Let’s face it. Health inspections are stressful. Even seasoned restaurant owners feel uneasy when the inspector shows up. That’s why we put together the ultimate restaurant kitchen inspection checklist. Empowering your staff with the checklist is a great way to ensure safety protocols are being followed year round – and when that inspector shows up.
What is a Restaurant Kitchen Inspection Checklist?
A restaurant kitchen inspection checklist is different from other restaurant lists, like your prep list (don’t have a prep list? Check out this essential guide). Those are separate forms that can help you run your restaurant efficiently, but they won’t help you pass a kitchen inspection.
A proper restaurant kitchen inspection checklist is focused on standard safety actions and processes for your staff. It should be displayed prominently in your kitchen. Keep it in an easy-to-edit excel file, so you can update it with new protocols from the national or local health departments.
Designed to prevent food contamination and promote kitchen safety, your restaurant kitchen inspection checklist will protect customers and staff. The items listed should be influenced by industry department standards, such as the FDA, the US Health Department, and your state and county health departments.
Why is a Restaurant Kitchen Inspection Checklist Important?
- Health Inspections: Health inspections occur one to four times out of the year and are usually unannounced. Not passing a health inspection can have serious consequences for your restaurant. Usually it will result in as a low health rating, which could deter business, but extreme cases include a temporary closure. Most local print and online newspapers will publish the weekly list of restaurant inspections – and all the gory details. Your restaurant could go viral…for all the wrong reasons. Just one more reason to put a restaurant kitchen inspection checklist together today!
- Food Safety: A restaurant kitchen inspection checklist will not only prepare your team for the next health inspection, it will establish a standard for safe operations which will affect your food service year-round. According to the Center For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), roughly 48 million Americans per year fall sick due to foodborne illnesses – a majority of which are restaurant related. A restaurant kitchen inspection checklist can help prevent food-related contamination. By enforcing proper food handling and storage processes, you won’t have to worry about illnesses spreading from your kitchen. Sick customers are bad for business, and an effective restaurant kitchen inspection checklist can keep your reputation intact.
- Staff Management: Using a restaurant kitchen inspection checklist sets your staff up for success in the case of a surprise health inspection. It should be detailed enough that your management team knows exactly what the inspectors are looking for as they walk through the kitchen. A detailed restaurant kitchen inspection checklist can also serve as great training tool for your staff. It will set a standard process for safe kitchen operations and teach them important aspects of food handling, such as proper storage temperatures.
How to Set up a Restaurant Kitchen Inspection Checklist
Setting up a restaurant kitchen inspection checklist may seem daunting, but luckily a lot of the work has already been done for you. A good place to start is using a form similar to the one supplied by the U.S. Department of Health for kitchen health standards.
Customize your restaurant kitchen inspection checklist to operations that are unique to your business. Walk through your kitchen and look at it through the eyes of a health inspector. Make note of any potential issues and place them on the list.
Finally, don’t forget to reach out to your state and local health departments. There may be some additional items regarding local businesses that you will definitely want to address on your restaurant kitchen inspection checklist.
What to Include in Your Restaurant Kitchen Inspection Checklist
When creating your restaurant kitchen inspection checklist, you should include elements that ensure your restaurant will meet code. Some of these factors include:
- Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) Plan: The HACCP Plan is a system that allows restaurant operators to identify risks in their food processes that could lead to contamination. Incorporating these plans into your restaurant kitchen inspection checklist will control these risks and prevent foodborne illnesses. Rather than a one size fits all approach, this plan should cater to your restaurant’s unique menu, equipment processes and operations.
- Temperatures: This should be covered in your HACCP Plan, but deserves re-emphasizing. Educate your staff on the proper temperatures for food and food storage. Your restaurant kitchen inspection checklist should include processes for monitoring these temperatures and what the ideal temperatures should be.
- Proper Hand Sanitation: Contamination transferred through food handling can easily be prevented with proper sanitation practices. Your checklist should review the frequency and process in which kitchen staff should clean their hands and change gloves while working.
- Cleanliness: The restaurant kitchen inspection checklist should also cover cleaning processes for kitchen equipment. It’s not just for aesthetic purposes, but also to prevent food contamination and safety violations. Include how frequently counters, ovens, grease traps and flat tops should be cleaned to avoid fire hazards or damage to the equipment. Review these cleaning processes with staff.
- Overall Operations: This is an area to include additional processes that are unique to your business. Some restaurants may require additional health inspection items, depending on their menu, customers, and operations.
How to Enforce the Restaurant Kitchen Inspection Checklist
So, you’ve completed your restaurant kitchen inspection checklist. All the necessary items are listed. You feel confident all the health inspection criteria is met. You’re ready…but what about your team? These 3 items will get everyone on board and prepared for the next inspection.
- Staff Training: Why not leave training to the experts? There are many programs in place that will educate your staff on optimum food handling and safety practices. Your staff can enroll in ServSafe food safety training programs that will certify them in kitchen and food safety. Many restaurants make these programs mandatory for their staff. This helps familiarize your team with many of the items on your restaurant kitchen inspection checklist.
- Self-Inspections: Be your own health inspector, and schedule routine walk throughs with your managers to identify any potential issues. Or, let your team know that sometime each month, you’ll do a surprise inspection of your own! Review your restaurant kitchen inspection checklist and emphasize the importance of each item to your team. Randomly test staff members on food safety practices to keep them sharp. Continuously practicing inspections with your team will keep your standards in place all year.
- Proper Tools: Keep proper tools on hand that will help monitor certain items on your restaurant kitchen inspection checklist. Have thermometers and test strips handy so your management team can randomly check food and storage containers to ensure the proper temperatures are made. Dedicate a safe place in the kitchen for cleaning materials (like rags and non-toxic chemicals) that are easily reachable for frequent cleaning to prevent contamination.
Kitchen inspections don’t have to be stressful if you know what to expect. Your restaurant kitchen inspection checklist is insurance that you will be prepared no matter when the inspector comes knocking! Now, put these tips into play, and get ready to pass your next inspection with flying colors!