What are the things that are certain in our lives? Death, taxes, and a surprise visit from your local health authority inspector. Yikes the hair on my kneck is standing on end.
I am here to tell you that, yes it is unavoidable, it doesn't need to be that bad. I will share with you a few tips on how I have delt with the many inspectors I have encountered over the years.
1) Don't argue with them. You will loose and risk the chance of them conduct the remainder of the inspection on edge and perhaps with a bias. They are there to enforce the health code and chances this is not their first rodeo. They know the code like the back of their hand and arguing with them is futile.
2) Don't get angry at them or show your frustration. This goes hand in hand with rule number 1. Chances they are bringing something important to your attention as it violates the health code. They re not there to rain on your parade and are definitely not on a power trip.
3) Get your Foodsafe -Take The Course! You will have a infinitely wider perspective on your operation. When I first got my certification I would look at what we were doing at the place I was working and how many rules we were breaking. It was eye opening. The other reason you should have your certification is that you should be the health and sanitation officer for your restaurant not leave it up to your chef/ manager. This way you can monitor progress and hold them accountable to run your kitchen in a safe manner.
4) Don't give up any information without them asking first. You may open up an opportunity for them to pick something apart which might be small and minor, then have it show on your report. As your relationship matures and the inspectors confidence grows in you, you won't need to be as tight lipped.
5) Don't try to be their buddy. Don't buy them lunch, a drink, or offer them anything. Don't deny them a glass of water if they ask, but don't do anything that may be construed as a bribe. Always act cordial, respectful, and professional; remember they are not the enemy.
6) It may not seem like it, but they are there to help. You have a mutual goal and that is to be open for business and to run a safe environment for your staff and customers.
7) There is no such thing as a dumb question. With the hundreds of establishments that each officer has to monitor, they deal with all experience levels . They would rather work with you than write you up for an infraction.
8) When opening your restaurant contact them early as possible and ask questions. They will work with you as much as you want and need. They are also very knowledgeable for renovating your restaurant and kitchen to meet the health codes.
9) If they recommend a solution for an infraction, get it completed as soon as possible. If they say they will be back, have it done. If they don't show up, call or e-mail them to inform them of your progress. This will show them you are serious about running a safe restaurant and will bide well in future dealings.
10) Health inspectors are not chefs, never been chefs, and don't think like chefs. They might of worked a restaurant job to get them through college but never a chef. They don't care about what kind of pressures you have in your day, or how little time you have to do your job. Food illness is black and white. Bacteria doesn't care if you have to feed 100 ppl and your cook forgot to pull the chicken the day before; so neither does you health inspector.
Most inspectors I have ever dealt with have always been very pleasant and fair. They are there to work with you and only have your best interest along with your guests. Think of them as your Health and sanitation consultant, not police (they are also the most cost efficient consultants that you will ever hire). Once you start looking at it in a different light, the stronger your partnership will be. That simple change of perspective will be a recipe for success in your future.
Until next time see you on the flip side.