Beyond the Restaurant Inspection Checklist

By Amy Milshtein

Beyond the Restaurant Inspection Checklist

There’s a beloved bakery in my town. A local institution, it’s been in the same historic building since 1925 churning out bread, wedding cakes, and signature maple bars. Business was brisk until a few months ago, when “mechanical failure,” closed the shop for three days.


Turns out the “mechanical failure” was actually a rat infestation.


Local media revealed the true reason for the closure and social media took it from there. Within days the credibility of a landmark was shot.


Even the most thorough restaurant inspection checklist could not have spared the bakery their recent headache. “It’s an era of social media,” writes one commenter. “Lying isn’t an option.” Still, don’t sell the importance of a checklist short. A good one sets clear expectations between management and staff, outlines protocols and priorities and helps train managers and staff on food safety techniques.


Know Your Codes

Health codes, like politics, are local. The National Restaurant Association urges owners and/or managers to inspect their establishments weekly, with the same or similar forms used in their jurisdiction. Management training should emphasize the most up-to-date food safety techniques. Priorities, according to the Association, should include food holding time and temperature guidelines, personal hygiene rules and cross contamination risks.


Communicate Clearly

Educating employees on food safety and inspection protocol can be challenging, especially if staff members aren’t fluent English speakers. While you may be tempted to ask a bilingual staff member to fill them in be aware that key elements might be lost in the translation. Consider hiring a professional translator to explain procedures and help answer questions.


Clean Carefully

While today’s restaurant inspection checklists emphasis technical things like food holding temperatures, cleanliness is still paramount to making a passing grade. Ask staff to pay special attention to easily overlooked areas that inspectors love to check like can openers, ice machines, floor drains and appliance gaskets. To avoid accidental cross contamination use a separate mop for the kitchen and the restroom. Or better yet consider investing in a dispense-and-vac system that removes soils completely from floors instead of just moving them around.


Control Pests

Restaurants and bakeries provide the perfect conditions for vermin. They’re warm and dry with plenty to eat. If the establishment is located in an old building, like my once-favorite bakery, there’s lots of exclusions that allow entry and places to hide. Keep ahead of pests by plugging up holes and storing food in airtight containers off the ground.


Staying on top of problems will keep your business and its reputation safe. My local bakery tried to lure customers back with free maple bars on re-opening day, but I haven’t been back yet. Would you?


Click here for more ideas on how to prepare for inspection.

Amy Milshtein

Amy Milshtein

Amy Milshtein covers design, facility management and business topics for a variety of trade publications and consumer magazines. 

Her work has won several awards, most recently a regional silver Azbee Award of Excellence.

She lives in Portland, OR with her family and Clyde, a 15-lb tabby cat. Once an avid hiker, these days she finds herself on the less-challenging -but-still-exciting 'creaky knees' trails.

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