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5-star shine: What customers and health inspectors notice first

4 min read

Restaurant and Foodservice

The state of a restaurant’s floor upon entrance is what more than 40% of patrons use to judge the overall cleanliness of the establishment. The cleanliness of restrooms is usually mentioned next, including whether toilet paper, soap and paper towels have been replenished.

Both of these issues can be relatively easy to address. Naturally, most of the dirt in an entryway is carried in on customers’ shoes. Some of this debris can be removed by industry mats or carpet specially designed to act in the same way as a bristle-brush boot scraper at a domestic doorway. A sturdy but discrete carpet sweeper can be stored within the host’s lectern for quick, discrete cleanups once customers are seated. If the restaurant entry opens directly to the outdoors, the outer mat should be exchanged daily for a clean one under an agreement with an industrial-carpet service.

Cleaning the restroom before each shift’s opening and after the establishment’s closing is standard and expected. Moreover, it can be conducted thoroughly without rushing, as might be required during a busy dinner shift. Regardless of the inconvenience to staff and customers, restrooms should be monitored frequently throughout a dining shift and cleaned as needed. Restaurant-hygiene specialists recommend that restrooms’ cleaning equipment be color coded to ensure it’s used only in these areas to avoid contaminating another area of the establishment.

What health inspectors notice

Health inspectors also notice the overall cleanliness of the floor and bathrooms, although the restaurant probably will not receive a red X unless the entryway and bathrooms are obviously dirty and lacking necessary materials. While patrons notice the quiet, hopefully attractive and comfortable front of the restaurant, it’s the busy, hot and noisy kitchen that garners most of a health inspector’s attention.

According to Respro Food Safety Professionals, health inspectors use a checklist to assess these areas.

  • Overall cleanliness of facility.
  • Temperatures.
  • Proper food storage.
  • Food labeling and date marking.
  • Proper hand washing and glove use.
  • Equipment washing and storage.
  • Chemical management.
  • Overall operations.
  • Proper sanitation procedures.

The Food Safety and Inspection Service classifies the failure to meet some of these expectations, depending on the extent of failure, as “critical violations,” or ones that can result in a threat to close the establishment until the violations are corrected. Four critical violations are temperature related and include:

  • Failure to reheat already cooked and refrigerated food to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Failure to completely thaw frozen chicken or other poultry before cooking.
  • Keeping a cold food item at more than 41 degrees Fahrenheit for an excessive period of time.
  • Failure to cool prepared food to at least 41 degrees Fahrenheit within four hours of production.

Technology and training help restauranteurs keep it clean

Despite the myriad factors a health inspector evaluates, technology is making it easier to comply with state and federal laws. Freezer, refrigerator and salad-bar temperatures can be monitored from afar, and notification of violations can be texted to an owner or a chef. Longtime employees should be educated as certified food-protection managers and should be encouraged to train newer staff. That can make compliance as high as 70%, compared with about 50% for restaurants without specially trained employees.

Restaurant owners must exercise due diligence to ensure their establishment maintains practices friendly to health inspectors and customers. This involves proper research to understand standards long before the annual inspection.

Felicia Baratz-Savage is a contributor to “Professional Intern,” freelance graphic designer and social media addict living in Indianapolis. When she isn’t discussing career development, Felicia enjoys writing about employee retention & work safety protocols such as: offering praises, listening to employee feedback and keeping your workplace “up to code” with proper sanitary equipment and practices.