Article contributed by Rada Tarnovsky, Letter Grade Consulting
Growing up in my house, a passing grade was never good enough. Passing meant you just made it, there was no effort, you could have done better but you didn’t try, you didn’t prepare. And maybe, on some rare occasions that wasn’t true, but most of the time it was.
Although getting a letter grade is reminiscent of good ole school days, restaurant letter grades are way different. Receiving anything other than an “A” is considered failing, it can cost a lot of money or worse your reputation. Yes it is possible to “pass” a health inspection by sheer luck and no effort. But passing isn’t good enough, and it’s just way too risky.
Which leads to the next question…Is it possible to prepare for an unannounced Health Department Inspection? The answer is Yes! When should you start? The day your kitchen equipment is installed… If that day is long gone… today is a good day.
DOH inspections are unannounced, however the results of your last initial inspection will determine your inspection cycle. Basically, the more points received the more visits from DOH. Knowing that date, as well as the points received will give you an approximate date DOH will be visiting. If you have forgotten that date or you have buried it deep in the abyss of your brain that holds all other unpleasant experiences, you can search it here.
Knowing the approximate date of your next inspection, should by no means act as a starting point for preparation. Operators must not wait to remedy something that has already become a problem, or scramble to fix things at the last minute.
Being prepared means operating at the highest level of food safety and sanitation, it means having a trained staff, being proactive, and also fulfilling your role as a responsible good human. Fine… maybe that’s a little dramatic, but people that serve food to the public do have a social responsibility to serve food that is not contaminated. Being prepared means being inspection ready every day.
The following are some tips to get you started:
- Print out a list of Daily protocols. Following protocols every day will build good habits and proper techniques. Have on-duty managers assign specific tasks. Those tasks need to be signed off on. Everyone needs to be held accountable.
- Maintain Temperature logs
- Train employees. Everyone must know the rules. Hold in house seminars.
- Purchase a lot of thermometers. Make sure they are being used throughout the day as often as possible. Inspectors like to see them being used. Come inspection day, make sure to use them twice as much. Also hang them all over walk in refrigerators. Perception is everything.
- Change cutting boards often.
- Give your employees sick days, a sick employee that contaminates food because he/she cannot afford to lose a day’s pay is way more expensive than a day’s pay.
- Respect the name given to “Hand Wash Sinks” use them ONLY for hand washing. They were named that for a reason, so no mops or dishes;
- Use test strips throughout the day to make sure buckets are prepared with proper solution
- Have as many FPC holders as possible. Having only one will cost you 10 points, if he/she steps out to the bank the day DOH comes to visit.
Good Luck… prepare… stay inspection ready… and get your “A”!
Rada Tarnovsky is a practicing Attorney, who co-founded Letter Grade Consulting to help food service operators comply with regulations set forth by the NYC Department of Health. Servicing restaurants, hotels, theatres, corporate cafeterias and schools, Letter Grade Consulting provides operators with preemptive solutions, education and training to sustain the highest level of food safety, remain inspection ready and maintain the “A” in the window. Rada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org