Upon closer inspection

By now I'm sure you're all used to regular visits from the health inspector, fire inspector, and maybe even building inspector. It's a regular part of the job. And for many, a regular part of the stress. But inspections should be viewed as a way to keep your operation safe, efficient, and clean, and can be used as a learning experience for your employees.

Inspectors are not our enemies. They're not there to make life miserable. They are professionals with a job to do, and should be treated as such. It may be frustrating when they show up during the lunch rush, but they're there to see your food production, and that's hard to do when the kitchen's not in full swing. So when you see an inspector walk through the door, greet them pleasantly and let them get started.

  • Tour the restaurant with the inspector so that you can ask questions, clarify issues, and even point out areas where you've made improvements. If you can't make the rounds yourself, send an assistant manager or other team member in your place. This is a good opportunity to build rapport with your inspectors and show that you operate as a team.
  • When reviewing the inspection results, make sure you understand the problem, and ask for any ideas or suggestions for solving them. Inspectors are willing to give presentations to employees to educate them on food or workplace safety. Take advantage of these free "seminars" and promote them to the staff.
  • Don't get defensive. If there are areas that you don't agree with, don't argue. If necessary, you can appeal them later. Just clarify, take notes and show readiness to fix the problems.
  • Once the actual inspection is over, don't just fix things yourself and await the next visit. Create a fix-it list with the items from the inspection checklist. Review it during a management or pre-shift meeting, and get the team involved in the repairs and solutions. Have employees sign off that the items were corrected, and keep the list with your copy of the inspection checklist.
  • Use the checklist as an internal audit. If you know that the inspector shows up every four weeks, schedule a self-inspection during the third week. Follow the checklist, supplemented by your own facilities, sanitation and preventive maintenance checklists. Hopefully this will make for better inspections, and while there will still be some areas to address (there always are...it's their job to find them), there shouldn't be any major surprises.

For some additional information on how to make the most of periodic inspections, use the links to the left to review two articles from the National Restaurant Association. We've also found some sample inspection forms (see below) that you can use to build your own internal audit.

We've provided a downloadable "fix it list". One version is in Excel so you can make changes and keep copies on your computer. The other is a pdf file ready to print and photocopy as needed. Make sure that the fix-it action plan you outline is specific and clear, and that all items are included in future internal audits.

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