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It can happen when you least expect it. You might have a full restaurant and a long list of delivery orders piling up, when all of a sudden the health inspector walks in.

As a restaurant owner, annual health inspections help you have a full understanding of the safety and cleanliness of your restaurant. Acing your inspection can ensure your restaurant is set up for long-term success, save hundreds – or thousands – of dollars in potential fines and help maintain a positive reputation in the local community.

The good news is, you can stay ahead of the game and be prepared for the moment a health inspector strolls into your establishment, clipboard in hand.

Review past inspections to identify areas for improvement

Health inspection reports from previous years are excellent resources for reviewing the areas where your restaurant may need improvement. Consider handing out previous inspection reports – or posting them in the break room – so employees can focus on historically problematic areas while keeping up the good work in areas your restaurant has excelled.

Encourage good habits

After each annual health inspection, there’s always the chance your staff might fall back into old habits and overlook minor violations. To keep that from happening, encourage continued good habits and remain as proactive as possible when it comes to cleanliness, organization and health standards. Staying on top of food safety and kitchen practices now will pay off later, when you’re in the middle of your next inspection. An easy option might be to revisit your task checklists for opening and closing the restaurant. There might be a few small daily tasks you can add to better keep your restaurant up to code.

Schedule regular staff meetings

To avoid the surge of adrenalin that happens when a health inspector walks through the door, it’s important to keep staff on the same page. In addition to holding regular meetings and keeping your restaurant up to code at all times, if you suspect a health inspection is coming up, call a mandatory meeting and let your employees know that an inspection may be on the horizon. Have an agenda and action plan that covers what needs to be cleaned and maintained to pass the health inspection with flying colors.

Keep staff current on food safety practices

With food allergies and outbreaks of foodborne illnesses on the rise, health inspectors are paying extra attention to food handling. Make sure to regularly check in with staff and ensure they’re up-to-speed on food safety techniques, including food-handling practices related to food allergies, the spread of bacteria and more.

Put yourself in the diners’ shoes

It’s easy to get bogged down on backend operations and kitchen cleanliness. But it’s important not to forget who you’re keeping things clean and organized for – your customers. Put yourself in customers’ shoes and walk through your restaurant. Is it clean? Is it clear that food and dietary allergies can be accommodated? Ultimately, it’s important to ask yourself: Would I eat here?

No restaurant owner looks forward to health inspections. But taking the time to adequately prepare means you can pass the inspection and quickly shift your focus back to serving your customers.

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