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Preparing for a Health Inspection
The Associated Press published May 4th that the KFC/Taco Bell restaurant in Greenwich Village, New York City that was found to be infested with rats will be closed indefinitely. A spokesman for the chain owner, Yum! Brands, Inc., says there are reviewing their franchises nationwide and are “determined to prevent this incident from happening again.”
My question is, how did it get that bad in the first place? Anyone who owns a restaurant is well aware of the fact that there are strict rules and regulations regarding the operation of the restaurant in order to prevent illness in customers. How unsanitary does a restaurant have to be in order to be infested with rats to that extent? And you can’t tell me that the staff never noticed one. Clearly there was a health inspector also not doing his job properly.
Health inspections are a crucial element in keeping restaurants safe to eat in. And, most of the time, your business will be severely fined and given a deadline to make changes if it does not pass inspection. If those changes aren’t made, the restaurant could, and should, be closed.
If you are a restaurant owner, or are looking into joining a restaurant chain franchise, there are a number of things you need to be aware of in order to make sure that your restaurant will not only pass a health inspection, but will be safe for your customers.
Of the utmost importance is that your restaurant function every day it’s open (and even when it’s not) in a manner where it would pass a health inspection at any given moment. Because that is how health inspections work. A health inspector will drop by your restaurant, out of the blue, without warning, at any time of the day or night that your doors are open.
The reason restaurants don’t pass health inspections is due to pure laziness. If owners and managers were making sure everyone was performing tasks in a safe and appropriate manner on a continuous basis, there wouldn’t be a problem. Unfortunately, that rarely occurs… so you should make your business an exception to the status quo.
Here are some additional tips to ensure your restaurant will pass inspections:
• Obtain a copy of a health inspector’s checklist from your local health department and conduct weekly health inspections of your own business based upon that list.
• Consider requiring all new employees to take a food safety course through your local health department (typically a course during one afternoon or evening). At the very least, you should require all managers to take it. Course graduates are typically issued a food safety card that has an expiration date and require the course be retaken in order to renew the card. It does cost money, but not much and it should be made a business expense, since its purpose it to protect your business.
• Hand washing is the most important part of keeping the food you serve safe from bacteria and causing food born illnesses. Be sure that every employee is aware of this important aspect of your business, and consider implementing serious consequences in your employee policy for those who do not wash there hands frequently (after breaks, after eating, after using the restroom, after touching anything that is not food, etc). Post reminder signs in every bathroom and all kitchen sinks.
• Be aware (and all employees should be aware) of food temperature guidelines and cross contamination issues. Temperature guidelines require checking the temperature of foods frequently, including when they arrive, when they are stored, when they are cooked/served. These guidelines can be obtained from your local health department and through a food safety course.
This advice is not just coming from the sources below. I worked in the food service industry for seven years and I am well aware of what can go wrong if food safety is not of number one importance in the operation of a restaurant business. To protect yourself and, more importantly, your customers, it is critical that you keep your restaurant up to par with the health code.
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