Preparing Your Restaurant for a Health Inspection


Health inspections usually occur two to four times a year. Though it may be tempting to put off certain repairs or overlook a few minor health violations in hopes that the inspector will not visit today, it’s better to treat every day as the day an inspector will show up.

Practice with a Self-Inspection

The saying “practice makes perfect” holds true with health inspections. The best way to prepare for an inspection is by performing a self-inspection every week. Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind while performing your self-inspection.

Don’t announce it

Most of the time routine inspections are unannounced. Pick a random day in the week to surprise your employees with an inspection. This will help instill proper food handling practices day in and day out. The health inspector will be looking out for the little things others might normally overlook, so make sure your employees understand that the little things are just as important as the bigger ones.

Get the tools and look the part

Some of the common tools an inspector will carry are a flashlight, clipboard, alcohol wipes, chemical test strips and inspection forms. Using these tools will assure that you are as accurate and true to the process as you can be. Like playing detective, but for your own kitchen.

Use inspection sheets for accuracy

Using the same sheet as your health inspector will allow you to know exactly what they are looking for and the severity of each violation. Most health inspectors will have extra forms and should be happy to provide you with some copies. They’ll appreciate the fact that you want to be thorough.

Start outside and work your way in

The first thing an inspector sees is the outside of your establishment. Exterior cleanliness is crucial as it gives off the important first impression. As you walk through the door, you are also able to take on the persona of health inspector.

Play detective

Perhaps the best method to assure that your restaurant will pass an inspection is by being extremely thorough in your self-inspections. Perfection can’t always be achieved, but you can get pretty close. Running a tight ship in the kitchen will show your employees and inspector that you are serious about health and cleanliness.

Quiz Your Staff

During an inspection, the health official will often ask employees questions about the task they are currently performing. Asking workers task-oriented and safety questions will keep the knowledge fresh in their minds and help gauge if your training techniques are effective.

Keep Your Records in Check

Your inspector may ask for any temperature, employee illness, hand washing, training or HACCP records that you have to assure that you are properly monitoring safety practices.Take time to check over these records yourself. This keeps them properly ordered and on hand for when the inspector arrives.

Talk About the Good & the Bad

Positive reinforcement is a proven teaching method and will help foster employee happiness and loyalty, so point out when an employee is doing something correctly. When an employee is performing a task incorrectly, take the time to explain the proper behavior. This helps them understand what’s expected and it helps your chances of getting a higher inspection score.

Correct Mistakes on the Spot

Let your staff know if they are making mistakes. When you show them how to do something properly and correct them when it’s not, they’ll trust you more. And be more likely to make the proper way of doing things a habit.

Hold a Staff Meeting

Use this time to go over your inspection findings with employees. Again, point out both positive and negative habits. Spend some time explaining proper practices. Give your employees a chance to ask questions so they can understand why things are done a certain way.

Certify your team for food handling

Most health departments require that food service employees be certified food handlers. This means each employee must receive training and pass a ServSafe test. Restaurants are required to keep up-to-date food cards on hand for every employee.

photo credit: Adam Sherer via photopin cc


About Author

Rachael Niswander

Rachael is a writer in Denver, Colorado with an affinity for food and all things food-related. When she isn't writing or doing other foodie things, Rachael enjoys reading, hooping, tattoos, dancing, learning about herbs and natural living, and spending time with friends, her husband Michael and their two cats, Tip Toes and Pippin.


  1. Valente Martins Freitas Belo on

    Safety is simple and not complicate, priority safety in your life and make it familiar with your activity. safety is very important when you your task or any activity in where, when, what, who, why and how it can being happen and then any activity can cause risk if we ignore the hazard around although its so small. Get a job wherever an company priority health and safety and take hygiene in life leave long and laugh more and enjoying life with health and safety.

  2. Greetings Rachael, I enjoyed the reading and education when digesting your article regarding prepping restaurant and staff for health inspections. Especially the check list, done with encouraging positive reinforcements and incentives, acknowledgement awards etc. However, if it doesn’t overwhelm the staff, and If I may suggest, keeping an open eye for any evidence or suspect of pest activity would also be paramount. Most health inspectors are not looking for the actual pest (although pest can make a cameo appearances during inspections) but they seek out evidence of pest presence i.e. roach deposits next to light switches or cab door hinges, under lowest shelf of prep tables, door frames, the obvious rodent droppings and build up in floor drains where gung flies breed, checking delivers for pest presence, ingress at doors leading to exteriors for rodent proofing, breaks in the structure etc. Prevention is also paramount.
    Julio Perez

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