How to Prepare Your NYC Restaurant for a Surprise Health Inspection

By Antasha Solomon

Illustration of a page with the letter A and a magnifying glass over the page

Every year the New York City Health Department inspects all 24,000 restaurants located within the five boroughs at random. If your restaurant isn’t prepared for the city’s health inspection your venue could receive a less than stellar grade or worse – be shut down!

The only grade you want to receive is an “A” because anything below indicates to potential customers that your restaurant isn’t as sanitary or safe as it should be. In addition to this, restaurants that score below an “A” are re-inspected more frequently and subjected to fines ranging from $200 to $2,000 per offense.

Here are three recommendations to ensure your restaurant is inspection ready.

Require All Food Handling Staff to Have Their Food Protection Certification

Someone who is certified in food protection must be on site with their certification readily available during all operating hours. If this person is not present, your restaurant will receive a critical violation resulting in a 10-point write up, meaning, if there are any additional violations you will not be able to earn an A.

So what can you do? It’s easy: require all of your food handling staff (bartenders, servers, chefs and managers) to be certified. The course is easy to take, can be done online, and costs only $24.60. This will ensure someone is always on site when the health department comes for an unannounced inspection and that all of your staff know how to safely handle food and prevent unsanitary practices.

Conduct Regular Self Inspections

Using the NYC Health Department’s food service inspection worksheet, pick one day every month (preferably before or after service) to conduct a “surprise” self-inspection on your restaurant and staff.

The food service inspection worksheet details everything the Health Department will cover when they come onsite to check your restaurant for compliance. You will also have the ability to grade your venue using the same point system and checklist the city uses.

By doing this you will be able to catch any potential issues that could result in violations and fines such as improper food storage, incorrect temperature settings, and unsanitary work conditions and fix them before your actual inspection. In addition, your staff will always be working in compliance with the city’s requirements and prepared for the Health Department to come – any day, any time!

Start preparing for your big test now  – don’t wait until the last minute, so you can ensure your establishment always earns an “A.”

Enact Opening and Closing Checklists

When your restaurant is preparing to open and close, every person clocked in should be productively contributing to the setup and cleanup of your venue. An easy way to accomplish this is by implementing opening and closing checklists for your front of the house and back of the house employees.

Assign each employee a role with specific and ongoing opening and closing tasks. Your employees should never be confused or uncertain of the responsibilities their role entails. For example, before each shift your opening servers should be responsible for setting the tables, wiping down menus, stocking glassware, and topping up takeout containers. At the end of a shift, back of house should have a list of cleaning and food storage tasks to complete before they leave.

Since preparing for service and shutting down afterward is a team effort, your restaurant may benefit from having team leaders (such as your head chef and head bartender) oversee their respective co-workers. This will further help ensure all of the duties are being completed correctly and in a timely manner. Also have a manager do a preshift and postshift walk-through to double check staff efforts.

By following the above suggestions and maintaining a sanitary and organized restaurant, your venue will always be inspection ready and get that well-deserved “A”!

On the topic of bettering your restaurant, why not better yourself? 

Photo of Antasha Solomon
by Antasha Solomon

Antasha is a Marketing Specialist at TouchBistro where she spends her days advising restaurateurs on their point of sale systems and her nights writing hospitality-related content. A veteran bartender and server, Antasha enjoys bringing her industry experiences to life through blogging. Her three-year-old son and BFF, Elijah, is her self-proclaimed muse for all things creative.

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