A visit from the health inspector can be stressful even if you stay on top of health concerns by following a proactive food safety plan and scheduling regular cleanings. If the health inspector comes knocking, here are some tips for making the visit as smooth and productive as possible:
1. Remember that you are on the same team. It can sometimes seem like restaurant managers and health inspectors have an adversarial relationship, but the truth is that you are working towards the same goal. You both want to create a safe and healthy environment where patrons are protected and can confidently enjoy your food and beverages. Don't think about the visit as an inconvenience and you might actually gain some new and helpful information that you can use to improve your processes. Check out these photos of a filthy restaurant (click here) featured on Food Network's show, Health Inspector with host Ben Vaughn and test yourself before your own health inspection.
2. Be polite and professional. During the inspection process, you may find that you disagree with some of the inspector's conclusions. Angrily confronting them and questioning how well they are performing their job is not the way to handle these situations. Remain calm and collected. Remember that they are trying to do their job and that inspections can be somewhat subjective.
If you would like to dispute an item on the inspection report, be sure to take a professional and non-confrontational approach. A little respect can go along way and you might be able to come to a mutual agreement about the problem.
3. Demonstrate a willingness to immediately fix any problems. Repeated violations could be a sign that your employees aren't following the standards that you set forward and it is time to tighten food safety practices. You can help your case by showing the inspector your plan for improvement and letting them know that you acknowledge the problem and are already on the road to making necessary corrections.
4. Be proactive and get involved. Take advantage of opportunities to serve on local boards and committees. This will allow you to have some say in regulations and work directly with health inspectors in a different capacity. The more you know about recent and proposed changes to health and food safety rules, the better you will be able to adapt.
5. Share your food safety plans. As new rules and regulations are rolled out, take the time to share your adjusted plans with your food inspector. This free exchange of ideas will help everyone learn and improve. The inspector learns about some strategies that you have successfully implemented and been able to share those with other restaurants who are looking for solutions. On that same note, the inspector can provide you with helpful feedback that will make your life easier.
6. Have the inspector share their results with your employees. Ultimately, food safety comes down to a well-trained staff who takes pride in their work and wants to create a safe and delicious product. Hopefully, they want to learn more about where there are places for improvement and hear constructive suggestions. Involve them in the process to help clarify where changes need to be made by having them speak directly with the inspector.
More than anything, you should be prepared for a health inspector's visit by always practicing good food safety and keeping your kitchen and food preparation locations in pristine condition. If you actively do the work throughout the year, not only will you protect your customers, you will also avoid having a stress-filled visit from the health department that could result in violations or a complete shut-down. Have a food safety plan in place and make sure that your employees are aware of and follow protocols.