What to Do During a Restaurant Health Inspection


Imagine you’re working in your kitchen in the middle of a rush, and your hostess walks in the kitchen to tell you the health inspector is here. You think to yourself, “but it’s right in the middle of the rush!” This is the part where you might want to panic, but don’t.

Health inspections occur 2-4 times a year and they are most often unannounced. The health inspector wants to see how well you and your staff adhere to safety requirements when the pressure is on. And the best time to see that is during a busy rush. But don’t worry. Simply follow these tips to keep you calm during your restaurant health inspection.

During the Inspection

Greet the Inspector with a Smile

The health inspector is your ally in the fight against foodborne illnesses. Greeting your inspector. Then be calm and communicative as this allows you to work together to provide a healthy dining experience.

Always Accept an Inspection, Never Refuse One

Refusing an inspection leads to the suspicion that you have something to hide. All the inspector will do is come back with an inspection warrant. Then you cab bet that he will note every infraction, no matter how minor. This kind of unnecessary stress is not what you want.

Do Not Offer Food or Drink

This can be seen as a bribe and you are not Al Capone. Plus, the health inspector is a professional just like you are and it is important to maintain that kind of relationship.

Go with the Inspector

Accompanying the inspector shows that you’re interested in food safety and allows you to know the what and why of a violation. Also, inspectors will point out good habits along with the bad. Rather than just receiving a list of the bad, take credit for what you’re doing well.

Take Good Notes

Taking notes shows the health inspector that you’re interested in what they’re saying. It also gives you a good reference point to go back to once the inspection is over.

Ask Questions

Don’t hesitate to ask questions, especially if you need clarification about why something is a violation. Your health inspector will be happy to explain as well as give you solutions to the issue. Be respectful when you ask questions. Your health inspector is the wrong person to cop an attitude with.

Remember, It’s Not Personal

Nobody is perfect and mistakes happen. Rather than dwelling on every violation the inspector finds, correct the mistakes and strive for a better inspection the next time around.

Fix Critical Violations Immediately

Critical violations are those directly related to foodborne illnesses. If they are not corrected immediately your customers can become sick. Bacteria doesn’t wait for the health inspector to leave.

For violations that cannot be corrected right then and there, set a time frame for correction; the inspector will most likely perform a follow-up inspection for critical violations that require more time for correction.

Know the Facts

Inspectors often quiz managers and employees alike to gauge their knowledge of food safety and prep processes. All owners and managers must have up-to-date training. In some counties, lack of food safety knowledge is a critical violation and can shut down a restaurant. Don’t be that guy.

Have All Records Available

The inspector will ask for all of your records regarding food safety management. These can include temperature check records, receiving logs and employee illnesses. Also, the inspector will ask to see your operators permit to make sure it is current.

The Health Inspector DOES Want You to Succeed

Part of a health inspector’s job is education. If your facility is lacking in a specific area of safe food handling, arrange a date and time for the inspector to come back and give your employees a food safety lesson. This will help assure that your customers and employees have a healthy, enjoyable experience in your restaurant.

photo credit: stu_spivack via photopin cc


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  1. Hi!
    Would you know if health inspectors are allowed to come in during a rush period and as a result causing delays in service?

    • Rachael Moyte

      Hello, Nelson. You’d have to check the local laws in your area to see if there are rules pertaining to when health inspectors can come. They usually pop in at random, however, different counties and states may have different rules.

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