Preparing for a Restaurant Health Inspection
Whether you own a small restaurant or work at a major restaurant chain, health code violations can pose a significant threat to the life of the business and its consumers. Every year the USDA sends auditors to perform semi-annual restaurant inspections. Each inspection is unannounced, so restaurants must always be ready.
Without consistent internal audits and inspection checks, it can be challenging for restaurants to ensure they will be prepared when the inspector arrives. Many of the cleaning tasks done on a regular basis don’t even scratch the surface of what restaurant auditors will be paying close attention to. This is why weekly or even monthly inspections should be carried out internally. You can never overdo restaurant cleanliness.
Here are some common violations restaurants often overlook.
1. Check Temperatures
Keeping your food at safe temperatures is a must. The USDA requires that a refrigerator should be at 40 *F or below and freezers should be kept at 0*F or below. Refrigerator temperatures can fluctuate throughout the day which is why, if it is not required where you reside, it is recommended to keep a log of refrigerator temperatures and record the temperature two to three times each day.
When the food is ready to be served the USDA requires for hot food to be held at 140*F or above and cold food to match refrigeration standards at 40*F.
*Note - Refrigerator and freezer thermometer reading should be visible when the doors are open.
2. Don't Cross-Contaminate & Label Expiration Dates
Just like what you learned when you got your Food Handlers Permit, cross-contamination is a serious issue. Cross-contamination happens when raw meat or other harmful foods come in contact with other foods. As an example, cross-contamination can occur when a cutting board is used for raw meat and then used again to cut vegetables. Cross-contamination can be avoided by clearly labeling and distinguishing between different cooking utensil use.
Clearly labeled food items are also important. Expiration dates should be visible on all products. For example, items that have thawed have a 48-hour lifecycle or less and therefore should be labeled with a visible expiration date within 48 hours. If an item isn’t marked or some inventory has expired this would be marked as critical on your restaurant audit.
3. Properly Store & Mark Cleaning Items
How you clean up (or not) can result in a health violation! Many cleaning chemicals and solutions can be extremely harmful if incorrectly used or ingested. Unmarked or illegible cleaning chemicals can be easily confused and mixing these up is no small mistake. Every unmarked bottle could result in multiple critical marks on your audit. Avoiding this is simple, make sure every cleaning item or other container is clearly labeled and stored in an isolated location away from food handling processes. For example, you must keep red cleaning buckets with micro-quat next to each station with a clean towel inside.
Companies using chemical solutions for dishwashing must be sensitive to PH levels and solution temperatures. Chemical solutions outside of these standards can be ineffective or potentially dangerous. To maintain proper chemical standards have staff perform a daily PH test and frequently replace solution water.
4. Supervise Employee Hygiene
Employee cleanliness is another crucial component of this. Every employee should be sure to wash their hands thoroughly before handling food. When returning from the restroom even if they are not handling food hands need to be washed. Depending on the state you live in each restroom is required to display a sign mandating that “All Employees Must Wash Their Hands.” Inspectors have found creative ways to make sure this is being followed through with, and failure to do so can fail your inspection.
Employee accessories are also necessary to highlight. Things such as jewelry, nail length, and hair care are all stuff an auditor will take note of. Hair should be pulled back, nails should be kept short and preferably in gloves, and jewelry should be avoided. Each of these things is something managers should be diligent to enforce and wary of with their employees.
5. Schedule Consistent Bathroom Sweeps
Bathrooms should be stocked with paper towels (or hand dryers), toilet paper, and hand soap at all times. To ensure that bathrooms are replenished it is recommended to have staff check once every 3 - 4 hours depending on the traffic. Other things to keep in mind is toilet cleanliness, issues such as a loose toilet seat are considered violations as well.
*Note - No trashcan in the restaurant can be full. There should be about 3 inches from the top of the trash to the top of the container.
Restaurant inspections don’t have to be intimidating. GoCanvas offers tons of free resources for small and large restaurants to improve their internal inspection process. To get started, check out a few of our popular restaurant inspection templates.
- Restaurant Checklist
- Food Service Inspection Form
- HACCP- Based SOPs Food Safety Checklist
- Restaurant Pre-Opening Checklist
- Restaurant Management Checklist
- Restaurant Closing Checklist
Use these templates or create your own to ensure your team is always prepared for your next audit.
Whether you are making the switch from paper or looking to improve your internal processes, we hope you consider GoCanvas as your data collection tool. Sign up for GoCanvas free and give our platform a try today!