Health inspectors have a tough but necessary job: to go to restaurants like yours and make sure that the food you serve to guests is safe, and that your establishment is clean and orderly.
Being strict and demanding comes with the territory. They’re concerned with public safety, not with your reputation. When they walk around your kitchen, clipboard in hand, they will freely hand out points for things you normally overlook – which is kind of the point.
The more things they see, the worse off you’ll be. Especially if:
You Do a Poor Job of Cleaning
Grimy countertops? Check.
Sticky floors? Check.
Mold in the fridge? Check.
Haphazard (or non-existent) cleaning will get you points faster than LeBron James at a playoff game. Health inspectors are very hard to please, and some have even been known to go around the kitchen with tweezers picking out stray hairs.
If you don’t want to raise your health inspector’s blood pressure, clean your kitchen thoroughly and often and safely store your cleaning equipment when not in use.
You Undercook Your Food
Red meat makes health inspectors red in the face.
Don’t rush the cooking process and serve undercooked meat. Or undercooked anything, actually. Always use a food thermometer to measure food’s internal temperature. That’s what the health inspector uses, and that’s what you should use, too.
Never rely on subjective assessments like food color or time on the grill. The grill might be cooking unevenly, or the color might look right, but the actual meat could still be too cold.
You Leave Your Food on the Counter
Did the health inspector catch you leaving food on the counter to cool or thaw? He’ll serve you a plate full of points with a side order of scolding.
You should already be aware of the food temperature danger zone and the risks in letting food reach those temperatures. Never, ever leave frozen food to thaw if you’re not using it immediately; nor should you let hot foods cool to room temperature.
You Don’t Maintain Your Equipment
Kitchen equipment should be fully functional at all times – especially freezers and refrigerators. Inspectors will absolutely check the internal temperatures of your cold storage equipment to make sure food is being stored safely. They are also going to check for wear and cleanliness.
Before the inspector arrives, do a thorough check of every piece of equipment in your kitchen. From freezer to fryer to tongs. And leave plenty of room in your schedule to get that thing fixed. You never know when a health inspector will show up!
You Cross-Contaminate Your Food
Have you ever kept raw food and raw vegetables on the same countertop? Or sliced vegetables on a meat cutting board?
If so, you’ve got a lot of explaining to do.
Health inspectors hate it when kitchen staff cross-contaminate food. Whether it’s by accident, out of ignorance, or sheer laziness, the end result is the same: sick diners.
Always keep foods separate and never use the same tool or surface to handle raw and fresh ingredients.
It’s Not the End of the World
Getting B or C is bad, but not the end of the world. You can still recover from the reputation hit by cleaning up your act. Make sure you address all the points the inspector mentioned and train your people in proper food handling habits and techniques. Then, once the health inspector comes back for a follow-up inspection, you’ll have them grinning from ear to ear.