Violating food safety regulations will interrupt your business and damage your reputation. According to StateFoodSafety.com, the most common violations include storing cleaning products near areas that come into contact with food, improper sanitation procedures, improper temperatures for stored food and allowing sick employees to be in the kitchen.
We've prepared a list of tips from the pros on what standard operating procedures can help restaurants stay compliant with FDA regulations. More importantly, staying proactive will reduce your liability and help create a safe environment that both clients and staff can enjoy!
1. Locate and Use a Food Safety Self-Inspection Checklist for Restaurant Inspections
The CDC and the USDA provide free downloadable and printable food safety checklists and guides for restaurants. These checklists are designed to make sure you are adhering to proper employee illness procedures, good hygiene practices and food contamination prevention as well as maintaining proper food and cooler temperatures.
2. Stay Up-to-Date on Food Safety Regulations for Your State
The FDA provides a comprehensive list of food regulations and codes for every state that is updated regularly. In order to ace your next restaurant inspection, you should periodically check the food safety regulations for your area and note any changes so that you can inform your staff and managers.
3. Review Your Previous Restaurant Inspections
At the end of each restaurant inspection, you will be given a report on the findings. In order to avoid previous restaurant health violations, review your last three to five health inspection reports. Make a note of all of the health and safety violations and inspect those areas. Consider scheduling a meeting with your employees and managers to discuss the past violations and the procedures to ensure those violations are not repeated.
4. Perform Routine Maintenance
Routinely inspect all critical systems and appliances for proper function. If you find equipment that is not operating correctly, schedule a service visit. You can perform timely maintenance inspections by providing your employees with the ability to create maintenance tickets for items that are malfunctioning so that the appropriate service technician can be called.
5. Consider Purchasing All New Thermometers
As thermometers age, they become inaccurate, and you can be assured that your food safety inspector will have a new and properly calibrated thermometer to test your refrigeration units, warming units and cooked and raw food temperatures. Once you have your new thermometers, perform spot tests to ensure you are storing and holding foods at the proper temperatures.
6. Deep Clean Your Restaurant and Update Cleaning Procedures Prior to any Restaurant Inspections
Your cleaning procedures may need an update prior to your restaurant's inspection. To get a good idea of how clean your restaurant is on a regular basis, take a trip through your space, starting at the front door. Look for any obvious and not so obvious signs of dirt, debris and filth. Check the entrance and exit doors for fingerprints, look under tables, benches and counters for dust and food particles. Visually inspect all your food holding drawers, warming stations, cooking surfaces and food prep areas. Walk through your walk-in coolers and freezers, look for spills that have not been properly cleaned and make sure raw and cooked food are not being stored next to each other.
Finally, take a look at the shelves in your back room. Make sure cleaning and sanitation chemicals are not being stored near food and that everything is properly closed and sealed to prevent pest contamination. If you find any problems, delegate the cleaning tasks to your employees and review your cleaning checklists to make sure missed items are listed on daily and weekly cleaning schedules.
7. Ensure Proper Handwashing and Glove Use
Make sure every sink is placarded with instructions on how and when employees should wash their hands and make sure soap, paper towels and sanitizer are available. In general, employees should wash their hands after using the bathroom, touching their face or clothes, handling money and prior to placing food service gloves on their hands. You can find tips, tricks and reminders for proper employee hand washing procedures on the National Restaurant Association website.
8. Inform Your Staff of Your Upcoming Inspection
While you may not know the exact time or date of your inspection, you will be given a range of dates. Make sure you hold a staff meeting to inform everyone of the upcoming inspection so that you can put your best foot forward and pass your next restaurant food safety inspection.
Be Memorable For the Right Reasons
We remember restaurant experiences for all the right and wrong reasons. When you learn that one of your preferred venues was flagged for a food safety violation, you cringe at having just recently dined there or recommended the place to a friend. It's hard to come back from that! So invest a little time in creating a list of maintenance SOP's that will help you avoid violations that interrupt your business and damage your reputation.