Ensuring that your restaurant is clean and serves fresh, safe food to patrons is your greatest responsibility, and health inspections are a way for you to learn how to best uphold this responsibility. Inspectors often make impromptu inspections to observe you when you are running operations as you normally would.
How can you make the best of these inspections? There are several ways you can effectively prepare:
Before the Inspection
Being prepared for a health inspection means understanding your city and province’s public health codes when you are planning on opening the restaurant and at all times after its opening. The following are some ways to become familiar with the codes with which you must comply.
- Consider joining your province’s restaurant association.
- Check the federal and provincial online resources regarding food-safety rules.
- Refer to all applicable Model Food Codes. This set of guidelines provides a list of best practices for keeping restaurants free from foodborne illnesses, and serves as a guide for the development of provincial and local regulations.
- Perform regular self-inspections of your operations. Use the form your health department does (or a similar one) and put yourself in the inspector’s role. Establish a time-frame in which you will perform these inspections, e.g., weekly. Some typical considerations:
- How are foods cooked, cooled and reheated?
- How often and in what way are temperatures recorded? Are thermometers functional?
- How are potentially hazardous raw foods prepared and served?
- How do you handle leftovers?
- What is your food labelling process?
- Where and how is food washed and prepped?
- What is your hand-washing and glove use policy?
- When, how and by whom is equipment cleaned and sanitized?
- What is the process for training new employees?
- Establish priorities based on the characteristics of your facility or problem areas. For example, if you decide to focus on food temperature, instruct employees to take the temperature of products when they arrive, when they are stored and when they are served.
While Undergoing the Inspection
When undergoing a health inspection, it is important to maintain a cooperative, professional and open attitude. Establishing a good relationship with local health inspectors is fundamental.
- Give the inspector a cordial greeting. Politely ask to see credentials.
- Tour with the health inspector. Think of the inspector as an outside auditor, and the inspection as an opportunity to prevent foodborne illness at your operation.
- If you are not able to tour with the health inspector, assign a manager or staff member to take your place.
- Never argue or be defensive with an inspector.
- Never offer favours or food to an inspector.
- If you are written up for any violations, make sure you understand what they are and how to correct them. Ask the health inspector to suggest a way to fix the problem.
Immediately After the Inspection
The information gained from your inspector is extremely valuable. It is important to maximize the knowledge you gain during inspections by relaying it to staff and incorporating it into your day-to-day activities.
- Hold a 10-minute briefing session with kitchen staff after the inspection, emphasizing the importance of maintaining health standards. Add your own management guidelines to make your argument more authoritative.
- If you have staff for whom English is a second language, ask a bilingual staff member to interpret for you during these briefings.
- Make staff participants in the conversation. Ask for questions and suggestions.
- Continue to perform regular self-inspections, taking into account the inspector’s advice or findings.
Proper food preparation is not only a matter of complying with the law—it also means avoiding disastrous foodborne illness originating at your facility. Consider health inspectors an ally in preventing unsafe practices in the workplace that could heighten your risk.
Find Out More:
This list is not exhaustive, and assessing your company's exposures and taking the appropriate precautions can go a long way toward protecting your restaurant.
Download our “Service Industry Employee Safety Manual” guide for an in-depth list of more ways to minimize gaps in your risk management: