If you own a restaurant, you not only need to run the business in a profitable manner, you need to meet the restaurant code requirements of your local government. Meeting code requirements is an ongoing and critical part of running a restaurant. Code requirements are absolute requirements that must be met in order for your business to remain open. Code citations must be promptly met and corrected.
Restaurant code requirements are put in place by the local and state government to protect the public and to help the restaurant owner operate a safe business for his diners. Compliance with the code will prevent illnesses brought on by improper food preparation, storage, cooking or lack of cleanliness by the kitchen staff. Inspectors are given wide latitude of when and how they may conduct an inspection. They can drop by at a time of their choosing, without notice to the restaurant.
Local authorities determine how often an inspection is required. There are specific requirements that must be passed in order to get a clean report. Again these requirements are part to the local rules and provisions. The inspectors are trained to look for certain important factors that are known to prevent health problems. Food used in a restaurant must come to the restaurant from approved sources. It must be stored at approved temperatures and be prepared with approved standards. Each local health inspection department can give the owner a set of rules that must be met. Cooking of food must be done at certain temperatures and then stored or kept in approved ways. Kitchen cleanliness is always an important consideration and must be done with approved methods. Washing of kitchen utensils, rags, and staff hands must be done in an approved manner by the staff of the restaurant. Cleanliness of the kitchen itself is part of the inspection and storage of cleaning chemicals must be done in an approved way. Prevention of accidental food alteration is part of the inspection.
Local governments can set rules about the cooking temperatures for meat, poultry, pork, eggs and fish. These are in place to keep undercooked food from being served and causing a patron to have a food induced illness. Food cooked at approved temperatures will be safe to eat and should not cause the patron any problem.
Undercooked meats, eggs or fish can allow organisms that are injurious to humans live through the cooking process and make a person eating the food very ill. Cooking at approved temperatures kills the organisms and prevents the food caused illness.
Just like cooking temperatures, refrigeration standards are set to keep food at safe temperatures. This includes storage of cooked food, uncooked food and foods that should be kept in a frozen state until ready to prepare. Poor refrigeration can be very dangerous as the food is not safely stored under these conditions. Most locals require a way to constantly monitor the temperatures of the refrigerator and freezer units. Many restaurants use a separate thermometer to meet this requirement. Since these appliances are looked at many times during daily operation, the extra temperature monitors can be seen routinely.
Salads with eggs and meats are very sensitive to poor refrigerated storage. This can be very harmful to someone who eats this food after this poor storage. This is why these requirements are in place and enforced by the inspectors.
Cooking and storage of food is a serious area of inspection and should be maintained at the code standard at all times. This is the reason for surprise inspections by local health inspectors.
Hot-Holding temperatures for cooked food
After food is cooked it must be held for service in a safe manner. Hot-Holding temperatures are mandated by local health authorities and are part of restaurant inspections. This accounts for special equipment in buffet restaurants. Their hot food trays must be kept at correct temperatures for the time they are put out for public consumption. This is another safety issue for prepared food sold to the public. This food has been cooked and must be kept at reasonable temperatures until the customer takes it.
Most restaurants do a very good job of keeping the area that the public sees in very good order. The kitchen is the area that inspectors are most concerned about. Cleanliness here is imperative to the preparation of safe food. Evidence of rodents or roaches is a serious problem for restaurants and must be seriously kept to a minimum of zero tolerance. Food is always out or being prepared. This constant attraction is like a magnet to various rodents and bugs. An ongoing battle must be kept up to keep these invaders at bay. The health inspector will come down very hard on a restaurant that is lax in this area. The inspectors or the customers of the restaurant cannot tolerate situations that are not under control. Since the customers are not privy to the kitchen, it is the job of the inspector to keep this part of the restaurant up to code. The health inspectors are the eyes and ears of the customers. When they pass a restaurant on its inspection the diner can expect to be served safe food.
Cleanliness also includes the clean up of dishes and utensils, prep areas are kept in a spotless condition and rags and other cleaning tools are properly maintained and used. This care for not only the food, but also the operation of the kitchen is necessary to insure the safe delivery of food to the restaurant’s clientele. One of the ways to keep this aspect of restaurant operation is to require that codes are met and kept.
The restaurant business is a unique business when compared with other types of businesses. The business is heavily regulated, employee heavy, fad affected and at risk monthly or so for inspections. The good restaurateur will meet each of these challenges with skill and the desire to go the extra mile since their customers can be seriously affected by poor operations. Keeping the code requirements in place as part of their operation is not only necessary, but smart business. No restaurant wants the PR problem of a public notice of a food problem. Operating within the code will keep the owners from having this problem.
Friendly and cooperative attitude will help keep the inspectors on your side. There is not a need for an adversary type of relationship. The inspector has a job to do and the owner has to comply with the rules of the local government.
Fighting city hall is usually not a good idea, as their rules must be followed in order to sell food to the public. In the long run a clean operation will keep the restaurant out of trouble and inspire public confidence in the food served. Bad publicity about tainted food can ruin a restaurant over night and in some cases make it impossible to recover. Make sure your operation stays well within the rules and do not try to beat the system. Owners should take pride in the fact that they serve quality food that has been safely prepared and cared for before it was served. Customers will keep coming back to a restaurant that operates in this manner.