Posted on: May 11, 2023

Restaurant Inspector Checklist: How to Pass a Health Inspection

Are you a restaurant owner or manager who wants to ensure the safety and hygiene of your establishment? One of the most important steps you can take is to pass a health inspection.

Health inspections are conducted by local authorities to evaluate the cleanliness and safety of food establishments, and failing one can lead to serious consequences, such as fines, closure, and damage to your reputation.

To help you prepare your restaurant so it’s in perfect condition for your next health inspection, we’ve created a restaurant inspector checklist that covers all the essential aspects of a successful inspection. From kitchen cleanliness to food storage, we'll provide you with the tips and tricks you need to ensure your restaurant passes with flying colors.

Best Ways to Prepare for Food Inspection 

Passing a health inspection for restaurants can be a daunting task for food establishments, but several things can be done, like properly preparing, to help ensure a successful inspection.

Preparing for a health inspection is crucial for any food establishment, as it helps ensure that your restaurant meets the required standards for cleanliness, food safety, and hygiene. An inspection for a restaurant can happen at any time, therefore it’s best to treat every day as an inspection day. 

 Here are some of the best ways to prepare for a health inspection: 

  1. Implement a HACCP plan 

Prepare for a health inspection by reviewing your HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) plan, designed to identify potential hazards during the cooking process where the risk of contamination is highest. With this plan, you can take appropriate measures to prevent contamination by identifying critical points and addressing potential hazards. 

  1. Familiarize Yourself with the Health Code 

Always review the local health code and ensure that your restaurant meets all the requirements. Check for any recent updates or changes to the code, and make sure you're up to date on any new regulations or requirements, such as those related to COVID-19. 

  1. Conduct Regular Self-Inspections 

Conducting regular self-inspections can help you identify and address any potential issues before the health inspector arrives. Use a checklist to ensure that you're covering all the key areas, such as food storage, kitchen cleanliness, and equipment maintenance.

  1. Consult With Your Local Health Department 

By doing so, you can familiarize yourself with the regulations and health inspection forms that are being used, giving you a better understanding of what the health inspector will be looking for during the inspection.

  1. Train Your Staff 

Your staff plays a critical role in maintaining the cleanliness and safety of your restaurant. Make sure that they are trained in proper food handling and hygiene practices, and that they know what to expect during a health inspection. 

  1. Ensure Every Employee has Their Food Handler's Permit 

This permit, also known as an Employee Health Permit, confirms that each staff member has undergone food safety certification, which ensures that your restaurant adheres to regulations concerning food sanitation, storage, protection, and preparation. It is recommended to provide food safety training to your staff even if it is not mandatory in your area to ensure that your business is complying with best practices.

  1. Keep Necessary Documentation and Records

Keep accurate records of all food purchases, storage temperatures, and cleaning schedules as well as food safety plans and employee training records. This information will help you demonstrate your compliance with the health code and provide evidence of your commitment to food safety. 

  1. Address any Issues Immediately 

If you identify any potential issues during your self-inspection, address them immediately. Don't wait for the health inspector to point them out - take action to correct any problems before they become more serious. 

Preparing for a health inspection and conducting internal inspections can serve a dual purpose of not only preparing your staff for an actual health inspection but also enhancing and reinforcing food safety protocols throughout your restaurant. This approach can ensure a safe and pleasant experience for both the staff and customers. 

What are the points of focus during a health inspection? 

During a health inspection for restaurants, the focus is on several key areas to ensure that a food establishment meets the required standards for cleanliness, food safety, and hygiene. 

Points of focus include: 

  • Food Temperature Control
  • Food handling practices
  • Kitchen cleanliness
  • Pest control
  • Employee hygiene
  • Facility maintenance

What do health inspectors look for? 

A health inspector will examine the restaurant staff and food products for potentially hazardous materials, which can be during storage, production, processing, or even packaging. During a health inspection, the examiner will carefully monitor the food storage, defrosting, and cooking methods used in your establishment. Additionally, they will observe the overall cleanliness of your kitchen, storage spaces, and freezers.

Specifically, a restaurant health inspector may look for: 

  • Poor temperature control 
  • A temperature checking log at all
  • Hazardous foods out in the open
  • Unkept food handlers 
  • Uncovered stored food
  • Storing cleaning products near the pantry
  • Poor general cleanliness 
  • Inappropriate containers 
  • No labels on your food for “use-by” dates
  • No gloves on employees 
  • Storing raw ingredients under dripping meat
  • Signs of pests 

Apart from the physical conditions and practices, health inspectors will also assess the knowledge of your managers and staff. As a restaurant owner, you are expected to know all the relevant local health codes. Similarly, your management team must undergo updated food safety training, and your employees must have a clear understanding of safe food handling and preparation. While the Food Handler's Permit tests this knowledge, the restaurant health inspector may ask questions to gauge their understanding. 

Health Inspector Checklist 

Do you want to know how to pass a health inspection? Fortunately, we've created a health inspector checklist to make the process easier and save you time!

Food Storage and Dry Storage

  • Food is kept at least 6” off the ground.
  • All food is labeled with name and delivery date.
  • The FIFO (First In, First Out) method of Inventory is being practiced.
  • Containers are labeled with the food name and delivery date.
  • Chemicals and food are separated.

Employee Hygiene

  • Fingernails are short, unpolished, and clean.
  • Employees take appropriate action when coughing or sneezing.
  • Hands are washed thoroughly using proper hand-washing procedures at a critical point.
  • Smoking is observed only in designated areas away from preparation, service, storage, and ware washing areas.
  • Jewelry is limited to simple earrings, plain rings, and watches. 

Food Handling

  • Food is handled with utensils, clean gloved hands, or clean hands.
  • Food is tasted using the proper method.
  • Frozen food is thawed under refrigeration or in cold running water. 
  • Food is heated to the correct temperature to remove all bacteria before being placed in the hot holding area. 
  • Food is protected from cross-contamination. 

Freezer and Refrigerator Maintenance

  • Thermometer is conspicuous and accurate.
  • Temperature is accurate for piece of equipment.
  • Refrigeration temperature is within the food-safe range.
  • Keep track of overtime scheduling. 
  • Refrigerators and freezers are clean.
  • All food items are correctly labeled and dated. 

Sanitation

  • Water temperature is heated to the correct temperature for sanitizing.
  • The water is clean and free of grease and food particles.
  • Small equipment and utensils are cleaned between uses.
  • The utensils are allowed to dry.
  • Utensils are covered to protect them from dust and contaminants when stored.

Garbage Disposal

  • Garbage cans are emptied as necessary.
  • The lid of the dumpster is shut.
  • Garbage bins are cleaned regularly to prevent pests.

Pest Control

  • No evidence of pests is present.
  • Screens are on open windows and doors are in good repair.

What should be done after an inspection?  

When the inspector is done with the inspection, you will receive a restaurant score. If you were accompanying the inspector during the inspection, you may already have determined an idea of what your final score is. 

To understand your health inspection score and its impact on your restaurant, it's important to have a clear understanding of the scoring system. This will enable you to identify the violations and take corrective measures accordingly. Health code violations are generally classified as either critical or non-critical, or as high-risk or low risk, depending on the health department.

Normally, there are two types of scoring systems in a health inspection: 

  1. A letter-grade system 
  2. A points-based system 

     

     1. Letter Grade System

Restaurants are typically assigned letter grades, such as A, B, or C, to indicate their compliance with food regulations. Inspectors generally assign points based on the number and severity of health code violations in restaurants and then convert that score to a letter grade. This letter grade system is designed to make the scores easily comprehensible for consumers.

  1. Points-Based System

Points-based systems for food inspections are typically scored on a 100-point scale. The inspector assigns a score based on the number and severity of the violations observed during the inspection. 

To stay in compliance and pass your restaurant’s health inspection, make sure your employees are well-versed on food safety practices and regulations with our food handlers training program.