials to denote whether they have performed their assigned duty for their shift. But there’s a better way to ensure your staff is completing tasks by to not only checking a box, but also snapping a photo of their prep area or workstation to verify its cleanliness. GoCanvas provides an all-in-one platform that allows you to modernize your outdated paper form process and quickly deploy a data collection system that shows you exactly what is going on in your restaurant each day. Now you will know at the end of every shift what the status of your kitchen is, and if you need to take immediate action to prevent a future issue.

Mobile Restaurant Inspection

#2. Constant & Consistent Food Safety Practices – It is extremely important as a restaurant owner to train and educate your employees, no matter if a staff member has been with you for 5 days or 5 years. All employees should be trained in current food safety regulations and food handling to avoid foodborne illnesses and pest control in your restaurant. Not only does this training help ensure that each member of your crew knows the proper safety procedures within the kitchen, it also provides peace of mind knowing that if an inspector from the Food and Drug Administration does come that your staff will have been doing their job the correct way.

#3. Strict In-house Compliance Standards – When it comes to the health of your restaurant’s customers, there should be zero exceptions. That is why it is important that restaurant owners, or designated members of your team, closely monitor and document any lapses in safety procedures by your staff. The violations, big or small, should be immediately reviewed with the staff member so that they can be resolved immediately and that corrective actions can be put in place to prevent repeat offenses. But if violations do reoccur, the staff member should be dealt with appropriately before the issue snowballs into a larger issue down the road. Having a clear-cut process improvement plan will make it clear to all members of staff that sub-par health standards will not be tolerated and that there will be consequences for improper kitchen protocol.

Improve Restaurant Operations with Mobile Restaurant Inspections

The GoCanvas platform is a great place for you, or any restaurant manager, to begin converting outdated paper forms into modern, mobile inspections that your staff can use to document daily operations. Stop waiting for issues to pile up, and start being proactive!

Kiss Your Paperwork Goodbye


(Graphic Sources: https://foodsafety.ecolab.com/us/food-safety/Generic2?storeId=10154&catalogId=3074457345616698718&contentName=food-safety-matters/fsm-home)