Health inspections for commercial dining venues are a fact of owning such a business, and thank goodness for them, because we’d never want to eat out if there weren’t any guidelines. The experience can, however, be unnerving to the point of downright terror if you allow it to be. There are some common sense ideas in preparing for a health inspection that can make it less painful and more successful.
- If you don’t already have one, make sure to obtain a copy of the form being used for your inspection. If you’re an existing business, make sure you review the forms from your last two inspections, and that you’ve corrected any violations cited on those, because a part of the inspector’s job is to see to it that you correct known problems, and if you haven’t, you can’t reasonably expect a good inspection.
- Have a painfully honest friend join you in walking around and into your restaurant, starting from the outside, going all the way through. Pay careful attention to the “curb appeal” of your restaurant. Does your business look like it’s neat, clean and well-maintained? (The friend is more likely to notice the things you’ve learned to ignore.) Enter your business, allowing your neutral observer to walk through with you offering their impressions of your maintenance and cleanliness.
- Walk through your food prep area. Is your lighting good? Are there crevices in your walls or floors where food could be lodged? Correct any issues you find. Check your equipment temperatures. Do they meet guidelines? Also, check the seals and gaskets on your equipment to ensure that they’re in good repair, clean and sealing tightly.
- Review local health codes. Make sure you’re up-to-date on any changes. Don’t assume you know. Laws change, and ignorance of the law is not a defense.
- Finally, relax, but not too much! Take your inspection seriously, treating the inspector respectfully. Make polite conversation, but not so much as to create distraction. Nervous people look like they’re hiding something. Ask the inspector if he prefers that you walk through with him or let him work privately, and comply with his wishes. If he prefers to work alone, go about your business normally. If you’re with him, don’t stand in front things you know he wants to inspect. Answer questions honestly, instructing your employees to do the same. If he mentions a problem that can be immediately fixed, fix it!
We all come with personalities, and some might seem intimidating, but at the end of the day, your inspector is a person, just like you. He’s just doing his job. Let them see that their inspection is important to you and treat him like any other guest. It helps.