In the everyday haste of managing a restaurant, it is easy to put off repairs or overlook minor health violations. However, to avoid fines or, worse, foodborne illness originating at your facility, treat each day as if it were the day the inspector were coming, and hold regular self-inspections to prepare yourself and your staff.
Consider how you would answer the following questions about your facility. State and local law dictate the exact questions that the inspector will have for you, but studying these will give you a good start.
- What procedures do you use to cook, cool and reheat foods?
- How often, and in what way, are temperatures recorded?
- Are thermometers functional?
- Are temperature records up to date?
- How do employees handle potentially hazardous raw foods, such as raw poultry and fish?
- How do you handle leftovers?
- Are they dated and labeled?
- What are your methods for refrigeration and reheating?
- What is your process for food labeling?
- Where and how is food washed and prepped?
- What is your hand washing and glove use policy, and how is it
- What signs are posted regarding hand washing?
- What is your policy regarding changing gloves?
- When, how and by whom is equipment cleaned and sanitized?
- How are employees trained upon hire?
- Are employees tested on their knowledge?
- Are they retrained at regular intervals?
To best prepare yourself and your employees, keep the following guidelines in mind when performing self-inspections:
- Make it unannounced.
- Use the same tools an inspector would, including a flashlight, alcohol wipes, chemical test strips and inspection forms.
- Use the local inspection sheet to become aware of potential violations. Most health inspectors will provide these forms upon request.
- Start outside. Entering through the front door allows you to see your facility through the inspector’s eyes.
- Be thorough. Ask workers task-oriented and safety questions to keep the knowledge fresh in their minds and gauge the effectiveness of your training methods.
- Check your records, including temperature, employee illness, hand washing, training and HACCP records.
- Identify both good and bad behavior, and offer both praise and criticism to employees. Positive reinforcement encourages and motivates employees, while constructive criticism corrects unsafe or incorrect behaviors.
- Correct mistakes immediately.
- Conduct a debriefing session after your self-inspection.