Seeing a health inspector, clipboard in hand, enter your kitchen during the middle of service is cause for anxiety even in the best of cases, but there are some ways to make a health inspection a little easier.
It all starts with proper training and defining clear expectations. Here are some tips to avoid common health code violations and keep your business running smoothly.
Know the Rules
Before you can lead a team of people who can understand and observe health code regulations, it’s essential to be well-versed in them yourself. Familiarize yourself with the regulations in your state by visiting this website and going to your local health district website for any additional resources that may be available. And remember, regulations can change over time, so check back any time you update your employee handbook to make sure you have all the updated information.
Maintain a Great Employee Handbook
The best teams begin with a water-tight employee handbook. Because the health code is something that can seriously impede your ability to do business, it’s important that every employee, regardless of their position, knows the rules, so consider summarizing them in the handbook itself. Have staff sign that they’ve received the handbook, and consider quizzing new staff on some of the essential elements to make sure they understand them.
Training Gets Results
It’s important to lead with great training. All too often, new hires or staff who are promoted from within the organization are thrown right into the fire on a busy night, and once they prove they can hack it, there isn’t much more training offered to them. Make sure to take equal time for staff at every position to train them thoroughly, and bring in senior staff to help so that they are learning from their peers and creating mentors within their own team.
One training exercise that can put the health code in practical, actionable terms for staff is to have a mock inspection. Designate someone to be an inspector at a specific time, and then have that person, unbeknownst to staff, perform a health inspection. Debrief after the inspection to see where staff excel and where additional training is needed.
ServSafe is a food and beverage safety training and certificate program administered by the U.S. National Restaurant Association. The program educates foodservice professionals on best practices and can be extremely helpful for your employees. Consider paying for long-term employees to go through ServSafe training. It’s a worthwhile investment for your business.
Create Signage for the Kitchen and Other Key Areas
There are a few issues that are common problem areas for food safety. These include the Temperature Danger Zone, the range of temperatures at which foodborne illness is most likely to occur (between 40 and 140 degrees F) as well as food storage practices—literally how you store food in the walk-in. Consider creating signage that can remind employees about your (and the Health Department’s) expectations for avoiding the TDZ and storing and labeling food properly.
Make Personal Hygiene a Priority
Your staff are the first line of defense against foodborne illness, so it’s important that they take that role seriously and demonstrate a commitment to good hygiene. If it’s practical for your business, consider implementing uniforms that staff can change into on-site and remove prior to clocking out. This will reduce the likelihood of bringing in foreign, potentially hazardous materials from outside the restaurant and will broadcast an image of cleanliness to guests.
The most important tool your staff has to reduce the likelihood of foodborne illness is a handwashing station. For that reason, make sure your employees have easy access to handwashing stations and that handwashing is expected whenever employees enter the restaurant, before handling food, after eating or using the restroom, and when moving from one task to another.