With Yelp openly posting restaurant inspection grades and some counties in the U.S. even going so far as to map the grade of every restaurant in their jurisdictions, restaurants are under more pressure than ever to achieve high scores. If your reputation is on the line, it’s always good to be prepared.
In New York City this year, 61 percent of restaurants received an A grade after the second visit, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t docked points on things guests care about the first time. With all the information at their fingertips, guests may still find issues with a restaurant, even if it receives an A.
Restaurants should be preparing for inspections before they open their door and every day after. Even if the health and safety basics are covered, there can be some smaller details that can derail even the cleanest restaurant. Don’t know where to start? These three jumping off points can help.
Start from the beginning
Good habits from initial training can keep bad inspections at bay. Health inspectors are on the lookout for things as simple as dirty lemon slicers, which means general practices should focus on avoiding bad habits, no matter how small they seem. Do all staffers know the correct heating and cooling temperatures for food? Do they know to label everything with the date before it goes into the freezer?
It’s easy to tell staff the rules at the beginning, but these practices need to be reinforced every day. Utilizing an inspection-minded checklist that can hold staff accountable can be a useful way to make sure all these small details don’t go unnoticed.
Keep it up
This doesn’t just mean making sure the handwashing sink is clear of ice. If something is broken, get in the habit of fixing it right away. If left untouched, leaky pipes and broken handles can become part of a new normal, and it can be easier to just accept them. Don’t put it on a to-do list for tomorrow—that won’t be an excuse that a health inspector will accept. Place signage in key areas for both common and uncommon problems that could lead to a loss of points.
Do a practice run
A few times a year, pull out the inspection sheet your health department uses and do a dry run without telling staff. Through the lens of a health inspector, critically evaluate how they’re going about their daily activities. At the end of the day, share the list and identify areas where staff could use more training. Is the bathroom always out of paper towels? Set up a weekly reminder to have someone check on it. Many times, a score is brought down by the little chores, as opposed to an overtly serious problem.
After your official inspection, don’t forget to debrief with your staff to discuss any negative findings and ensure they understand why points were docked. Restaurants can schedule a follow-up “re-inspection” if given a bad grade the first time around, so it’s best to have your crew know immediately where they can improve.
Even if you’re confident that your restaurant is functioning at an A level, it can still be intimidating when a health inspector visits. With clear and thorough staff training, that A grade is within your reach.