Restaurants receive routine inspections anywhere from two to four times a year. The visits are usually unannounced and always seem to occur at the worst possible time, during a rush. The inspector is there to watch you prepare food, and that occurs most during the lunch or dinner hours.
- Greet the inspector. The health inspector is your ally in the fight against foodborne illnesses. Greeting your inspector and being calm and communicative allows you to work together to provide a healthy dining experience.
- Do not refuse an inspection. 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, and you can be sure that he will note every infraction, no matter how minor.
- Do not offer food or drink. This can be seen as a bribe. Also, it is important to maintain a professional relationship with your health inspector.
- Go with the inspector. Accompanying the inspector shows your interest 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, it is rewarding to hear what your facility is doing right.
- Take notes. This further shows your interest in food safety and gives you something to easily reference when making corrections or planning further employee training.
- Ask questions. If you do not understand why something is a violation, ask. The inspector will explain what portion of the food code it violates the proper solution. Try to not be confrontational as it breaks down communication.
- Do not take it personally. 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 on the spot. Critical violations are those directly related to foodborne illnesses. If they are not corrected immediately, your customers can become sick. For violations that cannot be remedied on the spot, 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 your stuff. Inspectors often quiz managers and employees alike to gauge their knowledge of food safety and preparation 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.
- Have records on hand. 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.
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 establishment.
Note: This article is a generalization of the health inspection process. Please reference your local Food Code or health department for specific governing rules and procedures.