While even the most prepared restaurant operators can fear them, it’s essential that operators are ready for an inspection at any time. Being prepared means having active management in place to ensure staff is always following proper protocols.
Active managerial control, as defined by the FDA, means establishing preventative controls for hazards or risk factors that might lead to foodborne illness.1 This includes regularly checking restaurant’s physical and environmental conditions and employee’s food-handling practices.2 By establishing active management practices, facilities are more likely to do well on Health Department inspections.
Local laws regulate how frequently Health Code inspections take place, and what specific items the inspectors look for, but, in general, environmental health inspectors check that safeguards are in place to protect food from contamination by food handlers, cross-contamination, and contamination from other sources in the restaurant. Safe food storage and proper temperature control are also key areas for inspection.
During inspections, inspectors check for a variety of compliance issues including proper food handling, food temperature, personal hygiene, facility and equipment maintenance, and vermin control. Violations are assigned point values and each violation lowers the establishment’s overall score.
Some of the most common infractions include:
Failure to hold foods at proper temperatures
Poor hand hygiene
Typically, scores must be posted publicly and are often also available online. Many municipalities now even share inspection scores with online review sites like Yelp. That means a less-than-perfect inspection score can quickly damage your reputation. In fact, the difference of even just a half-star in a Yelp rating can make a huge difference for a foodservice operation’s bottom line.5 A Harvard Business School study has shown that a one-star increase in Yelp ratings can result in a 5 to 9 percent increase in revenue.5 Unfortunately, the opposite is true, too—poor ratings can decrease revenue!
It’s essential that restaurant operators be ready for an inspection at any time. Managers should conduct regular in-house mock inspections to ensure their staff is following proper protocols. When an inspector arrives at your foodservice operation, be prepared to supply records or answer questions as requested. After the inspection, ask for an explanation of the inspector’s findings and any recommendations he or she may have for you and your staff.6
Practice active management by taking advantage of resources designed to improve food safety and prepare for health inspections.
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* See Technical Data Bulleting for details