A health inspection is a fact of life for restaurant owners. If you want to make sure that you pass your next one with flying colors, use this checklist:
1. Station Deep Cleaning: From your utensils to the cabinet doors, every station in your kitchen should be deep cleaned on a monthly basis. This means tearing the station down completely, washing and/or sanitizing it where necessary and then putting it back together. Everything from the salad prep area to the stove top will need to have this done regularly to ensure that it is up to par when your inspection occurs.
2. Vent Cleaning: There are two vents you should be keeping an eye on. The first being the ones in the kitchen. Make sure that filters are changed regularly and that the vents are cleaned periodically. Just like a haircut, reschedule your vent service immediately and mark it down. Even a couple of months missed could mean serious trouble if an inspection were to occur.
3. Separating Stations: As a rule in food service, remember that your food prep, food serving, and washing areas in your kitchen need to be well separated. It is common for stations to meld into one another after a couple of months, especially if the station is set on wheels. Doing a weekly or monthly kitchen walk-through to ensure that the stations are separated properly doesn’t take much time, but could save you a lot of hassle during an inspection.
4. Lock up Chemicals: This seems very obvious, but I have seen it happen too many times not to mention it. Cleaning products and food service don’t mix. What typically happens is that someone takes out a cleaning product trying to clean a mess quickly during a busy time such as lunch or dinner. No one really cares that the bottle of cleaning spray was left out for an hour, but when happens if the one who took out the bottle never puts it back? Often, no one else will put it back either. Have your senior staff scan the kitchen every night before closing up to ensure that if an inspector does show up in the morning, they don’t find any cleaning products.
5. The Sinks: Probably the dirtiest area of your kitchen, the sinks for food washing, hand washing, and dishwashing are all potential problem areas. In particular, I’ve found that the dish washing and hand washing stations are the worst. In my restaurant, dishwashers are charged with cleaning their station each night. If they do not, they get a warning. Since I am a baseball fan, I use the three strike method. Three warnings and you’re out. For the hand washing sink, I have my senior staff designate a different person each shift to reset it at the end of the night. All it takes is a little planning to keep these areas clean.