A man, wearing a suit and holding a clipboard, gestures to a commercial kitchen stove as a kitchen worker looks on.

How to make sure your restaurant gets a clean bill of health.

  • A restaurant worker dishes food from a large pan.

    1. Temperature control

    If food is improperly cooked or stored at unsafe temperatures, bacteria can accumulate and make people sick.

    • Know and avoid the temperature danger zone – the range where bacteria grow most rapidly (40°F – 140°F). Per FDA and USDA standards:
    • Cold food should be kept below 4°C/40°F.
    • Frozen food should be below -18°C/0°F.
    • Hot food should stay above 60°C/140°F.
    • Check the thermometers in all refrigerators and freezers to make sure they’re accurate and in the correct temperature zone.
    • Ensure meats are cooked to safe internal temperatures.
    • Make sure all meat thermometers are working correctly.

  • 2. Food storage

    Likewise, where and how food is stored is equally important to avoid contamination or spoilage.

    • Ensure cooked and ready-to-eat food is stored above raw food.
    • Check that all food is stored at least six inches off the floor on shelves, racks or pallets.
    • Make sure all food is properly wrapped or contained to avoid drips or spills.
    • Check that utensils are used in appropriate areas to reduce direct hand contact with prepared food.

  • A chef washes his hands at a sink in a commercial kitchen with cleaning supplies nearby.

    3. Personal hygiene

    From front to back of house, everyone who handles food should follow set personal hygiene standards and protocols to avoid contamination.

    • Ensure there is a designated sink for handwashing, with soap and hot and cold water, that isn’t used for food prep or dishwashing.
    • Make sure employees are washing their hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds with hot water (≥38C°/100°F) before and after handling food.
    • Make sure single-use gloves are available in appropriate sizes and are changed between tasks, or if dirty or torn.
    • Ensure food handlers wear clean aprons and work uniforms where appropriate and keep hair covered or tied back.
    • Make sure employees maintain nail lengths and properly cover cuts or wounds.

  • A cook presses dough on a floury wooden countertop, with a jar of flour nearby.

    4. Food contact

    Anything that comes in contact with food has the potential to cause contamination, so regular maintenance is key.

    • Make sure all food prep/contact surfaces are regularly cleaned and sanitized with soap, water and an approved sanitizer.
    • Check for any cracked or damaged utensils that could cause contamination and discard them.
    • Ensure utensils, dishes and equipment are properly washed regularly, using either:
    • The FDA approved two or three-sink dishwashing method (wash, rinse, sanitize) or
    • A mechanical dishwasher.
    • Check the ice bin/machine and ensure it is being emptied and washed regularly, with standard deep cleaning twice a year.

  • 5. Non-food contact surfaces/equipment

    Just because it doesn’t come in contact with food doesn’t mean it doesn’t need to be clean!

    • Make sure all floors, walls and ceilings are clean and in good repair.
    • Make sure non-food contact equipment, such as dishwashers, ventilation, etc., is clean and in working condition.

  • 6. Public/staff bathrooms

    Whether for guests or staff, all restrooms should be kept clean and sanitized.

    • Ensure bathrooms are cleaned and sanitized from top to bottom regularly – this includes floors, doors, walls and ceilings!
    • Make sure each bathroom is stocked with toilet paper, a garbage receptacle, hot/cold running water, soap and paper towels or a hot air dryer.

  • A restaurant worker lifts the lid of a bin to dispose of vegetables.

    7. Waste storage and removal

    Restaurants produce a lot of waste – how, where and when yours goes is important.

    • Make sure all waste receptacles are leak-proof, pest-proof and non-absorbent with tight-fitting lids.
    • Ensure all solid and liquid waste is removed from food prep areas frequently and at least daily.

  • A van reading “Nada Pest” has images of pests on its vehicle wrap.

    8. Pest control

    Pests are the last thing you want in your restaurant, but with so much food they can find ways in.

    • Check for any evidence of pests, such as droppings or nesting sites.
    • Look for and eliminate easily accessible food or water, as well as possible entry points in walls and doors, both inside and out.
    • Utilize appropriate pest-control methods, such as glue traps without poisons or chemicals, particularly in food prep areas.
    • Establish a contract with a licensed pest-control operator.

  • 9. Staff knowledge on and off the floor

    If your entire staff understands the importance of food safety practices, the more likely they are to self-regulate and help keep things ship-shape – and the more prepared they’ll be for an inspector’s questions.

    • Make sure all staff members are trained and certified as appropriate and per local health department requirements.
    • Regularly ask employees job-related safety and sanitation questions.
    • Don’t forget servers, to ensure they know how best to hold plates and glasses to avoid contamination.

    NOTE: Don’t forget to follow up with staff after every inspection (whether internal or official) to address questions and issues or retrain as necessary!

  • A chef and an administrator look at a laptop computer in an upscale restaurant.

    10. Records

    Just as you maintain a record of daily stock and sales revenue, you should be keeping track of your food safety practices.

    • Check to ensure you have up-to-date, organized records of:
    • All inspections, both internal and official
    • Food safety training/procedures including HACCP
    • Pest control schedules
    • Equipment repair and maintenance


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