What the Health Department is looking for in your Restaurant

While being inspected, it’s prudent to follow the inspector so you can see any violations first-hand.

If you’re a restaurant owner, the last thing you want to see is the health inspector walking through your front door. Much like Godzilla exiting the waters to destroy New York City, I imagine it’s a harrowing sight.

Contrary to popular belief, the health inspector does not want to run restaurants into the ground or slander their name in the local paper. They’re there to educate restaurants as to what they’re doing right, wrong, and how to improve their everyday procedures to ensure the safety of the products they serve.

One way to discover what inspectors are looking for is to check out local inspection reports. Whether that be in the newspaper, online, or simply past records, this exercise is a great way to educate yourself and staff while simultaneously being proactive to ensure the safety of the food you serve.

So what are some of the basic things food inspectors are looking for? MenuCoverDepot covers a few of the basics: https://www.menucoverdepot.com/resource-center/articles/restaurant-health-inspections/

  • Food in good condition, safe and unadulterated — This violation occurs when food is left out or stored in unsafe areas (e.g., near cleaning supplies or in a restroom), and when ice crystals are forming on food due to improper defrosting and refreezing procedures.
  • Adequate hand-washing facilities supplied and accessible — This could also be a major violation depending on how many violations occur. Examples: Lack of hot water, soap, and/or paper towels; a transit cabinet placed in front of the sink, inhibiting access to the sink; missing hand sinks; and not enough sinks in a work space.
  • Toxic substances properly used, identified, and stored — Examples: When caps fall off chemical containers, when cleaning supplies are transferred out of their original containers into spray bottles and are not relabeled, and when chemicals are stored near food products such as vegetable oil spray.
  • No rodents, insects, birds, or animals — It is a minor violation when you see filth flies or one live roach, but this violation can close a restaurant down if there is an infestation. Keeping your floors, drains, and corners clean helps to prevent pests, and keeping your doors shut prevents them from flying in.

So what happens when the inspection is over? Well, typically health departments determine grades by a numeric or alphabetical system.

Numeric Grading Scale:

  • 90-100 (A) – Good Condition – Two or fewer violations
  • 80-89 (B) – Adequate Condition – Several low-risk violations
  • 70-79 (C) – Needs Improvement – Various low & high risk violations
  • 69 or lower (D) – Poor – Copious amount of violations

While being inspected, it’s prudent to follow the inspector so you can see any violations first-hand – also it is important to ask questions in order to understand any violations that may arise. This allows you to eliminate these risks in the future.